Friday, October 21, 2016

I went on vacation. . . and didn't starve

The Mike and I went on a week vacation. . . and it was okay .   We packed a small cooler, as we often do, with cheese, lunch meat, bread, apples, as well as a sack of snacks, a good dozen Tanka bars, Mama Chia packets, almonds for The Mike and my gf pretzels for both of us.  As we were heading to a populated area, I was sure we could shop in grocery stores with a gluten free section.   If we had headed into the rural landscapes of the west, I would have packed the larger cooler and more room temperature snacks.

What I was worried about was actually more my soy intolerance than my gluten free-ness.  We were heading to the Smoky Mountains area and I figured going south meant finding more oils/vegetable oils being used.  I've also been gluten free long enough to have a grasp on how restaurants generally do things and what I can expect.  Mom and Pop places are more understanding, when not busy, than chain restaurants who get packages of xyz in and cannot deviate from those things.

Our first stop was lunch at The Machine Shed.  We've been through here for breakfast before and I didn't have a problem at that time. We arrived and it wasn't busy. The parking lot was sparse, it was about eleven in the morning, so we were ahead of a rush. Even the entire time we were dining it did not get as busy as we've seen this place and we commented on it to our waitress. She said that this time of year just is a lull in patrons for them (between back to school and halloween apparently).   The negative side, when I asked the hostess for a gf menu, someone nearby said "we can't guarantee gf food".  Since the person was seeming to butt into a conversation, I replied with, "I understand that you have flour in this place and cannot guarantee, but I would hope that you would at least strive to do the best you can".  The person gave me a bit of an affronted look.  On the plus side, when I explained to our waitress that I can't have oil and need real butter used for any sides, and that I am gluten free, she said that she understood, having been a nanny to a family where the dad was a vegetarian and a celiac.  YEAH!  My faith in getting a great meal was re-enforced :-)  The meatloaf The Mike ordered sounded divine, but I went with the ham and mashed potatoes.  We also had a side of cottage cheese and 'applesauce' which seemed to be more like pie filling--warmed and delicious.
A good thick slice of delicious ham, and the applesauce helped me feel like I was sort of getting a balanced meal ;-)  

Next we were in Springfield IL for a late dinner  after seeing the new capitol building and exploring those grounds at sunset.  With the help of the "Find Me Gluten Free" app, we tried the Engrained Brewing Company.  (the link to their website isn't working so I'm not adding it here).  It was dark while we were driving there, and the 'directions' link on the Find Me app is wonderful to have.  The restaurant was at the end of a commercial district with a sports store 'nearby'. I think there might have been a mall around as well.  It was fairly quiet when we were there, as well as after 7pm.  Our only issue was that we wouldn't be back at the hotel in time to watch the second presidential debate!  The hotel we were staying at was on the cheaper end for a large metro area, and it was surrounded by fast food places. Finding a sit down place that was GF and only available on our travels sounded great.  The Mike ordered a marguerita pizza, which had too much basil.  I'm use to seeing this with just a few pieces of basil tossed here and there on the top of the pizza. His slices looked like they had topped the whole crust with the basil first.
I ordered a burger with with blue cheese. They had gluten free buns that they acquired locally.  The broccoli was maybe lightly steamed, it was still quite crunchy. The burger was suppose to be medium well and it was rare.  I scraped off the blue cheese to eat and sent the burger back.  The lettuce, onion, tomato was devoured in the time it took to make a new burger.  I was starving! The manager came by the table to apologize for the raw burger and said it'd be right up.  My second burger came and it was well prepared.   The Mike didn't order a beer, but he wonders if he had if it'd have made his pizza taste better.  I love basil, but most people can't eat leaves of it at once.

Wanting to go to a local place for breakfast meant that I probably wouldn't be able to have much besides eggs and ham.  I was okay with that. The local flare/decorations, one of a kind place is not something that I will avoid when I know there's something I should be able to have. Again, we went when it wasn't too busy. There were three other tables in the place when we arrived and two of those were done dining.   They didn't have anything other than a spray with all vegetable oils in it, so again, my soy intolerance was putting a damper on things, and not the celiac, gluten free part.   I asked if they had a microwave and the waitress said yes, so they would just microwave my eggs and ham.  (I was fine with this, I use to make microwave omelets at work to the surprise of a couple people who saw my lunch plate).   The Mike got eggs, hashbrowns and some sort of 'rye' bread. He said it didn't taste rye to him. It was the thinnest piece of bread I've ever seen in a restaurant.    My ham was fine, the eggs were overdone, but since I really am not a picky eater, I grew up on a farm where we ate what mom made us, even if we didn't like it. There is very little I won't eat.  Plus, as a runner, I really tend to think of food as nutrients for the body.

We stopped at a Kroger grocery store as we headed out of town and passed it.  We got some ice for the cooler and more ham and cheese---plus a Kroger card so we got the discount. The Mike thought it was funny. I'm like I have discount cards for stores in about five major cities, what's one more? Thank you Key Ring app for storing these :-)   I was disappointed that they didn't have the Glutino poptarts (let alone the iced ones)

We had some snacks for a 'lunch' snack and kept on going/driving until we got to a T in the road.  Okay, maybe those snacks were pretzels and chocolate chips :-)

It was past 7pm and we were thinking we'd drive until about 9 or so. At this T, the Mike looked over and spied a Mexican restaurant. I've always had great experiences with authentic Mexican restaurants (those chains we have, no luck).   This one was in the midst of Indiana. Beautifully decorated, it was late for the town and we were one of a handful of people in there.  The Mike ordered Super Nachos and I got the Salad Fajitas, without a shell.  The manager/owner was quite understanding about no soy oil and no gluten.  The reason I wasn't worried is that in my experience authentic Mexican places we've been to have been locally owned, fresh ingredients used, and it's basic good food, nothing fancy.  Maybe I should worry more about cross contamination, but again, in Mexican places, I don't think it's much of an issue.  They may have some flour shells they use, but they're not all over the place, they're in a station separate from the main cooking station.
We drove on until we got to a small town with a cute one of a kind locally owned motel.  First we stopped at Wendys to get a Frosty--chocolate of course!  
In the morning we got on the road and figured we'd see something along the way to enjoy for breakfast.  We ended up traveling behind a couple semis as we came into a town. There was some road construction that forced us to come to a complete stop.  Then we started going soooooo s.l.o.w.l.y.  We wondered if there was a pilot car leading us, even though we passed no other road construction.  Soon we got to a stop in front of the town square.  What do we see but the two semis loaded with trees in front of us, and a verrrrryyyy slow going Walmart semi in front of them, who was randomly coming to complete stops.  As we circled the square to head out of town we came to two more complete stops. The Mike looks off to the side and spied a locally owned breakfast place.  We pulled in as quickly as we could, which still meant we had to wait for that blasted semi truck to move down the road a bit.  When I explained the no soy/oil and no gluten/breading, the waitress checked with the cook and came back with "she said she'll poach the eggs". My thought was "Oh My!  Why hadn't I thought of that egg term/cooking method?"   Fabulous! Yes please :-)  Tasty success!  The waitress also answered a town question for us. As we were slowwwwwly going around the town square, we noticed an old iron/metal bridge that was being torn apart. We wondered what was going on with it, if it was being repaired or torn down.  The waitress told us that a female semi truck driver, loaded down with water, decided to go across the bridge with signs clearly marked 'no semi traffic' and a small weight limit. She said the bridge broke as the semi was in the center. The city is taking apart the historic bridge with no plans to replace it.  

How adorable are the 1970s plates :-)   Kitchy.

We arrived in historic Louisville and tried to find the visitors center with the signs they had posted, but soon enough the signs just disappeared without one pointing where we needed to go. Google maps helped us :-)   We took in the Muhammad Ali museum and then got lunch at a locally owned place called Hillbilly Tea. Very cute place. They had some items that were naturally gluten free.  The Mike got an interesting Chicken n pone and I got the Trout with Succotash.  Since we're northerners ;-) we had to ask for an explanation of what 'pone' and 'succotash' were.  Pone is cornbread and succotash was corn and lima beans. I love lima beans, so:  "yes please!"   The trout was tasty and was dusted with some green tea powder.  The succotash was great, but there seemed to be like two cups worth!  Too much for one serving for me.   After a trip to the baseball bat company (very cool), and the sunset on the river, we headed out to our next destination .  

 This can't be all about food, right?   

One of the things we would not have done without having gone to the visitors' center was walk on the Big Four bridge across the river (and back).  When we got across the river, we saw these tall pillars above.  We thought they were just art. We were so wrong!  There's a sign that says these are from the 1937 Ohio river flood. To us, this was a massive flood and most likely before dams were built by the TVA, at the height of the Great Depression. People who didn't have much probably lost everything. We got back and I looked it up on google/wikipedia. The flood was much worse than what I envisioned. It encompassed so much of the territory, and happened in January.   So sad. The flood struck home for us in many ways. In 1993 I was in the hospital in Des Moines while the National Guard provided water after our great flood then.  We've had two floods in our neighborhood since we've lived in our home, the most recent was just this late summer.  

We headed out of town after rush hour had calmed and headed south again.  I had my first experience with Ruby Tuesday and it was NOT good. I completely understand what people on the celiac page have said about them.  It was right across the parking lot from our hotel, and there was a Wendys nearby.  The Mike and I decided to try the Ruby Tuesday and I did my research in the hotel room.  As best I could on a smart phone and tiny screen, I looked up the restaurant, the location, entered my allergens, and it said several things were possible with slight modifications. 

We headed over to the restaurant, informed the hostess that I needed a gluten free menu and she had a blank look on her face and didn't know what I meant.  

Me: uh oh.  I said "Yes, a gluten free menu."

Someone else walks up, the hostess told that person that I was asking for a gluten free menu.  

She said, "You have to go online".

I said, "I did go on line, I entered my restrictions, it came up with 'these items are available with restrictions. We came over here to learn what those restrictions are and to order".  

She replied with "You have to go online to order". 

Me:  "What?  Why would I order online, when I'm coming to the restaurant?"  

This is NOT an allergen friendly place if you cannot even discuss the meals with someone before ordering.  

I was so upset that instead of going to Wendys across the parking lot, where I KNEW I could get a baked potato and cheeseburger (no bun) without issue, we went back to the hotel. After my blood pressure came back down I made an awesome cracker sandwich :-) 

 It saved us $$$$ too.

The next day we had some eggs at the hotel, and The Mike eyed the mini-donut machine but a family with two kids had pretty much staked it out while we were at the dining room.  We headed out to get fuel for the car, grabbed a liter of chocolate milk at the station, and The Mike grabbed a donut, and we were on our way.  Abe Lincoln sites, here we come!

We had lunch before heading over to Mammoth Caves, which was a good idea since we were there for several hours.  . . .this time we did get Wendys.  The Mike was surprised that I could just order a baked potato with cheese and a plain cheeseburger, no bun, and be good to go. It's one of the few fast food restaurants that does allergy foods well. Even a friend who has a child with multiple food allergies can eat at Wendys without issue.  The Mike said, 'even the cheese sauce on the potato' Yup, gluten free, and soy oil/protein free.  I honestly couldn't recall if it had soy lecithin in it, like the american cheese does, but I don't seem to have an issue with soy lecithin. It's protein and oil that bothers me, even though the FDA says soy oil is 'fine' because there's no protein in it--many soy people can't have soy oil.    I feel confident in ordering these things at a fast food place because I expect them to handle the foods with tongs at individual food stations.   Mammoth Caves is awesome.  We could spend some serious money here doing all the tours, and of course there's the entire above ground to tour as well.   We enjoyed one tour (90 minutes underground) and then did a walking trail above grounds. It was getting to be about 5 or 6, so we headed on down the road.

Vrooom. Vroom.

When we got to the town we had eyed as an overnight, neither of us was tired, so we bought a Frosty (are you seeing a pattern?) and we headed for town closer to the Smoky Mountains.  (We do have a Wendys in our town, but we rarely go the part of town it's in, so it's fun to enjoy. Plus, we were seeing them in almost every town we passed through, which is unheard of in our state).   I had called ahead to verify the hotel had rooms, and made the reservation for the night. Neither one of us took into consideration the time change, jumping forward an hour.  As a result, we got to the hotel just before ten, which is when all the restaurants around us closed.  We found a Kroger's down the street a couple miles and headed over to get dinner:  Mac and cheese with tuna :-)  What a staple.  Actually, a rare find for me as most canned tuna has soy added to it. UGH.  
Plus, The Mike picked the exact same thing as I did :-)  That's true love. He could have had any microwave meal!  

The hotel was "Main Stay Suites" by Choice Hotels and I think it maybe one to look for on vacation if we stay in a place for several days. Full size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, cooktop, and a nice kitchen penninsula with two full size chairs.  I loved being able to freeze cups of water that would last a lot longer than quickly frozen ice from a gas station, for the cooler. When we were in Hawai'i several years ago, we had a condo for the stay and we froze water in juice bottles which lasted all day on road trips, and then we had cold water to drink too!  

We were off to the Great Smoky Mountains!  I wish we could spend more time here. It was beautiful and amazing to see. Neither of us had any idea that these mountains were an ecological wonder, or an ice age retreat for so many of the life found within.  We had our cooler and Tanka bars, so we were set for lunch/snacks.  We got back to town ab out 9:30 though and I was starving, which meant my brain wasn't thinking well. We headed to Arbys and I got some plain roast beef in a bowl with a baked potato (when did Arbys start with baked potatoes?). Our order taker said she had celiac as well and suggested the baked potato.  

Next we headed north to a town named for our United States' first Admiral.  Farragut, TN.  What a neat little museum at the city hall there!  An amazing man, the Admiral was actually the first to hold three ranks in our Navy.  Afterwards, The Mike found a neat restaurant on google, but it didn't come up in Find Me Gluten Free (ooh, I need to go add it still).  I looked up their menu online and they said they had gluten free/ UDIs breads! woot!  We headed in (we were actually in the parking lot) and had a light lunch at The French Market.  The Mike had a delicious looking gluten croissant filled with chicken salad, I had UDIs bread, brie cheese, ham, and apple slices. For some reason when I ordered it, I envisioned the apple slices on the side. They were inside.  It was delicious.  The woman, who I assumed was the owner, said that the toaster is only used for UDIs bread. When my sandwich arrived, she said it was actually put in the oven to toast, but it was put on separate alum foil. Score!   

The Mike's gluten meal 
 My tasty gluten free sammich.  

We then spent the day in Oak Ridge, TN, which is its own National Park because of what happened there in WW2.  It became a national park last year, which means it's the newest one we've ever visited.   After the museum, we headed to Razzleberry's for ice cream, which I was assured all was gluten and soy free.  I went with the Strawberry, The Mike had Vanilla Bean.  Tasty.  We walked around the 'square' there (historic in its own right as well) and were surprised to see a sign for farm fresh eggs $5 a dozen! That's twice what I pay at home for some farm fresh eggs!

We were back on the road and heading further south.  We were crossing borders!  Georgia, here we come.  We had the most interesting hotel room of our trip.  First, because it had laminate floors instead of carpet, and then because the bathroom water valve was leaking all over the bathroom floor (clean water).

For dinner, there wasn't much around. A couple fast food places that we've already eaten at or weren't interested in, a mexican place that was recommended at the front desk --but we'd had that just the other day--and then I saw a Firehouse Subs place. We kept driving past these and I decided there had to be something I could eat there. No gluten free bread, but a nice ham salad was possible. The Mike had a simple beef and cheddar sub and I had the huge salad with a lot of kalamata olives.  This is a neat restaurant and I wish they had real gluten free options because I would love to really support a place like this that gives back so much locally.

We saw the Chickamauga part of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The Mike and I both had trouble fathoming the large number of troops that fought and died here.  The civil war always makes me think of how far we've come (and yet to go) in the medical field.  It wasn't until the civil war that doctors realized that they shouldn't use bloody instruments from one person to the next. Some doctors and nurses during the war realized that there was something about doing that which led to almost certain death of those that were operated upon.  Blood types weren't known, the understanding of germs wasn't completely understood.  

We took a local highway up to Nashville, past our first cotton field we spied (it was in TN not GA), and past big mansion homes, then into Nashville past a tired neighborhood. Our destination?   Mellow Mushroom.  I've heard wonderful things of this place on the celiac page and I this was our opportunity---plus, we could say we'd dined in Nashville.  (I had been here when I was in college and saw a bit of the town, this time it was just a pass through, though we did see the bat tower).  

Mellow Mushroom's menu has a separate gluten free card in the middle, with the types of pizza, the ingredients on their crust (delicious), and combos for the same gluten price!   
 Fun interior. 

My GF veggie with bacon --The Mike said 'that's not veggie then'.
 The Mike's bbq chicken 

Since we're big on dining and dashing, we did just that :-)   Got on the road and headed north to Illinois for a night's stay--where we had a very unwelcome wake up call at 6:30am.  It's vacation, we're sleeping in--or at least wanting to do so!  

We had scrambled eggs at the hotel and on our way north and west and north ;-)   into Missouri we went, past St Louis where we saw The Arch, and then we got off the main road to take in some scenery.  We stopped at Mark Twain's Lake, although were on the wrong side of it to visit his childhood home.  Here we were able to have some snacks of a slice of cheese and an apple, and then chocolate chips and pretzels.  The further north we got, we took in more history.  La Plata, MO has an Amtrak station. It's a small town so the station shocked us, but it would draw people from IL and MO to get on the train for LA.   Next we stumbled across the site of a confederate raid in Iowa, the furthest north fighting seen in this part of the country.  Then we went Gothic.  
The American Gothic house Grant Wood made famous.  

We have a couple quirky photos with us, but they're staying off the blog :-)  

Next up was to visit The Man who was kind and generous with the white men invading his people's land.  Chief Wa Pel Lo is buried by Agency, Iowa (named for the Indian Agency that was here). He was the second in command behind Chief Keokuk.    

Finally, we were home: 
8 days on the road
6 states visited
6 national parks visited
Multiple restaurants dined
0 soy incidences
0 gluten incidences

Vacation success!  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Travel, conference, and food fun--which means: ask questions

This past weekend I was out of town for a conference on leadership for the pancreatic cancer group with which I volunteer.  I am always a little leery of conference food with my food intolerances, but I think it's a good leery/awareness/consciousness.  I love this organization and the catering, because they seem to take food intolerances/allergies into consideration when we register and the catering folks put out tags by the food.  I ran into only a few hiccups while at the conference.

Beforehand, I made The Mike up plenty of food for while I'd be gone a whole four days ;-)  Mostly, I figured I could make it up, and then freeze the left overs when I got home, so he'd have individual lunches at some point if we didn't have a left over for him.   Baked mac and cheese, individual mexican lasagna, an italian lasagna, meatloaf, and then sides of mashed potatoes, potato salad, tomato/cucumber/cheese salad, and carrot sticks.  
 I don't think he touched the carrot sticks at all. I'm not surprised ;-)    Dinner Wednesday was seasoned pork tenderloin, pan cooked, with a sauce of peaches, raisins, and pineapple juice which was inspired by a cookbook recipe. Butternut squash, peeled, diced and roasted worked for a great side.
Flying is always tricky. It's hard enough being gluten free/celiac, but throw in soy intolerance as well and it's just best to stick to things one packs.  I usually take a couple Chobani yogurts and the Mama Chia seed packets or applesauce packets.  They're just over the 3 oz that TSA has a rule about, but interestingly, the TSA doesn't seem to mind, except in airports where they sell Chobani. That is, until this trip! I had my stroller bag packed with all my weekend needs, and the sling LLBean bag packed with my food. Everything shoved into a couple gallon zip bags and shoved into the bag itself. Two chobanis, a couple UDIs choc chip muffins, the applesauce and Mama Chia, Tanka bars, a packet of chia seed, pretzel circles, Baby Bel indivdiual cheeses, and a package of 'granola' I make which is sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, dried coconut flakes, dried cranberries, and Guittard chocolate chips (they use sunflower lecithin, not soy, in their milk choc chips).  I go through security in my Athleta skort and pancreatic cancer shirt and get flagged for a pat down waist to knees. Maybe it's because of the double fabric with the skort?    My carryon sling bag is thoroughly inspected by someone who may or may not have been brand new to the job.  She took out everything inspected it, and set all the food to the side, after looking at the ounces on each package.  I told her that I have food intolerances and need to carry my own food.  She wiped the kindle and a few other things, then had to ask another TSA about the food with the comment "she says she has food allergies".  The other TSA said, "that's fine, let it all go through". She said she had to wipe them all because they were over the 3 oz limit.  I get it, I want to be safe while flying as well, but I don't understand what wiping the exterior of a store bought container is going to prove.  The long flight out of the connecting airport let me enjoy some food and a "juice" which ended up being only 15% juice.

Upon landing (late) in San Diego, I checked into the hotel, chomped on a Tanka bar and a couple other things, and headed over to Coronado Island for the day with a couple other folks. (so no set meal yet)

Birds of Paradise, one of my favorite flowers
The ferry to Coronado was great. I was a little hungry when we got there, so I had another Tanka bar. Then we walked around the island, exploring and finding some neat shops. I so wanted to go to the Candy store, but didn't really need any sugar, didn't want to try to figure out what was/was not gluten and soy free, and just said "be healthy" in a calming voice :-)
  We did discover that Coronado is called the Emerald City, and that L. Frank Baum resided on Coronado when he wrote several of the Oz books. One store attendant said that if we read the original books, we would see many things in common with the island.  On we walked to the Del, and the Pacific Ocean (one in our group had never seen the ocean before, so we had made the journey to the far side of Coronado especially for this person). The sand is unlike any I'd ever seen. It's gorgeous. Highly recommend the trip!  
It was sunny!
We left our mark on the beach. . . waging hope for Pancreatic Cancer. Currently has an average 8% five year survival rate. Stage 1 and 2 have a 27% five year survival rate.  When my mom was killed by this cancer in 2012, the five year was 5%.

Back we went to San Diego with no idea where to eat, except along the bay area somewhere.  We passed Roy's at the Marriott Marquis area and the others decided this would be a good place. Excellent food, slower service, and only a small handful of meals that were gluten free, with a few less that could be made soy free as well.  This was the Halibut special, minus the gnocci, and was served with a side of mashed potatoes.  Delicious!
Afterwards, we met a few others with a connection to the cause and walked down a few blocks to the "Top Gun" restaurant. I had no idea what they were talking about. The KC Barbeque place was a set area for the 1980s movie.  I felt bad about not eating, but hey, I'd already filled up on that fabulous fish!  I ordered a Sprite!   The restaurant was neat. Others knew this was a real place and were surprised by my surprise of it being a real place. I said "I just assume that everything in a Hollywood movie is pretty much done on set at the movie lot".  Apparently they filmed another scene nearby, and someone from the film went into this place for a beer, loved the ambiance, and it was written into the movie!  

I'm only going to post the one photo of the place, because it's really something a person should see in real life.  I was surprised at the size of the place though.

The next day started our conference. Breakfast buffet on balcony/deck. Beautiful view and great food. Before I actually looked at the buffet, I asked the head catering person about food allergies. He said there were signs posted on what was what. [Ham (gf/df/sf) type of signs.] He said the potatoes were done in oil, and he did double check what type of oil when I asked.  olive!  Yeah!   All this, plus there was Chobani yogurt, milk, and assorted juices.  

I forgot to take a lunch food photo of the first day. There was the mismarked item on the buffet of CousCous being labeled gluten free. Now, I know of NO couscous grain/pasta/whatever it is that is gluten free. At home, if I make it, I make it with quinoa.  I mentioned it to a regular catering person (not the head guy) and was told that 'maybe it was a different type that was gf'. Uh, no. no way.  I stuck to the meat in a light red sauce, and some lettuce with kalamata olives.  I had something else too, but not an awful lot. Thankful for that big breakfast!  

The evening was a cowboy theme.  I had to take a pic of the tables to show how city folks do country ;-)  Kept it simple and quaint.   

Food for the evening had a good assortment and went with the theme.  There was brisket with bbq sauce, corn on the cob, salad, and some corn bread. I was thankful they had salmon as well.  I love brisket. I dislike bbq sauce. (I know, I'm PICKY on top of having food intolerances!).   Tasty tasty!  The cute gluten thing they had for dessert was premade smores!   They also had three containers on a table of a cobbler. The gluten free, dairy free, soy free sign was in front of the large chafing dish and they said the small one was the vegetarian one.  Okay. I started to scoop out of the large one with the oatmeal and said something about how great it was that this was gluten free. The person manning the station then said, 'Oh, the little one is the gluten free one'.  I told them that's not what the sign was.  Again, it pays to be on the toes and ask questions/make comments to get people to talk about the food.  They served the cobbler with ice cream. YUM!   I ended up just picking the fruit out of the cobbler: peaches and blackberries. It looked like there was chex cereal in it for crunch.  

The next morning I was hungry.  I headed to breakfast and prepared my plate. I put the bacon on the plate and was so glad to see the gluten free/soyfree/dairy free label.  THEN I saw the oat topped rye? wheat? bread underneath the bacon to absorb the fat/grease.  Uh What the heck!?!?   I went directly to the green shirt guy and I said, "how is this gluten free if it's on top of bread. I get that the bread is there to absorb the oil, but it isn't gluten free bread, is it?'  He acknowledged that no, it wouldn't be, and that yes, they would empty a pan of bacon by putting the rest of a pan on top of the incoming pan.  He went in back and got new bacon for me from a fresh pan that didn't have gluten in it at all. I felt bad, but had to toss out my first plate of food. I pushed it to the center of the table and got some weird looks. When I said what had happened with the bacon, several of the people said they understood because of a sibling or friend with gluten issues as well. 
My 'second' plate of breakfast.
The venue had some great snacks for midmorning and midafternoon as well. Two of the snacks I thought were great were the cheese/fruit/date kabobs, which I paired with my round pretzels, and the paper cone with jicama  and carrot slices.  

Lunch on the second day was fish in a red sauce, but I grabbed a piece on top without the sauce, and chicken in a light white tarragon sauce, with a zucchini dish where the zucchini seemed more on the raw side, which probably helped it from being overdone by the time we got the food.  

 Dinner that evening was a served meal in the banquet room.  One of the changes this year was that those of us with gluten/dairy/soy issues would have fruit instead of nothing for dessert (while watching everyone else enjoy their delicious looking chocolate items).  When I first sat down, one of the wait staff came over for wine or coffee, and I informed him that I was gluten and soy free. He quickly removed the dessert and returned with the fruit. This immediate change served a notice to him later during the meal serving to remind him that I got a meal without the extra sauce!
An au gratin potato dish cut into triangles, veggies, a small piece of fish and a small piece of fabulous steak.  It was a great way to end a conference.  Good food, safe food, gluten free, soy free, and friendly company.

One of the things a friend at the conference did was head to the nearby grocery store for some things for themselves, and they brought me back a package of these cookies. FABULOUS!  Soft, chewy, tasty. I have not seen them in a store in the midwest. I shared them with my roommate who also enjoyed them.  Cybeles Free To Eat chocolate chip cookies
Before our flight departed on Sunday, we had some time to walk over to the Gaslamp district of San Diego to visit the Cat Cafe. The walk didn't take long, and we arrived early, walking around the place and enjoying the Chinese sculptures and historical window displays. The Horton Hotel is in this area.  A sign outside intrigued me that said "rebuilt in 1986" (I think it was 86).  We went inside this long building and asked the man behind the counter about the story of the place, and the interesting sign. Turns out, the place was rebuilt because it was torn apart, brick by brick, in the 1970s and placed in a warehouse. The current site is not the original location. It is a fabulous mix of architecture/period styles, all original.  It is definitely worth another view next year, and perhaps a night's stay.

This guy at the Cat Cafe is up for adoption. He never moved off his palm tree perch. In my mind, he reminded me of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland: sitting all regal and mysteriously atop the tree. 

The trip home was long.  I had my granola and muffin snack on the plane to Ohare. At Ohare I stretched in the yoga room some, and did some walking, then decided to head to my gate and have my Chobani dinner. I got to that gate only to find out the gate was changed. It changed five more times in the next hour before it departed. AA said "gates may change at any time".  Uh, any time, once or twice is reasonable. The group of us moving from one gate to another to another had to have looked like some comedic movie. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Long road back. . . am I back?

Hi Quirkyland :-)

It's been a while since I've written. Mostly, I was ticked off and upset that exercising/walking slow was painful, exercising/walking fast was painful.  After that 4 mile event this spring I pretty much said 'forget it'.  I went to physical therapy and still I didn't see any improvements.  I finally told my PCP's office that I had to have referrals to orthos because I was getting no where. The PCP office told me that it was because my autoimmune disease made healing slow---uh, I don't think so. Almost 8 months post collision and I still wasn't able to walk 'fast' without wanting to puke. I had pain in my low back doing just about anything, including sitting. I can't do yoga because of my wrist and back.  Well, you get the idea.

I went to the first ortho for the low back and he said my spine looked fabulous and I needed to see a pain clinic doctor, not an ortho for it.  I went to the pain clinic where the guy told me I had the back of a middle aged person. (gee thanks).  Over the course of a few months, I had a facet injection, an epidural, and an SI injection.  The first helped with pain while sitting, but not a great deal. The second was WOW.  I asked him if I'd be able to run after the epidural and he said not to do it right away, but that yes I could, but not to go all out. ---gee, I didn't think anyone could go 'all out' in running after not doing a dang thing for 7, 8 months. He must think I'm She-RA!   A few weeks after the epidural, I went for a run. OH joy!  My body remembered how to run! Even with added weight and all.
  However, I was having some weird pain in the low back/right side.  The following week I went back and he said that it was probably the SI joint in the area, and I got a VERY painful injection in that spot.  Mostly painful because he couldn't use numb stuff since I had to be able to tell him where it hurt.

 I even was able to wear my heels around the house. . . I didn't want to push it, so I put on shorter ones to go out.  These were the shoes I wore with my bruised toenails a week post Marine Corps Marathon to my dermatologist appointment where they cut off a spot on my pinkie toe. . . and I wore them with no issues. After the collision, I couldn't wear them thirty seconds without severe back pain.  (Happy dance).

Post SI injection, I went for a run a day or two later and was able to do so without much issue. I still have a feeling of pressure in the low back area, but the pain that was preventing me from doing things isn't there.

Me. Running. In my neighborhood.
Bright orange to be visible!
Now my wrist is still another issue.  I saw a different ortho for the wrist.  He did an injection in it which eliminated the weird and disgusting pops/cracking it would do.  I was able to do some stirring on the stove-top a little longer with the wrist before switching to the left, but I still had a lump and pain about three/four inches back on the wrist/forearm. I got an injection in that which helped, but not immensely. I still had to wear the brace which limits movement, and building of/upkeep of muscle.  A few weeks ago I called his office back because the pain was coming back. I had done some things with the hands/wrists at the end of July which made the joint and muscles scream at me.  The ortho said I had a choice of more physical therapy, or open up the forearm/wrist area and cut the scar tissue on the tendon. Uh, hmmm, uh, can I see a different physical therapist?  Sure, he said. I decided to go with a new PT office and so far have had about four visits and have seen some improvement, but I want to be able to do everything I normally have done, so it's frustrating. 

This is how I go about doing yard work or mowing the yard. We have a rider, but turning the wheel still requires both hands. Tape up the wrist and hand, for added support and pressure, and I seem to be able to do it. I've been told to not OVER do it.  

The new physical therapist is funny. The first day in his office, my left hand/arm was okay, the right injured one was pained because we have yard stuff that *must* be done before we have a new driveway done. I had been out doing that. Using the clippers in the right hand until it got sore, then switching to the left hand, and then switching back, etc.  The PT guy said it was okay that I had done that before coming in, as it let him know how bad the wrist is when I'm using it for normal stuff for me.  Then he told me to not do it again :-D    To use the left wrist as much as I can.  Sigh.  

A couple weeks ago, The Mike and I headed north to the Minnesota Melanoma Research Foundation's 5k.  It was a gorgeous day, with a 5k walk around one of the ten thousand lakes.  It was wonderful to walk without back pain.  We managed to walk each mile a little faster than the one before, and finished the 5k a minute or two faster than the Fools 5K in April in horrid pain.   

We even got a finisher's medal. It's rubber. Pretty sweet, and simplistically filling for this runner, turned walker, turned couch potato, turned walker/runner.  

I didn't want to write at the start of August in case the running didn't turn into anything, and now I feel like maybe I've kept a secret too long, but it's hard mentally getting back into the game. I use to get up every morning for a run or for yoga. I use to bike to the grocery store.  Now I'm slowly back into the game of being able to run, but I also know I have a long way to go to get where I want to be (which is where I was), and am trying to accept where I am now. The now that is where I can run. I never accepted the then, that was the now, that was not exercising (was that too much Spaceball like talk?)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

4 mile event at THE DOME

Back at the beginning of April I registered for the Fools 5K and registered for this 4mile event at the same time, figuring that having an event will be motivation to get on the treadmill when I can't run. That last part hasn't been all that true, though I have gotten on a couple times a week.  I use to do some of my longer runs over through campus in the early morning in the summer. It is a fairly quiet area that time of day and year---and I could run inclines in the parking garage!

As the weekend loomed closer, the weathermen said the phrase we rarely hear, "100% chance of rain on Saturday".  Oh happy happy, joy joy!   Walking in the rain.  Then I remembered Guitar Ted's (mountain bike writer) who says, "once you're wet, you're wet, you can't get any wetter" and I have always agreed with that.  

I had to dig out my winter running clothes (having put them all away in vacuum bags after the Fools race--apparently *I'm* the fool for doing that).  I felt like I was the only one in layers, but I did see a few others in long running pants as well (I had the winter pants over capris with knee hi socks).  I was quite surprised to see people in flappy shorts, as the temp was 43ºF at the start!   These last four/five years I am *always* cold and my docs can't figure it out, so I have to figure out clothing that will keep me warm, but not make me overheat once I'm ten or twenty minutes into running, which I figure is thirty minutes into walking. Being able to open up the bottom of the rain jacket while walking is good for two reasons: 1. to let air circulate; and 2. I'm short, so it wants to either ride up above the hips, or needs to be open a couple inches to allow for the hips.  #ShortPeopleProblems  

Packet pick up was Friday night or Saturday morning. I chose to go Friday night and got a bib for the event. There were only so many of these style ordered. Those who picked up late got plain white bibs.  I'm putting my back to the test, I want that special bib :-D   A local insurance agent also provided each participant with a purple cowbell for the event. Mine stayed home with The Mike who was content to sleep in.   I was back again at The Dome early the next morning for race (walk) day. 

Finish chute and finish line on the 50 yard line! 

Since I attended this University, I have some great memories in the Dome. They're not of games (I don't care to be in the midst of a lot of people like that). Rather, the memories are of being in Military Science classes/ROTC. Our PT was in the gym, with a two mile run (out/back) to a brown house that was on the edge of town at that time--and is not longer 'on the edge', and we rappelled off the north wall.  Due to my pre-existing condition, two weeks before boot camp I was told I couldn't go/join.  Plus, when I attended the State Regents said everyone had to take a 'gym' class. Mine was weight lifting in the center attached to the Dome. I learned a lot then, and still use that information.

We walked over to the chilly start to line up and of course we're all looking around to see who is there. A fabulous thing about this school is that our coaches are AWESOME.  They're nice on the field/court and off, on the trail system if you meet them, and they participate in events like this one.

We all stood (fairly) silently for the National Anthem. We waited.
and waited. 
and waited.
Someone at the front said, "Do we have to sing it?" being a smarty pants.
Then the race promoter said, "The iPod won't work, we'll have to sing the National Anthem", and so we did. 300+ folks singing the National Anthem at the start of a 4 mile event. It was cool. The campanile was chiming the hour just before we sang.   

Campus artwork
The route was a bit hilly at times and brisk wind at other times. I started out walking and paused to take the above photo. At that time, a couple walkers came up with me and I moved faster than I normally do in order to keep up with them and not be dropped/finish in last.  They were kind to let me tag along. We walked down and around and up to a roundabout that use to be my professors' office building, then down campus to the environmental studies. Then we hiked UP UP UP the incline/hill to the very official name of R.O.T.H. . . . Residence On The Hill.  This was mile 2 and while my legs were feeling good, my low back was furious with me.  It was screaming as much as it could and I wanted to hurl from the pain.   At this point I was like, "well, I can finish in two miles, or I can DNF at 2 miles and walk back to the start. Oh, wait, I am walking to the finish/start". Thankfully we didn't have a lot of hills to go and not anything like that one had been.  It started sprinkling on us around this point as well. We got across campus and it started picking up. By the time we got to the Dome it was a nice drizzle.  

We finished inside the Dome and entered the way the players do...from the NW corner of the floor across the VERY soft/squishy artificial turf to the 50 yard line.  It was awesome!  
My almost finish photo with walking/jostling hand.
photo of other people, not me
As folks crossed the finish, the picture was put up on the display, along with the leader board.

After walking around a bit, the fire in my back went down a couple notches and I had some milk  and a banana, watched the awards, and then had to walk up the stairs to get out to the parking lot.  It was frustrating that I had to stop and move to the side on the stairs, but I was also happy that I did the 4 mile event.

This was a wonderfully organized event, set on a beautiful campus, with some challenge to the course (hills and wind).  I would love to do this event again, and hopefully be able to run it.  My back hated me during the race, and for the rest of the weekend. I'm not sure the pain was worth it, but the legs and mind loved getting back out there.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Post 5k (by a couple weeks!) and more traction

April 3 was the 5k  April Fools event.  This is one of the funnest and best races I've participated in. First, this race director has plenty of emails and Facebook notices about an event (but not too many, you know what I mean?).  He also has a great staging area of the Start, food/tents, and Finish lines.

Let's take the Start line.  He has it set up with a nice inflatable banner, plenty of "minute" corral areas and, this is to me one of the best things, speakers all the way back down the corral area. This means, if you're a walker or a 13 minute runner, you can still hear what's being announced and hear the national anthem too!

I got out to the race site about 45 minutes early. The day was still chilly, but not near as windy as Saturday, the original event day, was.  Saturday had wind gusts up to 50mph, and I think a few may have been faster than that.  The race director was able to work with the venue (state park), food venues and portapotty people to have the event on Sunday instead. This in and of itself is a huge feat. Not many cities or race directors would be able to arrange that!  I got a parking spot about midway between the start and finish/staging area.  My main reason in getting there early was to get a good parking spot, and to be able to get a race shirt at 8:30, when those of us who registered too late could get a t-shirt.  HOT PINK :-)    There were a few hundred people I guess, who weren't able to make the race on Sunday, but there were over seven hundred people who were happy it got rescheduled!  The race director is awesome. Any other city/race probably would have resulted in a flat out cancellation.

I started walking back to the Starting area about 8:45.  I didn't want to stand out in the breeze any more than necessary, even though I had on a Mizuno thermal shirt, a loose winter Adidas over that, and my Saucony running jacket. On the bottom half I messed up and wore Athleta knee pants, with Nike winter run pants over that.  I should have worn full length tights and then the Nike over it.  My calves were ccccold!  
Not these type of calves!  
I stayed on the side of the corral until the near end and then tucked in to cross the start line.  I was sure I was going to have the same issue as I do with running--going out too fast in "turbo" fashion.  I think I was doing well for the start and then did pick it up a little to stay with a couple other walkers who were near me. My back was a little 'ick' from the twisting of the hips as I walked, but it wasn't too bad. I was walking faster than I do on the treadmill and could tell that.  About three-fourths of a mile in the right lower back was a sore spot. This had happened before, since the accident, on the treadmill and was a "knock it down" signal to me.  I tried to slow up the walking but it didn't seem to help on this day.  I took my thumb and pushed it into that area to try and loosen it up.

The course is sort of an out and back with a side loop about a mile in.  While I usually see the lead racers on the side loop, today walking this course, I saw them much earlier on the course and it freaked me out! Made me think I must be reallllllly slow and then I realized, 'yeah, I am slow today. I am a walker!'  One of the up and coming runners is a young thing, and it was great to see him out there keeping pace with the leaders. (He's 8).  Some people are shocked to see someone 'so young' out there, but it's really about finding an interest that the person like and loves and he loves running and being fast.

That side loop is almost another mile as well, so it's not a straight line out and back and there is some scenic change to enjoy as well!   On this side loop is where I slowed down and was massaging the right mid back several times.  I got to where I walked with it just barely making its presence known, so it wasn't painful, but wasn't gone either.  Just 'noticeable'.  

The rest of the event, last mile or so, I slowed down a bit more too.  I was loving the beautiful day, with the chilly breeze, even though I'd rather have been running the event. I tried not to let the need to walk get me down, but it was definitely frustrating not to go faster, and having to slow a walk.

I finished with a little over 55 minutes, so definitely faster than I have been on the treadmill, but with the low back twitching and hurting, I just don't know how I could go any faster. [I thought it was funny that we always run in races faster than in training and the same held true for walking--even though I didn't expect it to happen].  I wanted to hang out for the finish, but the cool breeze was at work cooling me down too much. I got my results sheet, chocolate milk, banana and popcorn and headed back to the car.  I was trying to remember if this is the race where the race director has a door prize drawing and I couldn't remember, then I decided it didn't matter. I wanted to get warm!

I had my second traction therapy last week on Wednesday and didn't notice any difference, unlike the first one the prior week.  I hurt going into it and I still hurt after the traction and heat + stim.

Friday I felt a lot better. I got on the treadmill and did another 5K.... at my slower pace 57 minutes.  A couple miles into walking I decided to bump the treadmill up to 5mph and try running. I did get further until the pain kicked in, and then cut it back to walking speed.  A whole 30 seconds I ran.  WOW. I **should** be impressed with myself.  

This week I missed traction.  Essentially, I got a whole two hours of sleep on Tuesday night, waking up at midnight "wide awake" for the day. I grabbed the kindle and read on the couch for a bit.  Later in the morning we had our new bed and couch delivered. I feel like a princess having to climb up into the giant bed (with memory foam padding!).  Last night I slept solidly (probably because I realllly needed the sleep) and today I got busy with closet cleaning and laundry.  My wrist pain shot up with all the activity and back pain was steady. About 11am I get a call from the car dealer that I missed my brake appointment. Thankfully I was still able to take my car in. Unfortunately, it meant I also missed my therapy (traction) appointment this morning.  I called to reschedule and they were surprised to realize they had missed me not checking in and rescheduled for the first available on Monday.  I was surprised that they hadn't called me after missing my 9am appointment.

In cleaning out the closet today, I found my bright pair of Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes that I won at last year's Marine Corps Marathon. I'm 'saving' those for when I'm able to get back to running!  I have three old pairs of running shoes I can use for walking and therapy.

Here's to a beautiful weather week ahead!  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Walk--not run, Get Me The Rack, 5k!

I usually thing of things to write about when I'm driving, or doing something else that means I can't write down what I'm thinking about.  By the time I get to paper and a writing utensil, I have forgotten what I was thinking ;-)  I hope I'm not the only one who does this!

This last week I was (still) bemoaning that I cannot run.  Someone asked me a few months ago if I've tried running. I said no, quickly, but the reality was that yes, I did try once after the accident.  My treadmill goes has three instant speed buttons of 3mph, 5mph, and 7mph.  I bumped it from 3mph to 5mph for about as long as it takes to say "NOPE", and went back to 3mph. My whole back was so sore from that 'try' that it just became more simple to say "I can't run" since 11/17/16 car accident.

Earlier this week my doc's office called to tell me the results of the MRI I had on Friday of last week. My wrist has water on it.  I wonder why it can't be aspirated. My knee was aspirated about a decade ago when I ripped my ACL and meniscus. My doc just racks everything up to my autoimmune disease.  (sigh)  It'd be even nice if insurance companies let you pick a physician based on their lifestyle. Such as, I'd like a doctor who is food/health conscious, and runs/exercises, and would look outside the box at investigating things.

The results of the wrist said I had water on it, and apparently it'll just go away in time.  The low back showed some issues and my PCP's nurse relayed that I could do injections or try traction.  Let yourself see how you'd react to those two options and being made to make a decision with that information.  I asked what type of injections, 'corticosteroid'.  Oh, so Prednisone?  She replied with yes, probably. Hmmm, well, I HATE Prednisone.

I asked what traction was about.  The nurse told me "weights on your waist".  Hmm, well that one doesn't sound as scary as Prednisone, let's go with traction.  The nurse replied, yeah not everyone wants a needle in their back.  My thought: Why would an injection/RX be anyone's first choice of recovery?  Medicine is good, but seriously, let's try some non-pharmaceutical things first!

This last time for PT, traction was "added".  (i.e. I did traction, plus the stim, but no Gym to see how I feel).   Traction is putting on a corset/waist belt system, laying on a table, having the belt system attached to a machine that slowly and gradually pulls your lower body from your upper body. Essentially, "traction" is the modern day mid-evil times RACK.  It actually didn't hurt. It felt good and I could only tell I was being moved because the Athleta pants slipped on the table as it moved under me.
(found via search for "The Rack")
Afterwards I felt good. Still had some pain, but I felt like I could hop and skip.  The pain came back about five hours later, but not as strongly until later that night.

There's a 5K this weekend that I've been debating on entering, so I decided I better get my butt back on the treadmill to walk a full 5k and see how I'm going to do with it.  I decided my time was doable and wouldn't keep the volunteers at the race finish extra long.  In addition, after I had two miles done, I decided to try to run.  BIG mistake.  I bumped up the treadmill to 5mph and immediate pain shot horizontally on the low back and up the back as well. I went back to walking.

Then the race was postponed from Saturday to Sunday. . . . due to strong winds forecast. By strong winds, we're talking wind gusts up to 50mph.  Some people were upset because they had Sunday commitments, but most were happy that:

1. The race director is looking out for racers and volunteers;  and 
2. That "Iowa Nice" extends to parks being flexible with something like a race.  

I cannot imagine a race on city streets being postponed one day. However, since this race takes place in a state park, and no one had the park reserved for Sunday, then the race can still go on!
I entered this 5K for Sunday, as well as one at the end of the month.   I have mixed feelings for having to walk it, but happy to get out in the beautiful Spring and get enjoy the day.  

Last year when I did the Marine Corps Marathon in October, someone asked me why I just didn't postpone it until the following year, and get a better time, since it'd be seven months after my acral lentiginous melanoma/ "toe cancer".  I said because I got into the race for this year and I was going to do it, and I had to get something BIG moved in order to be able to do the race, and would have to get permission to move that again in the following year.  I am now ecstatic that I ran the Marine Corps Marathon last year.  It was my slowest, marathon ever, out of five, but I did it.

In that fashion, I'm getting out there and doing this 5K.  It will be my slowest, longest 5K ever, but I am going to do it.  (I did walk this race with a friend a couple years ago, so it'll be the second 5k I've walked since 2009 when I started running).  

Now, should I do a costume, or just dress as a "walker" ;-)   It is a Foolish race to do, after all!