Currently viewing the tag: "roadside attractions"

Morning in Sparta, Wisconsin started with a much anticipated roadside attraction: the fiberglass mold graveyard on the grounds of FAST (or the Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks Corp.) The owner is fine with you wandering around at your own risk—perusing the molds and taking pictures–and so we did. There were recognizable molds, like Bob’s Big Boy or the very attractive large ice cream cones with both waffle and sugar cones, and a ton I wished I had the opportunity to see what came out of the mold. But there were only several colorful fiberglass pieces.
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After a bit of a drive, we made it to our breakfast destination, Modern Times in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was very hungry and ready to chow down with fierce ferocity. I got the Polenta Rancheros,  housemade polenta patties topped with black beans, ranchero sauce-basted tofu, poblano sour cream and cabbage salsa. It was very good but pretty wet. It needed some starch to sop up the deliciousness. PicMonkey Collage1.jpg

Next was Glam Doll Donuts, a bombshell of a donut joint with a separate case of vegan versions of their delicious flavor combinations. The place hit all the marks–extraordinary donuts superior in every aspect and adorable vintage decor with plenty of room for photoshoots with the donuts. Plus all their donut names pay homage to glamour queens of America. PicMonkey Collage2.jpg

There were plenty of vegan options to choose from but I chose their Varga Girl, a light, airy donut filled with a delectable almond cream and iced with a drool-worthy coat of chocolate… and topped with toasted almonds. DSC_0415

It was perfect in every way: the donut was not too greasy and had wonderfully nostalgic mouthfeel; the almond cream had a spectacular texture and taste; and the chocolate icing tasted like chocolate, not a waxy flavorless encasement but a dress of richness that let the donut’s almond notes sing. It really was amazing.DSC_0419

Ok, never mind the teeth marks. It’s all about the cream filling.
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We stopped at this fantastic used book store so I can pick up some sci-fi mentor texts for my 5th graders. It was a great stop but left our lungs dust-filled and ready for a brisk walk.PicMonkey Collage3.jpg

We headed lakefront to the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway to walk around Calhoun Lake, part of Minneapolis’s Chain of Lakes. The chain of lakes right outside downtown Minneapolis is a popular destination, second only to the Mall of America. Ugh.  DSC_0439

Finally, a late lunch at Ecopolitan, a building with natural health services and a raw, vegan cafe. DSC_0442

Of course it was the raw, vegan cafe that drew us in. We started with the Cashew Cheese Log rolled in sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and fresh basil, served with sweet marinated onions and very hearty flax crackers. And a balsamic reduction. The exterior of the log had all that flavor, inside–deliciously creamy, soft and subtle. DSC_0447

For my entree, I chose “Surprise Me,” an option where the chef creates a unique dish for you. It was risky but they were out of the one thing on the menu I felt strong about. I was indecisive about what I wanted. So I received this stuffed pepper loaded with their zucchini noodles, a ground nut concoction, fresh avocado and drizzled with a nut cream and surrounded by vibrant sprouts and veggies. It felt so good to eat raw… everything was so fresh and flavorful. My tastebuds stung and tingled with delight.DSC_0450

Next it was onward to Fargo, North Dakota, our most western point on the itinerary. As summer and being further west has the sun going down at almost half past nine, we took advantage of the prolonged daylight. We  squeezed one more meal in. This quickie was from Red Raven, an esperesso “parlor” / performance and art space in an old firehouse.DSC_0462

The sammy: a curried chickpea “salad” on toasted seeded bread. It was simple but really good. Nice work, Fargo.DSC_0460

The Art Deco Ambassador Hotel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)DSC_0152

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Mexican chocolate cake from Outpost Natural Foods (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)DSC_0164

Lake Michigan at Bradford Beach. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)DSC_0193

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Vegan dairy options at Babe’s Ice Cream. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)DSC_0213

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Monty’s Blue Plate Diner‘s vegan menu. (Madison, Wisconsin)DSC_0222

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Heathen Vegan Shoplifter’s Delight open-faced sandwich. Portobellos, fried Bandung tempeh, red onion, and fresh avocado with lemon tahini dressing on a baguette.DSC_0219

The Infinity Room at the House on the Rock, a glorious and fascinating place, suspended and overlooking the forest below.DSC_0235

Section 2’s carousel was breathtaking. These pictures hardly do it any justice.DSC_0246

Circus collection was also a draw. This man collected everything old and neat and housed it in this maze-like structure. It was dizzying and fantastic.DSC_0293

Everything moved and jangled. DSC_0300

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Sweet Corn.IMG_9170

Dresden   Google MapsI’m so glad we made our way into the Black Forest region, heading southeast from Kemnath towards the Swiss border. Our first stop was Stuttgart. With more than 5 million people residing in the Stuttgart metropolitan region, it’s no wonder that the city is bustling the same way big cities in the states are–crawling with traffic and under development. Luckily there are vegan options to be had in an area of the city dominated by adult shops and strip clubs, oddly enough. PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe had lunch on the cobblestone corner at V Vegetarian Restaurant, a clean, posh cafe and bar offering clearly labeled vegan options in their small menu. After some help with translation from a customer and the sweet staff of V, we were ready to eat.

DSC_0007The kids are loving our vegan adventures so far! And now another American friend is town who is vegetarian, a young lady stopping on her way back to New York from studying in Russia. Given my party’s vegan friendliness, I get to see more of these eateries menus. In this shot is my rhubarb crumb cake, a German version of an Indian dish and a colorful and scrumptious-looking salad topped with nori-wrapped tofu.

DSC_0008Yes, I said vegan rhubarb crumb cake! It was delicious. I washed it down with sips of rhubarb soda.

DSC_0010I chose the Paella with rice, mushrooms, chopped green beans. The dish was flavorful but just a little mushy. I needed a contrasting texture.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg2Next on my checklist, visiting two record breaking sized cuckoo clocks. I have become exciting about cuckoo clocks since our trip to Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, contemplating buying one of these intricately carved pieces of German craftsmanship. But they’re a hefty Euro. This large one in Triberg was a fun stop. The clock was surrounded by a bunch of similar-minded weirdos awaiting the cuckoo’s arrival on the hour. We basked in the beauty of the area while we waiting in a prime viewing spot.

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DSC_0059After the cuckoo cuckooed, we walked the shopping strip in Triberg, pouring over the wooden crafts quickly as most shops closed at 6pm. There were clock shops a-plenty that may have taken a large chunk of my discretionary income had they been open.

DSC_0069Views around the Black Forest were astonishing. Tremendous trees filled the hills of the region, dotted with traditional German dwellings with beautiful wood-carved balconies.

DSC_0083When kids are hungry, you can’t make them travel hours for a vegan options. I ordered a pizza with no cheese at an Italian cafe in town. Though my pizza had peas, carrots, and corn on it, it was pretty satisfying. We did, after all, have a hike to do! We made our way to the tallest waterfalls in Germany.

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DSC_0155It was nice to be able to watch the sun set from the forest.

DSC_0147This was my favorite shot.

DSC_0167Although we were all tired, enthusiasm still lingered for finding the other huge cuckoo clock in town. We got there way after the adjoining shops were closed but the clock had a coin-operated mechanism. We dropped a EU in and the sleepy clock awoke. A languid music box melody chimed from it as villagers filed in and out of the top of the clock.

DSC_0173Another beautiful and unique sight here on my trip to Germany. Goodnight!

ALDSC_0003It was a long drive into Birmingham, Alabama. After hours of being snug between rolling green acres with the occasional billboard, sometimes a city comes out of the night and disorients you. Birmingham was faster than I expected. I slept in and slept off my highway stupor and needed a good breakfast to fuel me for the long day of sites and sounds. Luckily there is Golden Temple Natural Grocery & Cafe, the area’s only all-vegetarian cafe inside a limited natural foods grocer. The cafe opens at 11 a.m., which left me some time to browse the arsenal of Wiccan Goddess supplies in the shop.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgI tried not to bum-rush the cafe counter at 11 a.m. but I did–just like I did yesterday at Loblolly Creamery. I was elated to see they had a batch of vegan cupcakes freshly made for me to eat. They were supposed to be Red Velvet but the baker had some struggles with beet juice coloring. This she told me as I waited for my juice order. Yes, a cupcake and some fresh-pressed juice. I told you I dance on the poles.

IMG_4266I thought the cupcake was quite good. The texture was very soft. My eager chompers melted through the cake easily. Pretty good, Birmingham!

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgOh, what’s that? Lunch happens immediately after breakfast on the road? Sure. I headed to Bottletree Cafe, an adorable cafe/bar/venue that is covered wall-to-wall in the most impressive display of vintage kitsch delights. It reminded me of my teenage bedroom, a treasure trove of thrift-shopped bric-a-brac. Or like Loves Saves the Day in NYC’sEast Village in the 90’s. When I arrived Star Wars was playing on the huge projector screen. I would have loved to eat lunch watching Luke Jedi-train in the Dagobah system, but the lighting would be horrible for pictures.

DSC_0015I came to Bottletree for their vegan wrap option–the Tofu Thai Wrap. Battered and fried strips of tofu, splashed with a sweet chili garlic sauce, sprinkled with chopped red onion and packaged with shredded lettuce, shaved carrot and cilantro. It really hit the spot- sweet, heat, and fried spots to be specific.

DSC_0018Look at this outstanding dense tofu all stark white. And a side of quinoa!

losthwAfter my morning in Birmingham, the plan was to stop in Montgomery. There were a few food options I wanted to check out, and a few roadside attractions. Two of which had to do with Hank Williams. But the drive to Montgomery was mostly dark grey. With most of the trip to Mobile being alongside these fickle rainy fits, I thought I’d press on south on the Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway with Hank Williams on the speakers instead.

In and out of heavy downpours, I managed a few scenic stops, one at a fill-up in Clanton when this huge peach caught my eye…

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And another in Prattville to see W.C. Rice’s Cross Garden.

IMG_4273This reminds me of the Buddhist hells I visited in Thailand.

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DSC_0032“Hell is Hot, Hot, Hot” was all over the place. On ovens…

DSC_0037and old air conditioners…

DSC_0029On pretty much everything.

After Hank Williams on repeat, I was happy to have the chance to stop at his childhood home in Georgiana, Alabama. The home is now a museum, which was closed when I got there unfortunately.

DSC_0041I was happy I was able to see it.

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DSC_0049My final stop for the day was in Mobile at the Mellow Mushroom, a “funky” pizza chain with locations all about the south. The place was packed with University kids and yuppy middle aged men in in Denali vests. A bad scene all around. I order a tofu, tempeh, basil, tomato and artichoke calzone to go and made a b-line to Gulfport, Mississippi to settle in for my last night down south.

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DSC_0053Goodnight, Mississippi! See you in the morning.

DSC_0003Nothing will settle me into a day of auto/train/plane travel than a hearty breakfast. And there was still time to squeeze in another stop in Atlanta. Breakfast would be served at Stone Soup Kitchen, yet another bustling breakfast spot in the hip Grant Park area.

DSC_0001Stone Soup Kitchen offeres patrons a menu with vegan dishes clearly marked. Thank you for this, Stone Kitchen! They also offered me vegan butter for my delicious Blueberry Corn Meal Flapjacks, made with soy yogurt and my friend Bob Mills’ gluten-free flour. Finally, a meal that isn’t predominantly constructed and bound by gluten! I am ashamed to say that I ate 4 out of 5 of these darlings… Ashamed, because trip s like this make me feel like Audrey in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. It’s ok. With my entire day tied up in some kind of transport machine, it was the last of my gluttonous mission.

It was time to say goodbye to the 7-lane north and south ping-pong of my Hotlanta excursion, time to say goodbye to Southern drawls, time to say goodbye to the obscenely ugly, bright purple-blue Hyundai Accent. And with easy-on/easy-off interstate access around the block from Stone Soup Kitchen, I managed to return my vehicle to the airport 3 days later on the exact minute of my pick-up. Stick a fork in me, I am done!

Here are some other non-food sights:

DSC_0011Cornelia, Georgia is home of the Big Red Apple, a bright, sweet fruit in a salad of the Gods. Why the apple? Pardon the Wiki paraphrase: The embrace of apple production in the 1920’s saved the area from the evil boll weevil who munched the heck out of the state’s cotton fields and pushed rural folk to the bigger cities.

DSC_0019The town was empty, save for an awesome old couple taking pictures of the apple.

DSC_0029I past this impressive auto salvage castle on Interstate 365 on the way to Cornelia. I thought I’d stop in and take some pictures on the way back. The friendly white-bearded proprietor let me know this was a very common occurrence. The elaborate auto salvage “theme park,” lined by a stacked-car fence, is visited often. An area college’s photography class does field trips there.

DSC_0038I had free roam to the expansive property, but I wasn’t going to stay long. For a million reasons. The eerie feel of the place began to make me feel claustrophobic. All of these vehicles were destroyed and they still seemed angry about it.

DSC_0044But I had to take a closer look at these buses. These were like the ones that got thrown at Superman.

DSC_0054School buses in fetal position.

IMG_3060If cars had a hell, this would be it.

IMG_3070I saw a billboard for Cinderella’s Closet, a pageant shop, and knew I had to capture some of the color. I was disappointed that the gaudiest dresses were bagged up. The place had two mini-stages with cat walks.

IMG_3071Bad taste for every age!

IMG_3082Back at the hotel I spied these two little kitties on top of the dumpster. I watched them intently for a few minutes, missing my little buddies back in New York.

So Oklahoma City, yeah. This trip has officially come full-circle. We passed through Oklahoma at the start of our trip 12 days ago but did not stop. Even though I had discovered the raw restaurant 105 Degrees via ye olde google search, time was not on our side and we’d have to waste a good deal of time to try it out. We pledged to come back on the return trip. I mean, c’mon… gourmet vegan dining in Oklahoma City?! We needed to get to the bottom of this.

As it turns out, 105 Degrees’s menu was is created by New York City’s Pure Food and Wine‘s Matthew Kenney. The space houses a living cuisine academy and boutique, another unique destination on our vegan roadtrip. Starting our day with some thrifting we worked up an appetite that grew through our attempt at finding the restaurant’s space. But it was well worth the wait and folly. I started with a first course of kimchee dumplings in a pool of sea foam and sprinkle of black sesame seeds. The dumplings were amply stuffed with a delicious kimchee medley.
My main course was their Arrabiata, a potato gnocchi in a hot chili-tomato sauce around a bed of wilted spinach and some dollops of aged raw chevre. The portion was heated (not above 105 degrees!) and the perfect portion to leave a spot for one of their yummy desserts.
That dessert, a citrus poppy seed cake with vanilla bean cream frosting topped with a blueberry compote. It was the perfect end of a very impressive meal. Here I am below with a cheek full of the cake’s delicately-texture “cake”. I couldn’t put my finger on what the base of this dessert was. I stopped trying to figure it out and quickly became a member of the clean plate club. Check CandyPenny’s blog for details on her special raw Oklahoma City meal.After lunch we headed back towards Texas. On the way we spied a billboard for The Toy and Action Figure Museum in Paul’s Valley, OK. Another exciting and interesting road find, we had to check it out. The museum was home to local artist and collector Kevin Stark’s personal collection. It exhibited over 10,000 pieces including a very extensive bat cave jam-packed with a ton of Batman artifacts. This was the most impressive and extensive exhibit. There were also showcases of DC, Marvel and WWF (WWE?) action figures, a GI Joe section and a relatively small Star Wars wall.
The museum also had a display of Alternative Baking Company‘s vegan cookies! Here the friendly museum employee poses with the cookies. Best action figure museum snack ever.
Oklahoma soon gave way to the Lone Star state. The end. I’ll have one more day in Austin before heading back home to my life, sans car. But not without a few more vegan eats inland…

Steve Heller’s Auto Art, Route 28, Boiceville, NY

Kelder’s Farm/World’s Largest Garden Gnome, Route 209, Kerhonkson, NY

Thrift stores/Swap meets/flea markets/antique shops, Napanoch, NY