Tag Archives: gluten free travel

Checking Out A Silver Lining

Before my father passed away, he and my mother wanted to get rid of their vacation club membership, but they couldn’t figure out how to do it and started to get all stressed out about it. They asked if we would take it, so the gardener said, “Sure.” Later, I told him I wasn’t very happy about that :). I didn’t like the idea of planning a vacation based on where I could stay for free that I had been paying for monthly all along, if that makes any sense.

It didn’t to me.

But it made them happy and, as it turned out, sometimes it’s very useful because the units always come with a kitchen, which is important for dealing with the celiac disease issue. That is what we did in New Orleans last year, and it worked out perfectly. You should see us moving into a regular hotel room with two coolers and four bags of gluten free foods. Not to mention, the air purifier and humidifier the gardener uses to deal with symptoms of his auto-immune troubles. No fear that I might be able to travel light, which is my dream.

We wanted to go on a vacation this year because we visited mom for her surgery this summer instead of taking a vacation, so we decided to use our “points” and visit somewhere on the vacation club map. We settled on Reno and Lake Tahoe in The Silver State (Nevada). The Reno portion was mainly to acclimate to altitude before reaching Tahoe because before the gardener was diagnosed and still eating gluten, he would get very sick at altitudes like Salt Lake City, which is only 4,226 ft!

We spent a few days in Reno, traveling to see Carson City (the capitol of Nevada) and Virginia City. We also had dinner with my cousin (who lives in Carson City and works for the State of Nevada) and his wife at a Persian restaurant. I’ve mentioned before that Persian is usually safe for celiacs, if they avoid the bread and the desserts. This restaurant turned out to be a bit “nouveau” in its cuisine, and while I thought the food was particularly delicious, the gardener was sick overnight. There was probably cross-contamination.

Carson City has a darling Capitol Building. They allow visitors to walk through, looking into the offices of the Governor and other dignitaries. I won’t share the photos I took past the entryway because it seems unsafe to me. But, gosh, it was so nice to be able to take a look at all that beautiful history on our own.

Sorry if one or two of those are a little crooked (@#%^&). The statue when you enter the building is of Sarah Winnemucca who wrote the first autobiography by a Native American woman (Northern Paiute), so I found that pretty meaningful.

I was shocked that Reno is such a casino-driven city. Maybe you knew that, but I didn’t. I don’t like casinos or cities with lots of casinos, but it was interesting to watch the motel outside our window. It was directly across the street and had a reputation for stabbings, shootings, drugs, and prostitution. The new managers were supposedly trying to clean up the property, but it was still a sad and fascinating site for me to observe.

The gardener dragged me to the casino three times, but MEH. I don’t like the cigarette (and cigar!) smoke, the glazed looks on the faces of people who might be ruining their own lives and the lives of their families, or the unnatural outfits those poor servers have to squeeze into.

Judgmental, moi? OK, I am judgmental about gambling, but not about the gamblers. I’ve seen the harm it causes, and I don’t like it. At least the gardener didn’t lose much because he didn’t fall into the trap.

What I did enjoy was the Zombie Crawl one night we were in Reno. The parade of costumes in the streets and inside the casinos was a lot of fun. And Reno has the best gluten free bakery I’ve ever experienced. Wherever we go, we look for gluten free bakeries; many cities have them now. But this one had baked goods and other foods that were the most like what I grew up with. Their frosted sugar cookies were like those of the bakeries of my childhood. All gluten free though! If you’re in Reno, stop by Haven on Earth at 10855 Double R Blvd., Suite A. Here’s their website: www.havenonearthbakery.com. They even have lasagna and chicken pot pies in a freezer case.

To make up for the casinos, I dragged the gardener to a lovely performance of the national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We saw it at this cool-looking theater.

Nearby is the Riverwalk.

And a gorgeous old building. I looked it up and now I can’t remember the name of it.

We were happy to move on to Tahoe when we did. What we found there was gorgeous. And October was a wonderful time for visiting because there weren’t the crowds they see in the summer months and during ski season.

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Lake Tahoe is the purest body of water in the world, and it looks it. Just stunning. I could have walked on the beach in my sweatshirt every morning for the rest of my life. The gardener, on the other hand, thought it a bit chilly. He’s more the Caribbean type. While I prefer more deciduous trees in my dreamscape, I couldn’t get over the beauty of this national treasure.

And they had a great burger place that doesn’t get a celiac sick! They have a “dedicated fryer,” which means only gluten free foods go into that fryer. That is important if you want fries with your gluten free burger. I loved their veggie burger, too. CALIFORNIA BURGER COMPANY. Remember that if you go to Tahoe.  They feature live music and art on the walls. And gourmet casual food. Yum!

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BETA READER SHARING? On another note, I have been tinkering with the ole memoir a bit. It’s gone through a lot of versions already and may still have a lot of versions to go through. But it would be helpful to have 2 beta readers look at the dang thing as it stands now as I have too many versions in my head and can’t really “see” what is here any longer.

Do you feel that you have the time, inclination, and a bit or a lot of experience with a full-length manuscript (I think a novel would be fine, as well as memoir)? I’ll warn you that it’s approximately 280 pages.  I am happy to trade manuscripts with you and give yours the same careful reading with comments.  I am only interested in reading complete manuscripts in draft, though. No manuscript where you are sure you are done and just want confirmation. No manuscript that doesn’t have an ending yet. If you are interested, please email me at luanne.castle[at]gmail.com. If I get more than two offers, I’ll choose the two that seem the best fit, but will save names for the next version haha. If I get no takers, I’ll try to find readers through some other channels. Thanks for listening!

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More Travels with Mom

Hubby and I took Mom north of Phoenix.

We headed up to Cottonwood past hills “stubbled” with saguaro cacti.

We spent the night at the Pines Motel. I was entranced by the note pad next to the phone: it was computer paper cut up and stapled together. They pride themselves on being green. We had a great dinner at Nic’s.  Hubby and I have been there before, and they actually manage not to cross-contaminate his food with gluten. It helps that he orders simply–the crab legs, baked potato, and salad  with his own salad dressing (we carry packets of gluten free salad dressing with us). In the evening we played Bananagrams, a game that is fast becoming a family favorite.

Next day we drove up the mountain to Jerome, an old mining town. Inside a gift shop we discovered a museum of Jerome’s history. We got in for the senior bargain rate of $1 each. When we traveled in Canada and the NW US last summer, we were frequently shut out of senior discounts because they seemed to raise the bar for the senior price when we got to each destination ;). This time hubby preempted that trouble. He told the lady he was buying tickets for 3 old people so she lectured him while she took his $3, not realizing it was all part of his plan.

Inside I learned a lot about the history of mining. If you were reading my poems during the Tupelo Press 30/30 you might have read a poem I wrote about mining in Globe, Arizona. I wrote it in honor of a lady whose father was one of the early Jerome miners. Like her father, many of those early miners were Mexican.

The most fascinating part of the museum was learning about medical care provided to the miners. I began to picture what it would have been like to be stuck underground in one of those early mines and to get hurt or sick.  Take a look at the pre-printed chart below. There weren’t women miners, so the gynecological section must have been for family members or the very many prostitutes living and working in Jerome.

This is where copper comes from:

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Later we stopped at the winery for the tasting bar. (You knew that was coming, right?) We didn’t want to taste too much because of the high altitude and Mom’s heart condition, so hubby told the wine-pourer (I’m sure there is an official title; I just don’t know what it is) he wanted to buy a bottle and she let us (OK, that means mainly me) taste a few for free. I settled on the, of course, chardonnay. I will say, though, that Jerome wine is not my cuppa. I asked the wine-pourer where the vineyards are. I couldn’t imagine them so far up the mountain, but what do I know about vineyards (although obviously at least one branch of my ancestors knew a lot). She looked a little sheepish when she answered that they are outside Tucson. Hahaha. That’s a long way from Jerome! Now I feel bad that I gave a certain friend a bottle of Jerome wine.

The building that overlooks all of Jerome and is arguably the main tourist draw is the Jerome Grand Hotel. I had read that it was the original hotel in Jerome, operating when the miners needed care. You can get the best view of the building from their own website.

It wasn’t until I got there that I saw ASYLUM signs there. Note the old fashioned elevator door. I want you to know that Ms. Claustrophobia here (that’s moi) went up on the first ride all by her lonesome. I was so proud of myself. In the following view, I am riding with Mom who is examining the panel or the Otis Elevator inspection certificate.

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Before we left town, hubby bought Mom a gorgeous scarf. When it’s open it displays so many colors and looks beautiful with her coloring. Blue, green, orange, pink, purple, gold.

After Jerome we all agreed to drive up to beautiful Sedona for dunch (or is it linner?). Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a single restaurant we could trust for gluten-free dining that was open so early (about 4PM).  Luckily, we had cheese, turkey slices, crackers, and apples so Mom could eat something. We had to drive all the way back to the Phoenix area and stopped at the first P.F. Chang’s we could find.

The scarf purchase inadvertently led us to our next big adventure. That was the day I gave Mom training how to wear scarves! We had fun, and I even figured out a new way of tying for myself.

Now ask me if I’m writing? hahahahahahahaha

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More Gluten Free Travel by The Celiac’s Wife

Now that I’m back, I have so many things I want to blog about: places and people we visited and books I’ve read, as well as other randoms thoughts I’ve had lately. Today I only have time to mention once again how difficult it is to travel with someone with severe celiac disease.

We flew into Chicago and drove to Kalamazoo. Because of the length of time that can be involved–especially if a plane is delayed–in going without food and what I learned last time, I packed some cheese and salami and hard-cooked eggs with a frozen ice pack in my carryon. These items, along with gluten free crackers and breads, would sustain hubby as long as necessary. As a precaution, I’d emailed my mother an easy recipe for gluten free chicken and dumplings so she could have a hot meal for us when we got in for a late dinner. She also made homemade applesauce to go with it. The gluten free dessert I packed provided the nightly dessert hubby always craves.

Next day breakfast and lunch were negotiated by reading labels at mom’s house.

My brother was making dinner for us on the grill. He had been planning it for weeks and had asked me several questions by text about what hubby could and could not have. Brother made both trout and salmon and everything was delicious.  Plus, I got to play with my brother’s granddaughter (18 months) and two dogs.

The day after we were off to Toronto and figured it would be easy to find gluten free in a big sophisticated city. Wrong. It was very difficult, but that first night we were able to rely on a standby: PERSIAN FOOD. Or you can call it Iranian food. No matter what you call it, it’s the only truly reliable food. If you’re gluten free you have to avoid the delicious bread and watch for appetizers and other odd dishes that might have gluten slipped into them. And no baklava ever ever ever. But the basic kebabs, koobidehs, and other meats, as well as the rice dishes, are all gluten free. We usually bring our own gluten free salad dressing, just to make sure, but even the salads are usually gluten free.

For the second night, we had problems. We didn’t want to subject our cousin and her friend to the same meal, and we were meeting a second cousin as well. The only restaurant we could find that we felt we could trust was a burger place that made a huge deal of having a zillion gluten free options, etc.  It sounded like the good place we ate at in Victoria. Nope. We discovered that the fries were not made in a dedicated fryer, meaning that they are fried in the same fryer and oil as the BREADED ONION RINGS. We were disappointed because the only side he could have with his burger was a very very spicy cole slaw. Between the spice and the cabbage, that is a disastrous combo for someone with a GI illness.

As an aside, although many people with celiac recover when they switch to a gluten free diet, a minority keep their symptoms because the system is already so damaged. My husband is in the latter group.

So the burger place was disappointing as the only way hubby could get enough food would be if he ordered a 2nd burger, which he was unwilling to do (too much meat, too much food, too much of the same, too much money). And we worried about cross-contamination in a place that didn’t even care to get a 2nd fryer when they advertised so much about their wonderful gluten free menu items. hahaha

After Toronto we drove to New York. We stocked up on cheese and gluten free bread items and managed to get our ice pack frozen, but the drive didn’t offer much else to eat. You can’t really get gluten free food on the road. All along the way, even at Niagara Falls, Tim Hortons was the major food option–buns, doughnuts, and coffee creamer by a company I couldn’t research! Hubby didn’t dare get anything but black coffee there.

Notice the double rainbow: no gluten free yummies at the end

New York City is both the best place and the worst place for a celiac. It’s the best because they actually had some wonderful restaurants for celiacs and the worst because there is such a wealth of wonderful foods (especially ethnic, our favorites) that hubby can’t eat. We found an entirely gluten free Italian restaurant that was very good and quite charming. We also ate in a Persian restaurant the night we saw Something Rotten, a delightful Broadway musical. The food was excellent, and so was Christian Borle in the show! In my daughter’s apartment building, a well-stocked bodega kept me satisfied and offered just enough gluten free salami and cheese for hubby.  But we couldn’t buy food off the carts around the city or eat at museums or stop wherever we liked for a snack.

We drove for 2.5 days after our NYC visit–through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and into Indiana. Breakfast the 2nd day was a bust. We had a free one at Homewood Suites, but literally everything had gluten or could have had gluten. They didn’t have any packages so that we could read labels. Waffles, pre-made omelets, sausages, cereal, you name it: all gluten or potential gluten. Hubby lived off the salami and cheese once again. And potato chips.  I had to grab whatever I could. At one rest stop I grabbed something ahead of an Amish family of 8 slow-deciders. It turned out to be 10 tiny potato wedges and breaded chicken tenders. GREASY. And then I had to carefully wash my hands so I wouldn’t contaminate hubby’s bread and cheese. Very tedious, but we didn’t starve. It just wasn’t fun and was annoying.

So when we drove toward Indianapolis late on the 2nd day of that trip, I tried to find a restaurant with gluten free offerings along a major highway. I used an app on my iPhone. The only one I found was Outback, one we can often rely on, although sometimes you get an employee that puts croutons on the salad and thinks that if he takes them off the salad will be gluten free. NOT. 1/500 of a slice of bread is enough to make a celiac sick.

Outback was literally mobbed, with a half hour wait. I started to get a sinking feeling because I worried about cross-contamination, but what else could we do? I asked hubby if he wanted to find a grocery store instead so we could read labels. But he was sick of cold food out of baggies. Then I used the restroom. What a disaster. I came out and said, “We’re going. You will get so sick here.” If they were that busy, there is no way he was safe.

Once again, I resorted to my iPhone. There was one–and only one–real option less than 2 miles away. As we drove up to it in the dark, we saw how sketchy it was. It was on the “bad side of town,” and the restaurant didn’t look so great inside. Then there was that biker decor–graffiti walls and a big skull. But by then we were starving, or at least thought we were. We decided to go in. As we stood at the counter to order our food, hubby said, “I’ll pay. Will you go look for my pita bread?” We have Middle Eastern Deli & Bakery in Phoenix, and they make gluten free pita bread. Hubby likes to take it everywhere. Out in the dark, I was searching through suitcases with the door open, thinking how dangerous this was. After a little while I heard some scuffling past me, but I had the bread in hand and turned to go in.

The heavily metalled and tattooed young lady who worked the counter was locking the door and yelled at me to come in fast so she could lock up. I scuttled in, wondering what in the world was going on. Hubby sat by the front glass window and I told him something was up and to move back from the window.

A minute later the young lady came out from the back and said to us and the other customers, “We’ve just been robbed. If you don’t want to stay we understand and you can go. If you want to finish eating, that’s fine. We are going to keep the doors locked and are closing up for the night.” She was very rattled and bounced about somewhat manically. We heard other employees in the backroom talking about the gun.

Hubby told me that it was the guy in the hoodie who had come in as I went out to the car. He and hubby had had a small conversation. At the time, hubby didn’t realize he had a gun or was planning to rob the restaurant, of course. In retrospect, the guy could have robbed hubby at that time and he could have robbed me when he came back out.

Everyone else left, but we waited for hubby’s po boy beef over rice and cole slaw (no bread) and my fried oyster po boy (YUUUUUUMMMMM) and ate it all down. I had a big glass of sweet tea, to boot. The police came, but they didn’t even interview us. What would have been the point?

 

 

 

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Back Home

I got home last night from another trip. This one was just as long as the one hubby and I took in August. We flew into Chicago, drove to Kalamazoo, Toronto, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally Indiana, visiting my mother, hubby’s cousin, and our daughter.

Now I need to write “The Definitive Guide to Gluten Free Travel REDUX.” Or at least Part 2.  And pick up my writing-writing. On top of that, I plan to prepare for a poetry reading I’m giving in Redlands, California, on November 8.

But for now I need to unpack and catch up on work. Just glad to be HOME.

 

Saw this cool cardboard dollhouse in an antique mall.

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The Definitive Guide to Gluten Free Travel

Backstory

My husband has celiac disease. Before his diagnosis, for over eight years he was sick with exactly 100 mainly neurological, rheumatologic, and digestive symptoms. He and I visited 41 doctors, trying to find the cause. Hubby eventually figured it out himself, but until his GI doctor got the results of his (5th) endoscopy she didn’t believe him. The lab report confirmed that he has celiac. And he’s got it pretty bad, especially for an adult. It can be life threatening in some children.

The only way to handle celiac is to avoid gluten entirely. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Unfortunately, going gluten free is not merely a matter of avoiding breads and desserts. Gluten is hidden in many processed foods.

The Attitude

People without celiac often say this to me or to hubby: “They have gluten free everywhere now.” Although I’m sure they don’t mean to, they sound so cavalier. In the U.S., we love a positive attitude. People with illnesses and “different abilities” are encouraged to show how brave they are. On the news we are deluged with feel good stories about people who have lost all their limbs creating masterpieces and armless people driving cars. In their TV interviews, they sound so upbeat. We speak of being inspired by them.

I don’t have to worry about being the sad sack with a pessimistic realistic attitude. I don’t have to feel that I should be an inspiration to others. I don’t have celiac. I’m not gluten free. If I eat gluten or not, I can’t tell the difference. So I CAN TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAVELING GLUTEN FREE.

When my husband was first diagnosed, the only way to eat at a restaurant was to take his own salad dressing and go to a restaurant with a chef-run kitchen that offers steak or fish/seafood. Then he had to order a steak unmarinated and a baked potato (hardly any restaurants serve the latter any more, by the way), and a salad without croutons or other contaminants. His only seasoning was salt and pepper and, if he was lucky, a little garlic.

Gluten Free Craze

Then the gluten free craze happened. This happened for two reasons. One is that the amount of people who are celiac (which is an auto-immune disease) and who are gluten intolerant (similar to an allergy, but not an actual allergy) has risen dramatically because our wheat has been created with 100 times the protein it had 100 years ago. NO KIDDING. And also because food manufacturers were adding it to processed food right and left. The other reason is that some people decided a gluten free diet was healthier or a way to lose weight (no, it’s not). Therefore, now it’s much easier to find gluten free food in stores and restaurants.

So How Does That Affect Travel?

Being gluten free while traveling is still a nightmare. You know all those gluten free menus in restaurants you see now? Most of those restaurants cannot provide a gluten free meal to people with severe celiac. People who are gluten intolerant (except the ones with a very severe version) and people who avoid gluten for other reasons don’t know when they have been “glutened,” but somebody like my husband suffers very much when they are glutened. The response from restaurants that do so tends to be that they never promised they were a gluten free environment.

Since hubby got sick 12 years ago, he has mainly only travelled for business, medical, and for our daughter’s college graduation. And he didn’t fly again until this past year when we visited my parents three times.

Now that hubby has been gluten free for a few years and is feeling so much better (with occasional bouts of illness generally related to restaurant food), we decided to see if we could travel. Not a trip where we go to my mother’s house and stock it with gluten free food and cook there. But an actual vacation adventure.

This is How A Celiac Fares During Travel

We had booked a three hour flight to Seattle. That is about as long as we dare to fly because hubby can’t eat food at airports as they are not equipped to offer “allergen free” foods. He has a weak stomach that has been caused by this illness. The man who once ate hot peppers dipped in fire hot sauce in Korea can now not even tolerate raw cashews on days of stress, such as flying day. Once we enter the airport, he can only eat the dry food we pack in his carryon. He brings rice cakes, rice crackers, a Kind bar, and an apple. I try to bring him some cheese as well, but I do worry because there is no way to keep it cold. Keep in mind that hubby is 190 lb of dense muscle. He works out 2 hours 5-6x week.

With a three hour flight, getting to the airport 1.5 hours early, .5 hour to get to the airport, and then time to get our baggage and rental car and get acclimated, I figured that he would be 6-7 hours without a meal. No problem. He had a piece of gluten free toast with cashew butter for breakfast. That was all he could handle before a flight, but he could wait the seven hours.

Well, our flight was three stinken hours late. That meant that he could not get a meal for 11 hours as we arrived at rush hour.

As an aside, is there a reason that Southwest Airlines has to offer as its only food choices gluten-coated peanuts and wheat crackers? Seriously? Since peanuts are such a dangerous allergy, why carry them at all? And why can’t one of the two options be gluten free?

That first night on our trip, after the long day at the airport and on the flight, we couldn’t find a restaurant that had gluten free options except for Morton’s steak house. We didn’t want to spend the money for such a pricey meal when we were tired and I had my own health issues at that point. But we had no choice. Guess what? With all their care, hubby still got glutened. We don’t know what item it was, but something must have been made incorrectly or been cross-contaminated.

To make a long horror story short, we spent our 12 days of vacation scrounging food. On two occasions, we found restaurants that didn’t gluten him and that we liked (one Persian and the other sushi) and returned the second day only for him to be sick within an hour or two. One day, we spent almost the entire afternoon and early evening searching for a meal. Every restaurant we went to either had run out of food or was closed. Some were closed because the owners had arbitrarily decided to close for a few days. Some were closed because they don’t serve dinner (typically, a gluten free restaurant is a gluten free bakery that offers lunch and maybe breakfast).

Making our restaurant research more difficult than usual (when it’s always bad enough), we were in Canada for much of our trip, and we couldn’t use much wifi on the road or while out and about. Because the world now relies on everyone individually accessing the internet, we couldn’t get much help at our hotels—and phone books? What are those?

The one highlight of our gluten free dining was that our 2nd to the last hotel

was a nice resort and offered two delicious (and tiny) gluten free desserts.

Unfortunately, we had eaten dinner elsewhere, so when hubby was sick

that night we didn’t know if it was dinner or dessert so we didn’t dare order again.

We carried gluten free bread, salad dressing (useful for bunless burgers if the restaurant didn’t have gluten free mayo, etc.), and tamari sauce (tamari sauce is only made with soy and not with wheat, and tastes about 50 times better than regular old soy sauce anyway). Note that unless you order gluten free single serve salad dressing online (Kraft Thousand Island is hubby’s fave), you have to keep an opened bottle of dressing refrigerated. Not an easy task while traveling.

We also travel with a toaster because hubby can’t use toasters previously used for gluten bread. 1/500 of a slice of wheat flour bread is enough to gluten him, so imagine what would happen with those toaster crumbs in his GI system. A humidifier and air purifier are necessary too because of damage caused by the disease over time. (I feel like I’m traveling with Niles Crane).

When we went to the gardens, aquarium, walking downtown or at the waterfront (the list goes on), we had to carry this stuff with us just in case. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a place that can offer that plain burger and not have any bread or condiment for it.

After a week and a half of this kind of travel, I came home exhausted. I couldn’t remember the places I experienced, but only felt haunted by the hunt for food (and beverage in some cases—gluten free coffee creamer, gluten free cocktail ingredients, gluten free beer).

Hubby was sick so much of the time. And we were so careful. But it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as gluten free travel.

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