Last month when my family was in town we took a weekend road trip down to the southern part of the state to visit White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns. I knew we would be hitting up some small towns and wasn’t sure what I would be able to eat. As well, we were headed to – and through – some less-populated areas so I knew I couldn’t count on having many food choices, let alone nutritious, gluten free food available. Sure, you can always stop at a gas station for a Snickers and some chips but nutritious gluten free road-trip foods are not always easy to find.
So, like I always do, I packed us a cooler full of yummy stuff. For this trip I packed rice crackers, hummus, carrots, cherry tomatoes, smoked gouda and pepper jack cheeses, apples, nectarines, trail mix, Kettle Korn, and Chex Mix for the gluten eaters. I also always pack multiple, reusable water bottles filled with either water or iced tea, a knife for cutting fruit and/or cheese and cloth napkins (or paper towels).
On our way down south we stopped at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area near Carrizozo to eat some lunch and check out the black volcanic rock formations. We had a nice little picnic of our packed goodies overlooking the park and a short walk along the trail as well to stretch our limbs after sitting in the car for a while.
We continued on down the road to White Sands National Monument and checked out some of the park trails and took a Sunset Stroll with Ranger Julie. The cool, white gypsum sand felt wonderful on my bare feet – and we even got to see some wildlife!
We were on the road for a total of three days and two nights. When I have a choice, and the price is right, my preferred hotel is Hampton Inn as they have good breakfast for both my husband and I can scrounge enough off of it for me. The first hotel we stayed at had a decent, free continental breakfast. Yes, it still had all the sugar-laden, gluten-filled items but there were individual containers of gluten free yogurt. I had two (!) along with the Udi’s Vanilla granola (my favorite flavor!) and a nectarine I had brought along just for this occasion. The only fruit available were some oranges and those highly waxed Red Delicious apples that are always flavorless and mealy. So I was glad I brought some fruit of my own. They also had hard-boiled eggs, which my husband likes, since we both know we need protein to start our day.
These days, in addition to the gluten, I can not eat eggs (except in baked goods) and so eating a gluten free breakfast out is very difficult. We are usually quite happy to grab what we can from the free breakfasts and supplement with our own items.
Our next stop was Carlsbad Caverns, which was amazing. We took the natural entry trail down into the cave and walked a couple of miles within the caves.
After all that walking, we were quite hungry and had some time before the evening Bat program began, so we had another picnic from our cooler of goodies.
If you visit Carlsbad, be sure to stick around for the Bat Program. Wow. Just incredible. Massive amounts of bats leaving the cave in a big swirl every evening. They don’t allow you take pictures during the action because it disturbs the bats but I took one while walking back to the parking lot and you can see them waaay off in the distance, over on the left side in the picture below, between the farthest left two stalks of yucca.
After this awesome experience we headed back to the town of Carlsbad to check into our hotel and find something for dinner. We found a Chili’s and since my mom had her laptop, we were able to look up their gluten free menu, which they update every month. So I had a safe dinner there that evening. The next morning though, the free breakfast was not as gluten free friendly. They had the usual bagels, sugar, muffins, sugar, cereals, sugar, but no yogurt or eggs. They did have some pre-packaged cereals that I checked out just for the heck of it, hoping for some gluten free rice Chex or something. There were bowls of Trix which apparently does not contain gluten ingredients. I don’t eat a lot of cereal, besides my Udi’s granola, so I am not sure about Trix’s true gluten free status, but it looked like it was safe, with no “May Contain Wheat” statement. So, again, I was lucky to have my granola and fruit as well as our other snacks.
We had a lovely trip exploring part of the big state of New Mexico, with no apparent, accidental glutenings!
Coming up we are headed to the Phoenix area to visit Taliesin West. I am almost more excited for all the gluten free food options in that area, than for the tour, so I will be sure to take some pictures and let you know what we find. Although, I am tempted to eat at Picazzo’s the whole weekend since they have so many gluten free options!
Of course, on this trip we will be packing a cooler again, full of necessities – and goodies! What do you like to pack for your road trips?