As is always the case, your diabetes may vary. For the sake of this post, the mentality of your pets may (read: will) vary, too.
In preparing to drive across the country with diabetes and two cats, I knew that the success of this trip would come down to planning and packing. Having mapped out my route and booked reservations at the three hotels I would be staying at weeks in advance, I knew that I wouldn’t be pressed to drive father than would be necessary each day. A little research pointed me in the direction of La Quinta Inn & Suites due to their pet friendliness – I didn’t have to pay any additional fees for the cats at any of the hotels and the staff took extra care to put me near elevators and stairs to make my cat-wrangling efforts as easy as possible.
Dayle bought me a mini-fridge with an adapter for a car’s cigarette lighter, ensuring my insulin would be cool – although it lacked the power to keep everything “cold”, it was more than enough for four days on the road. A few days before embarking on the drive I picked up some go-to snacks and supplies for the drive: glucose tablets, peanuts, and gum. Things like Diet Coke, water, Gatorade, and Red Bull (if necessary) I bought on the road to keep those beverages as cold as possible. While I made sure not to drink too much, or too fast, I always had something handy in case I felt parched.
My Dexcom receiver and insulin pens sat in above my steering wheel, in front of my instruments and indicators while used and unused insulin pen needles remained in my pockets. I only relied on my meter for CGM calibration when I made a pit stop for gas or to use the restroom. If I needed an injection on the road, I waited for traffic to be non-existent, which was a common occurrence for most of my drive, and then carefully screwed on a fresh insulin pen needle and did my thing.
Technically, I didn’t eat “breakfast” during any of my four days on the road. Every morning I filled up my gas tank and purchased a fresh Diet Coke, a Nutrigrain bar, and whatever Powerbar equivalent that was available. It wasn’t a 5-star meal, but it had enough protein to keep me going through lunch. Because I was racing against the sun, I opted for the fastest of foods for lunch, Burger King, where available. Ironically, the only time I felt drowsy during the 3,000 miles covered was an hour after I ate McDonalds for lunch. I suppose if you want to take anything away from this post it can be “don’t eat McDonalds”.
Dinner was always a sit-down meal away from the hotel room. I ate with Dayle’s moms the first night, at a burger place with my best friend in Oklahoma City, and a diner next to my hotel in Flagstaff.
With respect to the cats, I can only speak to their temperament, so please don’t take this as any kind of cat-whispering.
I think the test drives we took prior to actually leaving for California made a huge difference in how the cats handled the road. Between their carriers that they had become used to, their favorite blanket, pillow, and perch/scratching post all in the back of my car, and most importantly being next to each other for the entire drive, I did everything I could to make the transition as comfortable as possible. I brought their water fountain into the hotel room each night to add a level of familiarity to their nightly stays, and made sure to watch them eat when we got settled in our room each night just to be sure that they were doing okay.
On the road, I kept the cats secured in their carriers until I had finished filling up my gas tank in the morning. Any time I stopped for gas, food, or to use the rest room both cats were asleep (often in their carriers). I left my moon roof cracked while I took care of whatever needed and promptly came back to resume our drive. The only time the cats did anything besides sleep was when I was driving early in the morning before sunrise. These cats are not a fan of headlights. Lesson learned.
Ultimately, they were troopers. And I’m ridiculously proud of how they handled everything.