Here’s to Your Health
More than a century ago, Walt Whitman wrote an iconic bit of verse known as “Song of the Open Road.” His opening lines were these:
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road…Healthy, free, the world before me…
OK, sure, he was “afoot.” But after all, this was the 19th century. I guarantee that a 21st-century Whitman would be canvassing the country in a house on wheels – poetry in motion. Free, he says? An RV is all about the freedom to explore America rather than merely passing through it and to do so on your own terms.
But it’s that first word of Whitman’s second line that often gets overlooked: Healthy. In an RV, the free leads to the healthy – in many ways.
Take mealtime, for instance. While traveling, we mostly opt only for restaurants that seem special or representative of the region. We choose carefully. OK, yes, last year we toured the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Vermont. But we also enjoyed relatively healthy delights like roasted garlic tofu at Uptown Kitchen near South Bend and a salad Niçoise at Leunig’s Bistro & Café in Burlington. At Mangiamo’s in Grand Rapids, the kids’ menu – which so often forces you to choose between chicken fingers and a hot dog – offered wood-grilled salmon and peanut butter and jelly sushi.
But if you can’t find a restaurant like that, we can eat at home. In an RV, we can shop for the right food, store it properly and plan our meals carefully. We aren’t forced to lose money and gain calories at three restaurants a day – places where I tend to walk away muttering that a homemade meal would have been a better idea. We aren’t relegated to munching on whatever snack foods fit in the car. We have healthy options, whether it’s a farmers market in Missoula or a whole artichoke baked in rosemary at Mangiamo’s.
Traveling in a house on wheels also allows my family to be far more active. At home, the kids are enamored with the television, the Wii, various computer games. They’re a bit sedentary, frankly. But on the road, physical activity is part of the daily wonder. It is an experience – amid nature at its most magnificent – that happens to include exercise.
This year, for instance, our itinerary took us throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain states. Along the way, we hiked through a redwood forest. And we walked around Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. And we climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls in Oregon. Oh, and I played golf at a course adjacent to an RV campground in Yakima, Washington.
Some people think of RVing as camping indoors, but it is really a means of appreciating an outdoor lifestyle. Comfort doesn’t mean complacence. Yes, last summer we explored Arches National Park through the RV’s view-perfect windshield, but we also spent a morning hiking to Delicate Arch. Yes, we cruised along the highway through majestic Grand Teton National Park, but then we spent an afternoon braving the whitewater of the Snake River.
Even when we arrive at the campground, we have healthy choices. Most RV parks have pools, so swimming becomes a daily consideration. Or there are bikes to rent. Or basketball courts. Or a disc golf course. And we can end the day with a home-cooked, well-balanced meal.
So I like to think of a house on wheels as a rolling welcome to the Great Outdoors, and that usually translates to good health, both physically and mentally.