Following our time at Camp Cedar, we took a rest day in Carbondale, IL. Renee (“River”), one of the camp counselors, put us in contact with her friend Alex who cooked us a delicious dinner and put us up for the night. We had a wonderful time talking with Alex and his bandmates and even got to hear some live music.
The next morning we had breakfast at The Longbranch Cafe in town where we met several people who are involved and/or interested in the local foods movement. Anthony, the father of 3 young girls, was excited to hear about our trip. It is unfortunate that we could not meet them, but it is clear that his own passion will inspire them be involved in this environmental movement. We also met several people who work on the nearby Dayempur Farm, a center for sustainable agriculture and community building. The farm is moving forward in many exciting ways, including the initiation of a farm to school lunch program.
We also enjoyed spending a few days with Steven, a 17 year old from Texas, who is riding cross-country. You can check out his blog here: http://bikingocean2ocean.blogspot.com/. It was great to meet up with you Steven, travel safely!
On another note, we’ve finally made it to Kansas and we’re enjoying the flat terrain (there’s not even an elevation profile on our map this week!). Soon we plan to complete our first 100-miler of the trip.
We travelled to Camp Wakonda, outside of Ash Grove, Missouri this week where we worked with an engaging group of boys and girls. We were impressed by the camp community that the leadership has fostered there. After playing the “Chain Game” and discussing the agricultural history of the US, we broke into small groups to talk about our individual experiences with food. The participants told us all about their school lunches (Greasy food and a lack of fresh vegetables seems to be a trend), their family farms and gardens, and their ideas for improving access to fresh local food. One participant recommended that schools coordinate with local farmers to obtain fresh fruits and veggies. The particpants were especially interested in the logistics of our bike trip and we hope that they might follow their own big dreams someday! A special thanks to Matt (“Otter”) and “Mama Yoda”, who welcomed us with open arms into camp.
Some Thoughts on Food on the Road
Our whole journey thus far we have been working with youth to raise their awareness of the foods they are eating, where it is coming from, and national food issues. However, although we find ourselves discussing the merits of of fresh produce and minimally processed foods, these options can be difficult to find along the trail. The TransAmerica Trail is intended to show cyclists small town America, and we have discovered that many towns lack access to larger grocery stores and/or fresh local food. So far, we’ve had to buy most of our food at gas stations and convenience stores which has limited our diet to peanut butter (we’re now approximately on jar 12 within less than 5 weeks!), highly processed bread, and trail mix. In other towns, Wal-Mart is the only place selling fresh vegetables and fruits. This is disconcerting as we would normally like to support local providers and not large corporations.
Although this diet is considered relatively healthy on the trail (as compared to other cyclists we’ve met), and we are trying sustain our energy by eating higher calorie diets, we are also trying to be conscious of the ingredients in the food we consume. High fructose corn syrup, preservatives we cannot pronounce, and hydrogenated oils seem unavoidable.
Because of these limitations, we are more concerned than ever about the access of communities to healthier food options. It comes as no surprise that our country has high rates of diet-related diseases and obesity. Our experience on the trail has certainly inspired us more to inspires work harder to bring greater food awareness to more people.