The Bounce Box. Options and alternatives.

Trip update: I spent this week in Georgetown, Texas, still with my cousins. I am happy to report that I was able to complete and deliver the book translation in time to be able to run errands and prepare to leave. This morning, I hit the road again, riding to San Antonio for the ATA Conference (http://www.atanet.org/conf/2013/).

2013-10-28 15.04.38

Working on a book translation in Georgetown, Texas.

This week I would like to discuss bounce boxes. The bounce box is a sturdy box that can be relabeled and reused.

Let me first say that I am indebted to my friend Heather Warren for introducing me to the Bounce Box. Heather has hiked the Appalachian Trail (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/), which I consider a remarkable feat. The “AT” hikers make extensive use of the bounce box, because backpackers can only haul about five to ten days of stuff, and the AT takes much longer than that. They mail ahead the rest of their supplies to “General Delivery” at the next Post Office along the Trail, where they will restock and reorganize. 

AT hiker Heather Warren and the author

AT hiker Heather Warren and the Freewheeling Freelancer

The Post Offices on the AT are used to the bounce boxes, so the system works well. It does not work so well in the rest of the country, where using “General Delivery” has become a rare event.

When I got ready for this Southern Swing, I took my lead from Heather and her AT pals. I started out with two levels of bounce box.

  1. What I will need at the next major stop. This includes stuff for maintenance; the full stash of medical and grooming products, and any clothing I may need because the seasons are changing. I can carry three weeks of supplies on my bicycle with just two panniers. With four, I can go much longer. I send the bounce box to the next place that I plan to stay with friends or family, rather than “General Delivery”.
  2. Special events box. Some of the things I will need for a conference or a workshop I will not need anywhere else on the road, so I put them in their own bounce box, and arrange for the conference hotel to hold it for me. I typically have to make my reservations so far in advance, that I am already known to the hotel and they are willing to hold the box for me. Already the Southern Swing 2013 has two professional conferences where I am making presentations. I left some boxes marked “ATA LIV”, in Charlottesville. I weighed them and sealed them before I left, and sent Daniel the shipping labels as a PDF last week.

Now that I am on the road, I can report on what really happened with this idea. First of all, the cardboard boxes that the Post Office (USPS) sells (“Redi-Post”) are cheaply made, compared to the tough boxes that you can get for free, shrink-wrapped in packs of 25 or more. I was afraid that my order of tougher boxes would not arrive in time, so I bought a “Redi-Post” box for my bounce box. It arrived in Keller, Texas completely torn open and re-taped on one side, with a gaping hole. The box is a total loss, so I bought a sturdier box from UPS and bounced my box by UPS to the next stop, Georgetown, Texas. The UPS Box and a Medium Flat Rate Priority box (US Postal Service) both arrived in good shape, ready to be re-used. The lesson here is to trust your instincts: I was unimpressed with the flimsiness of the “Redi-Post” box, and should have gone for the sturdy Priority Mail boxes or purchased cardboard boxes from UPS, FedexOffice, Home Depot, etc.

2013-10-07 13.05.37

Bringing a new bounce box back to the house in Keller, Texas

I am happy to report that the USPS Priority Mail service continues to beat its own estimates for delivery times. The bounce boxes were waiting for me when I arrived in Keller and Georgetown on my bicycle. The ATA LIV boxes are already waiting for me in San Antonio.

I did not need a bounce box at all for Atlanta, because it was over the weekend, and I was going to Fort Worth, Texas, by bus. I am thinking of spending at least one extra day in San Antonio after the conference, just so I can be there on a Monday and have time to rearrange the two types of bounce box and send them on their respective ways.

One way of handling the special events box in case it won’t be needed for a while is to send it to friends, family or home, and have them slap a Click-N-Ship® label on it later. This is what Daniel is helping me with now.

I decided to keep the UPS box as my main bounce box, because I can still get at least one more shipment out of it. I was also pleased to discover that not only is UPS cheaper than Priority Mail for the same weight, but that UPS gives me a discount the next time I use them. I did not even ask for it. I took my bounce box to the UPS store yesterday, and it will get to San Antonio the day before I do.

One of the challenges of the Southern Swing 2013 is that I have absolutely no idea where I will be going after next week in San Antonio. When I started this blog, I was planning to ride to Tampa, Florida, arriving in December at my sister-in-law’s house. However, developments at the ATA Conference may change my plans completely. I will let you know next week when I find out!

Because I will be at the ATA Conference, next week I probably will not get in as much riding as usual. I will certainly be “working on the road,” because conferences are major networking opportunities. Also, sales of my booklet have picked up suddenly, and one of the exhibitors will be selling it at the Conference (I Am Worth It! How to Set Your Price and Other Tips for Freelancers available at http://www.scriptorservices.com/buybook.htm). Is this becoming a book tour on a bicycle, too?

After the Conference, I may be leaving the support of large metro areas for a while. Having a good repair kit could be critical. Next week, I will show you my repair kit, and discuss things to think about when putting your kit together. Thank you for following me.

Smooth roads & tailwinds, Jonathan.

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