(The title of this post is a reference to the song "Slam" by Southern California indie-rock band The Gromble. I saw them open for Parade of Lights in Los Angeles back in January.)
After a relaxing weekend off, we headed to the University of Illinois- Chicago to set up. We ended up spending most of the day leafleting; while it was unfortunate to not have the display up, it was pretty cool to know we handed out literature and info to over 700 people! After grabbing takeout from The Chicago Diner (vegan buffalo wings and poutine loaded with vegan bacon? Yes, please- and better wash it down with a chocolate peanut butter milkshake!), we headed to Madison, Wisconsin.
At the University of Wisconsin- Madison, we set up on a walkable road filled with food trucks (and where there are food trucks, there are hundreds of hungry students wanting . There were trucks serving everything from smoothies to falafel to empanadas to Thai food, and nearly all of them had vegan options- it was really awesome to see so much variety! Our hotel was an Extended Stay so for dessert, I "baked" some Immaculate Baking Company cinnamon rolls on the stove! They definitely didn't cook as evenly as they do in the oven, but they still turned out delicious.
We began our trek towards Vermillion, South Dakota,the next evening, by driving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the night. We made a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, and before picking up Alanna (who works in the office) at the airport, I caught up on emails at Ritual Cafe, an awesome coffeeshop downtown with a menu of vegetarian sandwiches (many of which can be made vegan by skipping the cheese) and baked goods. Since it was such a nice day, Emily and I took photos of each other!
Later that evening, we stopped in Omaha, Nebraska for vegan pizza at Night Flight. If I hadn't been to Night Flight three times on my last tour with peta2, I never would've guessed that a random strip mall in Omaha would have a vegan-friendly pizza place that was open till 4am... but it does, and it's awesome! They even make slices with vegan cheese and your choice of toppings, to order, which was a nice alternative (read: much cheaper) to ordering a personal pie.
Friday, April 22nd was Earth Day, so in addition to our even outside at the University of South Dakota, the peta2 Campus Rep, Hector, had an Earth Day event, where he talked about all the water used to make a hamburger or two slices of cheese while wearing a shower costume- it was so cool to have two different events on campus to educate people on veganism!
South Dakota, in our experience, was mostly farms (and not a lot of vegan food options), so we were all ready to make the nine hour drive to Boulder, Colorado, that night. It was worth going all the way in one go, because on Saturday morning, we were able to go to the farmer's market!
There was such an impressive variety of locally-made products- everything from hummus to breads to mushrooms! I think my favorite was all of the hot sauces and salsas- I didn't want to buy anything and risk having it explode in my bag, but oh man, it was awesome to sample some super spicy stuff!
Although it's not exactly local to Boulder (there's a handful sprinkled around the country), we couldn't say no to lunch at Native Foods... and afterwards, I couldn't say no to taking a photo of the stunning mountains in the distance!
That evening, we had a wine and cheese party in our hotel room, with some fancy vegan cheeses from Treeline and Kite Hill (including Kite Hill's Soft Ripened cheese, which is like a vegan brie!) and Key Lime Cheezecake from Daiya. It was such a fun evening, and much more low-key than going out to eat (but still very chic!). The next day was more relaxed- after picking up some new running shoes from Sports Authority (I love ASICs GT 2000s- they fit me so well and come in so many different colors; I've had four pairs now over the past three or so years), I took them for a test run on the elliptical.
Our first day at the University of Colorado Boulder was one of our busiest (and best) yet. In addition to support from the campus vegan group, the Boulder and Beyond Vegan Meet-up group donated food samples and even supplied us with coupons, so people were inspired to actually purchase products from Tofurky, Follow Your Heart, and So Delicious. It rained our second day at CU Boulder, but the weather didn't stop hundreds of students from stopping by!
Normally, we'll grab food close to the school, but last Tuesday we waited until we were in Denver for dinner, where we stopped at WaterCourse Foods. It was worth waiting for- their buffalo wings are some of my absolute favorite (tied with Chicago Diner and Blackbird Pizzeria in Philadelphia). I tried not to get too full though, because after dinner we grabbed Voodoo Donuts for dessert! If you're ever in Portland, Denver, or Austin, Voodoo is a must- my favorite is the voodoo doll donut (chocolate frosted and filled with raspberry jelly, and shaped like a voodoo doll with a pretzel as a "pin"!), but the peanut butter Oreo donut and the apple fritter are awesome as well.
Although we had a drive day, we decided to make the drive all the way to Salt Lake City that night. Tour life can be busy and hectic, but sometimes it's really worth it to take the scenic route, or stop and do something fun. A few hours after we'd packed up at the University of Denver, we stopped at Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I'd never been to any hot springs before, but it was pretty wild. It's kind of like the best hot tub you've ever been in, but it's all completely natural, and you're looking at some truly spectacular scenery while you're in the water.
I'll be going to Thailand in just a few weeks to visit my brother, so on Thursday, I got the required vaccinations at a travel clinic in Salt Lake City while Emily took the van to the car wash (can you see the dirt road leading up to the hot springs in that photo?). Then, in our sparkling clean van, we grabbed sandwiches at Buds- I went with the pesto "chicken" and Emily and Alanna both got the buffalo "chicken", and I think it's safe to say we all loved what we got!
Thursday night Emily, Alanna, and I headed downtown to Zest, a trendy vegetarian restaurant, where we all shared some appetizers: pizza, baked mushrooms, and a vegan cheese plate (which was my favorite- cheese and crackers always feels so fancy!).
Later that night we were all hungry and all excited to try Wendy's new black bean burger! The burger itself is vegan- just order it with no cheese and no sauce- and for fast food, it was pretty darn good. Right now, it's only available in some locations (Salt Lake City and Columbus, I think), but it should be going nationwide soon.
Brigham Young University is a pretty strict, religious institution, so instead of setting up our full display, we spent the morning and afternoon leafleting. Thousands and thousands of women were on campus for the Women's Conference, so we were able to pass out a good amount of materials! We don't normally leave campus in the middle of the day but we took the BYU campus rep, Kimberly, out for lunch at All Chay, an all-vegan Vietnamese restaurant (the name literally means "All Vegan"), where I had some of the best vegan egg rolls and fried rice I've ever had! After such a filling lunch I thought I'd never want dinner, but I'm glad we all went for the buffet at Mi Ranchito... I would've regretted saying no to an endless variety of enchiladas, tamales, and more.
The next morning (okay, afternoon), we grabbed brunch at Vertical Diner, and before dropping Alanna at the airport, stopped at City Cakes, one of my favorite vegan bakeries in the country. Their gluten-free peanut butter bar is like those Reese's bars you can make out of a box, but sooo much better! I wouldn't have expect a city known for its ties to Mormonism to be such a mecca for vegan food, but man, Salt Lake City has some really great options (we didn't even try them all- I've heard there's a vegan pizza buffet on Tuesday nights...).
We made the drive all the way to Sacramento that evening, and on our way out of Utah I was able to appreciate how beautiful the state is. The Great Salt Lake was incredible, and it and the Bonneville Salt Flats just seemed to go on for miles and miles. We all slept in on Sunday, and after grabbing breakfast at Whole Foods in Davis (feeling the picnic vibe on the grassy patio outside the store, I went with iced coffee,a baguette and basil pesto cashew cheese from The Cultured Kitchen... and, ok, a vegan raspberry macaron). After picking up Grace (who works in the office) at the Sacramento airport, we got dinner at Raja's Tandoor in Davis. The buffet was almost all vegan, and they even had bottomless vegetable samosas (which are my absolute favorite Indian food- so good!).
This week began at UC Davis, where we were outside the student union and got the attention of so many students passing by between classes. It's so nice being back in California- sunny weather really brightens your mood! After setting up at San Jose State University today, we grabbed dinner at Veggie Grill before driving to Santa Cruz. I was so busy last summer that I hardly made it down to the beach, and I haven't been to the Pacific Ocean in years, so once we checked in to our hotel I walked down to the boardwalk and the beach.
Maybe it's because I didn't make enough trips last summer, but I think I had forgotten how much I love the beach. As soon as I smelled the salty air I felt at ease, and once I walked on the sand and let the water splash on to my feet, I was so content, relaxed, and completely at peace with the world.
We'll be in California until tour ends on May 20; it's crazy to think we've been on the road for over three months, and even crazier to realize that there's only a few weeks left. I'm really excited to see what the next few weeks have in store!