Golden Arches, Pale Runner, and Pink Sludge

So much for the Mediterranean diet.

AH, THE FAMOUS GOLDEN ARCHES. The Microsoft(*) of fast food. Who among us doesn’t have stories about McDonald’s? They’ve done such a good job selling the “experience” that the food often isn’t why people end up there. For example, when you’re on the road in need of a clean restroom, what place comes to mind first?

I frequented the place growing up and on trips in my younger days, but I’ve been there only a few times in the last decade or so. As my athletic activities picked up and I evolved to a healthier diet, I lost my taste for most fast foods. But a couple of summers ago in San Diego,… (cue the harps)…

image photo : Desert Trail
No water? No problem. There's got to be a Starbucks around somewhere.

So I was in San Diego on a June business trip. I wrapped up everything Friday around noon and changed into my gear for a quick run before I drove to Los Angeles to visit some friends. So what if I’d had a queasy stomach that morning and hadn’t eaten anything, or didn’t bring a water bottle when it was 90 degrees and cloudless outside. I was only going to do 5K or thereabouts on a trail I knew fairly well.

Everything started out great. There was a cool breeze, someone had marked each half kilometer, and I felt so good I decided to turn my 5K into a 10K. But with the heat and all, I was looking forward to the turnaround point, which I figured would dump me onto a road with a gas station or other water source nearby. Except it ended abruptly at a pile of junk in the middle of nowhere, and I was suddenly aware of how warm and sweaty I was, and rapidly getting thirstier. Well, there was nothing for it but to head back.

Thank goodness for the one residential area along the trail, where I spied a gardening crew with a garden hose. They were willing (and amused) when I asked to be hosed down. The head guy commented on how pale I was. As I am a perennial candidate for the Whitest Man in America, I didn’t think much of it until a half mile later when I began to feel distinctly like I might not make it back. I slowed way down, and by sort of jog-walking, made it back to my hotel, where I sat for a half hour with a wet towel wrapped around my head. Then, fortified by a frozen mocha, I hit the road.

So how does all this get me to McDonald’s? After a few minutes on the freeway I realized that replenishing my salt levels would be a good idea, and stopped at the next exit for what I still consider to be the Greatest French Fries Ever. I also bought a cheeseburger ,which sat uneaten for the entire trip and wound up in the trash in L.A. Given what I found out later (see below), this was a good thing.

I regret to inform you that this is NOT strawberry soft-serve.

In related fast food news, from the “Please Thank Us for Ceasing to Poison You” department, McDonald’s Taco Bell, and Burger King have promised to stop using ammonia-treated meat. I never knew they were using ammonia-treated meat (or meat at all, for that matter). This all came to light thanks to chef Jamie Oliver, who exposed the practice on one of his shows. (Click the photo for the story – if you have the stomach for it). So with one source of the market for this stuff out of the picture, it looks like our public schools will have to pick up the slack. Yes, the Department of Agriculture purchases millions of pounds for the national school lunch program. But don’t fret, they’re looking out for us, now that they’re pulling candy bars out of the vending machines. And how can you argue with the recent decision to make pizza a vegetable?

He must have had a slimeburger before the parade.


(*) For those of you not familiar with computer engineering jargon, “Microsoft” is synonymous with “Evil Empire”.

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