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As I wrote two weeks ago, we decided to finish summer with a road trip. And I decided to microblog along the way, using Facebook posts to show that it is possible to eat well on the road, even when you have no idea where you’re going or where you’re staying. This was road-tripping old-school style. With an iPhone assist. Smartphone technology makes it a lot easier to travel without a plan (and to find real food on the road).

I know many of you followed along via Facebook, but I’m also rounding up the posts here, both pictures and descriptions, exactly as they ran, start to finish. (Including a few not great shots — sorry!) I’ve written before about bringing our own food when we travel and about navigating hotels, restaurants and stores on the road, but this was reality in real time. I set out with no idea what I’d be posting, yet confident that I’d have plenty to work with. Turns out that was true. It also turns out that microblogging via Facebook is fun. I’m glad I have a husband and daughter who are good sports, because now I’m thinking about all the other real-time series I can do.

So here we go…

Real Food Road Test: The Spoonfed Guide to Vacation Food

Real Food Road Test #1: August 28, 2012

The stash before the dash. Freeze-dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, apples, hummus, Larabars, granola, unsweetened oatmeal packs and honey sticks, almond butter packs, whole-grain cracker sticks, fig bars and Sunspire dark chocolate candies. We got a late start, so we also stopped at our local food co-op for wraps. (Our version of fast food!)

Real Food Road Test #2: August 29, 2012

How we use the hotel breakfast buffet. We took oranges, raisins, plates, napkins and hot water (for our own oatmeal). Left behind the HFCS “wheat” toast, from-a-carton “eggs,” and who-knows-what’s-in-there waffles. Tess thought it was funny that the raisins ingredients said “raisins,” while the “breakfast syrup” ingredients had no maple in sight.

Real Food Road Test #3: August 29, 2012

When searching for a bakery with real sweet treats, this is a good sign.

Real Food Road Test #4: August 30, 2012

Tess made juice with the oranges from yesterday’s hotel breakfast buffet. The orange doesn’t fall far from the tree, LOL.

Real Food Road Test #5: August 30, 2012

Searched to find a farmers’ market five miles from our hotel. Scored local organic tomatoes, red peppers and prepared salads; organic whole-grain bread; local pickles, raw honey and no-sugar apple butter; and — much to Tess’s delight — chocolate ice cream made with organic cocoa and local cream. Yay for smartphones!

Real Food Road Test #6: August 30, 2012

When in Hershey… You let your kid visit the Chocolate Lab and make her own candy bar. Because that’s the kind of mom you are.

Real Food Road Test #7: August 31, 2012

No microwave. No hotel buffet hot water. So we used the coffee maker to heat water for oatmeal. Just call me the MacGyver of travel food.

Real Food Road Test #8: August 31, 2012

First, a restaurant observation: If you want to socialize your kids to eating in restaurants, “Caillou” on the iPad is not the way to do it. But, if you must, please make them wear headphones so the rest of us don’t have to share. OK, then. Now the real point of this post: Brewpubs often have surprisingly good kid menus. This one has cliched staples like pizza and chicken fingers, but at least it’s whole-wheat crust, organic chicken, etc. Best part, though, is the activity side: Mad Libs, artsy stuff and a make-your-own friendship bracelet. (FYI: We still ordered family-style and shared.)

Real Food Road Test #9: September 1, 2012

Not food, per se, but we always tote our recyclables on road trips, so this roadside recycling center was a welcome sight. Nice to lighten our load halfway through the trip.

Real Food Road Test #10: September 1, 2012

When you tell your kid you’re skipping the ice cream because the ingredients are just that bad, it eases the pain to look around and notice that the shop has better taste in candy.

Real Food Road Test #11: September 2, 2012

We always try to get hotels with a fridge, but on this road trip we’ve been staying wherever we land, often using Priceline/etc. to book last-minute deals. Lucked out on fridges until last night. So we’re glad we have our small cooler, which we topped off with the ice machine. Of course, what we’re mostly chilling is the Dogfish Head ale we bought in Delaware. And yes, that is the Hershey Chocolate Lab candy bar Tess made last week. Uneaten except for two bites the day she made it. I’m thinking the novelty has worn off.

Real Food Road Test #12: September 2, 2012

Trader Joe’s has a lot of junk just like any store, but I’ll take its to-go options over drive-thru any day.

Real Food Road Test #13: September 2, 2012

When eating out, “real food” can be relative. Upon googling “organic restaurants in (name of place),” I found a well-reviewed cafe advertising whole foods, including free-range eggs. But when I asked whether the “all-natural” peanut butter on the PB, banana and honey sandwich had sugar, I learned that it was actually processed PB because they’d run out of the natural stuff over the holiday weekend. Fair enough, though I wondered whether they’d have volunteered that if I’d ordered without asking. But then I asked about the eggs. I’m weird about eggs, so I asked how they define “free-range” and where they get their eggs. That’s when I learned they were Sauder’s organic CAGE-FREE eggs. Which are industrial organic and most decidedly not free-range. (Chickens aren’t in cages, but they’re still packed in big sheds.) This restaurant could have made an honest mistake in its menu listings (there is a lot of confusion over the cage-free term). But it just goes to show that the best policy, always — yes, even on vacation! — is to ask.

Real Food Road Test #14: September 3, 2012

Be prepared for pleasant surprises. While visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in the very rural Laurel Highlands, we figured we’d be eating from our stash in the trunk. Tourist sites aren’t typically known for good eats, and we were in the middle of nowhere. But this cafe had a grilled salad using local sweet corn and avocado. Also paninis made with local tomatoes and chèvre. And unsweetened brewed iced tea. Love when that happens.

Real Food Road Test #15: September 3, 2012

After driving hours through wooded, barely populated areas, with spotty iPhone reception and a dwindling food stash, we were relieved to find a town with a hotel and a grocery store. We’re not usually fans of salty microwave dinners (organic or not), but after fearing what else I’d find at the store (and with nothing else but fast food open late on a holiday night), these were a welcome sight.

Real Food Road Test #16: September 4, 2012

This is why we always travel with a knife and cutting board. And: We bought all this on the road!

Real Food Road Test #17: September 4, 2012

The End. 1,250 miles. 8 days. 6 states. And not a single bad-food hangover.

Our itinerary, for those who asked: Corning, NY. Harrisburg/Hershey, PA. Rehoboth Beach, DE. Ocean City, MD. Assateague Island National Seashore, MD. Shenandoah National Park and Luray Caverns, VA. Small towns in WV. (It was dark! No idea where we were!) Laurel Highlands and Fallingwater, PA. Punxsutawney, PA. Then back home to Rochester, NY.

And so ends the first Spoonfed Real Food Road Test. Thanks for following along.

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