** I want to offer a HUGE thanks to Enterprise Rental for sponsoring our trip across the U.S. The Dodge Grand Caravan has been perfect for getting us and our stuff across the country! I was provided complimentary food & drinks from Harvest Cafe in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and have not been influenced by my sponsors or affiliates in any way & no additional compensation has been received. I do appreciate the generosity of Robert & Ulrika & thank them both for the delicious experience! #ad
I spent the month of June helping my husband recover from brain surgery (the tumor was benign & not cancer! Yay!); selling everything I own – or so it seemed until I tried to load what was left into our Dodge Grand Caravan; continuing to write and work on my blog ALL while planning this 9,000 mile move. Okay, now my rant is over. And my vegan cross country roadtrip has officially begun!
I’m certain that there are plenty of you who have traveled with dogs and cats. I’ve done it. I moved three dogs & one cat from Raleigh, NC to Napa, CA seven years ago with the help of my eternally patient and super helpful Mom, Kit. I’ve done it once; it wasn’t that bad…I can do it again, right? Well, what is different now is the fact that I have just one dog and two cats. My dog Violet is the sweetest and laziest pup in the world so she loves to sleep in the van, take an occasional potty break and eat as often as I will feed her. As soon as I check into the hotel, she and I go for a walk and check out the neighborhood. Next she sniffs the room, hops up on the bed and goes back to sleep. Piece of vegan cake. But then there are the cats. Stig has traveled this route with me once before so he seems to have a pretty good handle on what is going on. And yet, he still starts crying between 2 & 3 a.m. every morning like his heart is broken. And then there is Clover – he is as quiet as a meditation retreat but he hates being in his carrier. I mean…HATES. In fact, before I even got out of California he had chewed through his soft sided Pet Peppy (yep, that’s really the name) and rolled himself & the carrier upside down about a dozen times. For his safety and my sanity, he has since been upgraded to a hardsided kennel that I found for a bargain at the Barstow Super Walmart! The lesson I learned in all of this? Be patient and compassionate with my furry boys and to shorten the amount of time we are all in the car together – for their sake and mine!
The first leg of my journey ended in Ventura Beach – by the time we arrived we were all tired, cranky and it was almost dark. Steve & I had chosen a pet-friendly motel chain that we had used many times in the past to lay our weary heads. What we found instead were drunks falling down in the parking lot, a guy on a bicycle “casing” our van as we unloaded what we needed for the night and a possible prostitution ring going on in the room next door. And worst of all — no WiFi! Now I can deal with a lot but a blogger without WiFi? Unbelievable!
The next morning feeling a bit worse for wear, we headed out to Ventura’s Harvest Cafe to try and replenish and nourish our selves for the travel ahead. Harvest Cafe was started by co-founders Robert & Ulrika who created the type of manifesto that I wish all restaurants had – to serve the healthiest cuisine using organic, local, sustainable & environmentally conscious sources. Collaborating with farms located within the Ventura area, they offer a true farm to table experience. Some of their commitments to the planet and the health of their customers include creating the smallest foot print possible by working with small locally owned farms and making the effort to educate others on the health benefits of the food they serve. Having met them, it is easy to see that they value the health of their customers and our planet over their bottom line. Their meat-free vegetarian menu includes many vegan options – from smoothies to macrobiotic bowls; waffles to avocado toast; pizzas to tacos. Far too many to list so check it out for yourself! Steve was in the mood for breakfast so he ordered the hearty buckwheat waffle served with fresh strawberries, sliced banana & drizzles of maple syrup & vanilla cashew cream. I barely got a taste of it before he finished but what little I got was amazing! I took Robert’s recommendation and went with their gorgeous Vegan cheese plate paired with a lovely rose petal latte made with their house made cashew milk. The cultured vegan cheese was baked giving it a unique texture & amazing flavor that paired perfectly with the seed crackers, fruit compote & pesto. Oh bliss! The latte was just sweet enough and the rose petals had a floral flavor with a subtle undertone of spice. It was such a comforting way to start my morning! This warm, sunny & inviting cafe is located on the Westside of Ventura at 175 S. Ventura Avenue and is open 7 days a week for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
After our amazing meal at Harvest Cafe, Steve and I were finally ready to embrace our day. We loaded up the furry family and headed east. We didn’t make it far before we stopped to stock up on vegan road trip food at the Whole Foods on Valencia in Santa Clarita. I wouldn’t usually blog much about a grocery store but when I saw the number of vegan options they offered, I knew I had to share this with my fellow travelers! Their juice bar offers dozens of vegan choices – the Green & Glow smoothie was loaded with healthful options & tasted refreshing & energizing! The prepared foods section was just overflowing with vegan choices. I grabbed a few protein alternatives to take on the road – rosemary grilled Gardein chick*n breasts, Beyond Meat buffalo wings and grilled sweet chili tofu triangles. I used to LOVE buffalo sauce back in the day so I was really excited to try the BM wings! One section of the bakery display offered all vegan pastries. I am trying to keep my food intake as clean as possible but there was no way I was leaving without a doughnut with vanilla icing! The bulk section was perfect for stocking up on organic nuts. I find it really helpful to stop every couple days to pick up vegan noms along the way. Not only is the food in gas stations really unhealthy but there is rarely anything vegan-friendly.
I spent my final night in California in Barstow in a lovely room at the Best Western Desert Villa Inn located on Route 66. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned along the way is Best Western Plus hotels are pet-friendly and offer a complimentary breakfast. Though most mornings I have been collaborating with local restaurants, it is really wonderful to have oatmeal, dry cereal, bagels and fruit available on the mornings I am not working. The Barstow Best Western also had almond milk available for Steve’s cereal & coffee. I brought along my own Earth Balance spread and Daiya cream cheese to top off my half bagel! Staying in the Best Western Plus also offers a few extra amenities that include an on-site guest laundry facility, a fitness center, business center, In-room coffee & tea, a mini-fridge and the two things that are really helpful to a blogger – a work desk and free WiFi! It is also affordable which is appreciated since my family and I will be on the road for at least 12 nights! The only let down was the fact that the pool was closed for repairs. It was 108 degrees in Barstow & after traveling all day Steve & I kept saying that the first thing we would do when we arrived was jump into the pool! After I finished my workout, that ended up feeling like an unintentional Birkram experience, I stared at that pool very wistfully!
The next leg of my journey is through Flagstaff & Sedona Arizona. I can’t wait to share with you all of the amazing vegan experiences I had. The food continues to be incredible. Thank you so much for following the Napa Valley Vegan family on our 9,000 mile journey across the globe! So let’s explore the world together and as always…eat, drink & be vegan!