Day 6: What I'm eating - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

April 28, 2022

Day 6: What I'm eating

A slightly weathered road with a few small cracks leads ahead between the grass. Rolling green hills, bright blue skies and puffy white clouds lie ahead.
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Day 6 stats

Starting point: Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, Va.

Ending point: Warmshowers hosts Sharon and Keith in Radford, Va.

The Daily Progress: 39.93 miles

Elevation gain: 2,986 feet

Average speed: 9.6 mph

Maximum speed: 30.4 mph

Lodging expenses: $0 (Warmshowers)

Food expenses: $10.85 (lunch and groceries at Kroger)

Flat tires so far: 0

Falls so far: 0 for Chris, 1 for Blue. I parked Blue awkwardly against a signpost at Kroger, and when I removed the lock, he fell before I could catch him. (If you're wondering who is Blue: Blue is my bike, but I'm giving him a personality. Don't worry, it hasn't gotten to the point of Tom Hanks and the volleyball in Castaway. Well, not yet. But I guess I do talk to Blue sometimes. So maybe I'm farther gone than I thought …) There was minor damage: a tear in the handlebar tape. I'm afraid it could spread, but at least it's not at a point where my hands need to apply pressure. To prevent the tear from spreading, I later wrapped it with electrical tape applied by my Warmshowers host for the night. Somewhat ironically, this is my first tour in which I'm not carrying electrical tape. I'm carrying a little duct tape instead, which does seem more versatile, just not good for this use.

Day 6 highlights

Aside from a swift wind in the face every now and then, today was a perfect day for cycling. Mostly calm country roads through rural neighborhoods and farms. 

Today was the first day that I set off without knowing where I would probably sleep. At any given time, I think it's a good idea to have a sense of what I want to be not just tonight but also the next night. That's not always possible, but it certainly helps if you're trying to arrange a stay at a Warmshowers host or a busy hostel or campground with limited space. But I really didn't have a plan until pretty late this morning, and I saw a Warmshowers host in the area I thought I'd want to stop tonight so I reached out, hoping they might be available to host but assuming that I'd probably have to find something else once I got closer. 

To my surprise and delight, Sharon and Keith in Radford were available! And what a pleasant stay it was. I enjoyed hearing about their work and projects and adventures.

Here's a selfie I took of Keith, Sharon and me in front of their side patio the following morning just before I got back on the road.
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They also fed me very well! The focus of the dinner was a Cobb salad, which made me smile because this is actually the fifth time this week that I've had some kind of salad with chicken on top — but this one finally, finally realizes the kind of thing I had been looking for each time. It put to shame the professionally prepared salads I'd eaten for lunch at a pizza shop and a couple of cafes along the way.

This photo shows the amazingness of the salad. This was a huge plate — Sharon and Keith shared a second one between the two of them. You can see everything beautifully arranged on a bed of greens in neat columns: hard-boiled egg slices, grilled chicken strips, tomato, beets, radishes, almonds, black olives, cucumbers. We also had fruit and homemade bread. Yum!
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Dani MooreThat is a beautiful salad.
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3 months ago

Ramblings: What I'm eating

Tonight's dinner is the perfect opportunity to answer a question that multiple people have asked: What do you eat on a trip like this?

The short answer: Everything!

I do mean that — there are moments when I would honestly eat anything you put in front of me as long you as said that it was in fact intended for human consumption. But here's the long answer:

Especially — but not exclusively — when cycling, my mood is closely correlated to how recently I have eaten. I could be climbing a hill, but if I've got half a Clif Bar in my mouth, I'm happy as a clam. An hour later (or, 59 minutes and 57 seconds after the utter annihilation of the aforementioned Clif Bar), I'm asking myself why I chose to torture myself like this. In other words, when riding, I have three modes: (1) I have eaten something within the past hour or so, and I'm pretty happy. (2) I am thinking about what to eat next and where and when and how to make that happen sooner. (3) I am eating right now, while pedaling.

So, needless to say, I've learned that it is very important to me to carry snacks that I can eat just by stopping for a few minutes on the side of the road — or by simply pulling something out of my pocket without stopping at all.

Let's take a look at what's in my food bag at the end of today.

Here are the contents of my food bag on a white background. We have, in no particular order: a 6.5-ounce bag of trail mix, a Nature Valley crunchy granola bar, a Nature's Bakery fig bar, an apple, three bags of caffeine-free tea, two packets of Gatorade Propel drink mix powder, one packet of Hydro Mate drink mix powder, eight packets of Folgers instant coffee, and one wrapper from an 8-pack of Chips Ahoy chunky chocolate chip cookies (empty, naturally).
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What's missing from that picture: I almost always have a Clif Bar on me unless I just ate one, so the fig bar currently in my bag is kind of holding a spot for it. Also, the next time I get to a store that sells camping supplies, I'll pick up one or two camper meals that come in an insulated bag and need you to just add boiling water. I like these sorts of meals because they can be pretty filling and last as long as you need, and they really don't weigh much at all because they're dehydrated. The packaging is probably not very eco-friendly, though, so I'll try to same them for a meal of last resort. I usually pick up a couple from REI before a trip like this, and I had two with me at the start but have already eaten them.

The apple is a very rare item in my bag because apples are so heavy. I should've bought some dates or prunes or something, which generally keep longer and can be eaten in smaller increments.

Speaking of dates or prunes, let's talk about fiber. It's easy to assume that there's a big focus on carbs — and sure, you do burn through a lot of them when you're biking all day. But I think it's pretty easy to get plenty of carbs and sugars. So I generally don't worry about them at all, and instead I worry about eating fruits and veggies whenever I get the chance, some protein, and, I think most importantly, plenty of fiber. (A friend named Scott once said in passing years ago that you need to keep the digestive system moving everything through so you can just eat more! Makes sense to me!)

Breaking it down by meal:

Breakfast: I originally thought that, when camping, I'd make myself oatmeal or meusli every morning (I'm carrying a tiny camp stove). In past trips, that has been more rare than I expected. I packed half a bag of meusli — and then, after deciding I wanted to shed some weight, gave it back to Dani to take home when she met up with me on the first night of the trip. In practice, breakfast is more of a catch-as-catch-can situation. I definitely want breakfast every day and will buy something on my way to a campsite, even if it's just a granola bar or two, so that I can eat before I hit the road in the morning. An instant oatmeal packet or two is a great idea that I plan to try soon. One day I didn't have anything specifically breakfast-y, but I did have one of those camper dinners that just requires you to add hot water, so that was breakfast for the day — it was actually some kind of bibimbap. Yum!

Second breakfast and, occasionally, elevenses: I always pack one or two things in my pocket so I can eat it without stopping. That would mean a Clif Bar, granola bars or anything similar. Something you can tear open with your teeth like an animal and eat with one hand so you can keep the other hand on the handlebars. 

To be clear, I do stop and get off the bike for a few minutes every hour or two. But sometime you just want to eat and you don't want to stop.

Lunch: By mid-afternoon, I'll frequently stop at a restaurant or a grocery store and grab a small sandwich or a salad because that's a good opportunity to get my veggies. It's a struggle to stop myself because I often would like to eat more but I know I can't pedal if my stomach is too full, so I have learned not to eat a 12-inch hoagie and try to jump right back on the bike. The footlong size is for dinner. If there's no convenient place to grab a lunch like this, I'll settle for whatever is in my food bag.

Speaking of dinner: No real strategy here. Whatever is available in large quantities sounds great to me. I personally try to stay away from red meat because it has such a high environmental impact, but if that is what is being served, I will enjoy it all the same.

Dessert? If I come across chocolate chip cookies, I'm probably buying some. When it's warmer, I look forward to ice cream cones. These things happen whenever you come across them. On a bike tour, there is no wrong time for dessert.

Beverages: Water, one cup of coffee, water, water, water, water. As indicated by the contents of my food bag, I tend to add Gatorade powder or a similar sports drink mix, but not every day, just when I think I need a little extra sugar and/or electrolytes. I don't go for juice very much. I have stayed away from beer for now because I got dehydrated on the first two days — it was way hotter than usual for this time of year and I didn't drink as much water as I should have. But soon I'll let myself indulge with a beer every now and then. 

I have no idea if any of this is sound practice. It's just what I'm doing right now. Suggestions welcome (especially from any registered dietitian/nutritionists who happen to be reading)! I'm sure someone's going to say eating more protein will help me feel less hungry all the time, but I do get protein. I think the problem is, I just really like to eat. And biking all day gives me an excuse to eat all day. Now you know the real reason I'm biking for four months!

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 323 miles (520 km)

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