Last night I returned from my first long road trip since learning I have diabetes. Trying to eat as well as I could and making time for enough exercise every day were the challenges that I had not addressed before.
On the last leg of my 4,500 mile journey I was musing last night about these challenges and what I had learned about them and myself. I was on the road for 27 days, traveling alone, except for my SUV, my laptop computer, my camera, and other essentials.
Traveling in the off-season gave me tremendous flexibility. Nowhere were the highways or parks crowded, except at the Grand Canyon. I can only imagine with dread what the crowds of summer will be there. Never once did I need to make a motel or restaurant reservation.
But the reason why I was on the road in February and March was to get away from the cold, windy winter weather I had been facing on my hikes where I live in Boulder, Colorado. I left as soon as I recovered from some complications of the prostate surgery that I had just before Thanksgiving.
Long before that, I was raring to hit the road. It turned out that the weather where I went in Western Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, and New Mexico could not have been better. The only exception was in supposedly sunny Southern California where one of my nieces and I got drenched on a five-mile hike.
Besides visiting family, I stayed with friends and made time to meet and talk with several colleagues. Otherwise, I was alone on the road, something that I know many people would not like. But after my wife died two years ago, traveling alone is something that I have accepted and have learned to enjoy.
The problem with being alone, whether on the road or at home, is finding ways to share your experiences. As a writer, I deal with this by telling my stories to my family and friends in regular emails.
Then, a few months ago I asked the guys who program my website to post some of those emails in a blog that I created to encourage people with diabetes to become and stay fit by having fun with regular exercise. For that blog, “Fitness and Photography for Fun,” I added 22 photo essays — one for almost every one of the 27 days I was on the road — telling about my adventures in more than a dozen national parks as well as whale watching off the coast of Northern California and a helicopter expedition over the Grand Canyon and other beautiful experiences of nature.
My most memorable hike was a three-mile loop down into the Queens Garden at Bryce Canyon in Utah, which the park service describes as the best three-mile hike in the world. But of the more than 1,800 photos that I took with my Canon 50D SLR camera my favorite was a shot of McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in the Big Sur area of Central California:
McWay Falls into the Pacific
I also now appreciate why they call the badlands in the Petrified Forest National Park, below, the “Painted Desert:”
The Painted Desert in Northern Arizona Just Before Sunset
In Arches National Park, Utah, I had to hike three miles to see and photograph this beautiful natural arch. But it was worth every step of the way:
Delicate Arch in Southern Utah
Because I was traveling in the West to visit the natural wonders there, getting the daily exercise we all need wasn’t a problem. Almost every day my pedometer told me that I had taken more than my allotted 10,000 steps in our national and state parks.
Eating the right food was more challenging. I made sure to take plenty of my favorite trail food, which of course serves just as well on the road. Canned sardines and mackerel from Vital Choice continue to be a mainstay of my diet wherever I am. Nuts have the further advantage of being a snack food we can eat even when driving. I also took packets of Truvia, to sweeten my herbal tea and espresso drinks. Of course, I always travel with plenty of water.
Getting adequate coffee continues to be a problem in the hinterland that Starbucks hasn’t yet penetrated. But even the smallest settlements can make decent espresso drinks.
On my low-carb diet I find that I don’t obsess with food the way that I once did. I still enjoy fine dining, but if I am miles from a restaurant at lunch or dinner, my trail food serves me just fine.
Eating a hearty breakfast is one the the great joys in being on the road. Anywhere in America — even in the smallest settlement — we can get a great breakfast.
To my mind the best one is a special order of three fried eggs and a double portion of sausage patties. This really fuels the day and has almost no carbs.
Low-carbing has even been easy for lunch and dinner. Usually I’m hiking at lunch time or at least away from restaurants. So I have my canned fish. When I’m near a restaurant, I’ll usually have a salad. We can get satisfactory salads almost everywhere. Even one of the fast food chains, Wendy’s, offers acceptable salads.
Dinner is often a bit more of a problem on the road, but just about any small town has a steakhouse. One of the great things I noticed about the out-of-the-way restaurants is how nice and quiet they are. Partly it’s because often only a couple of other parties were eating there in this off-season.
I did eat well on my long trip. A little too well, I guess, since I gained 4 pounds. While my BMI is still holding below 20, now that I am back home, shedding those unnecessary pounds is my next challenge.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.