Staying Active on the Road: Shenandoah Caverns and Virginia Safari Park

My diagnosis came just days before the COVID lock down started in Virginia so I’ve never had to deal with taking my self-care routine on the road. And I have to admit, I have used my pumping, walking, and low carb eating as an excuse not to travel more than once over the past year and a half… but it’s time for that to end.

Last weekend my husband needed to take a test at the DMV, but with COVID restrictions on in-person services there wasn’t a single appointment available in the Virginia-Maryland-D.C. area for nearly two months. Knowing it was urgent, I suggested we make the four-hour drive to Blacksburg in southern Virginia. I was finally getting stir crazy and a quick overnight trip in Shenandoah seemed low risk. Full disclosure, on busy nights I have been known to skip my pump and I don’t always walk in the rain. Embrace the imperfection – it hasn’t stopped me from making progress.

I knew my legs wouldn’t easily handle four hours of sitting, though, so I made sure we left early enough to take walk breaks. And who says those have to be at rest stops or in gas station parking lots? This weekend I decided lipedema would be my excuse to take the scenic route and, sturdy women, I am so glad I did.

About 90 minutes into the drive my shoes started to feel tight and I knew it was time to stretch. Luckily, I had been watching the road signs and knew we were approaching Shenandoah Caverns. I asked my husband to pull over and… wow! This was much better than a rest stop. In addition to the one-hour cave tour they had a display called Main Street of Yesteryear with animatronic department store displays from the 1940s and 1950s. “Be sure to have him walk up to papa bear and push the big red button,” the woman at the ticket window said with a smile, winking at my husband. As we made our way up the stairs and through the deserted museum, sensors in the floor picked up our footsteps and the displays sprang to life.

Finally it was time for our tour and I again asked myself how I ended up working as a government contractor rather than a cave explorer. Keto friends, they even had something called cave bacon. Technical term. See in the gallery bellow.

After an hour of exploring my legs felt much better and we were ready to hit the road again. Since we were just doing an overnight I hadn’t packed my pump, but I did make sure to walk once we arrived at the hotel and I kicked my feet up for a few hours. To refuel I turned to my favorite keto-in-a-pinch food: a Chipotle salad with extra meat and a big dollop of guacamole, but that’s for another post.

I was so delighted by the success of our cave break that I studied every brochure in the hotel lobby and decided that on the way home we’d stop at the Virginia Safari Park. This only partly fit the bill, unfortunately, since it was a drive-through zoo, meaning I still spent a lot of time sitting. If I could go back, I’d probably choose Dinosaur Land just down the road, but the lure of feeding a giraffe out of my hand won out over a scenic walk through dinosaur statues.

At the entrance gate to the Safari Park they give you buckets of food and the animals run up to the car to get it. This was both cute and scary. An emu pecked my husband’s bucket (as birds do!) and brown pellets exploded all over the car. On the other side a deer grabbed my bucket when I tried to pull it away. Hey, that’s mine!

A few hours later we were home and I immediately set out on a walk followed by a session with my Flexitouch. Staying active, taking the scenic route, and laughing helped get me through my first post-diagnosis trip.

How do you stay active on the road? Comment below to share your favorite strategies for balancing self-care with travel and play.

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