April 14, 2018: Sarah and Mary just hanging out at the hotel.
The David Archuleta concert was, of course, the centerpiece of our Valley visit last weekend, but there was more. For one, we were able to eat in places not available to us in our rural mountain community. For another, even better, we got to spend some more time visiting with family!
Sarah and Mark in front of our lunch place on Saturday, Boston Market.
Most people know that I strive to stay low-carb for health and weight-loss reasons. While I don't find the controlled-carb way of eating to be distasteful--in fact, I love the foods and variety of options--it can still be a challenge to stick with it for the long term. This is mainly because it takes a good deal of planning ahead to have the right foods in the house and the meals planned. When life is rushing at you, there aren't many easy options for grab-and-go meals.
This is especially true when traveling. I always start with great intentions, but by day two I've usually blown it and then just throw my diet to the wind. I'm very pleased to report that, this time, I was successful in remaining low-carb throughout our entire Valley trip.
My low-carb plate at Boston Market, on the left, included a rotisserie
chicken breast, creamed spinach, and green beans, for a total of 12 net carbs,
Mark got to eat my cornbread. (I so need their delicious creamed spinach recipe!)
It helps that there are more dining options in larger metropolitan areas, offering a wider selection of foods that include a variety of low-carb choices. Here at home, there aren't so many. Taco Bell? Nope. KFC? Nope, not since they got rid of their grilled chicken menu. Subway? Yes, I like that you can order any sandwich as a salad, but salads only get me so far. Burger joints? It's true you can ask for your burger without the bun, but let's face it, none of them get it as right as Carl's Jr, where you can get the amazing Super Star lettuce wrap for only 10 net carbs. Sadly, there is no Carl's Jr here in the White Mountains.
Denny's has a few good options, from steak-and-vegetables to salads. Other local restaurants do their best to accommodate me, although I always feel like such a pest after I spend five minutes outlining my dietary guidelines for the waitress, who is often confused about the difference between carbs and calories, and then finally settling on whatever few options they're able to suggest.
Sarah waits at our table in Boston Market.
Prior this trip, I made a firm commitment to stay true to myself, and then I chose three of my favorite fast food/casual dining restaurants: Boston market, El Pollo Loco, and Carl's Jr. And, this time, I stuck with it!
Our room at Econolodge in Mesa.
It was 9:20 when we drove away from Lakeside. We made our usual brief bathroom stop in Globe around 11:00 and then rolled into Mesa at 12:15. Since we hadn't eaten since breakfast at home around 8:30 (I had deviled eggs), we went straight to Boston Market for lunch. Once we'd eaten, we drove around town a bit and scoped out the Mesa Arts Center to see the parking situation.
We ended up at our hotel around 1:45 and got ourselves checked in. Then there was nothing to do but wait two hours until dinner time. It was an odd moment, to realize we had absolutely no plans and nowhere to go and nothing at all to do. I wished I'd brought my laptop along, as I usually do.
The view from our little balcony at Econolodge. Including my car.
I told Sarah, "Now you see why I plan our trips with so much detail." Usually, even our down time is planned when we travel, although it's always quite flexible. I'm not exactly a high-energy person, but I do like to keep busy in my own plodding, methodical way.
Eventually, Sarah and I resorted to laying on the bed and taking silly pre-concert selfies (see the top photo). Mark had already claimed the other bed and was snoozing. Even Sarah and I dozed a bit before it was time to leave.
We picked up an early dinner at El Pollo Loco.
Ordinarily, we wouldn't go to dinner so early, but the sign-in time for the VIP ticket holders before the concert was 5:30, and I wanted to leave the hotel by 5:00 so we could get decent parking. I was also pretty sure the concert wouldn't end until at least 10:00, so we needed to eat something before the whole thing began.
Thus, at 4:15 we were inside El Pollo Loco. I had two basic choices: some flame-grilled chicken with two sides (broccoli, guacamole, side salad, or coleslaw) for 8-11 net carbs, or one of their chicken salads. Both Sarah and I opted for the Double Avocado Chicken Salad, which came in at 11 net carbs. The only part of the salad that wasn't strictly "low-carb" was a little pile of corn in the corner of the salad. Since it was maybe only two-tablespoons' worth, and corn is at least a natural carbohydrate source, not really an issue.
I liked this cool glass wall inside El Pollo Loco.
We ordered our food to go, then drove back to Econolodge to enjoy our salads in our room. That allowed us to put off dinner time a bit longer, until 4:45. Then we left for the concert a little after 5:00. As I'd expected, the concert lasted until after 10:00, and it was nearly 11:00 when Sarah and I returned to the hotel. We were both starving by then. Luckily, I'd brought along two bags of large strawberries, so we enjoyed them as a bedtime snack.
My double avocado chicken salad on the desk in our hotel room.
So, what did Mark do while Sarah and I were having a great time at Mesa Arts Center? Well, he walked across the street from the hotel to a thrift store and paid $2 for swimming trunks. Then he enjoyed a nice evening swim in the hotel pool. When we girls got back, he was reclining on his bed and watching TV.
The hotel advertised a free continental breakfast, but the next morning Mark reported that it was basically coffee and plastic-wrapped danishes and muffins. So, instead, we all had a breakfast of the deviled eggs I'd prepared and brought from home. Then we checked out of the hotel a bit early, before 10:00.
April 15, 2018: Celesta, Levi, and Riley (who had a terrible cold).
14-month-old Lincoln was napping.
Our next stop was the home of my niece Celesta and her husband Riley. Poor Riley had been fighting a nasty respiratory thing for weeks, and he looked like he felt miserable. But we had a great visit for almost three hours, until they had to leave for their 2:00 church meetings. I'm afraid we disrupted their schedule for the day!
Mariah and Dallin with their children, Hazel and Oliver.
Also there for our visit were my niece Mariah and her husband Dallin, whom we'd spent some time with the previous night at the concert. Getting to visit with two of my nieces and their husbands and children was double the blessing!
Sarah was in heaven with baby Hazel, Dallin and Mariah's youngest.
Sarah adores her cousins and loves visiting with them, but of course the highlight for her is always the joy of spending time cuddling babies and toddlers. Luckily, there was one of each for her during this visit. Celesta and Mariah each have two children. Two boys for Celesta: Levi and Lincoln. A boy and a girl for Mariah: Oliver and Hazel.
Sarah with Lincoln, Riley and Celesta's youngest.
They kindly fed us lunch before we got back on the road. Mark had a cheese crisp and potato salad, while Sarah and I stuck with the lower-carb option of chicken and turkey lunch meats with sliced tomato and mayo. Basically, a sub sandwich without the bread. When we said our farewells and headed toward home, it was 1:45.
At Carl's Jr in Globe.
Happily, a couple of years ago a Carl's Jr was built in the small town of Globe, which we pass through on our way home from the Valley after most trips (we rarely use the option of driving through Payson, which is west of our home whereas Globe is the more southern route). These days, we often stop for a Carl's Jr meal on our way home.
That's exactly what we did on this trip, when we arrived there just after 3:00. Again, it was an early meal, but I couldn't pass up one final opportunity to savor my yummy Super Star lettuce wrap. My dearest wish is that they would build a Carl's Jr in Pinetop-Lakeside, or even in neighboring Show Low!
A shot of my Super Star lettuce wrap.
It was about 5:30 when we got home that Sunday evening, and there was still one meal left to go. Sarah stayed at our house until quite late to watch the season finale of The Walking Dead with me (a program we both love and like to bond over), so she joined us for a dinner of grilled steaks and salad later in the evening. About 8:00, I think.
So...I did it. An entire weekend of travel and fun, and all in healthy low-carb mode!