On the road, happy to find a good meal in … Nebraska?!

Ogallala turns out to have most healthful food along the highway

The Ogallala Best Western serves real food!

The Ogallala Best Western serves real food!

Notes from the road
Traveling across the United States by car is a long, sometimes grueling affair. As I write this, I am at a La Quinta in Erie, Pa., getting ready to head out with my partner David and my daughter Lydia to Lexington, N.Y., my final destination after what will be five long days on the road.

What I have become more sure of than I ever was before is that the offerings—food, drink, recycling opportunities, to name a few—along the major highways of this country are decidedly un-green, for the most part.

Except for the occasional Naked juice drink and maybe a bag of nuts or a stick of string cheese, there is very little to be had in the vittles department that is very healthful.

Forget organic if you’re driving along Highway 80 from California to Ohio (the nonorganic string cheese was a compromise move). And expect to find plenty of hot dogs (loaded with nitrates and nitrites, on cheap, highly processed white buns made with high-fructose corn syrup) and other junk food—mainstream name-brand chips, candy and so on. (Good thing we brought along some of our own healthful fare or we’d have been hurtin’ units.)

Even the hotels’ continental breakfast offerings are decidedly mainstream—little muffins with blueberries that may not have been blueberries; scrambled eggs that may not have been eggs; grayish, steamed sausages that were attached to one another at their sides and not end-to-end (a sure sign of an inferior meat product). Oh, and the obligatory make-it-yourself waffle (not like your mama used to make) with fake maple syrup.

The shining exception to the rule was the food we encountered for breakfast at the Best Western Stagecoach Inn in Ogallala, Neb. (which I highly recommend not only for the food, but also for the cozy, cute rooms and the hospitality as well). Delicious homemade ham, potato and carrot soup steaming in a crock pot and hearty 15-grain bread were a couple of the delightful food offerings we gratefully ate. Good food tastes especially good when it’s 1 degree Fahrenheit outside (up from 4 below at night).

Highway gas stations need to add recycle bins.

It would be great if more lodging establishments followed the example of the folks at the Ogallala Best Western.

Other observations: Gas stations from the West Coast to the East do not have receptacles for recyclables. There is only one container available for throwaway items bar none, and that is the ubiquitous garbage can. What would be so hard about providing a container for recyclable cans and bottles (at the very least) as well?

While we’re on the subject of poorly handled resources, it seems to me that hotels waste an enormous amount of soap. Guests take a shower or two with one of those small white bars and the rest (the bulk of the soap) gets thrown out by the housekeeper after check-out time. Again, the nice people who run the Best Western in Ogallala have this one covered as well: In the shower was a wall dispenser containing shampoo, conditioner and … liquid soap. Genius! (And a money- and resource-saver.)

Creative reuse award: The Christmas tree at a gas station in Wamsutter, Wyo., made from progressively smaller used tires painted green, stacked up and decorated with colorful lights.