Charlie and I are soaking up the beautiful sunshine, warm breezes, and white sand of Pensacola Beach, Florida. It’s a wonderful contrast from the snowstorm we experienced at home the day we left! I’ve found that a recreational vehicle (RV) makes gluten-free travel easier.
As we headed down to visit our son and daughter-in-law in Florida, we crossed the border uneventfully from Sarnia, Ontario, into Port Huron, Michigan. We take I-94 through Detroit to I-275, which takes us to I-75 south, bypassing city congestion and, currently, construction on I-75. The temperature was already less severe by the time we reached Toledo, Ohio, where we spent the first night.
The next morning, we started out early so we would have a good chunk of time to visit the Ark Encounter, a new exhibit halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington on I-75. The full-size Noah’s ark replica is impressive both in size and in detail. You should allow a good half day for a tour.
After considerable research, the ark was built true to Biblical dimensions. First-class exhibits give plausible explanations as to how pairs of each kind of animal would have been housed in the ark. After seeing the size of the vessel, it’s not a stretch to imagine the people, all the animals, and their food being housed for quite some time.
Eating Gluten-Free at the Ark Encounter
Food is served to visitors of the Ark Encounter in Emzara’s Kitchen. Buffet-style lines form for the salad bar, hot foods, and dessert. Gluten-free travel can be tricky in places like this, but there is a binder at the front desk with allergen information. The best gluten-free options are much of the salad bar, gluten-free chili, “Dirty” Rice, and some plain vegetables at the hot food counter. The hamburgers are gluten-free, and you can ask for one that hasn’t already been put into a bun. In true Southern style, all of the other meat is breaded.
Kentucky Horse Park
We spent the second night a short drive from the Ark Encounter in the Kentucky Horse Park Campground. It was lovely to be able to get out for an early morning walk and watch horses as the sun was rising and daily activities were just beginning. We would like to camp there again, and take even more time.
Lunchtime found us in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. It’s a relatively quiet place on Sunday, so we were able to score two street-side parallel parking spots end to end for our truck and trailer. Large vehicles and trailers are not allowed without special permission in the first parking lot that we tried to stop in. We assume that the area is much busier on weekdays.
Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen
In Lexington, Charlie picked out a restaurant that he thought I would like, and he was right on! Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen serves a variety of fresh salads in big stainless steel bowls. There’s a number of suggested combinations from which to choose, many of which are labeled gluten-free. You can totally have your salad customized, too. Places like this are fantastic for gluten-free travel! I had the Bluegrass Blackberry Salad with chicken added to it. From the very first bite to the last, it was absolutely delicious!
Charlie had the gluten-free Chicken Taco Salad, but he chose to add some bread just because he could. Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen also serves soups and homemade lemonade.
From Lexington, we made our way over to I-65, which takes us on down toward Pensacola.
Those of you familiar with the RV lifestyle may know that Walmart stores often welcome travelers to sleep in their travel trailers and motorhomes in the parking lot for the night. We don’t usually spend nights in Walmart parking lots, but one that we like and feel very comfortable in is the Walmart in Franklin, Tennessee. We pulled in behind a motorhome in a back corner of the parking lot to sleep for the night. When we woke up on Monday morning, we found ourselves surrounded by about a dozen big, high-end motorhomes. Evidently, musicians back from their weekend gigs were unloading their instruments into various cars that had either been left in the parking lot over the weekend, or they were meeting people who were picking them up.
If you’ve never visited Franklin, I highly recommend it! Just south of Nashville, Franklin is home to many musicians, recording studios, and everything else that goes along with the industry. We learned about a favourite coffee shop, High Brow Brew there from our daughter while she and our son-in-law were in Franklin recording an album with their band, Felling Giants.
From Franklin, we continued on into Alabama. Leftovers from the Elimination Diet Meal Plan served us conveniently at roadside rest areas along the way. (If you missed the story about the diet, you can read it here.) The weather in Alabama was beautifully warm. In fact, only the breezes kept it from being too hot to enjoy sitting at a table in full sun! I really appreciated my first real opportunity to soak up some Vitamin D this year!
In addition to sheltered picnic tables and large restrooms, most (if not all) Alabama roadside rest areas provide free RV dumping and drinking water refills.
Our last meal on the road before arriving in Pensacola was at a Panera Bread. Panera is one of our favourite places to stop, and it’s available almost anywhere. Restaurant chains don’t usually impress us, but we like Panera’s clean, responsibly-raised food philosophy. I usually order the Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken. It comes with your choice of bread, a small bag of chips, or an apple. They will even slice the apple for you, if you wish.
If you’d like to see more pictures from our trip, follow me on Instagram at from_our_hideaway.
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