52 Days of Paleo, Day 16

There was no escaping relentless wind today. I'd like to blame it for my Paleo crash, but the truth is that I just fell off the wagon.

Wind is a bit of a dick!

The wind was the story of my day today. That and a shameful (but temporary) abandonment of Paleo.

We never did make it to Roswell and the International Alien Museum and Research Center. Why? The wind is why. God-damned wind.

Interstate 25 cuts a mostly straight line right up the center of New Mexico. We started our day by pointing the RV North on I-25 and had a glorious tailwind to drive us along. To get to Roswell though, you make a hard right at San Antonio onto Highway 380 and head just slightly south of due East for 150 miles. That tailwind turned into a powerful, gusty, high-volume side wind. I had to steer into it like a pilot trying to land a super-light single-engine Cessna into a crosswind and almost got blown off the road a couple of times.

So we gave up on Roswell and headed North up Highway 54 instead, a route that took us through a procession of towns in various stages of abandonment. That led us to the Interstate gas-stop town of Santa Rosa, where the winds were so strong we were put under tornado-watch at the RV park (asked to hunker in the bathroom until the danger passed).

The whole day was like that; a battle. The wind bullied me like the big kid with the parent issues in a middle-school play yard; it taunted us and shoved us just when we got our balance for a moment, shoved us again. It was stressful and tiring and affected my resolve when challenged to find Paleo options for the day.

I still hadn’t stopped and stocked up on Paleo-friendly ingredients, so I had no options for breakfast and ate the oatmeal we stock in the camper. It’s gluten-free, but even though that’s better than the real thing, it’s still a grain and therefore not Paleo. That set a bad tone for the day. Losing the first skirmish weakens you for the battle to come.

I tried to get back on track by eating nothing for most of the rest of the day, determined to wait for a Paleo meal. But when town after town passed by with no grocery store (it’s a shame, but rural America is served it’s grocery needs by dollar stores and mini-markets), I struggled with hunger. I grabbed a banana and a Kind bar (all nuts and honey, so probably Paleo) at a gas station to try and hold on a little longer.

My last hope was the grocery store in Santa Rosa. Which (and I’m sorry Santa Rosa) had the crappiest produce section I've ever seen. Everything (I mean everything) was past it’s prime. There was nothing fresh or healthy for me to add to a chicken breast to make a meal so we ate out. I had a hamburger with no bun and French fries, trying to keep things close to Paleo, but I win no prizes for today. And after the stress of the constant wind and the tornado warning, I threw out the whole Paleo plan with a slice of chocolate pie and two canned beers as my final meal of the day.

I hope to redeem myself tomorrow. We’re not giving central New Mexico a chance to redeem itself though. As soon as I’m up and ready, I plan to aim the RV West on I-40 and not stop until I hit Oklahoma soil.

We did see one cool, interesting, and unexpected thing.

A satellite image of the lava flow that makes up the Valley of Fires in central New Mexico

Driving across the middle of New Mexico, the terrain suddenly changed from grassland to a field of rolling, cracked lava rock. We spotted a pull-in called Valley of Fires recreation area, paid our five bucks, and took the short guided walk to learn about this strange phenomenon.

I’d recommend a visit to see it in person, but the basics are that 5,000 years ago, lava vents spewed a molten river down this central New Mexico valley. As the river flowed, the outer layers cooled while the core continued to flow. When the vents stopped producing, the out layer of the lava river cracked and collapsed, leaving a forty-five-mile long lava debris field.

The rough black rock is brimming with life and a complete contrast to the rolling scrub-and-grass lands that make up (from what we observed) most of the middle of New Mexico.

This is why we travel this way; to come across things we would write off if we planned the trip ahead and read about them first. You cannot know how much of an impact a local point-of-interest like the Valley of Fires can have on your soul without seeing it yourself. If you want to be humbled by the awesomeness of the world we live on, get away from the city in any direction and keep your eyes open. If there’s something worth seeing (like the Valley of Fires), someone will have turned it into a park, or at least put up a sign to lead you to it.

Follow the signs people.

Breakfast: Black coffee sweetened with raw honey. Gluten-free oatmeal.

Lunch: Hamburger with bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, pickles, and ketchup, with French Fries.

Dinner: A slice of chocolate-cream pie. Two cans of beer (lager).

Snacks: A kind bar. A banana.

Exercise: None today, unless you count the 1/3 mile hike on the walking path at Valley of Fires State Park.


52 Days of Paleo – Day 4

An overcooked Egg Cup.

Someone needs to make this easier for new people...

I am experiencing low energy still. At home at five o’clock, work done for the day, sitting on the couch watching the end of Stage three of the Tour of California, I feel lethargic. Not sleepy per se, just lacking in energy. I think this is still part of the process of my body adapting to clean fuel. I hope.

The thing I’ve learned most of all about Paleo so far is that the book I’m following (Paleo in 28 by Kenzie Swanheart of makes Paleo harder than it needs to be. An example, on the first day of my 53 Days of Paleo challenge, I followed a breakfast recipe for twice-baked sweet potatoes. It took 90 minutes to make. 90 minutes! Who has that kind of time for breakfast? The second day, I took the same ingredients and the first day’s breakfast and sauteed them in a pan. It took ten minutes.

I had been looking forward to today’s breakfast and dinner recipes since I saw them in the book on Saturday. Egg cups are scrambled eggs mixed with veggies or bacon or whatever you please baked for ten minutes in a small, round casserole dish in the oven.

I picked up two souffle cups at the store yesterday (they looked closest to the amazing picture of breakfast egg cups in Swanheart’s book). I followed the directions (break an egg, mix in some spinach, scramble, bake). I added mushrooms.

The instructions say to leave them in until the egg mixture is still moist but almost cooked. I couldn’t really tell when that was exactly and waited until the center rose like a cake.

That left the whole dish dry and hard and not a great eating experience. And the whole time I’m eating this recipe I was so excited about, all I could think was that if I just popped those veggies in some oil and scrambled in the eggs, it would have made a perfect and simple breakfast.

And I have a great pan to make just such a thing.

Two years ago, I got to visit the Santini factory with a client. Santini (the Italian cycling clothing company I am a distributor for) was bringing in clients from around the world and sharing new products with them. Over two days, as a way to reinforce their brand values and imbue a bit if Italian culture, they held a number of events and experiences in the local community. My client and I had the choice of bike rides and hikes, yet since we get to ride bikes all the time (and bringing a bike from the US to Italy for a shortish VIP ride is a hassle), we both opted instead for a cooking class.

Held at the nearby Agnelli factory (Agnelli is a world-class chef-grade brand of pans and other cooking tools), the class was led by a master chef. We learned to make Mostaccioli, a local Bergamo pasta dish. At the end of the class, we were presented with a saucepan printed with our names on the side.

I keep mine in its original burlap storage bag and let no-one else in the house use it. I make as many meals as I can in it. It would have been perfect for the egg dish.

I think the book sometimes takes a simple set of ingredients and tries to make them more special than a basic omelet by adding baking cups, or double-baking potato skins, etc.

My journey to Paleo is made harder by these complications. I think it is smarter to look at the guide as just that, a guide. Not a strict plan. Sometimes, I’m willing to invest in the recipe, in experiencing the meal as presented, with all the complicated prep and cooking time it demands. Most of the time though, I think it’s better to take the ingredients and simplify them - in the Agnelli saucepan of course.

Sleep quality: 82%

Breakfast: Coffee, black, sweetened with raw honey. Egg cups (eggs, spinach, mushroom, turmeric baked in a casserole dish).

Lunch: Leftover baked chicken with roasted broccoli.

Dinner: Pork steaks, roasted sweet potatoes, pineapple slices, spinach side salad with currants, pepitas, and homemade apple cider vinaigrette.

Snacks: Banana. Almond butter. Dark chocolate squares.

Exercise: None today.