By Rita Williams

Rita Williams

Rita Williams

A road trip of 6700 miles in four weeks. Ah, retirement!

As Crater Lake, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Portland, Yakima, Victoria, Jasper, Banff, Mt. Rushmore and oh, so much more beautiful country flashed by, I didn’t have time to get sick. But I did have time to think about how easy it would be for hotels to help us keep from getting sick while traveling.

After 42 years as one of the nation’s first female hard news TV reporters, I passed the microphone last year, leaving behind the long work weeks, stress and deadlines. But what I did not leave behind was gluten intolerance – celiac disease diagnosed by biopsy 25 years ago. It was tough back then, with no pre-packaged gluten-free foods to take with you on assignment, and never knowing day to day where you might wind up. Somehow, as with gender discrimination, I lived through it and made it work.

But now life should be easy – no daily job, a road trip ahead, and gluten-free food galore to stuff in the car. But as we all know, sometimes the crackers and bread get wet and ruined, you can’t find a store in a little town where you can restock and you long to sit and eat with others. And you’re even more cautious than at home because being in a car in the middle of nowhere with the consequences of having ingested hidden gluten is not pleasant.

17989234_sThat brings me to hotels. Many places we stayed in included breakfast in the price, from hot eggs and bacon or sausage (rare) to the usual cereals and baked goods.  I stared at the containers of Corn Flakes and Cheerios and anonymous assorted cereals. I gazed at the toasters coated with gluten-containing crumbs,  where I longed to pop in my not-so-fresh gluten-free bread to crunch it up a bit. I even eyed the instant oatmeal packets awaiting hot water with jealousy. And it hit me.

Why can’t hotels and motels, especially the chains, carry one or two gluten-free cold cereals (certified and separate) as part of the choices? How tough is that?

And put a dedicated, well-labeled toaster under the shelf for gluten-free guests to pull out and use? And could some of those oatmeal packets be gluten-free ones?


Rita Williams and husband Lindsay Bowen at Mt. Hood in Oregon

In an ideal world, the gluten-free breakfast offerings at hotels would be equal to the rest of the breakfast spread. Until we reach that ideal state of affairs, these are some simple, low-cost measures any hotel can implement to better serve the growing number of gluten-free travelers.

I realize it may be too much to ask that hotels all stock gluten-free bread or rolls since, as we know, they cost more and might not be used that frequently. I’m not asking them to use gluten-free flour to make that gravy and biscuits I loved as a child and found in some of the hotel lobbies. Or to remove any of the baked goods or cereals that are now common fare.

But, please, please, please, just make it easier for us to traverse this amazing world! We pay the same amount as “normal” folks now for a breakfast we cannot eat.

Please share your own experiences, suggestions and comments below.

Award-winning KTVU reporter Rita Williams retired in 2013 after 35 years with the station.