Food Revolution Road Tripper Strikes AgainTue 16 Aug 2011
Story by Karen Humphrey
If you count up all the days that I was traveling from July 1st until today, this summer I was on the road for exactly 32 days.
Thirty two whole days, or rather, and entire month of trying to cobble together lunches from the backseat of a car, of hotel breakfasts, desperate-for-coffee stops, and restaurant dinners. You see, last year after watching Food Revolution, my family made a pact that on our annual road trip vacation we would avoid all fast food places, eat in restaurants only once a day, and shop at grocery stores for snacks and lunches. It's all good in theory and sounds easy enough, but put your vacation in a different country with products and stores you aren't familiar with, and it can be a challenge. Change vehicles and your travel companions with all their various tastes and expectations, and it can be quite the adventure. This summer there were three road trips; all with different destinations, with various travel companions, and even in different vehicles. This summer was Food Revolution Road Trip to the extreme.
The first road trip was a family affair via car through Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and was much easier than the previous year, since by now we have perfected the art of road tripping Food Revolution style. We stopped at now familiar grocery stores, and I knew what to expect since we had been to the same places the year before. The biggest challenge was keeping our teenager full and sometimes just finding restaurants that weren't fast food. We also discovered that we needed to buy fruit and vegetables that didn't need to be refrigerated since those hotel fridges are a bit testy and tend to freeze everything, and happily created salads, veggie sandwiches, and more in our hotel room with little more than a tiny cutting board and a knife. With a little imagination and access to fresh vegetables, the possibilities are practically endless!
Our family vacations are full of adventure-4x4ing out in the desert, gold panning in the middle of nowhere, and packing our own lunches was by far the more economical and practical way to meet our needs. Our teenager also found it interesting to explore the cultural food differences from state to state, and in some towns we saw how there was little access to fresh produce, while others were bursting with it, which seemed ironic given the amount of field we passed just flourishing with produce. We even learned to be more stealthy at the hotel breakfast bars, substituting our own cereal for the more sugary offerings, or our own whole wheat bread for white. However, if we thought our family trip was easy, the next trip was even more of a challenge, because the week after we returned we were traveling California by motorcycle.
Road trip number two was adults only, and a far bigger challenge. John and I wound our way from Vancouver Canada to Jackson, California and then over to San Francisco, making our way up the Redwood highway back home. There is no room on a motorcycle to carry food, much less the supplies to prepare it, so we had to employ strategic ordering at restaurants. Eating in restaurants for a week straight is hard! The portions are big, food is sky high in sodium and calories, how on Earth would we cope? First of all, we sought out locally run places instead of chains, asked the locals where to eat, and even considered stopping at some of the roadside farms!
Many of the restaurants we visited happily substituted fruit instead of fries, left mayo off our sandwiches, and let us order a half sandwich with a salad. Don't be afraid to ask! I quickly learned to ask how big the dishes were before ordering and to ask for sauces on the side, which made eating in restaurants for a week much more do-able. Even still, snacks were a challenge. Ever try eating yogurt from the back of a motorcycle? Road trip number three loomed, and I was beginning to get nervous because honestly, I didn't think I could take more restaurant food.
I shouldn't have worried because the third time was the charm, and this time, we absolutely nailed it. For seven days, four of us were traveling to Blogher, the largest blogging conference in North America, and I asked all three ladies if they would rather eat from a plug in cooler and shop for our food than go to restaurants. Much to my surprise, the answer was a resounding yes! During my first road trip this summer I discovered a fantastic grocery store which carries organic, preservative and artificial flavor/color free products, so we mapped out all the locations on our route. We then stopped each day and loaded up on fresh fruit and veggies, hummus, cheeses, naan breads, prosciutto, greek yogurts, and pre-made salads complete with dressings with only real ingredients. We stopped at various places in our travels for a picnic outside in the sunshine and sometimes, I even whipped up fresh guacamole in our hotel room. The results were amazing-not only was the food really delicious, but in seven days we only ate three restaurant meals and spent around $56 each on food, total. Talk about saving, not just our wallets but our waistlines!
Eating well on a road trip is not only entirely do-able, it's an adventure. While I'm now home and happy to be cooking in my own kitchen, I can't help but look outside and think that maybe I should take my teenager for a picnic.
Want to come?
About the author: Karen Humphrey is a Food Revolutionary with her annual Food Revolution road trips and brilliant blogs Notes From the Cookie Jar and Chasing Tomatoes.
Images: Left, Karen, and bottom right picnic table photographed by Tracey Rossignol.
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