Junketing In Cattle Country

I recently took another road trip to Nebraska.  I celebrated meeting my new great nieces and my great nephew as well as my sister’s birthday over Easter weekend.  I was looking forward to spending time with my family but road trips always involve a frenetic shopping trip to throw together a vegan survival kit and concern over where/what I’m going to eat during vacation.

It turns out I get a little carried away when it comes to vegan survival kits.  I pack for a road trip like I’m worried my family and I will end up in the wilderness somewhere and only my bag of goodies will prevent us from having to eat each other.  This road trip was no exception.  I filled a re-usable shopping bag with vegan options to take with and ended up using a container of chocolate almond milk and two packets of peanut butter.  After more than one road trip under my belt, I’m determined that-next time-I’ll remember moderation is key.

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Chocolate Almond Milk for my coffee and Peanut Butter-Survival Kit Staples

Bosselman’s in Big Springs is regular stop for us when we head into Nebraska.  It’s typical truck stop fare and the salad bar can be a little problematic.  If interested, you can read about a previous stop here.  The night of this particular stop was chilly and a plate of raw veggies didn’t sound appetizing.  A perusal of the menu revealed spaghetti and meatballs.  I questioned our waitress about vegetable side dishes and, while there aren’t any, the waitress was more than willing to scavenge some broccoli from the salad bar, ask the cook to steam it, and toss it with my spaghetti and no meatballs.  The sauce itself didn’t contain meat so I figure I did pretty well.

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Not bad! Avoid the jar of Parmesan and dinner is served.

Breakfasts on our road trip were partaken of at Perkins.  It’s another place where it’s difficult to be vegan but a solid meal can be put together from the side dish menu.  Oatmeal is only served until 11am so, as we were running a bit late heading toward my sister’s place, I chose fried potatoes (cooked in olive oil-I asked the waitress and she checked with the kitchen 🙂 ), fresh fruit and a dry English muffin with one of my peanut butter packets.

The oatmeal isn’t bad.  I had it for breakfast the day we headed home and, if you ever stop at Perkins, the oatmeal is made with water-not milk.

Perkins Blog

I was able to cook at my sister’s for the remainder of our trip but there was going to be a stop on our way back home.  This ended up being my favorite and the most vegan friendly stop on our trip.  Ruby Tuesday has recently revamped their salad bar and my family and I stopped at the location in North Platte.  The garden bar is a bit pricey-$9.99-and the addition of an avocado is $2.00.  I was tempted but I didn’t need the avocado.  The garden bar is a vegan smorgasbord.  Mixed greens, fresh vegetables, seeds, beans, non-dairy vinaigrette…everything a vegan needs to be happy and healthy.  Considering the freshness of the ingredients and the myriad options, the price didn’t seem stiff at all.

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Why make a second trip when I can just pile my plate really really high?

 

Nebraska is definitely a state where beef is king and yet, it is possible to keep to a vegan diet without feeling deprived.  I look forward to the next one, especially with four adorable babies to visit.

Out On The Highway

I am a Great Aunt!

I am not speaking of how wonderful an Aunt I am, though I am fantastic.  The “Great”, in this case, speaks of age.  My niece has had a baby.  Since some cuddling of the newborn was in order, my family and I headed out on another road trip.  We were leaving after I got off work, so dinner along the interstate was going to be a necessity.

Nebraska is undeniably beef country.  There is no shortage of places where one can get a steak or hamburger.  Fortunately for the traveling vegan, Nebraska also has several Asian and Mexican restaurants.  My step-father doesn’t care for Asian food so a Mexican restaurant was the only option.  My mother and I logged on to Trip Advisor and set to searching for an eatery in the Ogallala, NE area.  For this road trip, we decided on Mi Ranchito.

The restaurant is about what you’d expect regarding vegan option.  There are vegetarian fajitas, a guacamole tostada, and bean burritos.  The menu has a little green ‘v’ next to the bean burrito which indicates a vegetarian choice but I don’t know if that means the beans are made without lard.  The burrito does come with cheese and the photo on the menu shows the side beans covered with cheese.  Fortunately, the helpful staff is willing to leave the cheese off.  Same with any sour cream.

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The only complaint I have about my meal is how salty I found the rice.  I can’t say whether or not the rice was inordinately salty or if my focusing on raw foods in my daily diet has made me more sensitive to the salt content in prepared food.  I couldn’t eat it.  I have no complaints about the bean burrito itself.  It was filling, tasty, and void of dairy products.

I have no complaints about the staff.  Everyone was friendly and willing to make changes for me.  I didn’t have to specifically ask for the cheese to be left off the side of beans.  I asked for “no cheese” and no cheese was what I got: both in the burrito on for the side.  The chips were free, crispy,  and not too salty and served to scoop up my side of beans.  My water glass was always full.

If you find yourself driving down I80 in Nebraska, you’re feeling peckish and in need of a vegan meal, try Mi Ranchito.  You can’t miss it.  Just look for the glowing cactus.

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It was too dark for me to get the details of the sign.

 

What’s In Your Survival Kit?

I recently had to go out of town for an overnight visit and my destination was a small town in Colorado I was certain wouldn’t be vegan friendly.  I checked out restaurants in the area and neither the Asian or Mexican food place had very high reviews.  As my only other options were steak and burgers, I put together a survival kit.

This kit was a little different as I knew I would have access to an oven.  This opened up the survival kit to include a frozen Daiya brand pizza.  I knew I could keep it frozen in a cooler until time to cook it and purchasing the pizza meant I wouldn’t be spending money at a restaurant.  The pizza was on sale so it cost me about 6 bucks: I’ve never been able to put a vegan meal together for that while eating out.  I also included my french press: something I don’t travel with very often.  I figured odds of it getting broken during an overnight stay were fairly slim and I knew I would need excellent, fresh coffee in the morning.  A little chocolate almond milk as coffee creamer and I’d be ready to go.

While the french press isn’t a staple in my survival kits, my electric kettle is.  I think it was Sassy at Vegan Coach who first suggested getting one but I don’t remember for certain.  Whoever it was, it was a genius idea.  A traveling kettle lets me make tea, oatmeal, and soup.  Instant oatmeal and containers of soup are integral parts of my survival kits.  I like Dr. McDougall’s brand: just add water and dinner is instant!  I didn’t bring instant oatmeal with me this time.  I had access to a refrigerator as well as an oven so made some overnight oats with oatmeal, chia seeds, dates, cinnamon, and almond milk.  Give it a mix, stick it in the fridge and breakfast is ready the next morning.  I included some pecans and figured my protein needs were covered.  Almost.

I never travel without packets of peanut butter.  Justin’s is one of my go to brands but Wild Friends make some fun combinations and aren’t too expensive.  I’d used all my Wild Friends peanut butter from my last road trip but Justin’s saved the day.  I popped two packets into my carry on in case I needed a protein boost.  I also included a scoop of my Amazing Meal Chocolate Meal Replacement and a container of rice milk so I’d have a smoothie the next day just in case.  Just in case what?  Who knows what can happen in the wilds of Colorado?

I admit it: I may over plan.

I finished off my survival kit with two cookies from the Alternative Baking Company: an oatmeal raisin and lemon poppy seed.  These are fabulous vegan cookies and they travel very well.  I could think of several more things I should take with me; again, just in case, but only had so much space in my carry-on.  I decided my survival was assured and quit packing.

Sure enough, I didn’t need half of what I packed but I like to be prepared for any  eventuality.  I’m certain that, next time, I won’t pack half so much.  😉

 

 

The Go-To Restaurant

My family seems to find go-to restaurants on the trips we take together.  As none of my family are vegan, the places don’t always have a great deal of vegan options but there’s always something and the staff at these places bend over backwards to help me out.  The go-to restaurant on our Utah trip was Denny’s.  On our Nebraska trip, it was Perkins.

I used to frequent Perkins a great deal when I was in high school.  I remember meeting there with my thespian friends and indulging in Perkins’ baked goods.  I don’t indulge in the baked goods anymore.  Instead, I scour the menu looking for something that doesn’t contain eggs, meat, or dairy.

I didn’t find many but Perkins does serve oatmeal (made with water-I asked) for breakfast and the side menu is fairly extensive.  I had the oatmeal at the Perkins in North Platte: our waiter was willing to leave off the milk and the raisins and brown sugar were served on the side so I could decide how sweet I wanted my breakfast: something I appreciate.

Our next meal at Perkins was dinner in Kearney, NE.  It had been a long drive, we were tired, and our waiter was so nice.  Dr. McDougall would be thrilled with my meal: I ordered the baked potato plain-no butter-the steamed broccoli, and fresh fruit.  I reiterated no butter on the broccoli and and everything arrived butter-less.  The jacket of the potato didn’t look or taste like it had been buttered during the baking process.  I cut the potato into chucks, scooped my broccoli over the top, and added salt and pepper.  It sounds dry but it wasn’t.  The steamed broccoli was still a bit crisp and wonderfully flavorful.  The fresh fruit was a dish of  (a) grape, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon: a sweet finish to my meal.

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Don’t let its looks fool you-it’s tasty.

It’s an odd thing to not add a bean or other vegan “protein” to a meal.  It’s taken me years to be comfortable with the thought that all plants contain protein and that a meal of nothing but vegetables can be both filling and nutritious.  This meal was completely filling and yet not heavy.  I was comfortable but not stuffed when I went to bed.  My experience was so pleasant, I didn’t quibble when my Mother suggested Perkins for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning was Valentine’s Day and Perkins was PACKED.  No worries.  I was prepared.  I had a couple packets of peanut butter (a staple in my vegan survival kits) and planned to order dry toast and the oatmeal.  That is, until the waitress told me they were out of oatmeal.  Did I panic?  I think not.  I had my peanut butter, after all.  But then, my mother suggested I go to the car and get a packet of the instant oatmeal I’d purchased before beginning the road trip.  I felt a little weird about bringing an entire breakfast in for myself but the waitress said if I wanted to go get a packet, she’d be happy to prepare it for me.

Talk about service!  I retrieved a packet of blueberry-chia-quinoa oatmeal and the waitress was true to her word.  She cooked it up and served it in one of Perkins’ square plates.  She even brought me raisins just in case I wanted them.  Did I?! I am ever so grateful to her for being so kind.

My trip to Nebraska was definitely an adventure.  I’m never sure what I’m going to find in restaurants food-wise but I always find the nicest, most accommodating staff.  My thanks to everyone I met during this quick trip and especially the staff at the Kearney Perkins.

 

Nacho Typical Lunch

Do any of my fellow Nebraskans remember those old Romeo’s adds?  Nacho typical menu, nacho typical food…It will take days for me to get that song out of my head.

After a night spent in Norfolk celebrating the graduation, my family and I headed to Omaha to visit with my step-father’s sister and, as always, my family was wondering where can Kate eat?  I’d done some research and had found this helpful website.  My mom and I were reading off options when my stepfather suggested Romeo’s.  That wasn’t on the list but we googled the menu and found that there were a few bean options.  Romeo’s was a go.

Again, I found myself ordering off the side menu.  I ordered Frijoles, Spanish rice, and guacamole from the side dish menu and chips and salsa from the appetizer menu.  My family and I found it strange the chips and salsa weren’t complimentary but that didn’t end up being cause for complaint: we were given tubs of chips; enough my step auntie took some home for her grandsons.  Out of my various tubs of food, I made my own nachos.  A crispy chip, a spoonful of beans, another of rice, top with salsa and a smear of guac and chow down.  They were quite satisfying.  The chips weren’t overly salty or greasy and neither were the beans.  Not bad, though I say it myself.

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Creating Vegan Nachos

The beans were smushed rather than re-fried.  I asked the waitress and she said the beans are made fresh every day.  Since they aren’t canned, I’m fairly certain they don’t contain lard but I can’t be sure and I find there are limits to what I’m comfortable asking.  I can’t be that vegan that grills the waitstaff on how something is cooked, what oils are used, and whether or not something is completely vegan.  Knowing that about myself, I agree with Christina Pirello, Alicia Silverstone, and Sassy Knudson who all say “do the best you can”.  I did ask how the beans were prepared (hence my knowledge that they were pinto beans smushed together) and the waitress did say they would come with cheese on the top but she could ask them to leave it off.  I thanked her graciously, didn’t ask any more questions, and set to enjoying my meal.

I have never encountered unpleasant waitstaff.  People have always been willing to accommodate me and answer my questions and perhaps they wouldn’t mind more in-depth questions.  Perhaps I’ll get over my fear of being a pain.  Perhaps not.  Until then, I’ll do the best I can and enjoy nachos.

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I know it’s blurry: I have to practice taking a picture with one hand while holding food with the other.

 

 

 

In the Land of $9 Salads

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post, how I feel a pang at paying $9 for a salad but, when you’re a vegan traveling through beef country; beggars cannot be choosers.

My family and I just took a quick trip to Nebraska.  My niece graduated from Northeastern Community College’s Vet Tech program and I wanted to be there.  I am still recovering financially from the Utah trip but my niece has worked so very hard to complete her schooling, she scored a prestigious internship, and I did not want to miss her special day.

As always, I overprepared for the roadtrip.  I packed the back of the car with two bags of groceries and a cooler, just in case I couldn’t find anything to eat anywhere in Nebraska.  But, fail to plan-plan to fail as the wise say.

We began our trip soon after my getting home from work on Thursday and planned to spend our first night in North Platte.  Thus, our first meal stop was Grandma Max’s in Big Springs.

My mother and I had perused the online menu before heading out and Grandma Max’s is NOT vegan friendly.  It looked like I could order a plain baked potato and a salad from the side menu and Grandma Max’s does have a salad bar so there were, at least, vegan options.

I ran an eye over the salad bar while waiting to be seated and was both impressed and depressed.  The lettuce and vegetables were wonderfully fresh but there were no beans, all the dressings were dairy based, and half the salad bar consisted of salads that contained dairy or eggs or both.  Even the peas had been made into a salad containing eggs, cheese, and bacon (the humanity!).  The hot side of the buffet had nothing a vegan could eat beyond white rice.  Still, there were enough veggies I could get by and it seemed there were black beans somewhere in the restaurant because they were listed in the description of the taco salad under the Side Dish listings.  I asked if I could get a side of black beans with my salad bar and the waitress was happy to comply.  My salad bar cost me a dollar less because I wasn’t doing the hot side.  My cost?  You guessed it.  $9.00.

The side of black beans ended up being more of a relish.  I got a little plastic cup filled with black beans, corn, and peppers and it made a nice topper for my plate of lettuce and veggies.  As I couldn’t eat any of the dressings (even the Italian was creamy), I asked for extra lemon wedges.  I read in one of Julianna Hever’s posts that she squeezes fresh lemon juice over a salad in place of dressings and here was my change to try it.

The verdict?  It was quite good!  As I said, the veggies were wonderfully fresh and crisp, something that can be hit or miss at truck stops.  The lemon juice was tangy on the vegetables and my black bean relish added a hint of grilled flavor.  All in all, I was very pleased with my vegan dinner at Grandma Max’s.

My meal ticked several of my diet boxes.  It was mostly raw and completely oil free.  It did take a long time to eat though and I can’t thank my family enough for their patience.  A plate of roughage takes a long time to chew through at the best of times and I’ve become rather aware of chewing since reading my book on macrobiotics.  I always thought I chewed my food well enough: it wasn’t like I inhaled food off my plate and swallowed it whole but, since beginning to study macrobiotics,  I’ve tried to slow down and thoroughly chew my food.  The result has been interesting.  There are several things I can’t eat anymore because they become disgusting as they’re chewed but, oddly enough, I taste the sweetness in vegetables as I focus on chewing them.

My point being, if you find yourself at Grandma Max’s, chewing your way through a plate of raw veggies touched with a squeeze of fresh lemon, prepare your traveling companions for the time it will take.  Or, maybe order the baked potato.

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My $9.00 Salad!

 

Hunting Vegetables

Moab was truly the most vegan friendly city I found on my tour of Utah.  I was blessed to find places that offered a veg option in the smallest of Utah towns but I found the most variety in Moab.  One of the first things my mother did was pick up a 2015 Moab Menu Guide and I referenced it often.  The menu guide was especially useful for pointing out places that wanted $8.00 for a bowl of quinoa or $17.00 for a pizza.  Perhaps it’s amazing quinoa and pizza but I am not in a place in my life where I don’t blink an eye at those sorts of prices.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be in that place.  So, frugality being the word of the day, what’s a thrifty vegan to do after a long day in Arches?  The answer?  Zax!

I admit I did not set out to eat at Zax.  My family and I were hungry and, no one having made a decision on where to eat, we started down Main Street.  We’d driven a couple of blocks when this caught my eye.

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Woo Hoo! Open Flame!

Any place with open flame couldn’t be all bad and, from the street, it looked like tables were open.  My family was game and we found a parking place.  Patrons ebbed and flowed from Zax’s side door but we were assured a 10 to 15 minute wait so we claimed spaces on the bench and perused the menu.  Some of the prices made me wince but I’d seen worse.  The Zax Tasty Wrap sounded good and its $8.99 price tag included fries and a pickle.  I could wrap both my head and my budget around that and even paid the extra $1.50 for hummus.  The water with lemon was free so I felt fairly comfortable with my order.  My family ordered the pizza buffet so I was left alone to wait.

I did not have to wait long.  Zax has amazing service and my Tasty Wrap lived up to its name.  The veggies were fresh and crisp, my tomato/basil tortilla another layer of flavor, and and Zax kindly left the cheese out of my wrap.  I could have done without the balsamic vinaigrette topping: I’d ordered it thinking a tangy topping would be good and it was; it was also messy.  The fries were crisp without being greasy or salty and I love pickles.  I ate everything on my plate.  My mother was questioning that last piece of pizza she ate so we both chose to walk the two and a half blocks to the motel.  We left, pleased with our dining choice.  I’d definitely go to Zax again.

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The wrap was far more appetizing than this picture makes it look. Try it if you’re ever at Zax…I promise I’m not steering you wrong.

After Moab, I was consigned to veggie burgers until we reached Hurricane, Utah and JB’s Restaurant.  I’ve gotten in the habit of asking locals where to eat because; who better to suggest something than someone who lives there?  My local expert did not suggest JB’s Restaurant but rather Triple TJ’s Cafe.  I googled it and saw the had a veggie burger.  Great.  But, if my family wanted burgers, I’d eat another veggie burger.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view; Triple TJ’s had closed by the time we arrived.  What luck?!  JB’s was open and JB’s had a salad bar.

Salad bars can be tricky.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced the old, limp greens, mushy veggies, all dairy based dressings, and no beans salad bars before.  Not so with JB’s.  The salad bar was like manna from heaven.  The greens were fresh and crisp, the veggies tasted like they’d been picked that day (and the radishes were refreshed while I stood at the bar), there were beans, pickled beets, sunflower seeds, baby corn, carrots, fresh fruit…a cornucopia of veggie goodness.  And, best of all, JB’s had a taco bar where two sorts of beans were offered.  I piled my plate full with salad guaranteed to satisfy any vegan (or non-vegan:) ) and made myself a taco with chili beans, lettuce, and salsa.  I remember JB’s as being the best restaurant I ate at in Utah.  That may be because I ate there after three days of veggie burgers but I didn’t imagine the freshness of their ingredients.  My pictures don’t due JB’s justice but I managed to snap some before my camera battery died.

 

So, perhaps the locals are right and Triple TJ’s is the place to eat.  I recommend giving JB’s a try.  There is enough on their salad bar and buffet to satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike.  As someone who tries to be a healthy vegan, I’m grateful to Zax an JB’s for offering fresh and fabulous veg-friendly food.

Well, At Least They Have a Veggie Burger

My family and I recently took an out-of-state trip: seven days touring the national and state parks of Utah. I was excited to see the amazing rock formations of Moab, Canyon Lands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion, couldn’t wait to stop at the Anasazi and Fremont Indian State Parks and Museums, but was concerned about finding something to eat. Our travel plans were going to take us through some very small towns in Utah and I didn’t think the odds of finding a meat, egg, and dairy free option were very high. I ordered a survival kit from Vitacost, instant meals, oatmeal, and individual packets of peanut butter, and packed it along with my traveling tea kettle. All I needed was hot water and then it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t find a vegan option in a restaurant: I could cook my own. The other three members of my traveling party were not vegan so that was a concern as well. Three meat eaters and one vegan. How would we all get along?

The answer? Very well! I’m used to putting meals together from the side dish menu, ordering salads with no meat and cheese and adding beans and/or broccoli, so I figured I would do okay in the larger towns like Moab or Hurricane. There had to be a place all four of us could go to and all be happy. It turns out there is and it isn’t an exotic restaurant at all. It’s Denny’s.

Denny’s in Moab, UT became our go to restaurant. My family was willing to try vegan friendly places like the Ekleticafe but, every time we attempted to stop, the place was so packed there was hardly room to move much less a place to sit. Denny’s always had space and the booths accommodated all four of us. The best part? Breakfast was easy to put together. I could order four items from the Build-Your-Own-Breakfast menu. I would order oatmeal (made with water and they’ll leave the milk off the table if you ask), fresh fruit, a gluten-free English Muffin made protein-power-packing with the addition of one of my packets of peanut butter, and then, as that was enough food for me; I’d order sausage links or something for a family member. My family got what they liked and I saved money. So, breakfast was covered. What about lunch?

Denny’s also has a Build-Your-Own Burger option and they have a veggie patty. The veggie burger really is the only vegan option but it’s there and it’s tasty. Veggie burgers can be good or gross: it’s all about the texture. The burger at Denny’s is nice and firm and, with added avocado slices and a whole wheat bun, makes a filling lunch.

Fries aren't the healthiest choice but you can put a vegan friendly lunch together
Fries aren’t the healthiest choice but you can put a vegan friendly lunch together

The veggie burger at Denny’s got me through but, after two days, we were on our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef. The sun had long set by the time we finished going through Capitol Reef and checked into our hotel and restaurant choices were sparse. We tried to get in to the the Rim Rock Restaurant but it turns out it’s a good idea to have a reservation. We couldn’t get the hostess to make eye contact with us as she ran here and there getting a bus load of tourists settled at tables and, after twenty minutes of standing inside the door, we left. Just down the hill is the Rim Rock Patio where we got right in. I perused the menu which is surprisingly vegetarian friendly and thought I was safe by ordering a salad (completely vegan and the berry dressing amazing) and pesto baked spaghetti (not vegan). I’d eaten veggie burgers for two days and was ready to try something else but the pesto sauce at Rim Rock Patio is a cream-based pesto-something I’d never heard of-and mozzarella cheese is baked right into the spaghetti-something NOT mentioned in the description. Note to self, ask more questions when ordering. Ah well. I did the best I could.

Our stop after Torrey was Tropic and the restaurants we passed, all of which were closed, didn’t give me much hope for a meal. I was ready to haul my survival kit back out and plug in the tea kettle when Clarke’s Restaurant was recommended to us. Clarke’s had a veggie burger. I was grateful for the option but not super excited about ANOTHER veggie burger. Still, I ordered and have to say the burger was flavorful and a great texture.

Another Veggie Burger and Fries
Another Veggie Burger and Fries

I was pleasantly surprised at how many veg, if not vegan, options were available in towns I was sure served nothing but steak, hamburgers, and chicken; even if that option was only a veggie burger. It gives me hope. If tiny towns in Utah are offering veg options, it means meat-free is becoming more main stream. I know it’s only a matter of time before egg-free and dairy-free follow. I did get a little sick of veggie burgers but there is no room for complaint: I ate well and, beyond two blips, kept my diet completely vegan.

Storm Clouds Over Capitol Reef
Storm Clouds Over Capitol Reef

Colorful Colorado

Enjoying the Scenery
Enjoying the Scenery

 

My family and I took a day trip to Cottonwood Lake, Buena Vista, CO over the weekend.  It’s a beautiful time to be a Coloradan: the leaves are turning and everywhere I look there is such beauty it takes my breath away.  I was excited to take this trip for two reasons.  1, getting out into the mountains is always a thrill and 2, this was my first Colorado day trip as a vegan.  What would I do heading off into the wild?  I packed a survival kit filled with granola bars and fig cookies, had one of my super-filling smoothies, packed my camera, notebook, and pens and climbed into the back of the van.

The trip up was breathtaking.  I’m grateful that my stepfather drives and all I have to do is gape at the extraordinary colors around me and make notes about my book as they pop into my mind.  I’m always afraid he doesn’t enjoy the trips like my mother and I do but he says he does and never complains.  Still, I owe him dinner.  We stopped along the way at a small lake (pictured above), carving out a place for ourselves along the roadside and joining the other gawkers in gasping, pointing, and snapping pics.  By the time we needed a restroom break, we’d reached Southpark, CO; a place nothing like the cartoon.

The Real Southpark, CO
The Real Southpark, CO

The facilities available in Southpark were a tad rustic: port-a-potties arranged at the back of The Jefferson Market.  A sign on the door stated the port-a-potty was for use of paying customers only and I’m sure that’s why there wasn’t any hand sanitizer available until you stepped inside the door of the market.  I didn’t mind buying something: I was curious what a vegan would be able to find.  This vegan found Clif bars that were not, surprisingly, out of date and fresh fruit in the cooler at the back of the store.  The store itself generated waves of nostalgia.  When I was young, my father was a foreman on a ranch in northern Nebraska.  The closest bit of civilization was a small town named Mills which consisted of a feed store, a church, and a general store that doubled as the post office.  The Jefferson Market reminded me of that old Mills general store.  The plank flooring creaked under my feet as I traversed the store and there was a little of everything and not much of anything.  I purchased my Clif bar, a bottle of water, a purse size container of hand sanitizer, and snapped some pics of Southpark before we headed deeper into the mountains.

The Jefferson Market
The Jefferson Market
I thought the moose a whimsical touch
I thought the moose a whimsical touch
Don't blink or you'll miss Southpark
Don’t blink or you’ll miss Southpark

 

We continued on our way to Cottonwood Lake and my head swiveled from one window to the other, trying to take it all in.  I must clarify that, while health is a big reason for my veganism, a love for animals plays a big factor.  One thing I will say for Colorado, there wasn’t a feed lot to be found.  All cows we saw were in pasture which brought on more waves of nostalgia.  I kept remembering my life on the ranch.  I remember my brother and I being entirely alone.  My father was out working and my mother had a job at the rest home in Stuart, NE.  The family my father worked for were supposed to keep an eye on us but…well…they were older.  My brother and I had complete and utter freedom to do whatever we wanted, as long as our chores were complete.  Few days went by when we weren’t racing out to the fields to call to the horses, play in the hayloft (which we were forbidden to do) or climb trees.  One thing we never did was enter the field where the bulls were kept.  I remember three of them; herefords, and their white faces never struck me as being anything but placid.  But, my dad had explained how dangerous they were and put the fear of God into us about climbing over that particular fence.  The hayloft rule we broke often but we never came within more of a few feet of that fence.  I remember how much I loved the horses.  They would come to us when we called and allow us to scratch between their ears and stroke their smooth necks.  I think my love for animals started with the horses; Queenie, Wendy, and King.  I never thought about what happened to the cows my father cared for and we didn’t stay on the ranch long.  My father sold up, I can’t remember why, and we moved into town.  As we drive passed these beautiful, isolated homes surrounded by fields, I find I miss aspects of that life.  The ranch we lived on didn’t have the wild beauty of the ones we passed and I saw several For Sale signs that gave me a deep longing.  Maybe, one day, I can move here and live in this beautiful place, perhaps open a farm animal sanctuary, perhaps just write.

That longing only intensified as we reached Cottonwood Lake.  The beauty that surrounded me made my heart ache.  I took pictures and I’ve created an album on my Facebook page but there isn’t any way a picture captures the feeling of peace and enjoyment being in nature gives.  It began to rain so I didn’t get in the hiking I’d hoped for.  I wrapped up in my rain coat and slipped into the trees for a while but returned to the car when the thunder and lightening started.  Despite the lack in hiking, it was a beautiful, perfect day.

A beautiful day
A beautiful day

Then, it was time to head into Buena Vista and find someplace to eat.  Could I do it in ranch country?  Yes I could.  We reached the town and headed up and down main street, scoping out eateries.  We didn’t go far before we saw this sign:

Vegetarian Friendly!
Vegetarian Friendly!

Any place vegetarian friendly can be vegan friendly with a few tweaks.  We stopped and checked out the menu.  After a few inquiries, like was the red chili vegetarian (it was), we ordered our food.  I ordered a black bean and rice burrito, no cheese, and added both salsa and the aforementioned red chili.  It was incredible.  Tasty and filling.  I’ll have to go to Yelp and leave a recommendation.  So, yes, it seems I can go anywhere as a vegan.  Even in the High Country, where I didn’t expect much, the vegetarian/vegan movement is being felt and I can enjoy delicious food.  I can’t wait to go back.

Completely vegan!
Completely vegan!
One more picture of the glorious scenery
One more picture of the glorious scenery

 

If anyone wants to check out more scenery pictures, here’s a link to my FB album:

Colorado Autumn Gold

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!

Maybe I don’t over-plan. I’ve always believed I did and packed more than I would ever need simply because I couldn’t stop asking myself ‘what if’? Wednesday’s retreat proved ‘what if’ can turn into ‘what happened’.

The photo I posted Tuesday didn’t end up being all I took with me. As it came time to depart, I discovered there were more things I wished to pack, just in case. I added tongs and a cast-iron stove top griddle to the back of my vehicle and was I glad I did. Rain fell on my drive up the mountain and I figured a camp fire would be out of the question. It was but not for the reasons I expected. It was pitch dark by the time I arrived at the campsite and the fire pit that was supposed to be there had disappeared. An intense search was made and, while the search was progressing, I hauled out my griddle and cooked my vegan frankfurters on the stove top. I offered up the griddle after I was finished but my meat-eating co-workers were determined to cook their hot dogs over open flame. A fire was kindled in the lodge’s fireplace but a Duraflame log was used: no one wants to eat anything, or would survive eating anything cooked over one of those. At last, defeat admitted, the griddle was put into use.

Once the Duraflame log had been removed, it was possible to roast marshmallows in the fireplace. I quietly roasted my Sweet & Sara vanilla marshmallows and made my smore with my dairy free chocolate. Just one: I had a treat but I was determined to stick to the McDougall diet as close as I could and that meant limiting sugar.

There were several things I packed thinking ‘just in case’. I used all of them. The co-worker who had signed up to bring bagels had family obligations before making the drive up the mountain and it was mid-morning before she arrived. The only other options for breakfast were ring coffee cakes, muffins, and an egg casserole. I was thankful for my packets of Amazing Meal smoothie mix, almond milk, and shaker I’d packed with me. I had a healthy, energizing breakfast and breezed through the retreat.

I used my ‘just in case’ can of beans. Beans were brought but they were cans of basic, unflavored, black and pinto beans. I’d have eaten them if necessary but I had a can of black beans with cumin and chili spices. I heated them through, added my vegan cheese and sour cream, garnished it with salsa and iceburg lettuce, and had taco soup for lunch.

Ultimately, I did not use the items I was sure I would (my vegan cream cheese) and used all of my ‘just in case’ items. My over-planning made the entire day completely stress free. I waited until everyone was done going through the taco line then slipped in and cooked my food; trying to be as unobtrusive about my diet as possible (and, this enabled me to avoid the kitchen as the meat was being heated). The McDougall diet took a couple of steps back. My grapefruit soda had a lot of sugar in it and the coffee Wednesday morning was fully caffeinated. I ended up being grateful for that. I hadn’t slept well at the lodge: I was in a bunk bed that creaked every time I breathed deeply and sleeping bags make me feel like I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor. With a full day of activities and then an hour a half drive home, I was grateful for the caffeine.

I will say I was fascinated by how quickly my body adapted to the changes of the McDougall diet. Even though I tried to keep my sugar and caffeine intake down-two small cups of coffee only-I could feel I had too much. I had a sugar/caffeine headache by the time I got home and the fresh vegetables in the salad I had for dinner were like ambrosia. But, yesterday was yesterday. I can’t change it. All I can do is start fresh today, literally and figuratively.

One thing I realized is the importance of planning, not only for the vegan diet but to ensure a healthy vegan diet. In a way, I felt like I’d under-planned. There were things I wished I’d brought but didn’t think of until I needed them. Every experience is an opportunity to be learned from and this vegan lifestyle is fluid; altering when alteration finds. I have learned, adapted, and will be better prepared next time!

The second thing I realized is how caring my co-workers are. My veganism was considered when several made their food purchases. Organic tortilla chips and wraps were brought. One co-worker laughed and said she thought of me but wasn’t sure what was part of my diet and what wasn’t. Questions were asked about what I was eating and, yes, jokes were made but nothing mean-spirited. The retreat was team-building: a vegan and meat-eaters in one of the oldest bonding rituals of eating together. There was wary interest in my substitutions and surprise that a vegan dessert could be as amazing as it was without eggs and dairy. Who knows? Maybe the word ‘vegan’ isn’t so scary now that I’ve shown I don’t live on tofu and grass and that my lifestyle doesn’t mean I go without fun and fabulous food.