Saturday, July 9, 2011

Road trip

My family and I just finished a road trip across much of the country to visit family and friends. Our travels took us to Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Indiana. I brought my bike along so I could get some riding in. It's a great way not only to stay in shape during a vacation, but also to get a more intimate look at some of the areas we passed through. It's also a lot easier to make it through a day of driving if I've gotten a good workout before hand.

Of course we had some memorable meals, both great and not-so-great, along the way.

View Larger Map


We left Denver in the afternoon, so our first stop for the night was in Colby, KS. Supper that night was at the Village Inn. After interrogating the waitress for a few minutes, I managed to cobble a vegan meal together out of side items, including a piece of pita bread which was not on the menu.

The next morning I got up and rode my bike around on the back roads. As would be expected, the terrain was quite flat. But it was very windy, so about half of the loop was spent fighting the headwind, while the other half was spent cruising along at a good clip.

View Larger Map

Even though this route was mostly on US highways, traffic was pretty light. And the vehicles that did pass me always kept a respectful distance. I got half-heartedly chased by a dog while heading south on US 83, and County Roads J and K are hard-packed dirt and gravel (or American pavé, as I like to think of it) east of I-70.

While leaving our hotel, my helmet and gloves got left in the hotel lobby. Pro tip: when your 5-year-old says she wants to help carry things out to the truck, make sure she doesn't get side-tracked along the way.


We ate the second evening's supper in Columbia at Main Squeeze. This place was great, and I look forward to stopping there again.

After eating, we drove a while longer until we got to our hotel at Weldon Spring, MO, near St. Louis. This area has some small rolling hills, and there was a wildlife preserve near our hotel which offered some decent riding in the morning.

View Larger Map

Traffic wasn't bad on these roads, and the scenery was pleasant.

We had lunch at Saffron Bistro in Cape Girardeau, MO. There was a pretty good selection of vegetarian options on the menu. And while the waitress didn't know much about it, the manager was very knowledgeable and helpful in working out vegan modifications. I had the drunken rice noodles with tofu, with instructions to use salt and water instead of chicken stock. It was excellent.


We arrived at my father's house in Tennessee the next day. We had been planning to have a cookout with all of the family on Saturday, July 2nd. I made some stuffed portabella mushrooms which, if I do say so myself, were delicious.
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 handfuls of almonds
  • Green onions
  • Ketchup
  • Salt and pepper

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Set the mushrooms on top, stem-side up, making sure the tops of the mushrooms get coated in oil. Drizzle some more oil and vinegar on top and let it soak for a while.

Crush the almonds in a blender and transfer to a bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of ketchup, chopped green onion, salt, and pepper. Mix, adding enough balsamic vinegar to moisten the mixture a little bit. It should be pretty thick and hold together well.

Spoon the filling onto the mushrooms and spread it out. Transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a grill at low/medium heat and cook until heated through and the mushrooms become tender. I wasn't paying very much attention, but I think it took about 15 to 20 minutes.

Market Fresh Produce, Jackson TN
Our grocery shopping took us to a wonderful little place in Jackson called Market Fresh Produce where we got some fruits and vegetables. We spoke to an old woman who said the place was owned by her family and had been in business for 56 years. She had been working there since she was a little girl.

I also stopped in at Bicycle City in Jackson to buy a temporary replacement for the helmet and gloves left behind in Colby, KS.

During our stay in Tennessee, I got out for a ride to see the countryside and another interval workout just before we left.

View Larger Map

I've been wanting to ride the roads of this area for quite some time. It's fairly flat around there, but whole area is very pretty.

Our outbound trip included lunch at Tin Angel in Nashville. It was actually a really good restaurant, but it wasn't what I was expecting. For some reason it turned up in a search for vegetarian restaurants, but the selection was pretty thin. I ate a black bean burger and ignored the fact that the focaccia bun couldn't have been vegan.


From Tennessee we caravanned with my sister up to her house in Kentucky. On the way, we stopped for the night at Cumberland Falls State Park. The cabin we rented there was very nice and easily fit all eight of us. There was a trail head leading down to the falls right beside our cabin, so that evening we walked the mile or so down to the falls. When we arrived there was a ranger giving a talk about snakes at the visitors' center, so we stopped in to listen to the tail end of that.

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
We ate a late supper of salad in the cabin. Breakfast at the lodge restaurant the next morning was pretty good and reasonably priced.

After arriving at my sister's house, I pulled up a map and began planning a ride for the next morning. I don't know how many people take advantage of it, but Kentucky boasts some very beautiful roads and hills which make for premium cycling.

View Larger Map

I was a little concerned that the narrow roads would prove problematic, but there was very little traffic. I think I got passed by six or seven cars on the whole ride. Tate's Creek Road runs along side a creek (as one might expect) and through tunnels of trees arching overhead.

For a time I worried that I was going to miss out on some of the hills which rose abruptly to either side of the road. But then I turned onto Highway 1156, startled a turkey vulture which was gnawing on an unfortunate rabbit in the road, and I got to experience one of those hills in all its lung-bursting glory. The rest of the ride was rolling, but nothing quite so severe as that first climb.

On our way out of Kentucky, we stopped at Good Foods Market and Cafe for an early lunch. Good Foods is a lot like the Whole Foods chain, in that it's a grocery store with a cafeteria-style eatery where you pay by weight. It was a little out of the way and chaotic with the kids, but the food was good.


From there, we headed in the general direction of home, stopping in Indiana to see an old friend of mine. After another hotel-room supper, we went over to his house and hung out for a couple of hours. It wasn't nearly enough time to get properly caught up, but it was a very good visit. He has a daughter one year older than F, and they got along famously.

Kansas (again)

The next day found us lunching in St. Louis at Govinda's vegetarian Indian buffet. While the selection was small, the food was tasty, and it was probably the cheapest meal we had on the whole trip.

We stopped for the night in Topeka, KS. Upon checking into our hotel, we headed down town to have supper at the Blue Planet Cafe. It turned out that a large section of the down-town area was closed off for some kind of Mexican festival parade, but we were able to park and walk just a few blocks to get to the restaurant. We did have to skip the parade in favor of eating before the place closed.

When we got there, we discovered that, due to a live music event going on in the back room, the menu was limited to a few items they had prepped ahead of time. Still, we got a great meal, and the place was very kid-friendly. The owner came over to our table for a little while and chatted with us. She said that when she was living in California and was making cross-country trips, keeping her daughter fed was troublesome. So when she opened Blue Planet, she determined to make sure kids could get good fare.


On the last day, we had a picnic lunch at a rest stop, finishing off most of the vegetables and other food we had with us. We stopped by the hotel in Colby, KS, and got my helmet and gloves, which were held at the front desk for me. And at 3:03 p.m., we crossed the state line into Colorado.

Except for the cabin at Cumberland Falls, all of our hotel stays were at Holiday Inn Express locations. I mention this not because there's anything in it for me (there's not), but because we've had good experiences at nearly every one of their hotels we've gone to. Their suites, having a king-sized bed and a pull-out sofa, are perfect for a family our size with young children. And the complementary breakfast is very convenient, if somewhat lacking in vegan variety.

So that's our big mid-summer road trip. For all the family and friends with whom we have parted ways, we miss you all already and can't wait until we're able to see you again.

No comments:

Post a Comment