Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trying to Eat on Interstate 80

Driving across the United States on Interstate 80, a predominantly trucking route, is a challenge for anyone interested in eating remotely healthily. The mission was to get a car and dog from Vermont to Truckee, California. I-80 is not only direct, but happens to run right through Truckee, hence the choice of routes.

My original plan was to sort of hop from one Whole Foods to the next, thinking that these would be the most accessible natural foods stores. If we had timed our travel days slightly differently, we might have been able to do just that. There is a Whole Foods in University Heights near Cleveland, Ohio, another in Omaha, Nebraska, two or three in Salt Lake City, Utah, and another in Reno, Nevada. However, between the dog and our driving patterns we seemed to miss all of these except the one in Salt Lake.

Instead we found a nice health food store in Erie, Pennsylvania interestingly enough called Whole Foods Cooperative Market, but not part of the chain. It is a full service, local natural foods store. Our next food stop was a day later in Des Moines, Iowa at the New City Market, another lovely full service market in a residential area. Here we got the best, fresh green beans I have possibly ever eaten – sweet, crunchy and delicious. We bemoaned getting only one bag of them the next two days of driving.

Cheyenne, Wyoming was our next food stop and what we found was It’s Only Natural, tucked in a strip of large malls, The store had a large gluten-free selection and supplement section, but other than that was quite sparse and not terribly friendly. I couldn’t discern if that was the shopkeeper’s temperament or as a result of my Obama pin attached to my purse. We persevered and found a cute little juice and wrap bar on one of the funky downtown streets of Cheyenne called Rubyjuice, where we had hot soup and wraps. While the place was great, we could have waited until Laramie, not that far up the highway, since Laramie is a University town (always the best towns to stop in as they have the most variety and usually at least one health food store), where we could have stockpiled some food. Indeed, Laramie, Wyoming has two health food stores: Medicine Bow Health Foods and Whole Earth Grainery.

Between Laramie and Salt Lake City Utah there is really nothing in the way of health food stores or restaurants… well for that matter that there isn’t much in the way of anything but wide, open land. The same is true between Salt Lake and Reno – vast salt flats and then a whole lot of sagebrush, so be prepared if you drive the route and stock up on food and water.

As far as places to stretch your legs, we found a magnificent state park in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Presque Isle Park has miles of bike and walking paths along Lake Erie and on the other side of the peninsula miles of sand beaches – well worth an hour or more detour for the experience. In Cheyenne, Wyoming we happened upon a sweet little botanical garden within a park. The plants were dormant this time of year, but you could picture the flowers in their glory during the warmer months. Interspersed on the paths and in the beds were memorial blocks with wonderful quotes.

While we only saw them from the car window, there were what seemed like hundreds of windmills in Nebraska – good thing as the wind was howling away.

Once in Truckee, the final destination for the car, dog and dog owner, I made my way by my favorite form of transport – the train - to San Francisco. This is an experience not to be missed by train lovers and history buffs. The double-decker train, which originates in Chicago, climbs slowly after leaving the Truckee train stop up and through the Donner Pass. The train takes longer than by car, but is different route as the train is far higher than the highway, which you can look down on at certain intervals in the trip. There are magnificent views, and Amtrak provides a guide offering historical tidbits and trivia over the loudspeaker system. The train, called the California Zephyr, runs once daily between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area, a two day trip if you ride the whole route.

Needless to say, once you get to the Bay area of California, finding health food restaurants and stores is no longer a problem as they seem to be at almost every turn.

Erie, PA: Whole Foods Coop Market, 1341 W. 26th Street; 814-456-0282; http://www.wholefoodscoop.org

Des Moines, IA: New City Market, 4721 University Ave; 515-255-7380

Cheyenne, WY: Rubyjuice, 113 East 17th Street, 634-3022 – soups, salads, wraps, smoothies, fresh juices

Truckee, CA: Truckee is just north of Lake Tahoe, and has a renovated historic downtown area with stores and various historical buildings. One of which includes a “Rocking Stone”, one of twenty-five such stones known in the world. Native Americans used the 17-ton stone for ceremonies and for preserving food. www.truckee.com.
Outside of downtown Truckee you will find The Cedar House sport hotel, built with environmental standards using natural materials, energy efficiency, and natural fiber bedding. Food served is from local and organic sources. The Cedar House, 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee, CA; 866-582-5655; www.cedarhousesporthotel.com

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