Prepping While Commuting To Work, by A Minute Man

I live on the megalopolis east coast in an old New England mill city. The large city near me is usually considered to be one of the five most expensive urban areas to live in America. I’m lucky; I have a job. My daily commute is about 15 miles from where I live, and it takes me about 40 minutes each way on a good day. This commute takes me through seven suburban cities, on the back roads as well as the main city streets. The local interstate is too gridlocked to use for the morning commute. Before you feel badly for me for my daily commute, let me tell you about the things that I see, pick up, and put in my pickup truck on my daily ride. As I like to say, every day is trash day somewhere!

These “Found” Items include:

  • Glass Wash Board (I hear that the “country” look is going out of style. Well, that may be true for some people. It was worth $35 when I went to the company that made its website. It was marked $10 with a yard sale tag. The glass is unbroken.)
  • Water Hoses (There are too many to collect. I see so many of these that I only even look at the rubber ones now. Vinyl isn’t final.)
  • Kids Wading Pools (These are around at the end of the summer, and they make good raised garden beds I’m told.
  • Flowerpots
  • Baseball Bats (One of mine is a Johnny Bench model; it could even be a collectible!)
  • Plastic Containers (many types)
  • Closet Maid Shelving
  • Plastic Picnic Coolers (I see too many to collect them all. A little cleanser and some bleach works wonders. Some people use them as storage or bury items in them.)
  • White 5-gallon Buckets (These old buckets are useful, as long as you’re not using them for food.)
  • Contractor-grade Wheelbarrow (It was rusty but usable.)
  • Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink (There’s nothing wrong with it. Someone was just upgrading.)
  • X-Country Skis/ Downhill Skis/ Sleds (no toboggans!)
  • Yard Tools (These include shovels, rakes, and handles.)
  • PVC Pipe
  • Windows
  • Gas Cans (with non-EPA approved nozzles that are easy to use and work)
  • Scrap Wood and Plywood
  • Yellow Mop Buckets with Wringer (These are multipurpose items, which could also could be part of my clothes washing machine someday.)
  • Wooden Clothes Hanging Racks
  • Popcorn Tins (These are usually seen in January and February, after the holidays. I line them with bubble wrap and use them as Faraday Cages. Some have cute puppies on the outside, too! These tins used to be larger in the past, but these will do.)
  • Canning Jars

I never drive out of my way. I’m not cruising around the neighborhoods looking for stuff, like the scrap metal collectors do. I’m just driving to work. I know what I need, and when I see something and it’s safe to stop to get it, I do so. It makes the commute much more enjoyable when you approach the ride each day with a treasure hunting “what–am-I-going–to-find–today” mental outlook. I also look for the yard sales signs and the For Sale/Sold signs on houses as clues to upcoming opportunities. Nothing feels better than to take an item off my list that I paid either nothing or very little for.

Some of you may find what I do to be distasteful. I don’t. I‘m not taking filthy or broken items, and I’m not digging around for anything. Nor am I making any mess. Most people leave the usable stuff off to the side. They know what they are doing, and they are trying to make it easy for people like me. If I see someone on the property, I ask them. I don’t assume. If I don’t see anyone, I always look at the house after loading up and say aloud, “Thank you.” One of the few (and, trust me, there are a lot of) responsible things that I have always done is recycle. This material is heading for a landfill, and there is nothing wrong with anything that I take except that the people who bought it got tired of it or now no longer have a use for it.

Understand too that my means to prepare for what I see coming down the road is limited. Currently, I’m alone on this ride, and there is only one very middle class paycheck coming in. By gathering the things that I may need in this manner, I have the resources that I need to buy other items and still have these preparations that I otherwise could not or would choose not to have. These other items can usually be found in grocery stores.

I’m sharing this with you not to boast on what I have but to perhaps give you some ideas how you too can prepare without taking out a second mortgage. I have read this website for years, and I would like to give back to it and to all of you for the knowledge and ideas that you’ve given to me.

Some of my Recent Yard Sale, Weapon Show, Antique Auction, and Flea Market finds include:

  • Brand new condition USGI MS65 Field Jacket in Woodland pattern – $20
  • Brand new, never used Coleman lantern with two new Coleman mantles in a Coleman plastic case- $5.00 (The case alone is worth $10, and the two new mantles are probably worth $2.50.)
  • Hand tools – Craftsman wrenches and screwdrivers – Nicholson files – $1.00 each
  • Scythe – $8 (It’s at least 100 years old. A little mineral oil on the wood and it’s beautiful. I won second place using it as part of my Halloween costume. I got a $30 coffee gift card as the prize. Want to guess what I went the party as? Perhaps it was a case of “art” imitating “life” one future day.)
  • Junk silver coins from flea market dealers – (They’re usually a bit over what I can get junk silver for online, but it’s a cash no-paper and I-can-see-the-coins transaction.)
  • Kelvar helmet – $30 (USGI issue. Yes, it’s a bit dorky, but it’s better to have and not need than the alternative. Also, next Halloween I could be G.I. Joe, and if I win a costume prize again, it’s free.)
  • National Guard digital camo pattern backpack – $5 (USGI and in really nice shape. After I washed it twice, the cigarette smell came out of it. A really great bug-out bag for that money. A similar one was about $25 – $30 in a recent catalog of a company that you might know. See “Lantern” above.)
  • Three, used, very good shape USGI Woodland Pattern shirts – $15 total (“These will be great for paintball,” said I when I bought them.)
  • Nylon woodland pattern poncho – $2 (There was no label, but the heavy duty grommets and the material it’s made of gives it away. It looks brand new. It sure looks and feels just like my USGI Vietnam era one. I wish the guy had 10 more.)
  • Three metal green (period) 50MM ammo cans – $10 each. (There were not a lot of stenciled military codes on the side. They look brand new. I’m not sure if they are USGI or not, but at that price I took them all. The plastic ones cost almost this much.)
  • Larger square ammo cans – $15 each. (You see these around from times to time. They are slightly larger than a milk crate with a gasket in the lid and a clamp on all four sides. They‘re usually light grey. I buy every one that I see. Like someone said to me about these cans, “Do you know how much it would cost to make these today?” Exactly. One thing about mil spec is that it’s made to military specifications for use in war and general mayhem.)
  • One-quart canteen covers – USGI – like new – $2 each.
  • USGI used canteen cup – $2
  • USGI Pistol belts – $5
  • Ammo holder with the two side pockets – $3. (USGI and in brand new condition. Go ask ALICE! They fit the 30 rounders or so I’m told, as I can’t have these magazines here.)
  • Two saws – A one man and a two man – $15 for both (They will look good “on the wall” of “the cabin” someday.)
  • Canning Jars – seven cases for $5 total
  • Large Ice tongs – $5 (These are about the same size that Curly takes a frozen Larry out of the back of the Hook, Line, and Sinker fish truck with.)
  • Dietz Kerosene Lantern – Little Wizard model. $7 (It might have been used once. The Little Wizard is one of the larger capacity models of the Dietz line. It had a red globe, but the Amish took care of that for me. Now I have a spare globe that I can use as a signal lamp if I ever have to climb a nearby steeple’s stairs for Act 2.)
  • Two 20” front bike wheels with inflated tires – $10 (They’re all ready for the garden cart I plan to make. The no-flat tire upgrade has some pluses and minuses. I usually find a can of Tire Slime at yard sales for a $1. I stopped collecting Tire Slime at four cans.)
  • Three brand new, USGI canteens with the gas mask straw holes in the top cover – $2 each. (The guy at the gun show said he was selling a lot of them. I wonder why?)
  • Blood Pressure Cuff – $7 used (I bought it for the medical kit.)
  • Alaskan Ulu knife with a wooden cutting board on one side and a chopping bowl on the other side – brand new in the box for $10 (A friend just came back from AK. He told me what this costs up there.)
  • Two brand new, black, Schwinn pannier bags that hook on to a rear bike carrier over the back wheel – $10 for the set (I had to cut the plastic and cardboard off the packing material to get them apart. These were on the ground next to the Ulu. I really loved that booth!)
  • Three USGI Woolen Blankets – $10 for all three blankets. (These were used but were in amazing shape. They are still inside my truck with the Hudson Bay Point blanket that I purchased for $65 at an antique shop. No fabric item comes inside my house unless it’s going straight to the washing machine and then into the dryer. It’s the dryer heat that will kill any little critters. With wool, this is harder to do, and dry cleaning shops are not very kind to a middle-class budget.)
  • Cans of spray paint in earth tones of green, brown, and tan. Also flat black – $1 per can (I buy as many of them as I see.)
  • Axes – $3-5 (Old steel is usually high carbon American-made steel.)
  • Cast iron 8” frying pan, new in the package -$4 (It was made in China; well, nothing is perfect.)
  • USGI Mosquito netting, yards of it – $2

Alas! Some items got away for various reasons.

What Got Away, included:

  • Two Peavey hooks (These were sold before I could get to the booth from the parking lot.)
  • Plastic wedges for tree cutting (The ones that I saw looked like they had a tree fall on them. What was I thinking?)
  • Gas cans (They are usually plastic, but I have seen a few metal ones too. There were no EPA nozzles on these either.)
  • Speaking of ALICE, there are too many packs and frames to count. How many can I have?
  • The Korean War era USGI packboards (They’re not very comfortable to wear but great to pack things, like chain saws and even small outboard motors. I saw one once for $5, and I passed on it. I still think about it. I need to buy the next one I see, if only so I can forgive myself.)
  • A Kelty pack and frame from the 1970’s, with an asking price of $10 (It was fire truck red, and the Kelty’s were never very waterproof, so I passed. In the day, these were $40-60 packs.)
  • Blue Enamel Canning Pot (I should have picked this up for the $5 that the auctioneer was asking.)
  • Two used, USGI Artic canteens with covers – $10.00 each (That’s half of the cheapest catalog price that I’ve ever seen.)
  • An 8 or 10 inch x 4” sharpening stone (I didn’t want to wait around for it to come up at the auction.)
  • There is a lot of usable, good, wooden furniture that gets tossed out weekly. The same is true with the resin yard furniture. I‘ve seen resin that looked brand new and was not a stained mess on the side of the road. I don’t touch cribs, mattresses, or upholstered furniture.
  • USGI woodland pattern pants– W 31-35 / Short (I see them, but they are either too used or are too expensive for my blood. Got any?)
  • Froe – a tool to make wooden shingles with (I’m on the hunt for one. I know what the Amish have and that they’re looking for it. Knowing the catalog prices of items really helps you and also knowing when to make “the buy” with confidence– early in the morning when it’s really cool or too warm, the seller might not have had his coffee yet and might not be sure of his price. This is how I got a drawknife for $10 that three people asked me to sell to them while I walked around the same field later that morning.)
  • Side handle police batons (These used to be everywhere in the catalogs; now they have vanished. I’d like to upgrade.)
  • Two used Thermo-Rest inflatable mattresses with a repair kit – $20.00 (They were orange; I have a few already.)

Final Thoughts

The people who are tossing or selling this material don’t see or don’t understand the value in what they are getting rid of, like we do. It’s just stuff they can make a buck or two on or get some clear space in the basement or the garage. As far as their prices go, they don’t read the same catalogs that we do. Let them keep their latest model smart phones, electric can openers, $40,000+ pickup trucks, and 55-inch TVs. They can sell me their Grandma’s old junk for pennies on the dollar or just let me take it away for them.

Look around and realize what’s happening. Always remember that even if you are able only to do a very little, what you are doing and understanding is more than 85% of the people among us are doing or care to even try to comprehend. I do not write this with superiority or glee but with concern and sadness.

Get set, get ready, be safe, and keep your top knot. Let us hope never to need many of the items we now gather or ever have to experience the future that appears to be looming. Also, whistle on your way to work.