Currently viewing the tag: "roadside attractions"

For as long as I have worked, I have always taken off my birthday. It’s a gift I give myself–to be under no obligations but my own. So I do the things I enjoy… driving and finding new places to take pictures of.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville has a shrubbery Rosary Walk and a Stations of the Cross exhibit. Both are nestled in the calm, peaceful woods. You can walk about, unbothered.PicMonkey Collage2







And an old favorite of a roadside attraction, “The Big Duck.” This quacker is a Long Island icon. PicMonkey Collage


Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant in East Shoreham never really was a functional nuclear plant. Though its construction topped $2 billion, red tape and public outcry–especially after the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor breakdown and, later, the horrendous Chernobyl disaster–ultimately decommissioned the plant in the late 80’s. But the turquoise wonder still sits in Shoreham behind the trees of the now plentiful homes in the area. Its nuclear materials gone since the 90’s, the site is now a vessel of alternative energy, though I couldn’t see the turbines. But then again, I prefer the idea of roaming about a bright turquoise abandoned nuclear power plant…

The view from the trees of Creek roadDSC_0066

Further west on Creek rd, next to some fancy homes and local beach access, is a docking area with a parking lot. Some old timer was clamming in the teal waters when I pulled up. I followed the foot path towards the plant. The surrounding creek was teeming with life… loon-y looking birds, a swan couple, and lots of aquatic activity. DSC_0087


In kind of nearby Riverhead, I ate lunch–looking out at the Peconic river. Turkuaz Grill has plenty for a vegan to choose from… and they know where the dairy is. I started with Acili Ezme, minced tomatoes, peppers, onions, walnut, spices, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. Delicious on fresh, soft pita. IMG_3376

Then, the falafel platter. My waiter made some substitutions to make it dairy-free, but I avoided the beets because I convinced myself they were covered in yogurt. It was a fresh, flavorful secretly-my-birthday lunch. IMG_3381

Smudgy window pictures of peaking foliage look like paintings. The power, phone and cable lines bisect the beautiful scenery, designating layers. And the rolling Catskills, blotted with orange, carry the cloud’s shadow spots. I love autumn in the east, where the trees give up for the winter. But not before saying goodbye beautifully.DSC_0006








Robibero Family Vinyards in New Paltz, New York had its annual grape-stomping festival this weekend, the first weekend of autumn. It was the perfect excuse to run north for the day with CP. After managed expectations, I was delighted by the peaceful, bucolic property and the opportunity to check another item off my bucket list.

But I had to look the part first. PicMonkey CollageBarefoot and waiting. The bushels of Concord grapes ready for squishing.PicMonkey Collage2

We were the second stomp, so new grapes had to be added.

It feels exactly like you think it would.


Such a beautiful, bright color!IMG_2543

Grape-covered toes.IMG_2550

A quick soak (and foot massage!) for vineyard personnel. Hmmmm.IMG_2552

When vegans are in New Paltz, they go to Lagusta’s Luscious. It’s just that simple. Her signature blue ought to be trademarked, like TiffanyIMG_2565

At Lagusta’s, the creme de la creme of vegan sweet treats mingle together, BiFFers Lagusta’s chocolates & Sweet Maresa‘s macarons and baked yummies.

My box of chocolates, Sweet Maresa’s rose and cardamom cupcake, a chocolate macaron, some enormous ice cream caramel chocolate thing, and, in the bag, Miyoko cheese. Yet another vegan goddess enters the picture! Not to mention to two vegan babe customers. PicMonkey Collage3

And speaking of goddess, check out my chocolates, including the famous Furious Vulva. Also: Maple Pecan Caramel, Strawberry Balsamic Caramel, Eggplant Miso Truffle, Peanut butter cup, Thyme lemon seas lat caramel, Basil truffle with corn, and Rosemary sea salt carmel.IMG_2571

New World Home Cooking in Saugerties, New York has some great vegan options, most notably are the 5 types of seitan wings!PicMonkey Collage4

We also go the vegan poutine fries. IMG_2595

The wings were unreal–deliciously tender and succulent scratch made seitan with a yummy red BBQ sauce.IMG_2597


Our entree was a bit of mismash of underseasoned, sauce-less vegetables. Should have order a few more plates of wings. IMG_2602

One roadside attraction on the way back, the Poutine / Furious Vulva sculpture outside of Rockland County’s courthouse. IMG_2607


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


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,

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









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


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









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


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

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




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


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!

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.


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


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.

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.


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



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.






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


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.

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…

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