Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Vegetarian Road Trip to Death Valley National Park

V and I love going on road trips on 3-day weekends to visit different places in the vastly diverse landscape of California. Death Valley has been on our list for a long time. During the spring of 2005, Death Valley National Park had an amazing display of wildflowers due to the above-average rainfall. Since then, every spring, enthusiasts hold their breath, but there has not been such a spectacular repeat performance yet. This year, although there was some rain in February, there was absolutely no rain in September and October and that did not bode well for wildflowers. We can certainly vouch for that: Death Valley this year was as barren and arid as any respectable desert should be! It reminded us of the "Valley of the Kings" in Egyptian Sahara where the pharaohs' tombs are well-preserved thousands of years later by the arid climate. However the tall snow-laden Sierra peaks surrounding Death Valley makes the landscape quite different.

Coming back to the road trip - we figured during our research that there are not that many places inside Death Valley to grab a bite, especially a vegetarian bite. So V and I decided to pack as many meals as we could carry with us. In one way, it was sort of an experiment to see what would last and what would not. There aren't many vegetarian resources about this online, so here is our compilation of tips for a vegetarian road trip.

General tips:

  • We loaded two cloth satchels and one icebox with food. Also, we filled 5 Kleen Kanteen bottles with water. We would refill these whereever potable water was available.
  • Bag #1 was packed with easy-to-snack items and fruits. This bag and one bottle of water was kept within reach of the person sitting in the passenger seat, whose job it is to attend to every whim of the driver.
  • Bag #2 was packed with lunch / dinner items that did not need to be refrigerated - such as pita bread and sprouted whole wheat bread from Trader Joes, theplas that I had prepared and so on.
  • The icebox contained perishable items and vegetables. We got new ice on the way in gas stations.
  • We tried to eat the items which would perish sooner first.
  • We kept a paper bag in the car to throw trash in and several cloth napkins within reach. I know some people have a rule about not eating in their car, which is very commendable, but V and I find that difficult to follow, so we try not to make too much of a mess.
  • We also packed two plates, spoons, paper napkins (which we used sparingly), wetwipes (again sparingly used) and couple of kitchen towels. We are guilty of taking along some plastic knifes - we try to avoid plastic in general.

What we packed for breakfast, lunch & dinner. What worked and what did not:
  • Aussie bites (from Costco although there is a recipe here which I should try sometime) and Blueberry scones - This worked very well for a quick breakfast in the morning.
  • Soy milk - icebox
    • We had this at breakfast. We packed 1 carton of Plain soy milk and 1 carton of Green Tea soy milk. V thinks the Green Tea soy milk upset his stomach, but I am not sure that was the reason. The "fossilized snake snacks" may have been the reason (see below).
  • Roasted walnuts and almonds
    • They taste pretty good when roasted at 350C for 10 mins in the oven, even though apparently some nutrients are lost. We did not make our trademark aval-pori hiking snack since we ran out of time, but that is usually a staple of ours.
  • Apples, Pears and Tangerines
    • Washed and ready to eat, this makes a great snack for those times when lunch gets delayed for one reason or other.
  • Sprouted whole wheat bread (from Trader Joes)
    • For sandwiches. We made sandwiches using marinated tofu, but also ate it with Laughing Cow cheese for breakfast.
  • Whole wheat Pita bread (from Trader Joes)
    • For sandwiches. We made sandwiches with the nutburger and a little hummus and few thinly sliced bell pepper.
  • Hummus - icebox
    • For sandwiches and as a dip for veggies
  • Laughing cow cheese wedges - icebox
    • For sandwiches or as a snack on its own
  • Red and Green Bell peppers - icebox
    • This was the star of the trip. We sliced them in finger size strips and packed them in a ziploc bag. We munched on it as a snack either by itself or dipping it in hummus. Not much pre-work. Other veggies like celery, carrots, etc. would work too.
  • Marinated Tofu slices - icebox
    • For sandwiches. Will post the marinade recipe some other time, but it is fairly simple.
  • Grilled nutburgers
    • We get these frozen patties from our favorite restaurant in Sacramento called Sunflower. We grilled these on the stove and didn't pack this in the icebox, but fortunately it didn't go bad. We had a wonderful lunch of pita sandwiches with nutburger, bell pepper and hummus after we hiked the Golden Canyon.
  • Sundal
    • This was a bust! We didn't pack it in the icebox and it went bad. Oh, my heart broke when we had to throw it all out! I thought it would stay fresh since I didn't add coconut but I was wrong.
  • Thepla with Potato roast
    • Theplas are known for being a staple road trip, or rather, train journey food from Gujarat in India. For the first time, my theplas turned out well - soft, flavorful, and great to eat even on their own. I need to find that recipe I used! I made potato roast (with Indian spices) to go with it. The roast would not have made it past 1 day, so we had it for dinner on the first day.
  • Puliyodarai
    • This was the second most popular dish of the trip. Puliyodarai is from Tamilnadu, a Southern state in India and is a spiced tamarind rice dish. I used the recipe in Dakshin - Chandra Padmanabhan's quintessential South Indian cookbook and it turned out awesome. We had it with Kettle chips (I know- bad! bad! but oh, it was so good!) with our first view of snow-laden peaks and felt like we were in heaven.
  • Khaman Dhokla
    • Dhokla is a snack food from Gujarat. This ranked #3 on the trip. The steamed buns are easy to carry and easy to eat and stayed fresh atleast for the first 2 days.
  • Other snacks like our favorite almond cookies and "fossilized snake snacks" (murukku and ribbon pakoda) from the Indian store.

We got pizza one night at the Corkscrew Saloon with Badwater Ale while watching the Olympics figure skating. V was very impressed with the Badwater Ale made locally at nearby Indian Wells.
A rather successful vegetarian road trip, I would say. Oh, V prepared the musical menu for our drive, and that was a rocking hit too. Jai Ho!



Gosh, you guys are so organized. I'm ashamed of my measly carrot sticks, hummus, and crackers I usually pack on our San Francisco trips.

VnV said...

Hi Vegan Tickles - Yeah, planning the trip is part of the fun for me, it is not as much fun for V but he goes along because it makes the trip more fun!! :-) Do share your ideas please!

Amit said...

Thanks for the nice tips...
I think instead of snake snacks, I will worm snacks... ;)