It’s Electric — Balancing Blood Sugar on the Road

I’m about to head into a few months of heavy touring (for me, at least — some of the people I graduated music school with live most of their lives on the road; I spend the majority of my time in my home base teaching and only do this “life on the road” thing about every other month, along with extended Thursday through Sunday night runs to nearby states slightly more often than that). I will be going down to Texas and back for a few weeks, then have most of April at home, and then I’ll end May with a slightly-over-two-week trip across the country to Seattle and back, followed by a five-day trip up to Canada.

Now before anyone gets too impressed with this — I’m not talking about touring in a nice big bus, complete with my own hotel room every night and a hearty daily stipend for my meals. That would be great, but that’s reserved for people who are either A) better at their instrument than I am, B) better connected, or C) both. No, my trips are taken in a conversion van. It’s a nice conversion van — we have a TV in the back, comfy seats, and the roof is extended up in the way a custom van is, so one can at least stand for a minute here and there and stretch. But it’s no tour bus.

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We occasionally get hotel rooms, but not usually. We’re mostly dependent on the kindness of strangers and friends along the road who put us up on their couches and let us use their spare bedrooms. And there is something nice about that — you do get to see the natural generosity of people that can so often seem dead in our digital age. But it’s not a luxurious time. It’s fun, and of course being paid to travel and play music is a blessing — whether you’re playing dive bars in and around your own town, traveling around the country to a mix of dive bars, nice clubs, and occasional festivals or concert halls like we do, or riding that luxury tour bus to play three-night sold-out runs at grand theatres in each town. But as much fun as it can be to play music each night, the accompanying lifestyle can be tough, particularly for someone with diabetes.

We sit for long hours, sedentary, while watching the country roll by outside the windows. There’s no real chance for “exercise” most days. And we usually stop at whatever food choice is conveniently located along the highway. That means a lot of fast food, a lot of heavy food, and a lot of food that, combined with the plethora of sitting I just mentioned, doesn’t exactly help in the blood sugar department. I seem to do OK for the first few days, but along about day three my numbers get “fidgety.” And so I’ve decided to finally try something new.

Several years ago, I was wrestling with this same dilemma, and I decided to bring a cooler with me so I could keep lunch meat, hummus, baby carrots, sprouts, cheese and other things that I could combine into a relatively healthy, relatively light, and unprocessed, unFRIED lunch or dinner for myself. Breakfast was usually granola bars or Pop-Tarts (which fared surprisingly well for me, actually). It worked well for the first day, but then the ice started melting. Every stop, we’d have to dump out the water, and buy more ice. All of the food inside was constantly getting messy and waterlogged. Every pothole on the highway was another chance for that melted ice water in the cooler to splash out onto everyone’s lap. All in all, it just didn’t work.

So, my experiment ended after one trip. But now…wait for it…drumroll…I have found myself an electric cooler! That’s right, an electric cooler that can plug into the lighter in the van, and/or an outlet overnight in the hotel, or the house of the kind stranger letting me sleep on his couch (I should clarify here — these “strangers” aren’t total strangers we’ve just met along the highway or something — we have our vetting process that assures we land with good people, and to my knowledge we haven’t yet stayed with a serial killer; still, they are often strangers to me, as I am not the one who arranges these things — our drummer does).

So, for the first time in a long time, I’ll be bringing good, healthy food on the road. It’ll be cheaper, and I know my blood sugar will thank me for it. I’m bringing hummus, some sprouts, some cucumber (presliced), mayo, cheese, and whole-grain bread for my lunches, some lunch meat for a bit of variety, and I may even hard-boil a dozen eggs before I leave so I can have some honest-to-goodness protein in the morning along with my customary granola bar. I might bring some apples, maybe some yogurt, who knows — the possibilities are endless!

Now, I’m sure I’ll still have the occasional fast-food burger with the rest of the guys (there’s an In-N-Out burger in Austin, apparently, and living on the East Coast, this may be one of my few chances to try the legend — a burger name burned in my memory from The Big Lebowski, a movie my college roommates and I watched religiously), but I’m determined to make it a rarity. It’s tough balancing numbers living on the road, and I don’t need to make it any harder for my system than it already is. So wish me luck! My next blog entry will be written three days into this trip, right around that point when my blood sugar usually starts to remind me three days of fast food is a bad idea. Hopefully it’ll enjoy the hummus and sprouts a little more!!