Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More on traveling while gluten free and chronically ill

I thought it was time to post again about traveling while gluten free (and while sick)....and it's important for me to share not only the pitfalls and perils, but also the pleasant surprises when a restaurant or hotel bends over backwards to accommodate your dietary and/or other physical needs. Indeed, I've promised a few people I met along the way that I would do so!

Over the past couple of months I have made two quick (but long-distance) trips by car. I live in Southern California; the first trip was to Northern California and Southern Oregon, the second to Idaho (by way of Utah) to the college graduation of my adult daughter Robin, seen here with her son Andrew....

She simultaneously earned a B.A. in Mathematics Education and a B.S. in pure Math from Boise State....cum laude! Go Robin and go Broncos! :)

In any case, due to my many diseases, my power wheelchair, plus the need to remain strictly gluten free, you can imagine that travel can be quite challenging!

For example, lupus can make one highly photosensitive....unfortunately it has done so for me. On top of that, some of my medications exacerbate my sensitivity to the sun and other bright light sources. For more info on lupus and light sensitivity, click here.

When I was still working at the office I would frequently turn off the overhead fluorescents and work with only a desk lamp on....or not, sometimes using just the glow of my computer screen(s) to see by.

These days, as I work part-time from home, I tend to spend my waking hours in front of my laptop in a dark room with perhaps one dim lamp on and drapes drawn. And yes, it's a major drag!

I have two pairs of prescription glasses: dark and darker. Here I am with my dark glasses:

Dark is for indoors, darker for outside. Unfortunately, darker isn't enough on a bright beautiful sunny day. In the car I keep a shiny white folder which I use as a sun shield. Sometimes I hold it over my face and head if the sun is hitting me directly (it can actually nauseate me and make me feel like I'm going to pass out); usually I have to at least cover my arms and hands to prevent nasty bumpy rashes and weird-looking sunburns on highly sensitive skin.

Lovely, isn't it? :(

My adult daughter Cheryl, who also has lupus, once told me she was tired of "feeling like some kind of vampire" because she couldn't safely go outside until dusk. I can relate!

During trip number one, up and down the coast of California, it was cloudy and even rainy most of the time. I still managed to burn my hand to a crisp (see above) through the car window.

But aside from that little problem, most of that first trip was absolutely wonderful. We had great places to stay, such as the Sheraton in Petaluma, mentioned in a previous travel post, plus the Portside Suites in Brookings, Oregon, and fabulous places to eat, like Steamers in Pismo, where, with no official gluten free menu, our waiter and the chefs racked their brains to come up with a dinner that wouldn't make us sick, and succeeded beyond expectations!

Steamers also boasts an unbelievably gorgeous view of the Pacific from the dining area....

Wow! That alone is a reason to eat there!! But they also have wonderful food! :)

Note: once again I have to say that the Triumph Dining Cards were incredibly helpful on both trips! If you have to stay gluten free and want to be able to eat out you should definitely get a set for yourself! There were quite a few restaurants which had no gluten free menus (including the aforementioned Steamers), but I was always able to pull out the appropriate card and let the waitperson take it to the chef to help him/her identify which dishes were OK for us.

I love the Northern California/Southern Oregon coastline, so I'd like to share a few pictures of the Redwood Highway with you:

A lovely rest stop along the way....

Tsunami hazard zone sign....

Oregon/California border...

Rain, rain....

A rainbow after the rain...

I'll plan to continue this soon....I have more pictures (the Utah/Idaho trip) and more recommended restaurants and hotels!


Kathryn said...

I didn't realize you live in So. Cal. We live in Big Bear & are in Orange County every week.

We traveled to the South last summer & it was a real challenge. I'd not realized how hard it is, or how spoilt we are out here with the fresh foods available in restaurants.

Sometimes i think it is difficult to have chronic illness but "look" normal. Even folks who know i have limitations (& i don't share that with many people) still expect me to function normally because i look fine.

Good for you for taking that trip to share the joy with your daughter & family. :)

JoAnn said...

Thanks Kathryn! Yes, we are spoilt here...and we have Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets all over SoCal too, those grocery stores make it so much easier to be gluten free!

I'm very familiar with the "but you don't look sick!" syndrome, especially when my lupus is flaring because my cheeks look "rosy" due to the characteristic malar rash. It's always hard to explain your limitations to people, even to family members who love you. They really don't get it unless they too are chronically ill.