Thursday, February 4, 2010

~Update: The month of January recapped~

 Greetings from Las Vegas!
We ran into some trouble back in LA with my laptop, camera, and local police. LA swallowed us up and spit us they say. The photos keep piling up and the bubble of information I'd like to share with you continues to expand. I'm waiting for it to all explode and leave a sticky, disorganized mess of scribbled journal entries and lost time at which point I might decide to can the whole blogging thing. 

This is HARD - much harder than I thought. But don't worry. I am committed to finishing what I've started or at least continuing what I've started. Whether it is ever "finished", per se, is up to the universe.

That being said - here are the journal entries I've written over the past few days:

Saturday, January 30th, 2010 
Back home: On the road
We just left Somewhere, California located halfway between LA and San Diego nestled among soaring desert mountains, impressive orange groves, avocado orchards, and even tea tree farms. Quite a contrast in landscape compared to what we've seen on the trip thus far. It was a nice reprieve from life on the road. 
We stayed with Evan's uncle Jim, Aunt Pam, their beautiful daughter, Rebecca, and handsome 14-year old son, Drennan. We spent a few days relaxing sans internet and other distractions, caught up on some reading, sat out in the sun bundled up in jackets and scarves, played with the three house dogs - Cocoa, Maggie, and Winston and two cats - Tazzy and I don't remember the other one. Jim took us on a drive up the mountain and over to the town of Julian famous for their pies. We captured some great shots of the sunset. 
It looked like the sky was on fire over the hills. Out of this world.

A few of the food-oriented places we came across while in the Palomar Mountains area (near Escondido, southern California) included:
Jimbo's Grocery Store
This place exceeded my expectations. 
The prices were great and the majority of the produce was local, organic and of high quality.
They had a fully-stocked raw foods section.
And a juice bar!
They also had free informative seminars that looked really interesting. If we were spending a few more weeks in the area, I would have definitely taken advantage of the give-a-way.

We had the chance to check out this farmer's market ->
(not sure what the official name is - look up "Palomar mountain farmer's markets"? I'll try to get the name for you guys in case you ever find yourself in the area). We sampled and purchased the most divine navel oranges I've ever tasted. They were "pink" navels. I didn't even know pink navels existed in the world, but thank god I had the opportunity to experience them. All other orange varieties we've come into contact with since then, don't even come close to the sweet, juicy, nectar of those pink navels.

At times, during our stay in the middle of nowhere with Evan's family, I was forced to stop at some smaller markets that were less than ideal for the coveted organic (or, at least, locally-grown without pesticides) produce I was seeking. However, we made do and gratefully enjoyed every bite. So far, my experience with conventionally-grown produce is that the zucchinis and cucumbers are much, much larger, the fruit just doesn't quite taste right, and the greens look cosmetically superior to organic. Organic greens are sometimes riddled with holes and dirt (a sign of true quality, in my opinion!)

As convenient as it was to have a clean bathroom only steps away, running water for a shower, and a kitchen (equipped with lovely Henkel knives) to orchestrate extravagant dinner parties with ample chips & salsa dipping (or cucumber & salsa dipping, in my case), it does feel good to be back on the road. 
The road is our closest thing to home. The current soundtrack of the highway includes Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago" and an album by Blind Pilot called "Three Rounds and A Sound". We've also rocked out to Muse's "Black Holes and Revelations" and a decent amount of NPR's Morning Edition when the antenna decides to cooperate. Right now, we're on our way to Joshua Tree National Park. We'll be doing some park hopping over the next several days as we make our way across Nevada, Utah, and over to Arizona before finally descending into Mexico.

As mentioned above, we ran into some trouble in LA, which we interpreted as a cue that we weren't meant to be there. Don't get me wrong, it was an absolute treat to see it again (LA). Everything looked just as it did when I left with the exception of a few failed businesses and a slew of new restaurants. We arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon, got trapped in a week-long storm that followed us down the coast from San Francisco through Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo.

But, we actually couldn't have picked a better time to arrive in LA because the next day was absolutely stunning. The storm had done an incredible job of pushing away the perpetual helmet of smog that lay heavy on that sprawling mass of concrete, billboards, and plastic. 
On Saturday morning, Evan and I went for a jog on the Santa Monica beach. We drove to Hollywood where I showed him my old stomping grounds.
We stopped at a place called "Cafe Muse", a vegetarian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard that I had always wanted to try. There wasn't much in the way of raw food and they only had soy milk (GMO-style) as a non-dairy option for chai tea, but Evan ordered an omelet and I suppose it was good.
I retreated to the van to give myself a green tub bath while he stayed at the cafe and worked. We found this green tub at the flea market back in San Jose that doubles as our dishwasher. It's about two feet in diameter and eight inches deep. So far, it gets the job done albeit in an awkward fashion (photo coming soon - of the tub, not me bathing). 

Over the next few days we met up with some friends. I revisited the Sunday Hollywood Farmer's Market that I enjoyed so much when I lived here. 
 Here's a misleading photo of me relishing (I know, it's hard to tell) a slice of navel orange
The Hollywood Farmer's Market is the most abundant and diverse farmer's market I've seen. They have everything from flowers, herbs, mushrooms, a wide selection of local fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, food vendors, arts and crafts...
 ...and my ultimate favorite - The Raw Cane Juice stand.
This little place was just starting up when I began frequenting the Hollywood Farmer's Market back in 2008.  
They import sugar cane from I'm not sure where and juice it on the spot with an industrial juicer. They make amazing concoctions of juices and smoothies that cannot be topped anywhere. And I was thrilled to see that they opened a shop right in Hollywood. Check it out at:

Unfortunately, we didn't get the opportunity to go to any raw food restaurants of which LA has plenty. We worked a lot and ran low on money. My camera jumped out of my pocket onto the sandy dune below and barely functions, my computer woke up with a monstrous crack in the screen leaving it utterly useless, and the Santa Monica police came knocking on our door at two in the morning to kick us out of the neighborhood. Apparently, some disgruntled residence called the cops complaining about a mysterious looking white van parked in front of their home.

We left LA the next day, but not before going to "California Vegan" on Sunset Boulevard. "Cali-Veg" as I like to call it, is an old-time favorite of mine. 
They are famous for their vegan orange chicken dish, which I was so excited for Evan to try

(he wasn't quite as excited): 
I used to get their Thai salad with peanut dressing and their faux fish wrap, although, if I ate processed soy protein these days, it would turn my digestive tract into a war zone. I stuck with the salad and tried the sweet and sour soup instead.


 I will admit the longer I've been away from Portland and the dearly-missed People's Food Co-op, the more lax I've become in regards to eating strictly raw and organic. I've been allowing myself to indulge in hot soups and some cooked salads - kale, lentils, roasted veggies, etc. I try to eat organic, but it's not always easy to find. However, organic food in SF and LA is fairly ubiquitous.

Some of the other restaurants and markets we visited while in LA:
Cafe M De Chaya is a macrobiotic restaurant on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. 
 We went here the first day we got to LA - another eatery I had always wanted to try but never got the chance. I ordered a celery-apple-kale juice and ate some cooked kale salad dressed in peanut sauce and a celery root slaw. It was really yummy and, as expected, gave my tummy some trouble. Totally worth it. 
 I also took Evan to Le Pain Quotidien, a French bakery that you can find in all major U.S. cities - (LA, NYC, DC, etc)
 I raved to him about their flavorful gazpacho soup that I used to get for lunch when I worked down the street at the Pacific Design Center. We ordered a bowl of gazpacho and also a bowl of the vegan spinach soup. They were both delicious, although, I remember Evan giving the spinach soup a good shaking of sea salt and fresh ground pepper for flavor.
Driving around Santa Monica, we spotted a juice and smoothie joint called Renovo.
 It was cute, and small, and had free wifi.
 It also had a small selection of raw food goods - cacao powder, maca, and other supplements.
 Lastly, I will leave you with a photo of the raw food section of Whole Foods Market in West Hollywood.

This is where it all began, people. I would scour the raw food section of this store on a bi-weekly basis when I first started on my raw journey. The only thing missing from this photo (and it curls around the corner - not pictured) are the Leaf Organics Kale Krisps. I have been looking for these little gems for months. Ah well...they appear down the road a bit (read on!).

So, anyway, I'm actually handwriting this on a notepad to transfer over to my blog as soon as I can steal some minutes on Evan's computer. This is nearly impossible because if he's not on his laptop working, we're generally driving or sight-seeing or eating or cleaning or peeing or sleeping or something that prevents me from getting substantial 'puter time. I'm working on getting my laptop fixed, but there's about $350 in damages and we are as good as broke at the moment.

I sill can't believe that happened. One night my laptop was fine and then I opened it up the next day to a busted screen. What's more is Evan's laptop fell out of his bag on the Venice Beach boardwalk earlier that day. Luckily, his computer is fine aside from some minor dents around the edges.

So far, being a raw foodist on the road hasn't been too difficult. I can, generally, find organic produce at most grocery stores (sometimes of questionable quality), but I'm making the best of it. It is expensive, though. And it feels like we have to go to the store almost daily, which can get annoying. The closer we get to the equator, the tougher it is to keep produce looking and tasting fresh. It can get pretty steamy in the van, let me tell you ;)

It is especially difficult for Evan when he's working and has to drive me across Palm Desert to reach a health food store like Harvest Market
This place made me smile - they had local organic produce (produce section was small, but adequately stocked with all the essentials)... abundant raw food section that intermingled with other packaged foods, which was nice to see. Often times, packaged raw foods are kept separate from all other grocery items and dry goods. 
Harvest Market also had a juice and smoothie bar that I decided to skip due to my dwindling bank account. 
Thank you, Evan, for trucking my poor, raw-vegan ass all the way across town to get my organic greens and bananas and snow peas and......Leaf Organics Kale Krisps! (I've been craving these spicy, crispy kale chips since I left LA one year ago! I ate the entire bag in one sitting. No es bueno)
It was hot today! We went to Shields Date Palm Farm, but didn't get to see the garden because it is undergoing renovations

Tonight we're going to the Indio open-air market 4 PM to 10 PM - music, art, crafts, food, etc.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Ended up staying in Indio last night at a travel center gas station. Evan only got a few hours of sleep. He woke up early to do some work before we headed over to Joshua Tree.

Me standing by a ????-bush in Joshua Tree national forest. It's not a cactus and it's not a joshua tree. I forget what it's called, but it's big and sometimes people make fences out of them (See Arizona pics coming soon). When I asked Evan what the bush was called, he replied with"Oh the spiny one? ochetoleeoel something...starts with an 'o'... ". 

So there you go. It's pretty big.

Thursday, February 3rd, 2010
Zion National Park
We are making our way out of Zion National Park over to Bryce Canyon.
We've been zealously informed by multiple people that Bryce Canyon is a must-see. Meanwhile, Evan is flat broke and I'm running on just enough money to buy our next tank of gas (a $50 purchase). Vegas was a bust. We gambled away $60, but had a great time! 
Here is Evan with our winnings: 24¢
Zion was beyond spectacular. The scenery seems to get more and more ominous as we go along. Looking forward to seeing Bryce Canyon this afternoon.
I woke up this morning feeling a bit "off". I feel achy all over, drowsy, chilled, and weak. I'm hoping it's just a passing result of - and I'm 100% serious when I say this - eating too much of Evan's hot sauce yesterday. He bought some cheap grubbage at the Food-4-Less in Vegas including a giant bottle of hot sauce with benzo-something or other as a preservative. I'm hoping this is just my body's way of ridding itself of a toxin it's not used to metabolizing.  Unfortunately, this meant we had to skip out on the hike we planned in Zion, but it also means more time in Bryce Canyon? I'm trying to be positive.

In other news, I've placed my order to repair my laptop. An unforeseen chunk of money fell into my lap from a tax refund (yay!) so I am putting the repair on the credit card and awaiting the flow that will soon grace my pocketbook (or savings account, rather). Phewf. Now we just have to send it off and get it shipped to Evan's brother's place in Arizona. Unfortunately, the bulk of my photos are on my laptop that is currently defunct. I can do a brief recap and fill in the blanks when my laptop is returned.

Now for a quick recap:
I left off in southern Florida. From there, I flew to Lake Tahoe where I met up with Evan's sisters, sister's boyfriends, and boyfriend's kids. We were put up in this fancy-pants resort called Old Greenwood.

In one of the nearby towns, we found a charming natural foods store called "New Moon Natural Foods". 
My favorite part of the store was their indoor fountain.
They had some decent organic produce, plenty of bulk foods...
...and even some raw food deli salads (pictured below: living hummus) 
Full Moon was also equipped with a small juice and smoothie bar in the corner, which was closed by the time we arrived after 4 o'clock.

Evan and I ended up making a raw food feast for the family. Here he is making the tomato sauce for the Living Lasagna:
We had a three-course meal of raw caesar salad with home-made dressing, pesto pasta, and living lasagna as the main course.
For dessert I made my famous raw chocolate mousse tart with macadamia nut crust. It was a hit as far as I could tell. I think everyone was impressed.
From Tahoe, we made our way to San Francisco where we stayed with - Oh, I talked about SF already.  Wait, am I repeating myself? What were some of the places we checked out in SF...

The city hall farmer's market.
This farmer's market was located on Market St. in front of the city hall. It had a couple organic stands including organic mushrooms and strawberries and one stand of pesticide-free produce.
Cafe Gratitude was amazing, of course.
We ordered raw thai coconut soup, raw taco salad topped with "walnut" bean dip, and cooked tamales.
Rainbow Grocery (food co-op) is the largest food co-op I've ever seen (and I think it's ranked among the largest in the country, if not THE largest). They have everything you could ever want in a food co-op. A pluthera of herbs, spices, and teas.
A "rainbow"of organic produce to choose from...
 - greens, peppers, mushrooms, citrus, tomatoes, and kiwis to name a few.
We checked out a small Thursday Farmer's Market in SF's financial district:
From San Francisco, we traveled down the coast to Santa Clara to visit Evan's friend, Rachel and her husband, Scott. We put together a japanese-style dinner with sushi, sashimi and my contribution of raw seaweed salad (Also, we may have gone here before San Francisco? maybe?)
From there we found ourselves in Santa Cruz. This is when we really began living out of the van. Pictured below is our first van salad (first of many):
^ There's the green tub I was talking about earlier! See: right^

Santa Cruz was a delightful surfer town. I wish I had some better photos to show for it. It was nice to be surrounded by mobs of students and to hear their discussions over chai tea at Cafe Pergolesi. Again, no other non-dairy milk options besides gmo-laden soymilk (sigh). I am seeing this as a trend among the majority of coffeehouses we have visited so far. I am going to start asking for strictly organic soy milk or organic rice or almond milk and if they don't have it, I will opt for plain tea. Nut and grain milks aren't raw, anyway. I should stay away from them.

A note-wrothy market in Santa Cruz is called "A Staff of Life" grocery store. 
It had a wide variety of organics to choose from...
...and an awesome raw foods section. 
I remember they had organic RED bananas, which I had never seen before. Conventionally-grown red bananas, yes, but organic - no. They were ripe and delicious. I am on the hunt for more, but have yet to see them anywhere else (come on, Mexico!).

Another Santa Cruz natural food store worth mentioning is "The Food Bin".
They had nice looking organic produce
And a small raw food section:
It was cute and I remember the cashier questioning me about the photos I was taking. You should definitely check it, but head to Staff of Life for their organic red bananas and their FREE BIN! Oh my gosh, we asked the guys in the back of the store if they had a free bin and made out like bandits (3 organic yellow bell peppers, 2 organic red bell peppers, 6 organic apples, 2 organic pears, and Evan scored a nice loaf of bread)

In general, Santa Cruz had plenty of vegan options on the menu, but not entirely catered to the raw foodist. That's ok because I am fine making salads in the van.

From Santa Cruz, we hopped down the coast to LA which I covered and then the middle-of-nowhere SoCal which was also mentioned above.

Moving on to Las Vegas.
As I said earlier, we tanked. Lost what little money we had remaining on slot machines and roulette. Vegas had a wonderful looking raw restaurant called "Go Raw" that we missed out on due to gambling. 

Peep the mouth-watering menu at:

Other than that, we visited a natural food store called "Rainbow's End". Not nearly as cool as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.
It had a really small produce section that was mostly CSA-style with bins of produce for their paying members.
It has juice bar and deli.
with a raw menu, as well.
I wanted to get their raw carrot-avocado soup, but they were out of avocados. I left with a papaya-strawberry-banana smoothie (not sure if it was organic), two bunches of organic bananas and organic hummus. Evan went across the street to Albertson's, which is always hit-or-miss. They had a larger selection of organics at the Las Vegas Albertson's than the Indio Albertson's (which was awful. Just awful) I got caught "shop-lifting"at the Indio store. One of the managers approached me over by the produce section claiming I was captured on film shop-lifting. I was taken aback because, obviously, I would never do such a thing. Ends up one of the employees saw me enter the store with my purse looking one way and then exiting the store with a stuffed purse (assuming I had stolen something). Truth be told, I was just using their bathroom to wash out the salad residue in my tupperware container.

The whole event was slightly comical.

After Las Vegas, we drove to Utah, slept in a small town outside Hurricane and stopped at a natural food store called "Dixie Nutrition". The sign on the side of the store is misleading.
There produce section was sparse. Apparently, they were getting new produce delivered later that day. I bought a couple of lemons, some raw tahini, and Evan got some fresh almond butter. 
The gal at the register suggested we go to Farmer's Market up the road (not A farmer's market, but a grocery store called "Farmer's Market"). I walked in thinking the organic section would be disappointing, but I was pleasantly surprised. I left with organic zucchinis, spinach, pineapple, tomatoes, navel oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and pears. MMM, I have one pear left. I think I'm going to eat it when I get back to the van.

We made our way to Zion where we stayed overnight on BLM land.
I woke up, like I said, feeling a bit under the weather and now we find ourselves in the town of Cedar City, Utah. Evan went on a walk and left me at this coffeeshop called The Grind coffeehouse. It's one of those cafe-music venue-art gallery combos. Pretty nice. Looks like they have a good sound system installed. If we stay the night, we might be able to check out some live music. Although, if it costs money that possibility will turn grim.
And I think that brings me up to date! I just need to load up the pics. Bear with me, fans. I am doing my best.
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