Adventures in EatingTravel

Road Trip Confessions: Why Did I Eat That?

By on August 23, 2013 11:30am EST

Don’t ask me what it is about road trips.  I honestly don’t know what it is that makes me eat chemical-laden, non-food foods, when my normal dietary desires are of the from-scratch, whole foods variety.  We just took a road trip from our home city of Philadelphia to my birthplace in metro Detroit and rather than prepare a battery of anti-junk-craving ammo (more on that next week), I just let it happen. For you, dear reader, I bit the bullet Combos® and explored my memories and some new experiences of the worst of what highway service plazas have to offer.

Vending Machine

The food of last resort. There are usually Combos to be had here

Why did I eat that #1: Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Combos®

This is my go-to horrible, road trip food, and by “horrible,” I’m referring to both the taste and the ingredients list.  My (also whole food-loving husband) can’t even eat one of these, and frankly, with any applied logic, he’s right.  Hydrogenated palm oil is close to the top of the ingredients list, a big, transfat no-no. Those trans fats are rounded out with a host of coloring agents, flavors and, a personal favorite, corn syrup.  Yum!  Yet, if I don’t remember to pack good eats for the trip, I will forego a host of ostensibly better options offered by many of the rest stops (pre-chopped raw veggies, cheese cubes, anything really) and head straight to the Combos© aisle.


Why did I eat that #2: Gas Station “Cappucino”

I’m not sure what’s in this uber-sweet beverage, but the cups are weirdly spongy and my hands (usually the hands of an eco-friendly, disposable-cup hater) want to hold them when I’m at a highway rest stop.  Contents of the cup seem to be some kind of frothy mix of powdered milk, sugar and coffee “matter” that are sometimes the byproduct of massive over-industrialization. A little digging online leads me to believe that the calorie content of this froth can range from 140 to 220 calories and one drink can have up to 30 grams of sugar! I’ll happily go with some black coffee next time.


Nos Energy Drink

A mere 54 grams of sugar. Good thing my husband is preternaturally fit and healthy

Why did I eat that #3: Energy Drinks

The guilt for these tragic gulps belongs to my normally health food-loving husband, Jake.  Something happens to him on a road trip that makes him forego black coffee in favor of technicolor drinks when late night sleepiness calls for chemical support.  With flavors that make one long for the more pleasant taste of a glass of bile, you could hope that at least these had some health benefits.  It’s true, some have some okay stuff like B vitamins, but most are loaded with sugar, calories and crazy additives.



Why did I eat that #4: Vernors

As a Michigan girl, I am well aware that Vernors is, by far, the most delicious, canned ginger ale on the market.  As a person who generally avoids added sugar and artificial sweeteners and spends most of my spare time fermenting foods and beverages, I feel kind of bad about drinking any soda that I didn’t make at home using only the power of natural yeasts and good bacteria.  I don’t feel horribly guilty about the Vernors, though; it’s my heritage.


Honey BBQ Frito Twists

These twists certainly make my stomach twist in guilt and horror the morning after

Why did I eat that #5: Flavored Fritos®

I am not a Fritos® fan, even in my road trip-enduced stupor, but under non-road trip conditions they are the only thing my husband would deign to eat out of a vending machine.  Last night, however, he dipped to a new low with spiral-shaped Honey BBQ Fritos®.  Yes, they tasted gross, and yes, he ate the whole bag (I might have eaten one in the name of research, of course).





So judge me for my hypocrisy in eating any or all of the above destructo-foods if you want. I don’t mind; I judge me, too.  But if you can relate, please share your shame in the comments and help me assuage my gross food guilt!


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Amanda Feifer

Amanda Feifer loves bacteria, hates hand-sanitizer and thinks fermentation is empowerment. She writes about her passion for cultivating microbes in food at


  • Danguole Lekaviciute

    My biggest “why did I eat that” moment was at an actual restaurant on a roadtrip. My friend and I were in a diner in the middle of nowhere when I saw a cheddar-and-apple omelet on the menu. So, OF COURSE I ordered it. And it was literally an omelet with Velveeta and canned apple pie filling. I think I still might have a picture somewhere… However, then the waitress made the greatest joke of all time, so it was worth it.

    • Amanda Phickle

      I also made the mistake of ordering a cheddar and apple omelet, but here in Philly! It was from a reputable brunch spot, so I assumed it would be quality cheddar and fresh apples. I assumed wrong, it was as you described! It’s still on the menu and I cringe whenever I hear someone from another table order it!

  • balletbookworm

    Cheddar cheese combos! Defintely road-trip food. I often have to start with a mini-bag of white cheddar Cheese Nips. Don’t why, just do. (and a dt Cherry Pepsi)

    • Amanda Phickle

      We are kindred. Interesting flavors of sodas totally balance out the cheese-flavored starches.

  • Clinton Kabler

    My road trip confession: Circus Peanuts.

    • Amanda Phickle

      Ooooh, good one!

  • Caitlin Van Horn

    Nerds & M&M minis. Also beef jerky. Yiiiiiikes.

    (Also, I’m putting in a request for some make-you-own soda posts, ma’am.)

    • Amanda Phickle

      With my road logic, the protein of your jerky balances out the sugar of your candy, so you’re good!

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