On the road, on a plane

I have had my VAD04 since October 2017 and although it has had many trips by car, including to Liverpool and Sidmouth, it had never flown before and been put to the test for which its primary purpose was designed … until 31st August 2018.

As our visit to the Greek island of Crete approached the packing cases stage I wondered just how much I could safely get away with, literally, in the Voyage Air Guitar backpack. Ok, the VAD04 was the essential part and no compromise could be accepted on that. However, there are also the other ‘essential non-essentials’ that need to go, such as a capo, a tuner, a spare set of strings (Elixir lights), a small torch, a songbook or two, a lightweight guitar stand, a lightweight coffee machine – no scrub that last one as there are adequate coffee facilities at the destination hotel and various tavernas/kafenion in the area.

The other factor when travelling is not just the items mentioned above but what the airline will tolerate as ‘hand’ or ‘carry on’ luggage. Discretion played the better part of my decision making and only the capo, tuner, songbooks and torch made the cut. I did wonder whether the spare set of strings might be deemed to be usable as offensive weapons. Maybe someone can enlighten me on that issue. The other items were consigned to the ‘checked’ luggage and out went clothes from that case to accommodate the rest of the ‘non-essentials’.

Boarding the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, I admit to some concern as to whether the VAD backpack was too big having seen some of the small size items being carried by other passengers. All felt much better when I spotted some fellow travellers taking on board what appeared to be the entire contents of mini gymnasiums. Onboard I juggled the VAD backpack in to the overhead locker. Hint: it goes in much better with the fretboard bulge to the bottom, which, with the locker closed then becomes vertically parallel to the cabin. You’ll just have to imagine that.

That was the first stage of the mission accomplished, without any comments from the airline staff at check-in or onboard.

Arrival on Crete and transfer to the hotel went smoothly for the VAD04, where I unpacked – the guitar – unfolded, placed on the lightweight guitar stand, packed in my suitcase, and left it to settle in for its holiday. We arrived late Friday afternoon and had a rehearsal session on Saturday at 12 noon (High Noon?) with my fellow conspirator, Bob, who lives on Crete. That was for the evening entertaining/performing session later. Unfolding the VAD04 brought an almost stunned silence – such a thing was just not possible and still be playable. Well, it is and it was. Setting the guitar up was done quite quickly including retuning as necessary and ready to go after a short coffee break. The temperature was around 35C, having left the UK at around 24C. How would the VAD04 react – superbly, of course. The rehearsal went well, particularly with Bob on his new Epiphone acoustic/electric (all unplugged, of course).

Brad CarterThe evening session was scheduled for around 22:00 and planned for around 15 songs, after a very convivial session – eating and drinking that is at a local taverna – we returned to our hosts wonderful villa on Crete and performed our set list … then some more, for around 2 hours or more. VAD04 was perfect, me, not too bad for an old guy with arthritic wrists and fingers.

Two further ad hoc sessions were had during my Cretan stay, one lasting well over two hours, when all that had been agreed was a set of three songs. The VAD04 got astonished and admiring glances, with one Norwegian guy taking an interest to the point of photographing the instruction booklet – kept opportunistically in the backpack.

Whether or not my playing was any good seemed largely overlooked with the versatility of being able to use a full-size dreadnought guitar, with a quality sound and look was more than enough to carry the day … erm … nights, really.

The homeward bound flight was just as uneventful for the VAD04 as the outward bound with it safely stowed in the overhead locker and a safe unblemished return to the UK. As for me, that’s a different issue as still recovering from a very enjoyable holiday.

The VAD04 passed its test with flying colours and I now look forward to many more years of adventures with it, my health and arthritis permitting.

Picture: Just tuning up the guitar ready to accompany Debbie (from the Netherlands)


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