I bought my TAXA Cricket in 2016 so I could go adventuring with my dog. At the time, I envisioned most trips with a base camp near mountains and lakes and other off the beaten paths, where I could hike and paddle board with my pups and occasionally go fly fishing. As it turns out, like many, this year has limited my trips, both in distance and frequency.
Though I’ve camped a couple of times here in Indiana, most of my trips have involved going to dock diving events with my dogs and staying in parking lots. The sport of dock diving involves a team effort where one’s dog jumps after a toy into a pool for distance, height, and/or speed (basically, I spend money to have my dogs jump in a pool). Most events are outdoors and are socially distant by design as participants with their dogs are required to keep a certain distance from each other.
The first couple of trips I took to Kentucky and Ohio, tested my comfort zone. I found that my mobile human and dog habitat, which has always been my happy place also became my safety zone. I could bring my bedroom, bathroom, shower, and kitchen with me and stay within my bubble, for the most part. Being able to sleep in my own space, take my dogs outside to do their business without dealing with hotel stairwells and exits, and have all the necessities of home within reach, made taking my TAXA Cricket a no-brainer.
Last year, after participating in a cousin event of dock diving, Dueling Dogs, Norbert and I earned an invitation to the 2020 Dueling Dogs World Championships (Dueling is a speed event, except that you are going up side by side with another dog and their handler – think of it as doggie drag racing for a toy). The April event was postponed to July, when everyone thought COVID would have exited. Many participants chose not to make the trip and others couldn’t (the closed border prevented Canadian participants from going). After much debate within myself, I decided to attend the event, feeling that the event rules had good safety measures and I could provide a safe space for myself and my dogs by staying at a nearby campground with my TAXA Cricket habitat.
When I bought my Cricket years ago, I had a newfound freedom, traveling solo with my pup. Here I was, four years later, finding a peace of mind by staying at a campground with all my amenities within a small area (bathrooms and showers were closed at the campground and rules were set to restrict others from entering your camping space).
This year, I also added a new item to my camping kitchen, a 17” Blackstone Griddle. I’ve camp cooked with stoves, over fires, and with grills, but the griddle provides a wide range of uses while also being easy to clean up. When I camp with friends, our meals and cooking can be very elaborate, but when I head to dog events solo, I find that efficiency is what rules.
The griddle is perfect for everything from breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, hash browns, bacon and eggs to burgers, brats, grilled shrimp, steak, and even pizza. A friend uses a pot on hers sometimes to boil water (though I use a Jetboil Mini Mo I use for that purpose along with an Aeropress coffee maker which makes both great coffee and cleans up in minutes).
The best thing about this griddle is it cleans up in minutes, almost as easily as the Aeropress. Regardless of what mess I’ve just cooked, water on the hot griddle and scraping remnants into an attached grease cup, followed by a little oil to keep the cast iron seasoned, is all that’s needed before the next mealtime. I’ve gone from eating pop-tarts and MRI type meals to well-balanced but easy to cook and clean ones.
Below are a few tips for those who want to spend more time adventuring and less time cooking/cleaning:
- Plan meals and pack accordingly – If I’m heading out for a long weekend, I will often chop up vegetables ahead of time. Bring marinades (sometimes marinating meat/veggies ahead of time) or basic spices that I can use on multiple dishes. I will often find a variety of ways to use the same item (e.g. a container of pesto is great with pasta, on grilled veggies, on fresh tomatoes, etc…)
- Keeping it simple doesn’t mean bland – Olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, garlic, and hot sauce are staples for me. You don’t have to bring your whole spice cabinet, but bring items you know you might use and some that can add a little pizazz to your dish
- Make extra for leftovers that can heat up quickly – I cooked up a full package of brats my first night of camping before the Dueling Dogs World Championships started because I knew I might be tired as the weekend progressed. Tossing the brats on the grill for a couple minutes to reheat them accompanied by a refrigerated pasta dish made for a perfect meal one evening
As with pesto, I love a garlicky chimichurri sauce on top of fish, chicken, beef, and veggies. The sauce is usually good for a couple days, but I’ll often mix up all the ingredient, sans parsley, and then chop up fresh parsley to mix in about 30-60 minutes before serving. It is so good you may want to just eat it straight out of the bowl!
Given this new world we are currently living in, having a habitat that meets my needs while also being easy to haul and comfortable to reside, my happy place turned safe place, is back to being my happy place and allows me to continue to spread my wings a bit while also providing a peace of mind during my travels.
Lastly, Norbert and I had personal bests at the World competition and finished with a very unexpected and happy fourth place finish in the Class 4 Division!
Below is our second race during quarter finals which was also our personal best to date! We likely never would have made the trip and captured this memory had it not been for our Cricket habitat!