What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TransAmerica Q & A: What did we eat?

One of the most common questions we got about our bicycle tour across the country was:


What you eat depends on these factors:
  1. Your budget.
  2. Calorie/energy needs.
  3. Available resources.
  4. How many days you've been on the road.

Convenience and Weight Savings
If you have a plump budget, you can eat at restaurants for nearly every meal. This can be an attractive choice, since you can avoid the chores of cooking, cleaning and carrying all the things you need to prepare a meal (stove, fuel, utensils, whatnot). 

Time Savings
You may or may not save yourself time. Mia and I would spend foreverrr in the grocery store (2 hours!) to find something that 
  • A) wasn't too heavy
  • B) was filling, 
  • C) had enough protein
  • D) was at least half-appealing to eat
  • E) was affordable
  • F) could be cooked on high rather than a simmer, and 
  • G) we could agree on. 

  • Eventually we sent just one person into the store in an effort to hurry up! Oh, and we also had fun trying to avoid TBHQ, a frightening preservative found in a lot of cheap, processed foods. Avoiding high fructose corn syrup, which I ordinarily do, would have been impossible (according to our appetites). 

Eating out may be convenient, but doesn't mean that you are awarded many options. In Wyoming, we came across one diner that was the only food resource for at least 50 miles in either direction. 

Meeting Locals
Convenience aside, eating out is a prime way to meet the locals. While sitting out a rain storm, we ducked into a McDonald's and got to chat with 4 hilarious elder gentlemen who were pretty amused with us. Their southern accents were so thick that I kept asking them to repeat what they had said. Eventually one man said, "You ain't a foreigner, you know what I'm sayin'!" Except.. I didn't. Ha ha! I always brought my helmet inside to encourage such locals to inquire.

As mentioned, we spent a lot of time in the grocery store because we had so many factors to consider. We would have eaten out more often, but we were motivated to eat in so we could:
  1. Save money.
  2. ....uh, save money.
  3. and to maybe get a few more veggies and a bit less deep fry in our diet.
A sampling of what we ate:
--Powdered milk + cereal (sometimes cold oats) + fruit (fresh or dried), we had to eat several bowls of this to be satisfied.
--Scrambled eggs, cooked very, very quickly and with great care. (The stove is either ON or OFF.. no simmer!)
--Hot oatmeal + fruit, etc.

We tried to not cook for breakfast, because it took so much time-- but we (I) would be more satiated after eggs or oatmeal than cold cereal, which meant that we were less likely to have to stop for second breakfast in another hour.

A successful tactic that many other touring cyclists used, was to eat a snack when you wake up, ride down the road an hour or two, then stop at a diner to have a hearty breakfast. This got you out of camp much earlier, but required the buck$.

We mostly ate 1 of 3 sandwich options, depending on our mood and needs:
1. PB&J
2. Cheese sandwich
3. Cheese, veggie, & sometimes meat sandwich. When we really craved it. This didn't seem to be very cost effective for us.

--Crackers + cheese
--Cheap granola bars
--Bananas, other fruit
--Snickers, other candy
--Ice cream
--Gummy worms
--Pop Tarts
--Can you see this list degenerating? :)

--Pasta & beans, & sometimes a can of veggies.
--Dehydrated soups when we could find it, plus bread.
--Chili & bread.
--Breakfast burritos out of the gas station. Oh, delicious. 500 calories each! I would have two, and a few snacks to top it off. Probably some ice cream for dessert.

Having the Adventure Cycling maps was very helpful, though-- because we could see that a grocery store was up the road, and count on (most times) buying dinner food at the end of the day, instead of lugging it around all day (and up many hills). We only got sorta screwed a few times. Always keep a lightweight emergency food option in your bag (Ramen and some candy bars).

One thing is for certain: you will need a LOT of calories! Possibly more than you can imagine. The most important thing is to listen to your body, and if you haven't heard your body talk about hunger before-- you will. If I didn't eat enough at dinner the night before, I knew the next morning and for the rest of the day until I dug myself out of an energy deficit hole. And then I discovered Snickers ice cream bars, which pretty much solved that problem.

Also, don't be overly influenced by how much others you are traveling with are eating. Mia and I found that our "hunger graphs" were slightly different. She was hungrier than I was in the beginning, but soon I was putting down more ice cream than she could-- or would.

A quickly rendered and highly scientific display of hunger over time.


So, you want to eat a vegetable-rich diet with whole grains like usual? I wouldn't count on it. Get used to donuts. This is just SOME of what I ate in the same day:

Gas station chimichanga & coffee.

Pop Tarts.

That's salt from the chips I was eating on my fingers.

Don't eat fast food sandwiches that are only 99cents. That was disgusting.
A McDonald's sausage biscuit on the other hand? AWESOME.

We were going to have some plain cheese sandwiches,
then someone gave us cucumber out of their garden!

I ate one almost everyday. Right around 3 or 4pm.

If you have extraordinary discipline and a tight budget, you can live on PB&J and cheese the whole way. For us, we eventually became tired of the monotony and the effort. We ate out more and more as the trip went on and resorted to cheaper and fattier foods to satisfy ourselves. We also found that we spent much more on food and much less on camping than we had anticipated. 

So that's what we ate! Please leave a comment if you have question about something I did or did not cover!

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