Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tulsa! Route 66 because I'm only half a maniac

A friend managed to talk me into doing the Route 66 half marathon in Tulsa, Nov 2016.  I dragged my feet on this because this is a race I want to do the full marathon.  Also, because of the car collision of November 2015, I hadn't run until August, and even then it is uncomfortable and thus I have not been training.  I went into this knowing I'd be essentially walking a half marathon. That is still mentally hard for me to accept.  

First thing, Google maps told me online that it would be an eight hour drive. I was like 'OKAY! Let's do this!'   I knew it was a five hour drive to KC, MO and thought 'I can do another three on the flip side'.  It was a WINDY day and driving into it all day was hard on the injured wrist holding the wheel against the wind, and on the hearing, as the wind was hitting the vehicle such that it was very noisy inside.  I stopped in KC MO to see a family member, and then stopped off at Barnes n Nobles to buy a book on CD, because one can only listen to news radio or the same songs over and over ;-)   It was a good thing I did.  The drive from KC MO to Tulsa was another five hours, not three.  #GoogleFail

Friday morning I did some tourist things and checked out an estate sale at a gorgeous 1920s craftsman house--which actually ended up being on the race course! An ode to my mom to head to estate sales. This one had things I have *never* seen at any other sale: Indoor bicycle trainer, bike road shoes, and (eww) bicycling shorts. So many great books, but I said no to those and picked up some 1950s "Shiny Brite" Christmas ornaments instead.  :-)   

Friday I went to the expo to pick up my numbers, and my friend's, as she was flying in late.  It felt great to be at one again with all the energy and excitement in there!  I wore my RaygunShirts "This is my fighting cancer shirt".  I may need to get one that says "this is my body post vehicle collision"  

The expo was a good size. Not too big, not too small. There were lines for the half/full, and then other lines for the 5k.  Since my friend convinced me to do both the half and the 5k because 'we got something special' I did it.  ---Side note:  We both forgot about that and we didn't wind up with the special glass that said we did the back to back challenge. 

This pretty much summed it up. The energy of the expo was great, but the reality was that I had not done much walking/training other than every day.  I had done a 5k about a month before, I did a 10K a couple weeks later, but I hadn't done anything over a 10k.  I was fine with being a "much more than back of packer" because this was a large enough race  that there'd be a lot of people on the course with me!  Perspective is everything!    
At the expo, I scored a $5 Whole Foods coupon, so I headed over to one to find something for food. Mac and cheese and a packet of tuna fish.  So nutritious, right?  Easy to heat up in the microwave.   Later I picked up my friend at the airport and we headed to Outback---a go to staple in a large city. They do gluten free right. They also do well when I'm with my siblings/families who have peanut, nut, soy, dairy, gluten restrictions :-)  The one things we've found out is that the sweet potatoes are "covered in foil and then in oil" but they apparently aren't deep fried. If you have a soy oil intolerance, you'll want to avoid the sweet potatoes!  

The drawback to this weekend is that it takes place in November!  Brrr.  The day I drove into town it was unseasonably hot, like the rest of this 2016 Autumn, 70 degrees. I wore my skort. Friday, it was still nice, but a bit breezy, wore a skort.  5k race morning was in the mid30s. What the heck?   I did come prepared!  I also got a hotel near the *start* line of the Sunday races, but not Saturday's 5k, which meant we had to walk about a mile to the start line ---ooops on realizing that!  
Prepared for the cold air

Near the start area is the Woodie Guthrie museum. I didn't get a chance to go in it this time, but when I'm back in this town I'll head in.  The mural is neat.  It was obstructed at the bottom by some race course metal.    

Volunteers setting out the warm blankets. How I wanted one on this morning!   
The start of the 5k race was a long corral that was sparsely filled, so there were plenty of 'holes' in the groupings of people letting in the wind ;-)   I was able to run, slowly, with plenty of walking for the first half mile, then there was a big hill over the train tracks, and I pretty much walked with some running.  Coming up to the last turn area, we saw this retro Tulsa sign: 

Turning the corner, there was this road sign just screaming "take a selfie here".  
We are a special event for sure!

Crossing the finish line felt good. Obviously my time is slow, but it was under 45 minutes, so that was a good thing for this collision recovering body. This spring my 5k was almost an hour in extreme pain.  After the finish line I spied one of the mascots.  I don't recall who the dragon belonged to, but I thought it was great.  (There is a mascot race at some point on Saturday).   
 Walking back to the hotel, we tried to take a short cut 'straight ahead'. We passed the "center of the universe" area which is a side detour on the marathon course for a 'special' medal.  I didn't look it up ahead of time, but the echo part sounds neat--and not something we noticed as we walked past.  
My friend and I went back to the expo, so she could experience it and buy race day energy.  While there, we checked out the Brooks display which I had skipped on Friday. She wanted a new pair of shoes, and we did the random entry on their table.  Fill out info on a tablet, win something. My friend won a shirt.  As I was filling out the final screen and hitting 'enter', I said "free shoes, free shoes". The Brooks worker scanned the code and I WON A FREE PAIR OF SHOES!   I had to laugh: last year at the Marine Corps Marathon I won a banner bag which had a free pair of Brooks shoes in it.   I didn't wear those until after my epidural in June this year, and I guess it was time for a new pair ;-)     The Brooks worker insisted I do the treadmill fit test even though I wear Brooks and my local store does a fit. Oh My Goodness. My back was hurting doing the test (barefoot) and then she told me I had to kick higher for the reading.  Pain, 8. OW.

In 2014 I did back to back half marathons in order to become a half fanatic.  Hartford CT and Newport RI halves (Followed up with the Tufts 10K on the Monday--mistake with my foot having a twing in it that day. Then I ran a 10K the next weekend in NH).  Four states that trip, but the important thing was that I earned my entry into the Half Fanatics club.  
Half Marathon Maniac and the Route 66 was the first one where I could partake in any 'mania'.   Got my entry bracelet at the expo and had to keep it on until after the race on Sunday.  Road ID is always on.  Last race with my MotoActv as well---hubby got me a new Garmin vivoactiv HR for Christmas.  
Driving around Saturday afternoon we were hungry and couldn't find the restaurant we had googled. We passed by My Fit Foods and thought 'this sounds like a place we can find gluten and soy free food'.  We were expecting a regular restaurant. Instead, it is a already prepared food, take and reheat establishment. You can reheat and dine in, or take with you home.  Portions are available in regular and large.  Plenty of choices and beverages as well. My limitation was not being able to have soy as well, so I went with the Cilantro Lime Turkey. This was tasty, flavorful, filling.  

---Insert Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics group photo---
Just pretend it's here ;-)   
I didn't ask for permission to publicly share it on the blog and 
I don't feel right doing it without the permission.  
I still couldn't believe I was going to do a half marathon. This year has been hard. I can lament the fitness I've lost, but the reality is going forward from this point isn't as much fun as it was when I could run without pain and enjoy training.   Race day morning was cold, again, but the bright side was that the starting line was basically right outside our room---or so we thought.  Basically, the road sides were blocked off and the only openings to the corrals, each of which is one block long, were at the intersections.  My block/starting corral was at the end of the line, so I would have been better of staying at the Hyatt, HA!   The Maniac corner at the start area, was guarded, we actually did have to show our bracelets to get in!  We went back to our hotel for the warm lobby.  I thought I heard some loudspeaker talk, so we went outside. The national anthem was being played. Several people were walking in front of us and randomly happened to look back. I stopped and stood at attention, my friend did the same.  Someone ahead of us looked over their shoulder, saw us stopped at attention and then they did the same and it repeated for the next four people who had been walking to the start. That was pretty cool.

We then had to go the length of the starting corrals to get to ours. The bad thing about the intersections was that they had gates out into the side street for a bit so we had to swerve around those. Security at those intersections too, so no one could dash into a corral that wasn't theirs.  (Really liked the set up of this race).

It was so nice to be in the corral with everyone around us (i.e I was warm with the surrounding body heat).  Hills, hills, hills. I never would have thought Tulsa or Oklahoma would have been hilly.  I grew up in Iowa with the Loess Hills; however, I live near a river now, so I'm a flat lander, and one who is happy we drove part of the route the prior day.  Once we got out of downtown/business areas and entered into the residential areas it was flatter.  We went down a hill and at the little spot before the rise started, there were runners and a race person helping a man who appeared to have performed a face plant. OUCH.  He wanted to continue. I wonder if they let him.  I had been doing a walk, with a little running up to this point. Pretty much after I turned the corner, I just started walking completely.  My lower back was aching and I had many more miles to go.

One of the roads we ran on was near a private school. The road was lined with a water stop, and with speed bumps. Lots of speed bumps.  It made me wonder what kind of speedsters those high schoolers and parents much be ;-)

We wound our way up to a pretty park at the top of a climb. There was great country/banjo music at the area. I think that was about mile 4 or 5.  
Who was I to argue, especially when they repeated it three times!  
Also, does this photo scream "no longer a twenty something"?

There are many gorgeous homes in this town.   It was a great route to just 'walk' because of this.  One area of the roadway was torn up and patched with gravel, then we turned off the road. A volunteer was telling us that we were running on earthquake damaged land, from the fracking/drilling massive earthquake in September.

Soon we were on a road paralleling a river that reminded me of the great wide Nebraska Platt River. One that didn't look very deep, but it was quite wide and probably scared pioneers in days gone by.  The Arkansas River I've seen before near Leadville CO as the east fork of the Arkansas River, where it's very tiny.  I've seen it in Salida, Colorado as a stream/brook with lots of rocks. Something about as wide as an eighteen wheeler.   This crossing in Tulsa was quite wide.  It was also where we turned off the street, took a left to do a U turn on the bridge/Route 66. Alongside it was an old bridge that was cut off from traffic. I believe it was an original 66 crossing.  
Arkansas River  
Route 66 ba-by!   Woot!   

The last couple of miles were really hard for me. My back was really hurting and I was trying to keep my mind off of it.  Plenty of people were around me at this point, which was nice and reassuring (I wasn't the last one out).  Then I spied it, money on the course!  Yes, I stopped for a quarter on the roadway.  Why not? It just made my registration a little less ;-)  

I was soooo happy to see the finish line :-)  and I did the dumbest thing possible.  I ran the last ten paces. Oh my back. Why did I do that?   Habit. I always take off faster at the last of a race, and I got caught up in the energy of the crowd/finish. Made me wonder what the heck I was doing and then beat myself up for it from the pain that took a while to diminish.

Finish area.
Heat blanket: check  
Medal: check   
Photos: check
Food: check
Results page: check   Maniac Corner: CHECK
Inking that we were suppose to get something special for doing the 5k and half was there ---OOPS
I'd show you the inside, but you have to earn you way :-D 

I exchanged my 'regular' half marathon medal for the Fanatics one.  The original was blue and the Maniac one is yellow. This race is truly amazing with the medals. Special for your first marathon, first half marathon, special for maniac members. I think there are like a couple of handfuls of different types of medals they offer.  

Done, for the glory of cool medals. 
When we got back to the hotel we had the same thought: thankful we had the rest of the day to relax and did not have to travel right away.  We leisurely soaked in the hot tub for about an hour after we were back at the hotel, cleaned up and then I said "we need to get out and stretch, let's go to Target". We found a superTarget so we were able to get gluten free (soy free) food for dinner and breakfast, did some slow strolling and headed back. The microwave in the lobby was on the wimpy side, 180ยบ from mine at home, but there were good chairs to relax in while we waited for our dinner to heat. They even had silverware for us!

We headed out in the morning, dropped my friend off at the airport and I settled in for the ten hour drive home.  Google was off, the car GPS was spot on with that. 

Definitely recommend Route 66 marathon/half/5k weekend.  


Friday, November 11, 2016

10K ---it had to be done!

Earlier this year I finally was able to put on my shoes I won in a 'banner bag' at the Marine Corps Marathon expo last year.  It was a long time from November 17 to the beginning of August 2016 when I was able to actually run more than five feet with out pain.  
Who wouldn't be excited to put on these colorful kicks?  

With a couple 5ks in the books, and a half marathon looming in mid November--what was I thinking--I decided I needed to find a 10k to do!   The November 13.1 is more of get to the finish line than race for me, and it'll be interesting to see how the body handles it.  

I found a 10K that was in honor of the five brothers from Iowa who mandated they serve together in WWII.  Unfortunately, I was on my feet for four hours the night before and had a Tanka bar, water, and some chocolate for dinner/snack, followed a few hours later with scrambled eggs before bed. Probably not the best 'night before' a race.  

Before the event started, I stayed a little warm in the museum named for them.  This trunk surprised me in that I have only known on synagogue in the vicinity, and this trunk shows that there was one closer to the "church row" neighborhood at one time.  
After WW2, several families were sponsored by the local synagogue and relocated here after surviving the holocaust/camps. Bravery and amazing perseverance. 

The five brothers home on leave are shown in this photo that is inside the museum. I don't know if I've ever seen such a photo. A long time ago, I had come across a tv station playing the old movie The Sullivans. It was created during the war for publicity, selling bonds, and raising country pride. 

I ran this race a few other times when the granddaughter of the only married Sullivan brother opened the ceremony. From that experience I knew the wind blows quite coldly across the Cedar River. Today would be different. It was in the high 40s when we started the race, sunny, and not even a slight wind. Even so, I was skeptical that it would hold.   
Racers line up in the alley, to get the heat the sunshine allows. 

I started the race with my hydration pack carrying one bottle of water, and the other holder with my cellphone for MapMyRun. I had on Athleta capris, injinji  toe socks (the only kind I run distances in), and then my 'fighting cancer' tank, overlayed with my Detroit 'marathon in training' shirt, and an looser adidas shirt. I haven't done a lot of outdoor training lately, and definitely none in November Iowa weather that would suggest expect relatively hot temperatures. Before the race, I had a Mama Chia packet for some nutrition and sugar. I had one Huma gel with me in case I needed it.

I started off in the midpack of the crowd and worked my way through some walkers.  I got up the road to where someone was saying "5kers to the right" and I was like "where do the 10Ks go".  The guy seemed shocked there were still 10ks behind in the pack.  Someone else told me to aim for the lady at the bridge in pink :-)    
The Cedar River, almost back to normal river levels.

In years before, this river scene has come at the final stretch. This year, due to putting the race more on trails, less on roads (read: fewer intersections = fewer paid emergency personnel at intersections=lower cost and more money in the pocket of the military museum), the sun was shining fully and there was no wind, which meant it was easy to get heated quickly.  At the end of this stretch of trail was the 5k spot, and then we crossed the river, had the only water break, and continued on the trail system to get back to downtown. I was so thankful I ran the event with my hydration pack. I had my chocolate Huma gel just before the 5K point and washed it with the water I carried, wondering if I'd see a water stop.  I recalled why I still had that chocolate Huma left at the house, it's not my favorite next to the strawberry or apple!   

It was slow going for me--thinking back to even last fall after recovering from acral lentiginous melanoma toe surgery in the spring, and it was slow going compared to my last 10k two years ago.  In any event, around mile 1 I had passed another person, then walked, then got passed, then ran, then walked and we leap frogged for a few minutes, but then she started walking more and I kept up the run/walk pattern I had settled into.  Around mile 4 my low back started aching. This is one of my injuries from the vehicle collision last fall.  I had an epidural in July which allowed me to run again, but I hadn't really gone any father than 4 miles in training--again, with the 'you have a 13.1 in a few weeks, what were you thinking??' thoughts.  

On the other side of the river we entered into some trails I've never seen before, let alone run along. They actually were inside the green space from where the race use to go (past the baseball field and a cemetery).  I had shed my other long sleeve shirt, was in the purple cancer fighting tank and I was not chilly at all.  It was a HOT fall day.  The brain and body had a disconnect in this area. I'd say "run to the second tree" and my body would start walking at the first tree.  

I started noticing glistening lines on the trail as well.  In earlier places there were one or two or four or five.  By the time I came to this section, the slugs were all over the trail and I felt compelled to take a photo of the slug trails. Unfortunately, I don't think the photo did the trails justice.  Up ahead of this part was a curve where there was a race volunteer. He saw me take the photo and asked if I really needed to take a selfie at that part of the event.  I said it wasn't a selfie, it was a slug trail photo that was a beautiful nature shot. Heck, I didn't even know if it turned out. I squatted, pointed, shot the photo, and started running again.  

All those little black things on the concrete trail are actually slugs, leaving a glistening moist trail in their wake.  
 I ran further on the trail and closer to downtown.  I'd never been on this side of the river via the trail system and I found it was a nice view of the buildings and of downtown.  We climbed out of the river trail and onto the pedestrian crossing of the river.  At one time, it use to be completely enclosed, but now the side pieces of glass are missing. It's a beautiful tunneling work of art.
Pedestrian river crossing 
 Just on the other end of the bridge we turned right, then left and then two blocks to the finish.  I walked that block between the right and left turn. The guy at the left turn corner said, "Only two more blocks".  To which I replied, "Thanks, that's why I'm walking now!"  I didn't want to walk in the final stretch, so I did it in the little bit before the finish line area.  ---Pride, it'll get you.

I crossed the finish in a time a few minutes slower than what I was aiming for. However, with the unexpected heat and not being use to running in that, I think the time was spot on.  It was a good run and good training for the Williams Route 66 in a few weeks. 

I was proud to have finished this race.  It was my first 10K in a couple years, and my longest event since the vehicle collision last fall. My time wasn't the best, but it was a finish time. The finish line is always better than a DNF for whatever reason, and even a DNF trumps a "stayed on the couch" any day. The funds went to a great cause.  I didn't get a shirt this year because I registered late, which is the way it goes. I don't expect a race to have extra shirts.  That said,  I was disappointed in my lack of shirt because 1. it was purple, 2. it was long sleeve. 3. it was a technical shirt!  When was the last time you got a lightweight technical shirt???

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Flour mix!

In the past I have always mixed some of this and some of that when I am making something from scratch.   The flours have included Tapioca  (light, fluffy), Brown Rice (nutritious, but still a bit of emptiness), Sorghum and Teff (nutritious and nutritious).  It has always worked well, except for banana bread which I have not been able to make well from scratch as a gluten free cook.  I can do it with mixes, but I hate buying mixes for something that is essentially a way to use up left over-and soft- bananas.

Last Christmas Quirky received a gift card to Barnes & Nobles. I went off to buy a book by Ellie Krieger and came home instead with a cookbook, Gluten Free Artisan Bread. . .  . YUM!   I bought more bags of flour in order to mix up the flour blends needed for these recipes.  In the end, I always stuck with making the Peasant Bread recipe as I like the hard edges and dense inside.  Sure, I miss the fluffy french bread but it was always a special treat when I was growing up, and not a staple. Whole wheat bread was the staple in the house---which is funny now as a celiac/gluten free/soy free person :-)   Don't fret on the missed Ellie book. . . I did get it this summer :-)  

This year I also broke down and bought my first bag of a cup for cup flour blend. I loved the simplicity of it, but I didn't like the amount of corn starch in it, nor the dry milk (family member has lactose intolerance), not the lack of nutrients in it. I shouldn't be upset about the last, I mean, plain white gluten flour isn't all the nutritious either.  A lot of times, I just make up for this by adding milled chia to the baked goods. This works for cakes, pizza, but not so much for cookies.

A while ago I asked some celiac friends for their favorite gluten free 1:1 flour recipes from websites. I was given four.  They are (in no particular order):

I looked them over, and eliminated one off the bat. The other three, I printed out for my binder cookbook collection, and decided on one to make--The Gluten Free Girl recipe.  It was the easiest to view with types of flours put into categories and the amount of flour of each type.

I was wanting to make brownies and cookies as the Quirky freezer was bare.  I long ago went to freezing at least half of sugary treats so we wouldn't get in that mode after a hard workout where you just want food/sugar/energy NOW!  Not to mention that when we're in training mode for a race coming up none of this stuff is premade.

I made up a small batch of flour and cooked up the brownies. I loved how it worked with the recipe. (The recipe did the same thing as last time and took forever for it to cook in the middle. I remembered to write in the gluten free cookbook to use a 9x13 instead of 8x8 and maybe cook it longer if needed, but to go with the suggested time in a larger pan. I also left out the chocolate chips. Cocoa and melted chocolate chips in the recipe was strong enough on the chocolate front.)  Then I made up the a batch of cookies actually using the Cup 4 Cup recipe on their sack :-)  They turned out very well.

While I didn't take photos of any of the baked goods, I wanted to share the recipe and have it here in the future. Go to Gluten Free Girl's link above for all the flour options to use.

I don't like bean flours as I feel they leave an after taste. I don't use nut flours because I have a niece and nephew who are allergic, and why get great with a flour mix that could severely impact a loved one?

200 grams of Brown Rice Flour
175 grams of Sorghum Flour
25   grams of Teff Flour (It's not much, but Teff cooks up a lot differently than other whole grain flours, and I generally just use a little bit here and there for this reason)
300 grams of Tapioca Flour
300 grams of Potato Starch (I had this on hand for the artisan bread book recipes)

I mixed this up in a tall quart plastic container (like this) I purchased earlier this year at the kitchen supply store.  After I was done baking, I was able to use one of the former flour storage containers to store my read to use 1:1 flour blend in the refrigerator. I opened up a bit of space emptying the jars I had used to store the flours in the freezer and refrigerator.

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.