Celiac Roadtrip, Part 1

Since my diagnosis, this celiac has: partied in the hospital, survived college, gorged at a gluten free expo and been officially declared to be in remission. With summer at its peak, though, another adventure has come my way: the family road trip. And I'm going to share every fun, frustrating and flavorful moment with you all!

That's us...dog included! (Source)
For this first edition, I'm spilling all the details on our three day drive up to Colorado Springs, our final destination. When we planned out this trip, I initially didn't waste a minute on worries. Sure, this was our first time traveling away from home in a car since "gluten free" became a necessity. But with a ice box of gluten free ammo and a list of restaurants at each of our hotel locations, the war against gluten seemed like a semi-easy win

And, in some instances, it was. When my family drove away from the house Tuesday morning, our car might as well had been a gluten free bread box considering the amount of snacks we stuffed in the trunk. I spent the day before we left trapped in the kitchen, making hemp seed butterpizza, pancakes, quinoa and overnight quinoa flakes baggies for emergency eating on the road. Not to mention we stripped Sprouts of its protein bars and pre-packaged snacks the week before C-day (Colorado day!). 

This joined us in the car...

As we drove through California, Arizona, Utah and - finally - Colorado, the hours of prep were definitely worth it! The fact is, no matter how far the gluten free fad has spread, finding safe joints to eat at at random places on the map isn't easy. In Utah, we drove for hours without seeing anything but a run down Subway that even the gluten-eaters wouldn't touch. So, for lunch we lived off our pre-packaged snacks and goodies without complaint. Dinner, when we scouted out the towns of our hotel, proved the most interesting.  

As I mentioned before, I'd already made a list of possible restaurants at each of our stops. Nothing helps anxiety like obsessive preparation, right? Like most of life, though, things don't always go according to plan

Page 1...
The first stop wasn't bad. Chick Fil A? Check. Delicious and safe as ever. Then, at Grand Junction, we decided to celebrate another day down by going to Outback, a restaurant that has always been outstanding with my celiac demands. 

I'm embarrassed to say this was the first time I ever cried at a restaurant. I ordered my usual - a salad with Mahi Mahi and steamed veggies. First my salad came out with a suspicious piece of chicken sprinkled on top. First return to the kitchen. Then my waiter set down a plate of fish, veggies and seasoned rice that I was 99% sure wasn't gluten free. One question later, I was proved right. Skepticism before spoonful is the safe way to live!

The breaking point? When he returned a second later with fish and veggies on a plate, too fast for redoing the whole meal. The chefs had simply removed the gluten-filled rice, rearranged the contaminated fish and veggies, and expected it to be okay. Obviously no one in the restaurant - even the chefs - knew what "celiac" actually meant. 

Ryan, I could've used you...
At the end of the dinner, I finally choked down some fresh fish that I prayed was safe. Physically, I didn't suffer any negative effects, but my spirit was definitely shaken. This was the first time I felt unsafe enough in a restaurant that I thought of walking out hungry. Anxiety is a normal part of eating out for me, but tears are not. That it was a chain I trusted made it even worse. It was a reminder of how far, despite all of our successes, the gluten free community still has to go. 

Despite how miserable I felt during that dinner, I now view it as a learning experience. I shouldn't have let the long day of travel and dietary difficulties get to me. I should've asked for the manager or chef straight away. 

Either way, our last day of travel was a new day with new chances for eating. I was pleasantly surprised at a rest stop by the Healthy Tomato, a gas station cafe that offered pizza with Udi's crust. While I didn't buy any, I did devour a bag of gluten free popcorn

What a view too!
I took this as a sign of the delicious GF options Colorado would offer. And, as I'll share in my next post, I was 200% right

What are your tips for traveling while gluten free? What's your best and worst experience eating out with celiac? Comment below! 


  1. Always got to be prepared girl! I'm surprised that was your first bad experience! But I guess I can't say much since I really don't eat out. Haven't in 5 years but now am starting to slowly break that since this whole college thing. Chains though I feel can be even worse for safety though. I feel like their to focused on quick service and certain standards.

    1. Preparation is a necessity, for sure! Yep, I think it's my first bad experience because I 1) never eat out that much and 2) am always so careful. Chains seem to be either a hit or a miss. All depends on the manager and the staff, I guess :)

  2. Ah, today is that day of food prep for me! All day in the kitchen is a must sometimes in order to ease a type-a brain full of anxiety! As far as crying at a restaurant goes, don't be embarrassed! It has happened to me on way too many occasions (my family is obsessed with eating out and it's so hard to work around -_-). I have to say that I am surprised that it was outback that it happened at though! Luckily, it sounds like you survived that one! It pains me to see AZ on the list of destinations and know that you were still so far from me, even in the same state! Hang in there and try to remember that family vacations are about so much more than food. It sounds like you have what you need to make it through in your trunk if worst comes to worst! Enjoy the time with your family! Can't wait to see more of those beautiful pictures!! :)

    1. Yep, it's amazing how much I love food prep now! Since I've returned from college, my fridge is always full of leftover meat, quinoa, beans and other stuff to throw together! Eating out is definitely super hard, but luckily it's been rainbows and happy tummies after that one trip! Enjoy your summer and keep up the texting! :)

  3. I'm with Rebecca on this one, I am a bit surprised this is the first time you've felt "unsafe" at a restaurant, that's awesome that you typically feel safe I wish I could say the same! I typically become very anxious when dining out/eating others prepared food, but it's something I am working on, and have made so much progress. There are a few places I feel very safe at and no if I do enough research and calling ahead, I feel safe at newer places.
    Not so awesome you didn't feel so safe this time around, I am sorry BUT it seems as if you were a good girl scout and packed plenty for yourself :) AND lesson learned, always speak to the chef/manager. I have had too many bad food experiences to name...BUT I had a "lesson learned" moment the other day. I was at a party for someone's birthday and was told "don't worry, we baked you gf df brownies, so you have something to eat while we all eat cookie cake" I was SO SO SO excited to be getting brownies, so I didn't pack a snack for myself, just my entire meal. WELL, showed up to the birthday party, and they forgot my brownies. So I sat and watched everyone devour TWO sheets of cookie cake, while I drank water...lesson learned, always BYOF even IF they say they have something especially made for you, cause if they forget it, it sucks!
    Looking forward to more posts!

    1. I've been lucky in that respect, probably because I eat out so rarely and am so careful when I do. I've been very proud of your progress! Baby steps!

      And yes, it is amazing how no matter how much we think we know, how many bad experiences we've learned from, or how "prepared" we become, we still mistakes. But that's part of life and we're still rockin' it! :)

  4. You were in Colorado Springs! That's where I live!! I love Rocky Mountain Popcorn too. :) I'm glad you had a good time in Colorado, we have some pretty safe places (a fews 100% GF ones). I can't wait to see which ones you tried, or the bakeries! (I can't eat at them because they use tapioca flour, but I've heard they're pretty good).

    Now, for my road trip craziness/tips. When I road trip, I always pack my own food and plan a few places to stop that I know for certain are safe (aka: 100% GF establishments). They end up being highlights of the trip too! Dempsey Bakery in Little Rock, AR has an amazing GF bakery for the rare few of us with a tapioca allergy. And, since I travel with non-celiacs it's cool to see some of the local diners where they can eat, and I just bring my own food. If you choose this method and are driving for more days, a portable cooler/fridge is a solid investment.

    Now, my ridiculous amount of packed meals is really because being "glutened" on a road trip would be the worst thing ever! I don't have great trust in any restaurant until I've talked to the chef/manager (even if it's part of a chain). It becomes more difficult as you travel across the country because celiac awareness isn't as strong everywhere across the country.

    Glad to hear you made it to CO though, and I can't wait to hear what you saw too! (We can be a pretty cool city- no bias here :) ).

  5. I know you wrote this a few years back. However, I would love to see a post on your GF icebox. Not only do I stress over what to eat on vacation, but GF foods that 'travel' well.


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