Currently viewing the tag: "roadside attractions"

Travel tucks you into new environments, which facilitate different experiences. And experience is the basis of all learning, all growth. So, travel is enlightenment…. Luckily, there is no need to head to an ancient Buddhist temple to derive this wisdom. There is plenty of beauty, adventure, inspiration, oddity (and vegan eats) just a couple of hours away. This is particularly gratifying for me… as those are a few of my favorite things. I had 18 hours to pack with as much of those things as I could.

Planning a trip is a bit of an art form, a form of self-expression. It expresses your values, how well you know (and care for) yourself, and, most importantly, how to feed your heart and soul. A day trip should be purposeful. After all, it’s the condensed version of a regular trip, where there are days of acclimating built into the rising action towards one or several trip pinnacles. Day trips are more concentrated, requiring a bit of forethought in order to avoid quick burnout. The trick is to induce that road trip euphoria quickly… then feed it in a variety of different ways. The best way to get this going is to go somewhere beautiful, where nature’s majesty bonks you on the head joyfully and reminds you that you are more than a couch recliner or cubicle dweller; you are more than the you inside your daily circumstances–you are a part of a gloriously intricate expanse of wonder.

That was accomplished at Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, spanning the entirety of the mighty Hudson River. You can walk the bridge by entrance in Poughkeepsie or Highland, to the west. Or you can take an elevator 212 feet up to end up right smack dab in the center of the bridge, lazy bones. PicMonkey Collage1

Looking south you can see it’s slinking its way towards New York City. DSC_0027

DSC_0005

Poughkeepsie looks like a miniature model set, like a big HBO is going to fly through.DSC_0046

Planning spots to eat is important. A hungry traveler does not make rational travel decisions. She may forgo worthy or spontaneous stops, lead by her irrational belly. Or, worse yet, she may quickly head to a familiar chain to grab a bite (“Oh! They have a Panera!”) Food stops are a big part of the experience. Regional takes on well-loved forms vary. The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with no Feta abroad is the same as the one at home. Unless you’re in another hemisphere and the visit gives you a well-needed comfort from home, don’t hit a chain. But do hit a regional chain, like Mother Earth’s Storehouse, a small grocer with locations in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Saugerties,
DSC_0054

Mother Earth has a big selection of vegan treats to choose from. And on a day trip, you can get more than enough and take them home!IMG_0240

I always took a lot of pictures. Way before there were easy means of sharing pictures. The I only have 24 exposures on a roll but the inside of this Porta Potty bowl is art days. The I have to wait a week for film to be developed days. I love taking pictures. In travel planning, you create the conditions to do the things you love: not incidentally, supplementally and in passing, but singularly. It’s like honoring each part of your being’s delicious pie chart, one slice at a time. Don’t rush. That’s part of regular life. When you’re traveling and partaking in activities you love, you relish. You take your time. Of course that is more difficult when you are illegally trespassing. DSC_0060

Holy Land USA is an abandoned theme park in Waterbury, Connecticut. What was the theme? The Bible. The park had a miniature model of Bethlehem Village and a variety of diaoramas.  This article has some great before and after shots, which give the ruins a bit of context.DSC_0062

The place had its hey days during the 1960’s and 1970’s, closed in 1984 with a plan to expand and was never reopened after 1986 when founding visionary John Baptist Greco passed away. DSC_0063

Though the grounds were the crime scene of a brutal and disturbing rape and murder in 2010, there have been many revival attempts for Holy Land USA–the most recent being last year, when Waterbury’s current mayor had trees cleared and brush removed. DSC_0074
DSC_0078

IMG_0249

DSC_0084

DSC_0086

DSC_0090

DSC_0093

DSC_0095

DSC_0107

DSC_0112

Back to planning for food options. Sometimes you have to eat cupcakes twice. Because you’re there and you won’t be there again soon, usually. I know, I know. It’s just terrible. So you break the rules that ground your daily life; be flexible. Flexibility is the foundation of happy travel. And the lack thereof is the main reason someone is not a good traveler. Openness, adventurousness and a sense of When In Rome-ness–not everyone has the confidence required to birth these traits. Leave the phooey-phooey’s at home. Leave the folks who can only celebrate adventure through movies and television at home. And move on with ya bad self–bring a to-go container; bring a flexible traveler who values the same things… or no one at all. DSC_0115

My second cupcake (great band name): Hardcore Sweet Cupcake in Oakville, CT. Kind of tucked away is fun, as is accolades like Cupcake Wars winner. It’s about discovering. And it feels more like discovery with a few twists and turns not dictated by the GPS. IMG_0251

Hardcore Sweets have a few vegan options at their bakery. Today it was Chai Latte, spiced cake filled with a mixture of cardamom, cloves and ginger, topped with a tea infused buttercream and Dust to Dust, chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting, Oreo and Biscoff Cookie crumbles. These are huge cupcakes, with tons of frosting. DSC_0120

So you’ll need to shift directions before you’ll have too long a stretch of driving to do to get home. The key is to find destinations to break up the entire loop. So as you are traveling to the destinations, you are looping back towards home and not traveling more then a couple of hours straight. With an 18 hour trip, no more than 6 hours of total driving is ideal. You also want to plan that against rush hour traffic if you’re near any metropolises.

A word on your destinations, you want to find the unique offerings of the area. Like a vegan cafe inside a music store in North Haven, CT.  PicMonkey Collage2

It’s a music store (Music Center). And it’s a vegan cafe (Musical Forest Cafe). It’s a music store / vegan cafe (a “slashy,” my new post tag). Yes, you can eat your vegan sandwich with a full view of the guitar section, as I did. Mark, the owner, gave me the history of the place, which included brown rice and broccoli-related miracles and the power of Reiki. And, pow, that’s how a vegan cafe is born! With a reverence for the true power of plant-based food and the desire to spread that power to the community.  Sounds like gospel. And in a way it is.  DSC_0122

DSC_0124

I had the Philly Cheesesteak-ish sandwich, with very tasty marinated mushrooms, caramelized onion, and protein twinsies: seitan and tofu, with a sprinkling of Daiya (my yearly allowance now full).  After a long day of travel, this yummy, hearty sandwich was so needed. DSC_0132

He let me sample his very rich chocolate cake, as well. So densely rich is was like a bar of fudge. I could barely eat half of it. More for my to-go box!DSC_0137

So I mentioned earlier that plans should include feeding the heart and soul in a variety of different ways. This is an important purpose. And although a stop may seem silly or trivial, underneath might be something pretty important. As a longtime weirdo and social misfit, it’s sad to witness such a flashpan society whose collective spirit barely seeps past a surface crack. Homogenized popular culture and marketing forces shape what should be a far more personalized living experience. Why? Because it is more profitable if everyone likes the same cr*p, wants the same material things, has the same version of “success,” and contributes, often subconsciously, to one of the many machines that keep that all running smoothly. But there are places where counterculture is alive. Places that exist and thrive in honor of weirdness–weirdness before it was watered down and doled out in mainstream acceptable forms. Wild Bill’s Nostalgic Center, feeds my my inner weirdo. PicMonkey Collage3

DSC_0146

DSC_0150

DSC_0156

DSC_0157

DSC_0159

DSC_0164

DSC_0170

DSC_0176

Then the requisite visit to a Muffler Man. This one was in Norwich, CT.IMG_0278

With my car parked for boarding at the Cross Sound Ferry terminal, I had some open exploration time at the New London waterfront. And there was more beauty to behold–this time man-made. It was the El Galeon, a gorgeous reconstruction of a Spanish sailing vessel that was only in town briefly. Its reconstruction was 1:1. Tremendous. It was difficult to capture all of it in a shot without incorporating some detail that was so not 16th century, like a lamp post on the pier.IMG_0302

DSC_0202

Bucket list entry: I want to stand up there.DSC_0208

You know those theories about blobs / orbs in photos being ghosts. These orbs were all over the pictures I took of the boat with my SLR. In different spots. I thought that this bright one, directly at the foot of the saint, seemed most convincing.  Spooky…DSC_0185
IMG_0305

It was time to head home. 18 hours completed and I’d arrive back on that long island in style. But my final tip… enjoy the views till the very end. Lean against the rail, breathe it in… and keep a little inside for yourself. DSC_0215

DSC_0222

DSC_0238

IMG_0315

Till next time…

I took several winding mountain roads inside morning’s low-hanging clouds, much to the surprise of feasting deer families, to reach Unger, West Virginia’s Farnham Colossi, the home of George and Pam Farnham… and their collection of colossal lawn ornaments. I had driven the extra mile for roadside attractions before, but I was very eager to make it to the Farnham property. It would be the equivalent of many stops in one. DSC_0001

The couple’s fiberglass family greets passers-by. Some of those passers-by stop, take some pictures, and chat. I was one of the latter, climbing onto the property as a professional photographer maneuvered his noisy drone, recording aerial shots of the property, as an excited George Farnham stood by. DSC_0011

The Farnhams reap the benefits of West Virginia’s nonexistent zoning laws. As a former Washington lawyer, Mr. Farnham has experience in such ins and outs. PicMonkey Collage3

I couldn’t help but notice that some of the giants were adorned with tattoos. George let me know that those were painted on after delivery. The giants were given the same tattoos Pam had, proof of their love for these towering characters.  DSC_0020

My favorite was the pacified Paul Bunyan. The flannel-clad giant was without his signature ax. DSC_0022

As if it wasn’t amazing enough, the property also has a roller coaster with the entire Simpson family.DSC_0035

DSC_0037

Another shot of the giants with George to the left as he admired the drone next to the grazing area of their 10 alpacas. I look forward to seeing the footage on Roadside America.DSC_0043

Now for the kicker–I was delighted to learn that Big John, below, is soon going to go vegetarian! That’s right. George, who is vegetarian, is ready to update the apron and grocery bags with various vegetarian quotes and images. Maybe Big John will go vegan? I will have to come back after these transformations are complete. Equally exciting, the true Muffler Man to the left of Big John will also be “coming out.” Yes, George is thinking of aligning his fiberglass family with his progressive values, including gay rights and non-caucasian representation. If you build it, George, they will come!
IMG_8689

Traveling on back east, I made a stop in historical Brunswick, Maryland to try their vegan options. It is always a treat to undercover stops like this. PicMonkey Collage

The two vegan cookie options were so unique: strawberry basil and lemon rosemary.PicMonkey Collage2

I got one of each and headed on my way. A very welcome and flavorful sweet bite!IMG_8716

My final stop on the way back north off the 95 was Drop Squad Kitchen in Wilmington, Delaware. Drop Squad Kitchen shares a space with an ice cream shop and features all-vegan versions of some down-home eats. I was excited to try their menu, another tucked away vegan option happily discovered by V.V. IMG_8723

I tried their V-Steak sandwich, their recommendation. Their seitan was so good, flavorful and tender with nice crisp parts from the sauté. Also important to note: this ain’t no Daiya cheese. They used a housemade ?) noochy cheeze sauce. Fabulous! IMG_8722

Thanks for the vegan eats in Delaware!  But it was time to head home…DSC_0047

And now state 42 in the V.V. record blog: West Virginia.

IMG_8662

In the middle of nowhere, West Virginia–the “unincorporated community” of Vegan.IMG_8684

DSC_0018

Mission Savvy is the only all-vegan eatery in the entire state. It’s in Charleston, the capital city. DSC_0005

The space is vibrant, like its food offerings–mostly raw, pressed juices, pure and delicious, with an exceptional attention to detail. I loved the labels, the glass jars, the colors. DSC_0003

Knowing I’d face vegan food dearth, I got a bento box to go. And, of course, a delicious juice blend to eat with my meal. I really needed those nutrients.PicMonkey Collage1

There is my sandwich: a B.L.T: sprouted bread, lettuce, tomato and tempeh bacon with a creamy cashew cheese. On the side, cafe crackers–rosemary “cheese.” So fresh and delicious. I felt so good after this meal. That’s how it should be!DSC_0007

The Bento box at the motel… “Save the Tuna” pate, carrots/celery, raw kraut, and a veggie-packed lentil-y of sorts. Thank you, Mission Savvy, for some well-needed healthful and whole food sustenance. DSC_0021

I’m heading back to New York tomorrow! But have a few stops on my list. My new car is officially broken in and I’m looking forward to not driving all day… at least for a few days.

Another jam-packed day ahead of me and needing the boost, I had the tart from Louisville’s Flora Vegan Treats for breakfast. Clearly by observing Exhibit A below you can see it was light and crisply satisfying–like you want these kinds of tarts to be. The filling was blackberry, the ideal partner for the lemon zested creme drizzle. Real food that is really good. What will I do when my goodies run out?DSC_0007

Before leaving Tennessee I headed back north a bit to trespass the grounds of this little abandoned amusement area by a truck stop in Jellico. It was called Patriotic Palace, part of the attractions surrounding the defunct Fire Works Super Store. It used to look like this.  It was urban exploration light: low risk, not secluded, minimal creepiness factor–although the truck drivers were curious why I parked my little car by them. DSC_0010

You can still hear the echoes of the children. That jerk big brother who insisted on rocking the car… some carny not paying attention at the controls, three parallel lines buzzed into his hair by his ears. PicMonkey Collage

I saw a couple of these big crosses so far. This was also at the same truck area as Patriotic Palace… next to the “adult” center on the other side of the interstate. Redeem yourself, perverts. DSC_0035

I got some Tennessee moonshine to take home.  Not one of these beautiful, expensive moonshines that the tourists like. But a bare bones corn whiskey in a ceramic jug that didn’t photograph quite as nice.
IMG_8599

I made it to North Carolina for food and other various forms of fun.IMG_8601

And guess what?! North Carolina is the 41st state to enter the VeganVictuals union! I have been eyeballing North Carolina, or should I say Asheville, North Carolina vegan eats for quite some time, waiting to strike. My first stop, Firestorm Cafe Co-op, an all-vegan coffee shop connected to a wonderful book store. It’s across the street from Family Dollar, where I illegally parked.

IMG_8609

Most of the menu board. IMG_8604

To meet the card minimum, I also bought a truffle. But it was the caffeine I really needed. So I got a “latte.” You know, I’ve never had one before. Is that totally weird? All I ever drink is black coffee. But this was a good experience, frothy and easy to knock back quickly. PicMonkey Collage2

Next was lunch at Bean Vegan Cuisine. Bean is also all-vegan, thank you very much. It’s on the Southern comfort food tip, so here the Daiya is expected–and is easily left off. It’s also next to the Frugal Framer and some eye places. I am kind of amused to see the v-word within stripmall signage.PicMonkey Collage3

This wonderfully satisfying lunch consisted of the Cowboy Burger: house-cured seitan bacon, onion rings, pickles, BBQ sauce, and Ranch dressing on top a very delicious veggie burger formed in-house. My side, a tater tot casserole. I cleaned my basket. This lunch was just what I needed. I wish I was around for their weekend breakfast menu.DSC_0040

Digesting stop 1: a pretty spectacular fabric store. I roamed around it admiring the organization and the colors. Digesting stop 2: A bit of a fail. It was a cluster of antiques shop that turned out to be in a yuppie area with hefty price tags–with bad parking and some sort of road closures for some music festival. See ya!IMG_8621

Digesting stop 3: Looking Glass Falls inside the Pisgah National Forest. Cropped: the ton of people at the bottom of the falls. DSC_0045

After winding through the rest of Pisgah National Forest, I took the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway back towards Asheville. And I think I stopped at every scenic overlook. Taking this route was the best decision of the day, the easy downhill ride was isolated and had some stunning views. The kind of view that fills you with reverence.  DSC_0059

DSC_0066

IMG_8654

It was time for dinner at Plant. Plant, like I say often, lived in my bookmarks for quite some time. But it wasn’t just hanging out patiently. With every dinner destination on the road, it pestered me that I hadn’t been to Plant yet. I knew it would be worth the trip. I knew it’d be spectacular, just like the way you about a good melon.DSC_0075

To save you the suspense, Plant was exceptional, from start to finish, from space to service. What a relief! After years of build up, that would have been a real let down. I decided to get two smaller plates. First, their [Plant] Cheese: aged cashew wedges, zucchini involtini with another housemade cheese filling, rosemary amber & peach slices, pickled vegetables, warm focaccia, and a black garlic oil drizzle. It hit every note, and at the same time in a splendid symphony. DSC_0079

My other plate: The Grilled Beets: plump grilled reds, balsamic & herbs, a smooth horseradish mayo , crispy onion tumbleweed, and garnished with candy cane striped beets. Another heavenly dish. DSC_0082

I couldn’t resist picking up a dessert to go. I got the carrot cake, which didn’t enjoy the trip to the motel; one layer slid off the fantastic cream cheese frosting and the candied ginger unicorn horn was flaccid. But boy was it dreamy. Thank you, Plant & Bean for some of the best all-vegan grub. IMG_8659

What is hard about being a roadtripping blogger is that all your pearls of wisdom–the thoughts and ideas born on the road, inside its motion and pace–are diminished into imperceptible dots by the time you’re in a place you can write. Even thoughts that build into intricate cities of complexity, grounded–oddly–by a hybrid of reason, emotion and imagination. They amaze you. They affirm. They follow the queue of your music, the car in front of you’s license plate characters, the names of the towns you pass. Road thoughts. Inside of them, you swear they’ll never leave, like how a dream feels. Then: Gone.

Feigning pragmatism one day, I tried using the voice memo function on the phone, like Dale Cooper. I found it embarrassing, so I was brief. Upon playback, I had no idea what the complete thought was. My latest theory on this specific kind of blog writer’s block is that these thoughts are a side effect of an altered state, your brain trying to make sense of a massive influx of stimulation–to process it into some sort of order. Out of the car, the brain resumes normal functioning. It just wants to relax… it’s earned some down time.

But now, here, ready to write: I begin the challenging task of trying to conjure up all that can make one day on the road the experientially equivalent to months of daily-style living. These thoughts are one part of it. But they’re the after effect. So let’s look at some of the stimuli, starting with Ely’s To Go.

PicMonkey Collage

It is such a delight to discover a gem like Ely’s right outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Not only does their all-vegan bakery make scratchmade, high quality treats, they offer a slew of thee best vegan product lines, like New York’s own Lagusta’s Luscious! Knowing about good vegan stuff (versus not that great vegan stuff) is like music taste; it counts.PicMonkey Collage3

I got the blueberry lemon scone and a sticky pecan bun and did the photoshoot in the car. It was a great start to Day 2. To find food value commonality in unexpected places is such a motivating reward. And I’m hooked on this feeling… and it’s not just the association it has with getting to eat delicious vegan food. Because vegan food is food is made with intention (to borrow from the yogis), it isn’t just about a moment of eating. It’s more than that; it’s a kinship to all living things. Mmm, delicious kinship. These treats were the real deal, by the way. PicMonkey Collage2

A fan of roadside attractions, I knew the world’s tallest Our Lady of Guadalupe statue in Windsor, Ohio at the grounds of the Servants of Mary Center for Peace was not to be missed. And my instincts were correct. The gorgeous mosaic-covered statute is certainly the most beautiful 50 ft. statute I’ve ever seen. The grounds also contains the world’s largest illuminated rosary that surrounds the Lake of Hope. I was the only one visiting this early morning and had the opportunity to tour the grounds and take plenty of pictures. The statue is spectacular in person, visually but also how it feels. In a place like this, the faith you have comes forefront–whatever version and degree it might be. Afterwards, I spoke with Pat who owns the farm that, by way of a series of miracles, became this sacred worshipping place. She gave me a lot of information on how this place came to be. I left with some Our Lady of Guadalupe swag, generously gifted to me, and the sense that I had just visited a truly special place.
DSC_0031

DSC_0039

DSC_0051

DSC_0056

DSC_0062

DSC_0060

Following a dignified and contemplative ride west to Woodmere, Ohio, I went to the mall. {shudder} Yes–the mall. And not just any mall, ETON Chagrin Blvd has got it all Tiffany & Co, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie, and… Vegan Sweet Tooth, an all-vegan bakery amongst the high-end retail.PicMonkey Collage4

There was plenty to choose from–different flavors and sizes of beautifully presented cupcakes. I circled around the glass display cases like a hunter, sizing up her prey.   PicMonkey Collage5

I finally selected three minis: vanilla lavender, chocolate salted caramel, and the red velvet with cream cheese frosting. As a gal who has eaten a ton of vegan cupcakes in her lifetime, Vegan Sweet Tooth’s cupcakes were outstanding. The cakes were moist and flavorful and the frosting complemented the flavors in the cake. It wasn’t just sugar overcompensation. Each icing was different, not just the same buttercream with different garnish. The Tiffany of vegan cupcakes, for sure. IMG_8495

I took a detour to Sugarcreek, Ohio, the “Little Switzerland of Ohio” to watch the “World’s largest” Cuckoo clock do its thing on the hour. I put quotation marks around “world’s largest” because I feel like they may be using the tall brick base in that calculation. Having been to Bavaria in Germany, I feel like I saw bigger? (Both of the cuckoo clocks in this post seem bigger.) Either way, Sugarcreek is a great detour with other cute stuff going on. But I wanted to eat something other than sweets today! I headed south towards Columbus for some satisfying dunch.DSC_0083

{Intermission: driving through crazy downpour / thunderstorm; playing Conversation 16 sixteen times; passing Xenia, Ohio of Gummo fame; experiencing aforementioned profundity; basking in freedom}IMG_8521

Columbus, Ohio welcomed me with a bright sky, which was so appreciated after the storm made it feel like 9 o’clock at night. I choose to eat at Portia’s Cafe because the I wanted a healthful option. I came for the veggies. And it helps that Chef/owner Portia, who was laying the smack down on GMOs at a neighboring customer’s table as I placed my order, rejects all the food evils that ail the world and its living things. The cafe is all-vegan, mostly organic, and all GMO-free. . . but Daiya rant in 3..2..DSC_0108

1: It bums me out to see Daiya on a menu like this. So what that it is vegan? It’s a packaged processed food. There is a time and a place for a minimal use of Daiya, on occasion… but not at a place for Portia’s standards. Sure, there was a point when Daiya was exciting (Yay, Melty cheese!) In fact, my old blog posts (2009) show the path of this excitement to, many stomach cramps later, my Daiya rants. It is out of place at Portia’s Cafe. And that’s a big compliment really. …And, after a nod to the housemade cashew cheese movement that is taking off in leaps and bounds, my Daiya rant is done.

Feeling the need for fresh and flavorful, I got their house specialty–Portia’s Cafe Pad Thai: crisp veggies on a bed of warm brown rice with their signature sauce. The sauce was outstanding–nut-based, miso, ginger, the almighty Bragg’s, a citrus burst and a kick of cayenne. I love a complicated sauce on simple veggies. DSC_0104

I saved room for the Citrus Parfait, thankfully. It was a heavenly creamy blend of citrus, banana, avocado, mango, agave and vanilla with a ground almond and date crumble, which could also second as a list of all my most favorite ingredients. Truly sublime. A welcome meal after a long day of driving. Cincinnati, here I come. PicMonkey Collage6

We were not the only folks looking to doorbust for one of the all-vegan breakfast options at Pingala Cafe & Eatery in Burlington, an Earthy spot for simple vegan fare. Two minutes after opening time, there was a line at the counter. Perhaps if this sculpture and the wild flow of the Winooski river out back hadn’t drawn me in, we could have beat those do-good vegheads to the punch! PicMonkey Collage

So I had to get the Tofu Benedict, given that rule of mine. I love this dish because it has it going on–variety of textures and tastes. This version was less dynamic and lacked a bit of seasoning, but was completely enjoyable. PicMonkey Collage2

After breakfast, we headed to Stowe to see the gorgeous Moss Glen Falls. Situated painlessly on the side of road, no hike is required to view these–which was slightly disappointing considering the sedentary itinerary of yesterday and today. DSC_0014

IMG_7606

The falls were completely isolated upon our arrival. So I finally utilized the supplies that have been in my trunk at all times since several years ago for this exact purpose–the ability to swim spontaneously as required. A quick, clumsy change into my suit and swim cap in the backseat and I was ready to go. PicMonkey Collage3

It was a deliciously invigorating dip, and just in the nick of time as more visitors were rolling in.IMG_7605

Back at the car, a beautiful umber and sienna toned butterfly flirted and fluttered.IMG_7593

Here’s a cool cluster of outhouses nestled in the green mountains.
IMG_7628

Lunch brought us south to the King Arthur Flour‘s Vermont campus, which hosts a shop and cafe. I was excited to visit, thinking back to my trip to Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store in Oregon last year. But we weren’t the only tourists excited to stop by! The place was swarmed. Though the cafe’s menu isn’t super vegan-friendly, I was relieved to see that all of the sandwich ingredients to the veggie option were sold in containers with all ingredients listed. So I could order confidently. PicMonkey Collage4

Though simple, the Sweet Chili Baked Tofu sandwich was packed with Vermont organic tofu and a yummy Asian slaw–and that is all it needed. It was bright, fresh and delicious. I also had a delectable watermelon, cucumber, and arugula salad with cashew and radish. Such a yummy lunch!PicMonkey Collage5

Later, we got to Northwood, New Hampshire to check out the in-the-middle-of-nowhere Susty’s Cafe, a bonafide 90’s style vegan eatery. PicMonkey Collage

I had my eye on the deep-fried Tofu Fries… and then I devoured way too many of them. Who wouldn’t?! (The Electrician wouldn’t, actually.) Perfectly fried and crispy with ample seasoning, they were kind of dangerous. PicMonkey Collage2

Lastly, my dinner. A Pepper Seitan wrap. The seitan was tender and oozing with flavor. Maybe too much? IMG_7644

And since I hadn’t had a something sweet all day, I got the chocolate brownie (though really a cake) to go. A pretty retro dinner from start to finish.IMG_7653

As the fireworks begin to sound here in Manchester, New Hampshire, it is time to say goodnight again. More from the road tomorrow…

Last time I spent any time in Vermont, I was just a young punk snowboarding on the motel bed. IMG_7530

This time, like twenty years later, it is summer here in Vermont. The blazing sun, blue sky, and green mountains made for a beautiful scenic drive–off the interstate, behind careful trailers that help you acclimate, begrudgingly, to the speed of things round these parts. Then, a concrete gorilla holding a VW Bug reminds you that it’s about the drive there, not the destination. Or other such clichés.
IMG_7530

Of course, it is about the food, too. And I love me a New England road trip because of things like this–higher quality soda fountains and easy vegan labeling, like this huge flag in New Moon Cafe in downtown Burlington. PicMonkey Collage

We arrived for a quick, late lunch before a dinner reservation. I got the Vegan Delight, as it was easy and I was starving. Strips of soy saucy seitan, red pepper hummus, smeared avocado, a very fragrant basil pesto, red onion, grilled eggplant & zucchini, spinach on pressed whole wheat bread. A yummy sandwich in a wide open space. IMG_7534

I was excited for dinner at Revolution Kitchen. They have a dreamy menu of upscale options. The kind that can carry you through hours of driving. IMG_7540

First, their “Nachos.” But this is not a pile of chips. This is guacamole-filled deep fried wontons, non-aluminum can tasting Cuban black beans, a cashew queso and salsa fresca. Downright delectable. IMG_7544

For an entree, the beloved Seitan Piccata. This is the dinner equivalent to a tofu benny: if it’s on the menu, I’ll likely be choosing it. Two succulent lemony seitan cutlets atop garlic mashed potatoes, topped with sauteed spinach and that lovely white wine caper sauce. Perfection.
PicMonkey Collage2

A quick three-bite dessert afterwards at My Little Cupcake just down the block. I got all the vegan offerings they had: vanilla with vanilla buttercream, vanilla with chocolate buttercream, and, my favorite, a cookies n’ cream cupcake.  PicMonkey Collage3

The sun beams over Champlain Lake, saying goodnight to the long day that started in New York. See you tomorrow, Vermont.IMG_7564

Fields and fields of corn. This is what’s inside the heart of the heartland. After hours of fields of corn, I was back in the Motor City area to sample some vegan eats.IMG_2081

Lunch, finally was at Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. They have a promising brunch menu they only serve on Sundays. (Darn!) And a regular menu with 90’s veggie fare. 90’s because things are served with a side of chips from a bag. The 90’s as in, a time when vegetarian food was rudimentary and unexciting. I opted for a sandwich special, the opened face tempeh. IMG_2083I had hoped that the Daiya was a sprinkling, and not the pile I was served, barely hot, on top of the barely cooked tempeh. I promptly moved the mound of processed cheese glob off the tempeh so I lost most of the pesto. What I was left with was not what I pictured in my mind as I traveled from Indianapolis. The slaw was a little bit of a redemption, but not enough.

Well, there’s always cupcakes! I drove a short couple of blocks to Main street where Cupcake Wars winner Taste Love Cupcakes offered a vegan option that would make it all better. PicMonkey Collage

I have to say: the best vegan cupcakes I have tried in my travels have been the vegan option at an omnivorous bakery. The fluffiest cake, the best frosting, the best pinpoint-perfect sweetness level… maybe these are more qualified bakers, as opposed to passionate vegan entrepreneurs who bake? But they are getting it right. This cupcake was sublime, an adjective I don’t use lightly, like say “yummy.” Spectacular in all the ways cupcakes can be.
PicMonkey Collage2

After some exploration of Detroit, both crumbled and wartorn and thriving, I head to the uppercrust city of Birmingham, very different than the dilapidating Detroit proper. I headed to the fancy pants The Stand, a gastropub with a vegan section on their menu, otherwise filled with things like duck fat fries. I asked my waiter if the chef could whip me up a vegan tasting plate with a combination of the menu items, sans the honey and hazelnut roasted carrots.  IMG_2170

It was a delight to be presented the dish by the chef! I felt like a V.I.P… although I have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight. (My rebellion of airlines’ atrocious policy on bags.) On my plate: the roasted mushrooms with crispy quinoa in a balsamic glaze, candies fennel with beets and walnuts, and the amazing roasted corn with lavender oil and candied almond. Every bit of this dish was scrumptious. It was a welcome veg-based meal done right.IMG_2171

I did some exploring of Detroit. Fancied myself an urban explorer.. from the car. After GPSing all about Gratiot, directed to make turns I would never make without prodding, I became fascinated with Detroit. Motown is a beam of light on the city. Standing in front of Hitsville U.S.A. feels different than standing elsewhere.
IMG_2097

I found the juxtaposition of places like Birmingham and Detroit unsettling: how affluent some areas were while other parts were empty, destroyed, abandoned of hope–with wandering specters. But this is the lore of Detroit City. The city is now a museum of its former self, with its once-grand architecture crumbling away, scrapped, yet standing–like the thousands of empty, boarded homes. Visual reminders of the stark contrasts embedded in our society: race, class, money. Detroit’s Michigan Central Station is one large reminder. IMG_2103

IMG_2115

IMG_2116

Inside the residential streets, where there is a 1:1 ratio of abandoned homes to homes, the Heidelberg Project is thriving. I last saw it like 10 years ago. It has grown significantly since then, hosting other industrial and folk artists in the surrounding homes and yards. IMG_2127

I love this kind of crap.IMG_2135

IMG_2139

I also had to visit the abandoned Packard Plant, the largest abandoned factory space in the world, apparently. Packards were luxury vehicles built here until 1958. Now the 3.5 million square feet plant remains abandoned, but still oozes life. Many are living inside the wreckage. Like the man I saw wander out from one of the ghostly buildings.IMG_2185

IMG_2165

IMG_2169

It was time to say goodbye to Detroit. The gorgeous sunset tucks me in for my early am flight. IMG_2184

In my quest of reporting vegan eats near and far, I have grown quite adept at planning trips with maximum “umph.” To follow, my most recent excursion to Philadelphia by way of the Jersey Shore, two destinations with thriving vegan options. In the interest of my hazy Sunday head, I am going to practice the skill I’ll soon ask my students next week, precision in language. PicMonkey Collage4Twisted Tree is a cafe on Cookman Ave in the Jersey Shore’s Asbury Park. Besides having simple vegan lunch options, they’ve got a mostly vegan bakery. I got a slice of their carrot cake.  It had so many nuts and raisins, I kind of missed the “cake” part. The soft cream cheese icing was delightfully airy. Coffee, service and the variety of vegan baked goods makes it a great spot to pick up a goody or two on the way to the beach.

PicMonkey Collage5I was very excited to visit Silverball Museum, a arcade / pinball museum that offers sundrunk boardwalkers relief from the blazing sun. And the best part, you get unlimited play for the duration of your stay! Admission fees depend on how much time you want. I spent more of my time taking pictures of the nostalgic graphics of the machines than I did playing. I highly recommend stopping here if you’re in Asbury Park.

IMG_1304Unlimited Skee Ball, too!

PicMonkey Collage6

IMG_1246They have some great pinball machines, including this Guns N’ Roses one. But I was much more into the vintage ones.

IMG_1227

Since we were parked right in front of Mogo, home of a delicious Korean fusion tofu taco, we stopped in for a bite. The flavor-packed taco had chunks of sturdy fried tofu that truly stood up to its toppings, which consisted of assorted pickled delights. They even had a Kimchee Bar so you can dress your taco with even more flavor. My mouth is watering thinking of this taco. After I ate it in like 3 messy bites, I got two refills of shredded daikon. Love that cool heat!PicMonkey Collage7

I mentioned Cookman Creamery in my previous post on the Jersey Shore. I was disappointed to have missed homemade vegan soft serve with homemade vegan whipped cream. Yes, I said homemade. In fact, everything thing in Cookman Creamery is made from scratch by an amazing Mom and daughter pair! This is the kind of business that I love discovering. High standards, made with love, and free of packaging.  PicMonkey Collage8All of Cookman’s flavors are tasted by the discerning decades-dairy-free Mom. She clearly knows a thing or two about really good dairy-free ice cream. And she is not afraid to say is loud and proud: the V-word is everywhere in Cookman! (Although we chuckled about an older woman who pronounced it “v-egg-in” and my Dad’s rendition: “vay-gun.”) Did I mention that they not only have hard coconut-based vegan ice cream with unique flavors (like “Ugly Avocado”), but they have vegan ice cream pies, vegan ice cream pops, vegan “flying saucer”-esque treats, milk shakes, etc etc etc.

IMG_1330

I had to get their Banana split. These are my supporting reasons. 1) I always get the banana split if it’s available. It’s tradition! 2) I can try three flavors of ice cream (I got soft serve vanilla, soft serve chocolate, and hard Ugly Avocado). 3) They had a variety of vegan toppings like homemade chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauces, vegan marshmallow sauce, and homemade vegan whipped cream (the best I’ve tasted). and 4) Being away from my home base, I always choose excess. DSC_0062

What a treat! Cookman’s is the real deal. Truly.
DSC_0065

You know how John Turturro’s character in Box of Moonlight is searching for childhood haunt Splatchee Lake? That is how Morey’s Piers at Wildwood is for me in a way. My family and I used to go to the Jersey Shore when I was a kid and I never forgot this place. It is the Swing Ride that swoops over the boardwalk towards the ocean that I never forgot. (And a Fun House that is no longer there.) So I rode it again. This time not crying. DSC_0078

IMG_1342

DSC_0088

On the way out of Wildwood, we hit The Wild Burrito for a sampling of their vegan options. The Wild Burrito isn’t scared to use the v-bomb on their menu, which is so helpful. They make their own seitan, which is also something that a vegan can feel good about supporting. And they have tortilla and plantain crusted fried avocado fries. Bam!
PicMonkey Collage

The avocado fries were the star of our visit, as was the service. The fries were not the greatest value, over $5 for five fries, and they needed some seasoning… but there isn’t much that creamy avocado can’t fix. DSC_0113

Finally, to Philly. Along with many road closure due to a White Linen Party/restaurant pop-up. We made it to Charlie was a sinner, a vegan “speakeasy” in the heart of Philadelphia’s theater district, for a bite of dessert and some ambiance. The bar and eatery, opened by Hip City Veg‘s people, is dark and filled with pretty people. They’ve got a cool name and posh design. But I don’t need that stage show, I just want the food. PicMonkey Collage2I had Charlie’s Chocolate Cake, which was more a fudge brownie in crumbles, topped with strawberry sorbet, cocoa nib, and salted caramel. Like the morning carrot cake, I missed the cake! But the crumbles were rich and decadent. I’ll have to return for a bite of their creative savory dishes.

DSC_0123

And finally, cheese steaks for the road. Because I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. We headed to Blackbird Pizzeria for their delicious vegan seitan cheese steak. The best vegan Philly cheese steak in the city of Brotherly Love. No use going anywhere else. Except a stop for non-vegan cheese steaks for the men in our lives.  PicMonkey Collage3

PicMonkey Collage9

Page 1 of 3
1 2 3