Thursday, June 10, 2010


The Badlands of North Dakota

Afton Mountain B&B (Virginia)

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Little Bighorn Battlefield (Montana)

I haven't posted on this blog for over a month because I've been on an extended road trip. From Montana to Virginia to Kansas City and through Wyoming, I've attended a son-in-law's law school graduation, stayed with good friends in Missouri and visited historic sites everywhere I've been. It's been quite the adventure.

I started planning this trip months ago. My biggest worry, of course, was how I would find chemically safe places to stay overnight and gluten-free places to eat. To my amazement and relief, I had very positive experiences on both accounts. It took hours and hours of advanced planning and much vigilance while traveling, but I am now safely at home, none the worse for wear.

To find lodging, I used several different resources, including The Chemically Safer Travel Directory ( and Internet searches for chemically safe (and "green") lodging. Wherever possible, I stayed with family and friends who understand the issue and were more than happy to accommodate my needs. Without exception, I called every place I was to stay the day before and reminded them that I needed a room that hadn't been cleaned the day of my arrival and, if I was to stay more than one day, that I didn't want housekeeping services while there. I also traveled with a small, room-sized air purifier, which I turned on as soon as I arrived at a new place. I have long traveled with my own bedding and towel and I always stay where I can open a window (not on a busy street, if possible). Though I had some less than positive conversations with hotel managers while searching for accommodations before the trip, every place I ended up staying turned out to be positive, with hotel staff bending over backwards to make sure I was safe and comfortable.

As for eating, I started the trip with a list of restaurants and health food stores in every location where I thought I would be safe. Because there was so much I wanted to see, I didn't have time to eat out as much as I would like to have, but that was probably better for me chemically anyway (and definitely better on my purse). I ate a lot of peanut butter and corn/rice cake sandwiches, raisins and fruit. It was a real treat to find gluten-free crackers at the Trader Joe's in Cleveland and muffins at the Whole Foods in Virginia and Omaha. One of the best investments I made before the trip was in a nice portable cooler bag from LLBean. Most of the places I stayed had at least small refrigerators, so I was able to refreeze my ice pretty regularly.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the trip was the attitude of most of the people I met when I discussed my chemical sensitivities. Without exception, everyone I spoke with knew someone else with chemical sensitivities (a family member, friend or co-worker), and many people told me that they had quit using fragranced products already. There were a few instances when I had to leave someplace because of fragrance, but if I mentioned it, the people were at least apologetic. My own attitude helped too. I went into this adventure knowing full well that there would be some places I would just have to walk out of, and I did, without making a big deal about it and without becoming too disappointed. Most of the historic sites I visited (and the graduation) were outside and not in big cities, so that was also to my advantage. I also planned the trip so that I would be visiting places on weekday mornings and during a time of year when most places are not yet busy with tourists. And I stopped at a lot of off-the-beaten-path (obscure) kind of places.

I guess one of the things I've learned about traveling with MCS and celiac disease is that I may not be able to go to some places or eat what everyone else is eating, but there is so much to see and do, so much history to learn, and so many interesting people to meet that I can have a great vacation in spite of (or maybe because of) my disabilities. I am glad to be home though. A month was perhaps a little long to be traveling. My energy really wained the last few days. So I'm trying to take it easy for awhile. Until the next adventure...