Eating (semi)well on the road.

We’ve just returned from a two-week road trip through California and southern Arizona, a trip booked long before the idea of buying a new house entered our minds. Nothing was going to happen with the house purchase in those weeks anyway, so there was no reason not to go.

Since the days of our six-and-seven week road trips, where we mostly camped, took a cooler with us, and bought groceries, several things have changed. One, of course, is that we were flying and renting a car. Secondly – and most importantly – are the food allergies/sensitivities BD has developed. It’s really difficult to find food he can eat, and even more difficult to find restaurants he can eat at. His allergy is to a specific fatty acid – lauric acid – which is found in red meats, most fats, coconut and palm products, all dairy, and some spices. It makes him break out in hives, big nasty hives which even extra-strength Benadryl only somewhat controls. So we need to be very careful about what he eats.

We could have bought a cooler in California, shopped for groceries, and eaten at parks and picnic stops. But there were a couple of strikes against this: one is that, for the most part, it was too cold to do this comfortably – we had snow in the foothills in Arizona! – and the second strike was just that we wanted more ease. We’ve done our share – more than our share – of eating in wind, rain, cold, searing heat and annoying insects, or perched on the side of the bed in a hotel room. Frankly, I’ve had enough of that.

Subway is one chain we know is safe for BD, if he sticks to chicken or turkey, but a constant diet of Subway grows old quickly, plus the sodium content is pretty high. We decided to try Denny’s, the classic diner chain: their available nutrition information is good, and they have something extremely difficult to find in US restaurant chains: reasonably sized meals, if you order carefully.

For dinners, we mostly stuck to the 55+ meals, eating a salad (with no cheese or dressing for BD), fish or chicken with broccoli and another vegetable – corn for me, squash for BD – every night. With unsweetened iced tea, the calorie count was around 650, the sodium, fat, and sugar content low for restaurant food, and there was nothing in the spices or preparation that triggered BD’s allergies. Breakfasts were fairly easy too: ordering a la carte, BD ate poached eggs on dry toast, oatmeal, and fresh fruit every morning; I had the same, or sometimes yogurt instead of the oatmeal. Again, the meals ran in the 650 calorie range, and it was easy to avoid the dairy and oil that would have been a problem. And we both appreciated comfortable booths and table service, especially after a long day, and in the morning when I’m not human before that first coffee.

It was also quite a bit of food. Neither of us were terribly hungry at lunch time, even after hikes of several hours most days. We’d found an energy bar by KIND that BD could eat without problems, so lunches tended to be an energy bar and an apple. BD would add a handful or almonds or peanuts; I’d add a latte if there was one to be had. If we walked a lot, sometimes we had a second energy bar, or more nuts.

Not every meal was eaten at Denny’s or Subway. We ate a couple of breakfasts at little cafes at Morro Bay and Cayucas. We drove to Oxnard (twice) specifically for fish and chips at Sea Fresh, which fries in peanut oil (BD had a double order of chips, it was such a treat.) Only something at Olive Garden triggered any reaction in BD, and it was mild, so a trace of oil or spice, most likely.

I celebrated my 58th birthday while on this trip. We debated a special dinner, but I didn’t particularly want that: what I did want was ice cream, as it was an unseasonably hot day (the only one of the trip) at Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. I usually avoid eating ice cream in front of BD – it seems cruel, when he can’t eat it any more – but I made an exception for my birthday. And in the little general store in Inverness, California, not only did I find my favourite Haagen-Daas chocolate-coffee-almond bar, but a lime gelato bar with no dairy that BD could eat (and he loves lime). We sat at a picnic table overlooking the bay and ate our treats, enjoying every frozen bite.

We were pleased with the trip – not only did we find the two birds we went to see around San Francisco, ones that have been eluding us for thirty years (because they are found by call, and they only call during breeding season, and that was always while we were working) – but we ate fairly nutritious food and didn’t trigger BD’s allergies. We went for long walks, watched dolphins and sea otters and seals along Highway 1, heard coyotes singing in the dusk at Yuma and watched the sun rise over the mountains. A good holiday. Now back to the realities of packing up this house for the move. Stay tuned!

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