Friday, February 22, 2013

Cross-Country Road Trip - Part 3, Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, I was staying with a man named Daryl who I found by searching for the word "vegan" on Couchsurfing.  Daryl is a Couchsurfing host extraordinaire.  He has a large house but lives alone, and hosts many, many people.  The only thing he really requires out of his guests is that they not bring animal meat or secretions into his home.  He's been a vegan for close to 35 years, and an entirely raw vegan for the last couple.  On Couchsurfing, his "current mission" is "Contribute towards a progressive, just society." (On mine, it's "I'm sure this sounds really weird, but my main mission is to prevent all sea life from going extinct.")

Daryl works out of his home as a trader (whatever that means) but really only wants to  raise money to put it to use toward vegan causes and resources.  He's been involved with animal rights since he was a young man. He's almost 60 now, but I don't think it will surprise anyone to learn that this long-time raw vegan looks about 20 years younger.  Even though he's this progressive person who has worked to eliminate animal agriculture and environmental destruction for many years, dude's actually pretty uptight!  That's something I can relate with quite a bit.  Animals don't actually move him personally and he doesn't seem to have had many close relationships with them.  Like me, he came to veganism from a sustainability angle first, though, unlike me, it didn't awaken in him a deep love for non-human animals later.  But that's OK.  In fact, that seems to indicate that he is a man who is deeply committed to his principles without any sentimentality.
Daryl showed me all the activist posters he'd saved over the years.  Here's an anti-vivisection one. I wish I could show you all the different ones I took pictures of that he had!
As soon as he'd accepted my couch request, he responded to me with a very long, detailed list of places to go and things to see in Las Vegas -- things other than gambling, of course.  He and I talked a lot during the two days I stayed with him, and I told him that I believe that gambling is a scourge for individuals and on societies, and I actually have fairly strong feelings in opposition to it.  Daryl agreed with me about that, and said that it was one of the reasons he hosts so many people in his home: he does not want the casinos to automatically get their claws into people the way they do when folks stay in hotels there.

We spent a long time at Red Rock Canyon, a place Daryl regularly takes couch surfers.  We actually went there once each day I stayed!  He's incredibly devoted to efficiency in all different aspects of his life, and he clearly knew which spots were best and which were avoidable.  We did a lot of easy climbing and he took pictures of me standing among all these awesome rocks.
We were quite high up when this picture was taken!
Red Rock Canyon is made up of sedimentary rocks, which means that they were formed by minerals that built up in water.  This whole area was once part of the sea, and these incredible rocks were once simply sand dunes.  Makes you think about how old Earth is, huh?
There are so many different types of rocks, all formed of different materials, represented in this one canyon.
I look pretty cool here, don't I?
Yeah, I crawled into a cave.
So, Daryl went raw for different reasons that most people do.  Most do it for the health and healing benefits, and although he does believe it has those positive effects, that is incidental to his driving reason for raw living.  What made him go raw was that he learned that 40% of the energy expended in food production is used during the final step of food preparation -- cooking.  He does not own a dehydrator, which consumes electricity for the many hours it must be left on, but he does have a high-speed blender he uses to make smoothies.  Even with the blender, I must say I agree with him that using a blender for 30 seconds does not consume nearly the amount of power that, say, roasting or sauteing a bunch of veggies does.  He does enjoy eating out at raw restaurants, and will purchase dehydrated flax crackers and so forth, but even so, I think that his decision to eat entirely raw shows an enormous amount of commitment to sustainability and living simply.  It's downright admirable, and although I am not personally prepared at this point to give up cooking, it certainly did get me thinking, and wanting to eat raw more regularly.

You may recall from a past posts that I love raw food!  My favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh is Eden, which was where I had my very first raw meal and learned how full I get from eating it even though it barely raises my blood sugar, a clear benefit.  Daryl took me to his favorite regular restaurant, Go Raw Cafe, which has an incredibly expansive menu and gives you just amazingly huge portions.  We ordered and shared three things.

First, we got a HALF ORDER of the house salad and split it between us and it was still lots and lots of salad.  Plus, it's seriously the greatest salad I've ever eaten.  I want your house dressing, Go Raw, please tell me what it's made out of, I want to make it every day of my life!

We also got the "Salmon" Sushi, which was good, but the worst of the three things.  I liked those crazy enoki mushrooms you can see over on the right.  I would have liked this better if it had pickled ginger to put on it, but maybe picked ginger is somehow not raw?  Some regular old raw ginger diced up would have been fine as well.  Still, we ate all of it, no problem.  What you see in this picture is only half the plate!  They had quite large portions, as I mentioned.

We also got a half order of the Mexi Wrap.  That's right, what you're looking at is a half order.  Plus, the best flax crackers I've ever had.

Care to see the inside of the wrap a bit better, with its mysterious and delicious mixture of "nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices"?  Sure you do.

What an electrifying, energy-promoting, real-food-delicious meal!  I loved every bite.  Was it any wonder that, later on, when Daryl took me to go see the famous Las Vegas strip, a place neither of us would really belong or enjoy but we both agreed I ought to check out, that I was full to the brim with goofy energy?
This picture is me basically going, "Las Vegas, what IS this shit, it's craaaaazy!"  Seriously, what a sad, weird place.  I suppose it's a cliche to think so, but it's truly a lowest common denominator type place.  Only, it wouldn't seem that I'm divisible by it, so either it's not so common or I'm just not an integer like everyone else.

Because Daryl takes people here all the time, he knows a couple places people can go that are free and kinda neat.  For instance, there's this outdoor tank filled with two species of tuna and also some sharks.  The tuna go around and around and around the circular tank and I don't think they can possibly have a satisfying life in there.  However, I also know that tuna are hunted so thoroughly and ruthlessly that their extinction is imminent.  So, as is often the case for vegans, I felt both a deep shame for the way humans treat non-human animals and thrilled that I got the chance to look at them.

Anyway, there was one tuna in there who was clearly the tank's elder.  Tuna have very long lives if they're not hunted while they're still juveniles, and they only become more and more fecund, or fertile, as they age, which is why it is so important to stop hunting them so thoroughly and give them the chance to age and reproduce strong offspring to stop their inevitable extinction.  Is it possible that old age also gives tuna wisdom, as in humans?  I only wonder this because this one fish in the tank, who was clearly larger and older, was the only one who chose not to swim around in relentless circles, but instead looked out at us looking at her (or him).  She looks grumpy and I both love and pity her.  Who knows how long she's been on this planet and where she was born and what all she's seen?  Was she bred in captivity or captured in the wild?  Does she have many offspring?  Maybe she just looks out at the people with curiosity, but there's a part of me that believes she's angry about the limitations imposed on her.

Another free, weird thing we did was go take our picture in front of a million dollars in cash.  I thought this was pretty hilariously vapid, so I insisted that Daryl get into the picture with me (he's pretty averse to being photographed) and then I put on my best, "Money, biatch!" face and had a go.  I'm thrilled with the result -- both my absurd posturing and Daryl's straight-faced uncomfortableness.

So that was Las Vegas!  Next, LA, vegan Mecca.


  1. Wow. Maybe you should have called this post "the best of Las Vegas." Staying with Daryl looks a lot more interesting than staying at a weird Las Vegas hotel. I didn't realize couch surfing hosts also took on tour guide duties — cool. You probably got to see a better (and tastier) side of Las Vegas than most visitors do.

    1. Definitely! At first, I was all, "Hmm, well, I guess I'll stop in Vegas" and then it turned out to be all, "Yes! Vegas!"

  2. Those are some badass rocks. Though I dunno if I could do the heights! I didn't know there was a raw restaurant in Vegas, next time I'm there I'll totally have to look it up. And I love how freaking weird Vegas is, ha ha. Looks like you had an awesome time, and a couchsurfing win!

  3. Yay, I'm happy to see you are back to regular blogging! Your road trip sounds so interesting! Congrats on the move. Those pics of you on the red rocks are amazing!


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