Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Traveling--uncertainties, differences in attitude

Last week I did some traveling across the country. Before I left I made The Mike some frozen food items to last him a few days--cause I'm an awesome wife like that.  *fine* it's because he asked this of me, and, because he doesn't put demands upon me, I said yes. 

Day 1. 
I was headed from the Midwest to the East Coast with a friend and her five year old.  Our first stop for lunch was Culver's.  This is a great chain that makes awesome custard and, while their chocolate custard use to be off limits, they've apparently changed their recipe, as it is now listed in the allergen menu as gluten free :-)  YES!  I haven't been to one in quite a while for a couple reasons. First, it's about $10 and for me, that always seems a bit high for a burger, no bun, or a salad, and I can always make a similar meal at home. Second, I no longer work near the one in my city.  I was excited to see the Cranberry Bacon Blue Salad with grilled chicken was still on the gluten free menu, which I ordered.  I was excited to see they now had a "gluten free" button on their computers!
I don't usually get dressing as most are made with soy, which I have to avoid as well, and on this particular salad, the bleu cheese offers good flavor with the cranberries so that additional dressing is not needed. The butter side was for a slice of my bread--I took half a loaf of breadmachine bread with me for the four days.

The next snack/meal time was a quick break after visiting a cemetery. I had a slice of my bread with the sliced turkey and a slice of provolone I had brought along in my friend's small cooler.  This was good, as the next stop was going to be a while :-)  We got a call from another friend, and were offered space at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. We had a ways to move it before we got there. We estimated arrival at 11pm or so. We got there about midnight--Eastern. Being not familiar with the interstate in Indiana, we missed the exit for the Wendys and ended up stopping at an "oasis" on the tollway---it's a gas station and restaurant along the toll, instead of having to pay to get off the toll and head into a town.  This Oasis had a McDonalds, so it was a turkey sandwich again!  Time to recharge the phone at the McDonald's booth, take out the contact lenses, and then head on down the road.  We did fairly well, with light traffic. I ended up falling asleep for about half an hour, but it was all good--I was the passenger and I woke up before we headed into our destination town. Seemed quaint at night and spied an Outback I was sure we'd visit in the next day.  We were exhausted, but looked forward to a "no drive" Friday.

Day 2.  
I got up and headed to the hotel gym thinking I'd get my 7.5 miles in the coach prescribed.  Why are hotel gyms always so warm? with no fans?  Ugh.  I had almost a mile in and was watching CNN, catching up on world news, when another guest came in and got on the elliptical.  Squeak, squeak, squeak came with every movement of his machine. I couldn't tune it out, no matter how much I tried.  I decided to head out on the open road, and found the mall just down the road. I figured a lap around would be a mile and I could get the rest of my miles in.  I was just about done with my first lap when an old green car came to a stop on the access road behind me.  I could hear the sudden nonmovement of the vehicle, stopped to turn around and glance ---a lady has to be aware of her surroundings at all times!  The car just floored it and sped away down the road.  Let's say I was freaked out, fully. I texted my friend that I was coming back ( in case something happened to me along the way) and headed back to the hotel.  I felt really bad I wasn't getting the miles in--at least I did until I spent six/seven hours in the water park running up the steps to the waterslides with the kids and working up my nerves to slide down the tubes.  Up the stairs, back down again.  Later that night and Saturday morning my thighs and glutes felt as if I'd run a half marathon or more.

Breakfast was at the Lodge with an awesome waitress. After she marked on the slip that I was gluten and soy free, she handed me the slip to mark what I wanted in my omelet. Then I had the fresh fruit that was on the buffet. They also had gluten filled pancakes, danishes, cereals.  Each table was served a 'family style' plate of hashbrowns and bacon.  Spinach, mushroom, tomato and cheese omelet that seemed as if it was cooked in water, as there was no sheen to the eggs, as one would expect with an oil.

Lunch was at a different Lodge restaurant, with the same waitress, who remembered I was gluten free (and I had to remind her of soy).  I had a hamburger with a gluten free bun!!!! and a side of broccoli.  No one wanted to take their cell phones to the waterpark to leave them at a table, so I have no photo.

Back to the waterpark for more fun and then we headed out to . . . . OUTBACK.  I just knew we'd be dining here. It's our go-to place when there's one available. We had the  best ever waitress!  Or at least, the best we've had in a very long time.  Kind, funny, engaging, sympathetic to the kiddos, and brought gluten free butter for those of us who needed it, and she brought small packages of animal crackers to the kids at the table.  I had the Alice Springs Chicken without the mustard sauce (the waitress checked and it contained soy), the garlic mash potatoes (omg, those are so good, why haven't I had them before?), and the veggies.

Day 3.
Saturday, we headed to the breakfast room of the Lodge and had a different waitress.  This one wasn't engaging, and she just plain refused to write 'soy and gluten free' on the omelet slip.  She said, 'there's nothing that should contain those in the omelet'.  I asked 'what about the butter?'   She said,'It's an oil mixture'.  ARGH.  My omelet came and it had a sheen as if it was made in oil this day rather than the appearance of the one the day before. I had to decide. Did I want to eat this and risk a soy issue in half an hour, or starve.  I took a chance and apparently it must have been cooked in real butter, as I had no issues.  I really had no idea what was up with this waitress that she just couldn't even write 'soy/gluten free' on the omelet slip. BIG attitude.  Sad.

We headed out and did a few stops trying to see Lake Erie to be able to walk along its shores. Apparently this is quite impossible from Sandusky Ohio eastward.  Private access is all we found --so different from being at the beach in Hawai'i.  We stopped for lunch at Wendy's--a place I haven't been to in years for no other reason that it's not in a part of my town I travel to very often, and if I'm going to eat a hamburger in my own town, it'll be one I make. I checked the nutrition/allergy menu posted and then made my order:  a double with cheddar cheese, no bun, lettuce, tomato, and a side salad, along with a small chocolate Frosty. The manager was in back making the food for everyone, and the order taker was new, so she had to ask him on how to put the order into the computer. I was quite satisfied this was going to be a good meal--and it was. 

We headed on our drive southeast and found a McDonalds late afternoon for some ice cream/bathroom break. Then had a lovely drive along Tappen Lake in Ohio.  The road meanders along the edge, taking us out over the water, and then back along the shore.  Beautiful drive, though it did cost us some travel time to do so. 
Tappen Lake Dam--and you can drive across the dam road!
We drove through Cadiz, and discovered this is where Clark Gable was born. #ThingsWeNeverThoughtAboutButFoundInteresting. 

As we were getting to West Virginia, we decided to get fuel in Wheeling, although we had enough to go for a while, but we took the detour around town and missed out on the cheap fuel on the non-detour route.  I didn't know about the town of Wheeling, or really how West Virginia came to be, except it was a Civil War decision.  Later I read a fiction book that also mentioned Wheeling, so I gave into temptation and used Wikipedia.  Turns out, West Virginia counties broke free from Virginia during the civil war and, from what was posted, without a majority of counties agreeing to do so (though I thought this was odd).  I still find it odd that the little portion between Ohio and Pennsylvania doesn't belong to either of those two states. 

Later on down the road--well, clear across the top portion of WV, into Pennsylvania where fuel is more expensive, down into WV again, and then just before the start of Maryland, we needed a restroom break and were getting close to needing fuel, so we pulled off just before the MD border, as a storm was brewing. No sooner than we get to the stop sign at the off ramp than a giant bolt of white lightning, with a couple skinny side bolts, sets off down the road where we'd have been if we had stayed on the Interstate.  We headed to the gas station, only to discover the pumps weren't working from that same lightning blast (told you it was close).  My friend headed in to use the restroom while I watched her son and tried to call The Mike.  I was inside when I got a voice mail message from The Mike saying to call him.  (Depending on location, sometimes the calls go right to voicemail when I'm roaming, this is one time where that wasn't good).  Turns out The Mike was on a gravel bike ride with several gents, they'd taken a break on a gravel road in the shade of some trees, were off their bikes, when a truck rolled from the top of the hill down towards them. Most got out of the way, one bike was destroyed when it became lodged under the vehicle. The Mike was fine, but a friend was tossed into the ditch (he is fine too), the guys all sprung into action with cell phones snapping pictures of the license plate, vehicle, and bike lodged underneath. However, he fled the accident. Due to RAGBRAI occurring in the same state, in the same area, dispatch originally thought it was a RAGBRAI injury, which it wasn't---just some random guys out for a bike ride on a gravel road who were rolled into by a drunk dude in a truck.

Thankfully, there was walking room in the gas station, and tables to sit down at after I was off the phone with The Mike.  So scary to have this happen, but knowing it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  

The gas station had regular food for friend and her child, and I grabbed a bottle of SmartWater and a can of sardines in olive oil --who'd have thought they'd have this at an almost rural gas station, or that the two combined would be less than one of the items in Iowa?  The can of sardines held me over. Turns out I wasn't too hungry after The Mike's news!

Refueled, we headed on to push through Maryland to the destination of Virginia.  The rest was uneventful, except for the hard rain that fell, requiring us to drive 40-55mph instead of 70mph, and delayed us arriving until. . . midnight. Apparently that's our favorite time for rolling into towns!  

Day 4. 

Fly home day.  My purpose in this trip was to keep a friend company on her drive back home, and that was accomplished.  Before I headed to the airport, I was treated to homemade chocolate gluten free donuts (and I got the recipe from her), had some packed for the layover I'd have, and then I headed to the airport. My first time flying American Airlines in quite some time and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.  Loved their terminal at DC National and in Chicago, and loved the fact that they enforced the size of the carry-on luggage. Mine didn't make the cut, so it was checked through to my destination, which meant when I got to Chicago for my three hour layover, I was able to --delightedly--do walking laps without having to wheel my luggage around.  I also experienced the yoga room  at the airport and enjoyed some movements. No one else was in the room. Several mats were available, along with cleaning wipoes,  cubbies and hooks for your belongings, and a television playing calming music and random scenes of the city. 

Also at the airport was green room of sorts, and several healthy food stations in the various terminal wings. It was quite refreshing to see so many options, instead of just fast food or bar food. 

Soon I was home again, and able to give The Mike a big hug for his experiences on Saturday, reassure myself he was okay, and just veg out for a while.  I was exhausted!

Traveling can be a bit daunting at first, but when you're prepared with snacks and a few things to get you through in a pinch, it can be so much more relaxing for you, the gluten free, special diet traveler.  Plan a bit, don't have unrealistic expectations, consult with a smart phone app such as "Find Me Gluten Free".  The child with us?  He has a (epi-pen) peanut allergy--watching out for his needs was much more important than my gluten and soy free, adult needs. I had snacks I could have to hold me over. Try making a five year old wait is impossible :-)  Luckily, he was raised to enjoy real food, unprocessed, and would eat a whole watermelon at one sitting if his parents would let him.

Enjoy your day, and remember that your outlook at the moment impacts how you react to the world.

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