Buford, Wyoming has only one resident, a Vietnamese man who bought the entire town on eBay. Don Sammons, Buford’s previous lone resident who built the town from nothing and wrote a book about his adventure moved away. So it is still population 1. I stopped in to see if I could meet the new sole resident of the town. But it was 3 in the morning.
Finally, I arrived at my home for the next two nights, Teton Village in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, right outside of Grand Teton National Park. And it was time for some food and relaxation, starting with Lotus Café. The café offers plenty of delicious vegan options, like flavorful tofu scrambles, cashew cheese lasagna, as well as a slew of delicious share plates, bowls, burgers, and salads. If you’re spying their menu, note that the “V” means it can be made vegan, which is a significant portion of the menu.
I got the tofu scramble, mostly because it’s got everything you could want, even housemade vegan sour cream.
After and before some rest, I entered Grand Teton National Park some sightseeing in front of my day tomorrow, which will be more scenic-intensive. And I had a quickie photo shoot at the Moulton Barn on Antelope Flats Road, known as the most photographed barn in America (see history here).
Goodnight, Wyoming. You’re beautiful. Much more tomorrow. I’m just way too tired.
Lest you think me a sunflower stalker (I am), please know that Babbette’s Seeds of Hope was the first field of sunflowers I knew about, though I suppose I realized they existed, and the very first field of sunflowers I intended to visit… the reason for the route I established for this trip months ago, was Babette’s Seeds of Hope. It was about the chance to walk within rows of towering sunflowers, yes. But it was the story behind these fields too. A passionate Wisconsin farmer, Babette was known as the sunflower lady. When she passed away after a 9-year battle with cancer at the age of 66, her husband planted miles of sunflowers along the highway in memory of his love. Babette’s Seeds of Hope are now blooming all over as those moved by her story purchase her seeds, which partly benefit cancer research.
So, more pictures of beautiful sunflowers. You got a problem wit that?!
Lessons learned from sunflowers: Bask.
Look on the sunny side of things.
Keep friends that have similar interests.
Keep your head up.
Share what you have. (with bees and others)
Build an army.
In the cute little town of Menomie, Wisconsin is a darling little eatery with plenty of vegan options. The Raw Deal offers healthful options in dairyland. It was a welcome spot to recharge.
I had a flax wrap filled with walnut pate and some fresh veggies. And a slice of choco-nilla pie. Hearty and satisfying.
Finally, Herbivorous Butcher, the world’s first full-scale vegan “butcher.” What vegan doesn’t want the chance to visit their local butcher?!
They had plenty of meaty stuff to feast on, though I was just browsing.
I did get a sammy to go. An Italian cold cut hero with their meats and housemade nut cheese and that oil and vinegar dressing. Tasted like a memory. Delicious.
Guess where I am…Yes, I’m in Iowa! Vegan Victuals is now reporting in 48 states! So let’s get to my lunch.
I decided that Krunkwich Ramen House in Des Moines, Iowa had the best vegan options in the whole state. Krunkwich has a wonderfully appetizing selection of clearly identified vegan options, from Asian fusion-y ramen, bowl, rice, noodles and stir fries, to mac and cheese and flavor-packed sandwiches. It was hard to choose an option. The pressure of one meal moment in time!
The counter gal steered me toward the starter special, the Heirloom Salad with tofu crumbles. An amazing choice. My tastebuds were doing cartwheels in excitement. Vibrant, flavorful, summer-y. Perfect.
Then, the sandwich of equal quality. The Vegan “Burnt Ends” sandwich: Crispy seitan, smoked onions, the delicious housemade “BB-Jang” sauce, housemade spicy slaw with a couple of their house pickles on the side. It was messy and heavenly. Krunwich is totally real deal. I am so glad I chose them for my only meal in Iowa.
Though there were several roadside attraction fails that ate up some of my time, I was most looking forward to visiting the memorial in the place where the music died. The fateful plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and Big Bopper was in Clear Lake, Iowa. Today, you can access the crash site and pay your respects to the young musicians and pilot. Such a sad piece of rock ‘n roll history.
Situated at the end of a cleared path surrounded by cornfields, marked only by these glasses at its start, you understand how desolate the crash site was, and why it took a search party to locate the plane. The quiet and peaceful walk is somber and fitting.
Butterflies and striking dragonflies danced around me as I walked the path… Flirting and perhaps fascinated, I was delighted that they were purposefully playing with me. A butterfly flew with me the entire path back to the entrance. (!!)
The actual site of the crash has this memorial. To the right was another memorial for the pilot of the plane.
Rancho Deluxe Z, the art project of Max Weaver, is a less somber roadside attraction in the area. You know I love this weird stuff!
After driving in Iowa all day, I enjoyed seeing these giant windmills in between all the GMO fields of corn. I was trying to capture how cool they looked, but it was difficult.
That’s all I got, Iowa. Here is my electronic Iowa postcard. The caption: Is that an ear of corn in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
First: The Sunflowers on I-90 in South Dakota.
As I travel west on the I-90 a couple of days back, I noticed a dramatic yellow hue contrasting the prairie’s muted landscape on the eastbound side of the interstate. Sunflowers. I did some recon later on and learned that South Dakota was a huge exporter of sunflower seeds. This made sense because the sunflowers seemed so meticulously planted–rows and rows in perfect lines, all similar heights. It was partly why the sight had been so dramatic. Thousands of sunflower faces peering upward towards the sun. It was amazing just to see from the other side of the interstate. But I wanted in.
I knew that today, heading back east, I’d be able to explore the possibility of exploring the fields. Seeing the electric fences that lined many of the grazing fields along the highway, I knew it might not be a possibility. But with the sun in perfect position on a cool 70 degree morning, there the sunflowers were, calling my name. I got off the nameless exit 177, drove down a gravely (Bork Rd) road and made a right so I would be on the backside of the fields I saw from the highway. The road was empty and had enough space for me to park the car on the side of the road. No fences, just layers of brush that, I’d discover, were teeming with living things surprised by my presence. I was very excited, maybe even kind of frantic. I navigated through the brush clumsily, learning the land quickly after almost sinking in a mote-like swamp. I ran towards the parts that had less brush. I was really running. And then I was face to face with the fields. I am so glad I am a person who can get this excited by sunflowers.
I would learn later, as I continued east on the I-90, that I had chosen the largest sunflower field at peak bloom.
The layers of brush in front of the fields.
Ok, I’ll stop deconstructing sunflowers. Here are some of my pictures.
These small “sunflower-y” weeds are all over South Dakota. It was neat to see them hanging out with the big boys.
Yellow as far as the eye can see.
Onward, there’s this kooky roadside attraction in Mitchell, South Dakota–a palace made of corn–that was not really worth a stop, though I appreciated the metal theme they had for 2016.
This is why it’s a corn palace.
My last stop on the way out of South Dakota was a spectacular sculpture park in Montrose. Unlike the corn palace, Porter Sculpture Park is one of those roadside attraction that is truly worthwhile. Tremendous welded sculptures by an artist who never took an art class. Wayne Porter’s works are truly unique. They’re light-hearted and fun but cerebral. Many are paired with poetic statements about the work. Truly clever and heart-warming with just enough thought provocation to inspire… without pretension.
The sculpture park is listed in Time magazine’s top 50 roadside attractions. (Factoid: I’ve only been to 8 of the 50. Goals.)
Forget SoHo, art looks great in the prairie.
Wayne Porter is a vegetarian. I had a hunch when I saw this work.
Now that’s a scream.
You can walk into this bull head.
I loved this goldfish sculpture about goldfish busting out to be free.
Here is the artist, Wayne Porter, and his beautiful albino pooch who he credits as co-artist. What a wonderful stop!
The adorable cows who neighbor the Port Sculpture Park.
Finally, Nebraska. Of course I had dinner at Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Modern Love in Omaha. I was beginning to worry that I would hit Isa’s second Modern Love location, opening soon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before making it out to Omaha.
My selection: the barbeque seitan steaks with smoky grilled corn, herb butter, warm red potato salad, coleslaw, and salted watermelon. Every tastebud satisfied. A beautiful dinner that was picture perfect, in the best food blogger seat in the house.
By the time dinner was done, heavy downpours started in downtown Omaha. They followed me back to the hotel.
My to-go dessert from Modern Love, a lime coconut cream pie. Um, heck yes!
More adventures tomorrow…
It costs an arm and a leg to fly into South Dakota. But that’s okay. My preferred mode of transport is auto. And it’s only a few hours from the busy, well-established Minneapolis, Minnesota. But with lofty goals for my day one, I hauled butt past a few roadside attractions I might have considered otherwise. World’s Largest Ball of Twine would be second fiddle to the wealth of attractions in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
So South Dakota has two main cities: Sioux Falls, near the eastern border, and Rapid City, near the western border. The western region of the state offers much more, in my humble opinion. But I did stop at Sanaas Gourmet Mediterranean in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a bite. I think I was here before–in 1999 when I drove cross country. I think.
I had the Sweet Potato Fatayer, a vegan version of what is traditionally a Middle Eastern meat pie. And a quinoa salad and hummus on the side.
A tiny church for little prayers.
A sucker for a series of billboards over a large stretch of interstate, I stopped at 1880 Town.
Burning daylight, I was off to Badlands National Park, trying to squeeze in a few of the shorter hikes before the 8:12 sunset. Of course, I also wanted to see the sun go down over the striated, layered expanse of geologic deposits. The striking landscape was formed tens of millions of years ago then eroded by the Cheyenne River flowing from the Black Hills.
It is amazing to me how quickly you can discover rural charm outside of the bustling New York City area. It takes about two hours. Those are sloooow, traffic-stricken hours… at any hour. But it’s worth it.
Lambertville, New Jersey, which sits on the Delaware River on the state border, is a charming little town. You know the kind–25 MPH speed limit, colorful, maintained row houses, a rainbow flag here and yoga studio there speaking for the town’s values. Its ma and pop‘s eateries have vegan options (next time) and its Golden Nugget Antiques Flea Market is an institution.
The flea market is open 3 times a week, bringing a slew of gypsies and vagabounds. I stopped by hoping to find kooky stuff for my classroom. I left empty-handed after a couple of hours of browsing.
Cross a small bridge and you’re in New Hope, Pennsylvania, another charming town with lots going for it. The streets were bustling with patrons window-shopping, drinking complicated coffee concoctions, and taking in the sights. This is the home to the always-delicious Sprig & Vine, who beat the heavier, unknown vegan lunch options back in New Jersey. Sometimes even this intrepid vegan blogger sticks to what she knows.
I had a small plate of scrambled tofu soft tacos. They were absolutely perfect. Every bite.
The local Sole kombucha was also just what I needed after sorting through antiques in the blazing sun.
Next, I headed back towards New York by way of Trenton. Trenton is the home of Grounds For Sculpture, an outstanding sculpture garden that is my new favorite place in New Jersey. After being cooped up at home sick, there was nothing more invigorating than spending an afternoon amongst towering pieces of art inside lush nature.
I was excited to see the American Gothic couple. I wondered if this same work was what I saw being transported in Florida in 2008.
The bummer of my flight being cancelled seemed to infiltrate my food choices, too. I plan to make up for these less than wonderful options with a kick-butt breakfast tomorrow. But first, some roamings: The Babcock Building of the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, now empty and decaying.
The UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Though visitors are invited to enter, it didn’t look to sturdy.
A hasty choice in lunch back in Charleston, Dellz Uptown is kind of frozen in time.
Tell me you wouldn’t totally be thrill about this wrap in 1996.
And I kid you not that I could NOT break this cookie in half with my hands.
And now, eager for a satisfying sweet treat, dreaming of Sweet Theory Baking Co. from yesterday, I gave Cupcake Downsouth a try. They had a vegan option on Fridays. But I guess today… I can’t get no satisfaction.
Taste, texture, frosting… all ummm, huh? It is great that they offer vegan options, but I think the recipe needs to be overhauled.
I think the record heat index is messing me all up. I decided on pizza chain Mellow Mushroom for dinner. You can veganize their pizzas with some effort. If you have time to wait a few tries for them to get it right.
This is the 3rd pie they had to make me. I appreciate them catching the errors, but would have preferred the pizza I asked for in a reasonable amount of time. They did comp it in the end, however.
And it still wasn’t what I asked for. They left off the tofu. And the other toppings were really sparse. What the heck today?
Ok, Charleston, you’re going to have to do better tomorrow.
Jacksonville, Florida has vegan credibility.
This I state enthusiastically in my head while the locals in Southern Roots Filling Station discuss New York City vegan eats. I could chime in, I suppose, and tell them that New York City isn’t all that spectacular. Well, I mean that the places they are naming are not all that spectacular. But I understand that it’s partly generalized New York allure. I see it all over the faces of people all over the country when they see my i.d. or ask where I’m from. It’s like having an overachiever sister who you know is super cool, but you also know that she is a pain in the ass most of the time. Anyway, this little counter spot has some great things going on. Like a ton of decadent vegan sweet treats and some sandwich basics that are perfect starts to the day.
And pretty coconut milk soy lattes.
And local made cheesy spread on the perfect slice of bread. Shakti Life Kitchen makes some of their nut cheeses, but I don’t recall of that is what I got.
So yeah, Jacksonville. And vegan credibility. Sweet Theory Baking Company. How about thee vegan best donuts? For reals. Better than San Francisco’s Pepples. Better than Portland’s Voodoo. Better than Seattle’s Mighty O. Better than Vegas’s Ronald’s Donuts. Better than Brooklyn’s Dun-well. Better than Cinnamon Snail. Minneapolis’s Glam Doll Donuts. Chicago’s Fritz Pastry. Atlanta’s Revolution Doughnuts. Better than all those round, frosted cakes with holes in other bakeries. Better than… wait–I forgot about Los Angeles’s Donut Friend. Sweet Theory has the best vegan donuts in every state but California. How about them apples? Let’s look:
The Samoa, the French Toast and a cinnamon bun. How do I drive with these things next to me?
That is donut perfection right there.
I’m now at 45 states reporting!
Yowzer. but I didn’t eat anything yet. It starts with a roadside attraction: The Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee, South Carolina.
Have to love these trees.
They’re so alive.
Such a rich history. Thankfully it is now preserved and protected.
So first eats in Charleston would have to be Gnome Cafe. I’ve fallen in love with the place via Instagram. And I think the Long Island baker from High Hopes Vegan Bakery started working here? Maybe that’s how I find out about them. I don’t remember.
I got the Southern Grit Bowl with geechie boy grits, sauteed kale, tofu scramble and portobello bacon. With a light sprinkle of nooch. Delectable! This is the meal I was waiting for. Flavorful, well-composed, outstanding.
Last but not least, my dinner in Columbia, SC. Sick of staying where there are roaming drug addicts and unnerving, prolonged stares from the day mayors, I shelled out a bit more for a room right smack dab in the city center. A 3-minute walk from this raw place, Good Life Cafe. I ordered pick up, avoiding the First Thursday festivities in the adjacent park, and watched the sun set from my tower. This is the good life.
#blessed #jokingnotjoking #jokingagain
Ok, here’s the mostly raw spread. And a cup of fiery, gingery kombucha from their tap. (Shuddering at landfill waste, however.)
Raw tacos: cashew nacho cheese, salsa, cashew sour cream, lettuce, walnut meat, and guacamole on flax taco shells. Walnut meat was a bit salty. Or it needed a sweet component… and some crisp crunch.
Spring rolls: kelp noodles, avocado, carrots, lettuce, mango, red pepper, herbs, cucumber rolled in a rice paper wrap. So good.
And the sunset in the buildings. And you can see the shadow of the capital building. Goodnight, South Carolina!
When I picked up my rental car in Charleston and started on Highway 17 south to start my trip, I saw these sunflowers–a bright smear of yellow. Happy faces peeking from a lush sea of green. I love sunflowers. There would be hardly much more pleasing than to frolic between rows of sunflowers with my camera.
But I’d only been driving like 20 minutes after a delayed flight and was eager to make up some time on the road. So I drove past, dismissing the notion of pulling over for a stop so soon. But I couldn’t shake the regret for the many miles that went by. Even though I’d be at Babette’s Seeds of Hope next week, I knew that there wouldn’t be blooms in Minnesota like this bloom down south and its sweltering sun. I kept saying the name of the farm in my head, or what I though was the name: “Chaucy Farms.” I said it similar to David Brent when he is mentioning Canterbury Tales to Tim. Then I remembered 17 (as in 17 south) by singing Winger’s Seventeen.
So on my way back into Charleston, I was hawking the side of the road, ready to pull in and inquire about whether I could take pictures. Long story short, I made it and was given permission to take pictures. So these are a few of my favorite things: a whole lot of sunflowers.
This reminds me of “God’s Coming, Look Busy.”
The sun was so powerful, most of the sunflowers were staring at their feet. Shoe gazers. This made me love them more. I imagine them as introverts trying to lessen the stimulations of their environment.
Some fresh ones
I want to photshop books underneath all their heads.
Some were completely burned out.
How wonderful that so much land would be used for these sunflowers, which bear no fruit or profit.
There is the sunflower seeds I suppose.
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