Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cross-Country Road Trip - Part 1, Des Moine and Omaha

Here's a story you may have heard before: vegan blogger moves across the country, has adventures and eats a lot of good food, takes pictures to post on the blog, and then has technical difficulties to such an extreme that she has no choice but to be extremely late in reporting on her travels.

There's a part of me that wants to claim I have terrible luck.  But then I remember that I'm smart and healthy (except for the type 1 diabetes) and I have a great family and I'm pretty cute.  Still, what the f*cking f*ck is with me and computers?  My computer was under 6 months old and the hard drive got corrupted and it could no longer load an operating system.  I may or may not be able to retrieve the data by running an OS off an Ubuntu disk, and I even have an external hard drive, but the USB chord that would connect the hard drive to the computer doesn't work, so I need to get a new one (I mean, WHAT?).  I went back to using my crappy old computer, and got it to run OK with Linux (in Windows, every time I opened any sort of explorer to look at what files I had, it would say it had done something bad and needed to shut everything down), but then one day I downloaded the updates and went to restart but then it would not load an OS (seeing a pattern here?).  I ran Ubuntu off a disk and tried to install a boot repair.  It took a really long time, but eventually, the computer buzzed louder and louder, then just turned off, never to turn back on again.  My little sister let me use her old computer, but it just would randomly shut down, constantly.  Also, the memory card in my camera is corrupted, and as soon as I get the photos off it, it needs to be reformatted.

But, look, I'm actually lucky, because now I have a new computer, and even though it's currently running the really-not-made-for-desktop-computers-but-rather-for-phones-and-tablets OS Windows 8, which is so infested with advertising that I feel sure it is very susceptible to viruses, and I don't have a CD drive in this new computer to use my Linux disk instead, and I also don't have a good memory card to install it with a flash drive, I can now update my blog.  And I really could not be happier about that.

This is just the first of my road trip posts.  I think there will be four total. 

Getting rid of all my stuff in Pittsburgh was difficult.  I sold a lot of stuff for very low prices on Craigslist but in the last day or two before I left, I ended up giving a lot of things away.  I took some food I didn't want to buy again when I reached San Francisco in my car, but I ended up giving away lots and lots of food to my friends and also to some guy who I think was trying to build a hide-out shelter in his basement or something.  My little 2-door vehicle was packed in such a way that literally every space was filled.  No rear view mirror -- sides only.  It was hard to keep my stick shift clear enough to be able to drive.  But I managed.  I didn't bring a lot of food to eat, but I had a pack of juice boxes and glucose tabs to combat hypoglycemia and a giant bag of all the last of my nuts and dried fruit to combat hunger.

Originally, I was going to stop in Chicago, but the weather wasn't having it.  Icy rain.  It would have been fun to stay with my friend there, but we both agreed it was unwise to stop there and I should just keep going west.  So, of all places and things, after my first full day driving, I ended up staying in a Motel 6 in Davenport, Iowa.

The next morning, I headed out to Omaha, Nebraska.  But, with some help from Happy Cow, I decided to make a stop in Des Moines, Iowa to go to one of the very few fully vegan restaurants in the middle of the country, a place called The New World Cafe.  Do visit their site I've just linked because it's a pretty cool place.  It's staffed mostly by volunteers, is involved with social justice causes, uses organic ingredients, composts their scraps, and has a menu to make any veg-respecting city proud.
I got the Roasted Root Vegetable and Apple Sandwich because it sounded a little different from things I usually see on menus.  It came with a nice little side salad.

It has a spread on it that's made from roasted butternut squash and yams, as well as beets, apples, kale, and mustard.  This is really an excellent combination, and I do believe I'll try to imitate it myself, although I'll use better bread than they do.  Their bread comes from an Iowa bakery, but I did not think it was right for the sandwich -- it's insubstantial and not fluffy.  Still, it hit the spot.
I asked a guy working/volunteering  there what he thought of Des Moines, and he told me that, "It's the greatest city in the world."  You hear that, world?  Des Moines, Iowa, everyone.  Anywhere you go, people love the city where they live.

Even though I never get this, I decided to also pick up the New Mac & Cheese to go.  It was pretty good -- smoky.  I'm not picky about nutritional yeast mac, but I know a lot of people are.  It's my not-pickiness about it that makes me not usually order it.  It's just so easy to make a decent one at home.  But I wasn't home, and I wanted something for the road to Omaha.

It was crazily foggy during this leg of the trip.  There was an other-worldly, Stephen King-esque fog.  Des Moines has a very beautiful capital building, and I stopped to take a picture of it in the fog.
Frankly, I was lucky to be able to see it.  By the time I got to Omaha, the fog was so thick that it was just impossible to sight-see.  Everything looked like this:

In Omaha, I was staying with a very nice young man named Tim who I was hooked up with through the great web site Couchsurfing.  Omaha is such a small town that everyone knows someone who knows everyone else there.  For instance, Tim, who was not a vegan, knew a guy who was doing some work with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, famous author of Vegan With a Vengeance and more.  A few times, he'd met Conor Oberst, otherwise known as musician Bright Eyes, and a former vegan who now eats fish (noooooo!).

Frankly, although I don't think it's a good reason to stop being vegan or vegetarian, there is barely anywhere to eat vegan in Omaha.  It's a bit shocking.  There are no entirely vegetarian restaurants (even Pittsburgh has some of those!), so I ended up getting some vegan food from veg-friendly pan-Asian restaurant Crystal Jade.  All the locals rave about this place, but it's really just a normal Asian restaurant that has higher prices than most Asian restaurants in the US.  I didn't even take a picture of what I got.  It was, you know, rice with some peanut butter-glazed vegan meat.  Isa, people like you need to take this city to a higher level!  Gotta veg up Omaha!  Still, Crystal Jade was fine, and at least they were very careful and aware of people's different food needs/desires.  They all clearly knew and understood what "vegan" means.  Also, I got this fortune:
I guess Tim wasn't the alien since he'd appeared to me prior to my opening the fortune cookie.  That's how that works, right?

The fog was gone by the time I left the next morning and Tim gave me a loaf of French bread from the bakery where he works before I left.  It was the only vegan thing they sold! Aye aye aye.  Still, awesome bread, and he gave me coffee also, and they had soy milk.


  1. I'm taking a class in the psychology of positivity, and you've got it nailed down. I love reading about your trip, and the last photo cracked me up. Sometimes the initial appearance might be deceiving, and it's not until a little later that we realized what we've seen. So ...

    1. Psychology of positivity? What part of this had it nailed down, the part about my bad luck/good luck?


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