Jeff Pelline: Connecting with the Great Outdoors |

Jeff Pelline: Connecting with the Great Outdoors

What’s more liberating? An iPhone or a picnic basket?

I found myself asking that question the other day when I was picking out a gift for my wife.

I wanted to thank her for being a great wife, mom and daughter-in-law.

We’ve been talking about an iPhone for months. Who hasn’t heard the hype?

If you follow gadgets and like Apple products, it’s definitely cool: a touch-pad for dialing instead of buttons; a screen for watching movies, viewing photos or surfing the Net; and a music player for storing hundreds of songs ” all wrapped into one slim device. In short, “anytime, anywhere” communications at its finest.

An iPhone is awfully expensive, though: We’re talking $600 for the phone we had discussed, plus $60 a month for the phone service for two years.

But I had a plan: You see, we snapped up some Apple stock last year that is now worth nearly double what we paid for it. (A “no-brainer” stock pick if you know anything about the digital revolution and know about Apple’s business ” estimated 55 percent margins for the iPhone alone ” as well as its management).

So as stock-picker Jim Cramer ” I love this guy’s energy level ” would advise on a runup like that, you should “take a little schnitzel” and ” in this case ” sell a little stock to buy an iPhone. “Bulls make money, bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered,” he says, referring to the greed of investors.

But other obstacles remained, such as driving “down the hill” to Sacramento to wait in line with a hoard of other people to buy this thing. Ugh.

I had another idea. I’d had my eye on this very cool picnic basket that I saw at Ruby’s in Grass Valley since last Christmas. It was shaped like a backpack and had an insulated area for keeping food cold; a set of four plates and cutlery; cloth napkins and a tablecloth; even an insulated wine holder on the side. The brand name was a hoot: “Picnic at Ascot.” Of course, “dahling.”

I decided to check out the gift. As it turned out, Ruby’s ” one of my favorite shops anyway ” had a store-wide sale, so I got the backpack picnic basket for 20-percent off or a final price of $80.

“Would you like it gift wrapped?” I was asked. How’s that for customer service?

My wife loved it. Our family took a picnic to Common’s Beach at Lake Tahoe on Sunday and listed to live music. Our son danced while we ate some barbecued chicken, wild-rice salad from SPD and a bottle of Smith Vineyards chardonnay.

The “shop local” experience paid off, and we were enjoying the great outdoors. I saw some people making cell phone calls from the beach, and I felt sorry for them.

We’re going to get a lot of use out of the picnic basket this summer: We’ll take it throughout the Sierra: up Highway 20, along Highway 49, along Highway 395 and up to Tioga Pass. We’ll even take it to Southern California for the horse races at Del Mar, an annual trek.

I’m not ruling out an iPhone down the road, but my choice of gifts is an experience some of us forget all too often while we get caught up in the day-to-day routine: Our backyard is a vast natural playground, not a freeway or a shopping mall where we have to get caught up in the status of cell phone ownership.

It’s a thought worth remembering this Independence Day, when we have a day off to get outdoors and soak up the sunshine and surroundings.


Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. Contact him at 477-4235,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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