What are self-proclaimed "healthy, whole foods" parents to do when faced with unending miles of fatty, greasy, processed convenience junk?
Follow a Wegmans truck.
Yep, that's what we did. Well, almost. It was past noon, we had been driving for hours, and my husband refused to admit defeat when we couldn't find a single acceptable restaurant on any of those blue Food/Lodging signs.
"Look, there's a Wegmans truck! If we follow it, it'll take us to a Wegmans! With a Wegmans food court! In-house roasted rotisserie chicken! And grilled veggies! And sushi! Ooo, and a smoothie bar!"
"Honey, I think that's a bit of a stretch . . . " (Looking at his adorable pleading eyes and sullen face.) "Oh, OK, let's have an adventure."
So we pulled out the trusty cellphone, plugged in the Wegmans website, tapped Store Locator with GPS map, and voila: Wegmans in Canandaigua, N.Y. Lovely.
We may have traveled 20 miles south, spent twice as much, happened upon one of the Finger Lakes, and added 11/2 hours to our trip, but taking control of our caloric/fat/sugar/salt intake was well worth it.
On the reverse trip, we had the same issue but used a bit more foresight and had some extremely good luck.
Knowing we were approaching the city of Binghamton, N.Y., at dinnertime, my husband pulled out his phone and, simply using Google, quickly narrowed our independently owned restaurant choices down to a quaint place called Whole in the Wall. Using only organic, locally farmed, sustainable ingredients, they offered us all of the natural goodness we could possibly ask from a "roadside" restaurant.
Homemade whole-grain breads and herb butters, rich and flavorful miso soup, crisp baby lettuce salads, free-range chicken, fresh fish broiled to perfection, organic wine from a local winery, and live entertainment by a local masquerading as a piano player - yum.
Who knew with a little investigation you could find fresh-food utopia within 10 minutes of an exit ramp?
This entire experience reminded me that I need to do a little advance research for restaurant options during the actual travel portion of our vacations so we are never left in the dregs of food doldrums again. My family's health, wellness, and taste buds are entirely worth it.
Christa Sywulak-Herr writes from Elkins Park.