*For some reason I am unable to rotate some of the photos in the post, if you are having a hard time seeing what the photo is, just tilt your head for a nice neck stretch.
This week I traveled half way across the country, by car. This was in part an experiment on my part. I decided to test out my theory that I can get plant-strong food anywhere, in any town. So I did something crazy – I packed NO food with me. I was going to be traveling about 30 hours, and would rely on what I could find. More so, I’d be traveling through some pretty remote areas, there was a point that I had no cell phone access for 5 hours. FIVE HOURS.
I started in Northern CA. When I left my friends house, I stopped at Starbucks and got a venti iced-passion fruit tea, no sweetener and 2 things of oatmeal (hold the sugar) and a cup of mixed fruit.
I also got a fizzy water for the road.
For lunch I ended up at a Panera – I don’t remember the city. I got a salad, hold the cheese, hold the dressing, they had balsamic vinegar, so I got that. I also got 2 apples. They also had herbal tea, so I got that. And got a re-fill for the road, and had my apple.
For dinner I was in a larger city that had a all plant-based place to eat, so I checked it out. I got a plate of steamed vegetables, steamed greens and brown rice – I told them to hold any oil and salt. They thought this was weird, because they had fancy stuff on the menu, so I told them I was just weird. They agreed, and we all went on with our evenings, and my weirdness.
The next morning I headed out, I ended up at a Whole Foods. I got oatmeal on the hot food bar and fruit. I also got some cut up fruits and veggies for the road and some E2 hummus.
I didn’t have dinner till I got to my next spot, I went into the grocery store, I got 2 potatoes, a box of black beans (they are already cooked) I also got a bag of mixed vegetables and a bag of spinach and they had some hot sauce packets at the salad bar. I went to my hotel. They had a microwave in the lobby area – so I microwaved my potatoes, my veggies, and I had a huge salad, with steamed veggies, potatoes, raw spinach and hot sauce. (I stole a couple of salad bar containers).
The next day, woke up, went to the gas station to fill up and I got breakfast. 2 cups of pre-cut fruit, one banana. I wasn’t all that hungry.
I drove for a while, found a town that had a grocery store – kind of like Whole Foods, but not Whole Foods. They had a salad bar, so I got a big salad, and they had steamed veggies, so I got those. I picked up 3 apples, cut up veggies for the road. I started down the road for a while…
And then, I hit snow. Seriously guys, SNOW and SLEET. And I saw a moose. I know that for most of you snow and sleet is not a big deal. But I have not seen snow or sleet in years. And I’ve never seen a moose in real life, so that was pretty exciting for me. I decided that it was not wise to stop in the snow to take photos of the moose, so you’ll have to imagine me, driving through the snow, while admiring the moose.
I ended up having to spend the night in the middle of nowhere because the weather got pretty bad and it was dark and really windy.
I’m pretty sure you could get away with a lot where I had to spend the night. But guess what? Got some more fruit at this scary gas station AND I got a salad. A plain, pre-packaged, Del Monte garden salad, I also got some salsa. Gas station, middle of nowhere, could have probably been murdered there, but still could get a plant-strong meal. At least my last meal would have been a healthy one. They also had packaged fruit so I got some of that as well.
And then as I was headed to my hotel I saw a Walmart. I was so happy.
(side note) A few weeks ago, Jeff Novick and I got every single thing we needed for his food demo, which ends up serving A LOT of people, including all of the pots/pans/utensils/spices/cutting boards/ktichen towels/potholders/can opener/scissors. For under 200 dollars – at a Walmart, every thing we needed. So if you live in the middle of nowhere, and there is only a Walmart? You are totally fine, trust me. The Walmart Jeff and I shopped at was not in a big city at all.
So I went to the Walmart. Got some oats for the morning, some fruit, some packaged veggies. I also got a frozen bag of brown rice for a dollar, that I had along with my salad for dinner.
The next day I hit the road, after having some oatmeal and fruit at the very cheap hotel I stayed at in the middle of nowhere. The front desk person asked me if I was “packing heat” this was the first time I REALLY realized I wasn’t in California anymore.
Filled up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, and got 2 bananas for the road and dried apples, which the only ingredients were apples.
I traveled a few hours to the next city, which was actually a city, with stores and hotels and everything. So I went to Whole Foods for lunch, got a big salad – my Whole Foods money saving tip, just get the light stuff at the salad bar, buy a box or can of beans, and buy frozen brown rice, or the packaged already cooked kind. You’ll save about 20 dollars. Or you can buy one of those big boxes of spinach, a box of pre-cooked beans, chopped up veggies and just get some balsamic vinegar at the salad bar. Who cares that you look a little strange putting together a salad in the Whole Foods cafe? There are people drinking kombucha and eating something with “live cultures” it’s Whole Foods, it’s ok to be a little weird, that is why we like it.
I then decided to take a few hours off and go for a long hike. It was cold, but it was beautiful. I took a bottle of water, carrot sticks and 2 apples (from Whole Foods).
After my hike I was super hungry. I went to a restaurant in town and got brown rice nori rolls with cucumbers, yams and carrots. Basically I asked them for whatever veggies they had with brown rice, rolled in nori, hold any excess salt. I got a total of 18 pieces. Like I said, I was hungry.
For dessert I stopped at a grocery store (regular chain kind) got a bag of grapes, and ate a bag of grapes. I hiked 3.5 miles that day, so I guess I wanted a larger amount of food.
For breakfast I went to Whole Foods and I picked up the E2 morning grain blend (seriously, I’m not just saying that) I also got some cut up fruit. Used the microwave in the cafe, and heated up my grain blend bag in a salad box container – with my fruit breakfast cost 5 bucks. Not bad.
I got a thing of E2 hummus and cut up veggies for the road.
Little did I know that for the next 6 hours I would not see another town, and for 5 of those hours I wouldn’t even have cell phone access. And you know what? I’ll be darned, every gas station I stopped at (which was three) in the middle of nowhere had plant-strong food.
One town – population 300 had a produce section in the little gas station, and they had 10 pound bags of potatoes for 1.99. They also had brown rice, dried beans and rolled oats. It was a gas station. I don’t even know what state I was in at that point, there was nothing except farm land and big trucks with gun racks. Incidentally this was the second time on my trip that someone asked if I was packing heat, you know, to make sure I was safe. I got cut up vegetables, I microwaved 2 potatoes at the gas station, I bought a jar of salsa, I had lunch. This cost me 3.02.
They also had brown rice, dry beans and rolled oats!
The next gas station had cut up fruit next to the register. There was also a gas station restaurant, which as Lilly, the gas station clerk told me “is the best place to eat in town!” I asked “oh where else do people go?” she said “Oh honey, I was joking, this is the only place to eat!”
Out of curiosity, I went over and looked at the menu, which was hand written and then photo copied, complete with comic sans font. Sure enough, they had baked potatoes and you could get steamed broccoli, they also had a “fixings bar”, which theoretically you could actually make a decent salad out of. Lilly told me that the best seller is “chicken fried steak”. I’m from New York, this was new to me, I thought it meant that it was chicken and steak combined and fried, she thought this was very funny. Then I told her I don’t eat any meat, and she responded “Honey that’s real admirable of you and all, but I wouldn’t say that too loud in here”
Anyway, I got out of there and continued.
I finally reached my overnight stop, a small town, but one with stores and hotels and cell phone service. I found a Pei Wei in town and had dinner there. I got 2 servings of steamed vegetables and brown rice “stock velvet” with water which means they don’t use oil.
I stopped at a little natural food store and got bulk oatmeal for the morning and some fruit.
And that leaves me with today, the final few hours of my long road trip.
I’ve driven 1000′s of miles around the country in the past few years, and I’ve yet to find a place where I could not make plant-strong work. It’s not always going to be fancy, but it will always give me the fuel I need, and I like the way food tastes now that I’ve gotten rid of all of those pleasure traps I was stuck in for so long.
A few other tips when you are traveling:
Stay hydrated! Might be the most important thing. Every stop I make I get 2-3 bottle of water. I love fizzy water, and most places had plain fizzy water, which made me happy.
I did not find one gas station that did not sell fruit, so I would pick up a piece or 2 at each stop.
Get out and move! I stop at rest stops and do some brisk walking, stretching.
Stop when you are tired. It’s well worth your safety to just stop for the evening when you get tired. A night at a hotel is worth you not falling asleep at the wheel.
Stop when the weather gets bad. Though I wasn’t really expecting to stop in the middle of nowhere and HOPE for a hotel room, the weather was bad, and it’s not worth traveling in weather you don’t feel safe in.
Have some good books on tape and a great playlist. I asked my team for their favorite songs to listen to in the car, so I had a 5 hour playlist to go through, which was great.
Make sure your car is road ready, I got my tires checked, and my car checked before heading out.
Have an emergency kit with you and a gallon of water, I also keep a blanket in the car on really long trips, just in case. This is the emergency kit I have.
So the next time you hit the road, know that you can be plant-strong no matter where you are. Get creative. Use grocery stores and even gas stations to find plant-strong food. Of course you can pack some food with you, but even if you don’t, you’ll be covered.