Road Swill

Back in Columbus as visitors, we find ourselves eating out every meal.  As much as I love to sit and relax while someone else brings me delicious things to eat, I don’t love what it does to my waistline.  Finding myself back in Columbus with little time or opportunity for exercise or healthy eating, I lament not planning better when it comes to food.

First, there is the road trip cuisine.  I suppose we could plan our road trip differently.  We could, for example, take time to stop in towns along the way and sample decent restaurants instead of focusing on getting to Columbus as quickly as possible and hitting only fast food stops.  But I have an appointment in Columbus at the Apple store.  My dear, sweet iPad suffered a cracked screen when it fell out of my lap and landed on its corner on our concrete balcony.  I feel like a negligent parent that I have so abused what has become such a big part of my life.  “Well, you had your good times,” the Apple store service guy tells me as he takes my battered iPad away and brings me a new one.

But is getting my iPad replaced worth the hit to my health to eat at Wendy’s and Subway for a day?  Maybe for a day.  Unfortunately, my diet doesn’t recover after arriving in Columbus, either.  We start by taking our hosts to La Casita for dinner Sunday night–an old tradition of ours that includes shrimp chimichangas for me.  Not exactly the healthiest choice on the menu.  Then, the next day, I manage a reasonable breakfast at the office cafeteria of cottage cheese and fresh fruit.  I even do OK going out to lunch with a blackened salmon salad, but I’m pretty sure there are at least 1000 hidden calories in the dressing.  But I skipped yoga class in order to spend time with a friend, which means none of those calories have anywhere to go but my waist.  I can’t say I regret that decision.  As much as I love yoga class, I’ve figured out that time with friends has to be my first priority for free time when in Columbus.

After a long day working and taking care of appointments, quick and easy pizza seems like the right choice for dinner.  I manage to contain myself to only 1/4 of a pepperoni pizza.  That’s only 800 calories, right?  About half a day’s worth of calories with plenty of saturated fat, white flour, and not a single vegetable.  What more could I ask for?

On our 2nd full day, I do get a workout in that morning, including a 2-mile walk through a park near the office gym and a 30 minute workout with my training buddies and the gym trainer.  The park surprises me with a new sweep of blooms across the section that is restored prairie–the late summer flowers have blossomed since I last walked here.  Unfortunately, enjoying the flowers doesn’t increase the caloric burn.  And I don’t have time to grab a healthy breakfast because I spend too much time swapping stories at the gym and end up in a rush to get to my first meeting.  I eat chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie things out of the vending machine instead.  Peanut butter is good for you, right?

This rapid, downward spiral from eating a reasonably healthy diet to eating crap out of a vending machine happens to me whenever I travel.  Now that I have hit rock bottom from a nutritional perspective, I take the attitude that I might as well live it up and enjoy whatever sounds good and is convenient.

The peak of my indulgence comes when we go to Z Cucina in Grandview on our last evening in Columbus.  I must have their home made mozzarella appetizer, right?  And Bell’s Oberon beer is on tap, which I can’t find in Chattanooga.  And the red snapper special with the risotto and goat cheese cake cannot be missed.  And Rick, the owner, brings us a piece of lavender-infused blueberry pie with Jenni’s ice cream to top it all off.  I can’t say that I regret that meal–it was too good to have missed–but as I carry my bulging stomach out of the restaurant, I wish it would have been my only indulgence this trip.

Things don’t improve the next day.  I run out of time to eat lunch and end up having a bag of peanuts from my friend, the vending machine.  It’s the healthiest thing in the machine, but the nuts are roasted in oil and salted.  Plus, let’s face it, there’s nothing really satisfying about eating a bag of peanuts for lunch.

The finale to our road trip binge comes at Burger King.  Our last stop on our way home, it’s getting late, we’re hungry and tired.  We pull off at a truck-stop type exit and find the Burger King attached to a gas station.  We are just outside of Knoxville, still an hour and a half from home.  The man behind the counter is older, probably in his early sixties.  When Pat orders a Jr. Whopper with cheese, the many says, “You know it’s not a dollar, right?”  Pat looks at the menu and says, “It’s $1.49, right?”  The man says in a slow drawl, “Well, it’ll be $1.69 with the cheese.”  Pat smiles and says, “OK.”  The man hesitates, as if he’s unsure that Pat really wants to spend that much on his burger.  He explains that they get a lot of visitors from up North and that apparently Jr. Whoppers are only $1 in the North, so people get upset.  Pat reassures him that it’s OK and he rings up the sandwich.  Our mid-western accents have given us away.  While we wait for our food, the man starts telling us about their milkshakes.  He tells us they are made by hand with real ice cream.  He tells us they are really good and we should try them sometime, but they’re a lot of work to make.  He tells us this 3 more times before the burgers come out.  We are unsure as to whether he is trying to sell us a handmade milkshake or trying to prevent us from ordering one because of the effort involved in making them.  We take our sandwiches (with no milkshake) to go.  We are too tired to make small talk about making milkshakes.

Pat and I have frequently talked about how to improve our eating habits during road trips.  We talk about planning our meals and going to the grocery store before we leave so we can have healthy choices readily available and still make good time.  We have often discussed the best type of cooler to get to serve this purpose.  However, we still haven’t bought a cooler and we’ve never made it to the grocery store in advance of a trip.  It seems like such a good idea.  Maybe after I get on the scale I’ll be motivated to try it next time?

Make up, Shoes, and Going Home

After a ride along the river, I come home smelling like somebody else. And not a somebody else I want to be in close proximity to. A shower is in order. In the bathroom, I look in the mirror at my sweat-streaked face and realize I haven’t put on make-up since we moved. I recognize that vacation feeling that makes me feel like I don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks. I guess living somewhere temporarily is freeing in that sense. I don’t have a sense of “I’m going to see these people over and over again.” Plus, working from home means there are no co-workers to see how bad I look without mascara. What is it about feeling away from ‘home’ that changes my attitude? I like it. It makes me want to gobble up every experience there is to have because I feel like I have so little time to enjoy this place I’m in. But, I also know I have enough time to see a lot as long as I don’t procrastinate. And, of course, we can always stay longer.

Now it’s time to pack. After only two weeks we’re returning to Columbus for a few days so I can make sure everyone at the office knows I am still around. 🙂 I realize I don’t know where my travel supplies are–the small bottles of the products I think I need when I’m going to the office, including the small make-up kit that fits nicely into a suitcase and helps me cover the blemishes of age and acne–the former I can’t outrun and the latter I can’t outgrow, but both I can conceal. Then it dawns on me–I haven’t driven a car for 2 weeks. I wonder if I should take my bike?

I look forward to seeing my friends again. I feel like it’s been ages even though we normally don’t see most of our friends for far longer than 2 weeks at a time anyway. I guess because we see different friends every week vs no friends at all for 2 weeks, it feels longer. My husband said he felt like a visitor when he returned last week. I wonder if I’ll feel the same?

For the first time since we left, I have to think about what to wear. It will be nice to get some more use out of my work wardrobe, I suppose. The dust hasn’t accumulated too much on my skirts and jackets yet. They hang slightly rumpled in my closet from being packed into boxes; into a suitcase they go, rumpling all over again. My shoes are neatly stacked, still in their original boxes. Over the years of trying many organization techniques for shoes, I’ve found keeping the boxes to be the best. Boxes stack neatly on the shelf and prevents crushing and stains unlike any rack in the bottom of the closet that I can never seem to use with consistency. Plus, I feel like I just got a new pair of shoes every time I open up a box and remove the paper stuffing. Although I have tried to learn not to buy four-inch heels, I can’t help but enjoy being 6′ 2″ in them, even when my feet are aching.

It’s the one stereotype about women that I embrace–I do love my shoes. Yet, for two weeks, I’ve worn only my Chacos hiking sandals, my biking shoes, and my Vibram Fivefinger trekking shoes. I wonder if my feet will still fit into my narrow heels after so much freedom? I imagine them curling back and refusing to go into my heels out of protest like alien creatures with a mind of their own.  I select a pair of heels that are high enough to keep my hems from dragging but comfortable enough to wear every day.  Since I am taking a small suitcase, I decide one pair of heels will have to do and I select office clothes that will go with the pair I’ve picked.

I place everything into my suitcase, thinking how long it’s been since I packed to visit Columbus–the last time was back in the 90’s when I was doing a 6-month assignment in Dallas.  I remember where my travel toiletries are–they are still at the fitness center at the office in Columbus.  My suitcase looks surprisingly empty for a 5-day trip.  I throw in a jacket, remembering that my friends said that it’s cooled down in Columbus and thinking of how cold I get sitting in my office.  My bag looks fuller, but I wonder briefly if I should take another pair of shoes.  Deciding to keep it simple and forego the extra shoes, I zip up the bag with finality.

As we load into the van and prepare to leave, I look back at our building and wonder if I’ll miss it.  Which place feels more like “home” now?  Columbus, where I spent the vast majority of my life, or Chattanooga, which I’ve enjoyed for 2 weeks?  Often, I think “home” comes down to where your bed is.  There is something about sleeping in your own bed that makes any place feel like it’s your own.  We’ll see.