Bicycle Travel > Food Talk

Eating well on tour.

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I wanted to just begin a new topic about food and eating on tour. I've done some 1,000 mile plus rides through rural areas. In some places food is not only scarce but it's crap. I ate things like Jimmy Dean Sausage Mcmuffins on the Western Express from convenience stores because that was it... Now I'm on the Atlantic coast route. I stock up when I can in larger towns where there re actually grocery stores. But the concept of "food deserts" is a reality out here. In the summer months there is produce of course. But now in the fall post harvest, even the locals eat conveneince store crap. Towns in North Carolina have the Dollar General. These are fairly large but I could not find one piece of fresh produce. How is it for other cyclists?

John Nelson:

Pat Lamb:
My first reaction (and I mean this sincerely, not trying to be offensive), is "Great!"  You're learning first hand that your presumably comfortable lifestyle is not universal, even in this first of first world countries.  That broadening of horizons is one of the main reasons I encourage people to try travel -- especially by bicycle.

I don't know if Dollar General has succeeded in driving "real" grocery stores out of large swathes of N.C.  I'm guessing that if you went a few miles out of your way to larger towns and even small cities, you could find Food Lion, Piggly-Wiggly, maybe even Winn Dixie.  Those are more likely (but still not certain) to have fresh produce.

A surprising number of convenience stores will have some of the less perishable fruits, such as bananas, apples, or oranges, located near the checkout.  They're overpriced, but that's what you'll have to pay to support the low turnover.

As far as nutrition goes, my ancestors managed to survive on preserved food through the winters.  I'd guess you'll have a fair selection of canned fruits and vegetables, even in small towns.  You might want to supplement those with a multi-vitamin, although I doubt you'll suffer severe vitamin deficiency on a tour of less than 5-6 months.

I remember walking into a restaurant somewhere in Kansas and exclaiming, "They have a REAL salad bar!"  After the western half of Missouri on the TransAm, that was a sight for sore eyes and a feast for a jaded palate.

Through indifference to diet on my part, I lost half-a-pound a day on a trans-am ride, which I believe would be about a 1500 kcal-per-day deficit.  Fortunately, I had the weight to lose and the final weight was a good one.  Unfortunately, my body was not happy with what I had done to it and I couldn't stop eating after the ride until I'd regained all of the weight.  I've since  worked back down to that healthy weight, but I don't have that huge calorie buffer available anymore.  I pay a lot more attention to fueling the machine now, but as others noted, it is a challenge.  On the kind of roads that make for a pleasant day's ride, you're not likely to encounter a Publix salad bar.

Just about every grocery store I was in out west, the only bananas were aged, discounted and marked as 'Bananas for banana bread!'.  An erstwhile riding companion turned me on to a nifty road-recipe using couscous, but I absolutely couldn't find any for about 2000 western miles of the TA.

I spent 20 days on the Pacific Coast route in 2005 and gained 10 pounds!  Of course my thighs each increased by and inch in circumference.  I was always hungry after the first 5 days or so and just ate all I wanted to for fuel.


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