I apologize to all of my followers for my longer than one week hiatus in posting, I found out one of my grandmothers had passed away and it hit me pretty hard. Following that, I had a short story that needed to get done by a certain deadline for an anthology, and my friends asked me to help them move across the country, which took up a lot of my time and energy to plan for. That said, it did actually give me a wonderful new topic to talk about!
I just finished a beautiful cross-country trip from Philadelphia back to Seattle to help a couple of (omnivorous) friends move in. Boy was it an experience! We took the northern route via I-90, and after one pit stop in Ann Arbor, MI we basically only stopped at rest stops and gas stations for the rest of the trip.
Despite crossing through several “food deserts,” I was able to find food thanks to a couple of wonderful apps, some ingenuity, and some creative problem solving. My first recommendation for a cross country trip: HappyCow Veginout. This little app is FANTASTIC, it has a free and paid version (I use it so much I paid for it because ad-free veg surfing is da bomb), and it has options for vegan, vegetarian, and veg options. The app creators have reviews of their own, and places that are vegan-friendly (meaning at least 5 vegan options on the menu) are clearly marked, which really helped in some of the meat-heavy states we crossed through, like South Dakota and Montana. They also allow for user reviews in case anything changes between when the app makers wrote theirs and when people visit, so that’s a major plus as well.
When it came to gas stations and rest stops, fresh fruit, bean dip, and hummus became our best friends. Most tortilla chip brands were vegan, though it was hard to find anything other than candy, bean dip, and fresh fruit to eat. Most wraps had cheese or mayonnaise, and the salads? Well, I didn’t know that salad needed meat and dairy to function, but apparently most gas stations think they do.
Most major cities did have restaurants with veg options though, and it doesn’t take many tweaks to make them vegan. A lot of Chinese places for example, if you tell them you’re allergic to fish, will prepare tofu dishes minus the fish sauce. Not a lot of sauces have meat broths in them from Chinese places, so if you check a basic recipe online and don’t see them, chances are you won’t eat them. Indian places often have daals and other vegan options due to the large Hindu constituency that they serve, so they’re usually a relatively safe bet when HappyCow can’t find anything. The most difficult states to get through are in the midwest, so if you pick up shelf stable food (vegetable soups became a favorite of ours, as did shelf stable hemp and almond milk with vegan granola) and keep it in an ice chest for a day or two after you open it, you can make it through these areas.
Whole Foods, when we found them, often had vegan options in their deli, which became a staple as well. I had a wonderful vegan veggie burger at one of them, as well as a General Tsao’s Seitan that was divine! Making sure you replace the ice in ice chests every day is important. We had a mishap where it melted and got everywhere in the back seat, which was not only not fun to clean up, it also contaminated some of our food. Thankfully we mostly just had bottled water in the ice chest, so not too much damage was done, but being prepared is important. There are enough wild areas to dump the ice water in, given that it isn’t contaminated with any food, that you should be good to dump it near the rest stops. Be mindful though of local wildlife!
Overall, with some planning a vegan road trip is definitely manageable. In the future, I’d probably bring a camping burner and some vegan MRE’s or quick-heat meals with me so that I can make it more easily through food deserts without having to eat so many bean dip/hummus meals, but lesson learned.
Have you gone on a cross country trip as a vegan? Any lessons learned, tips, or mishaps? Let me know in the comments!