travelin’: l.a.

I swore after moving from Los Angeles that I wouldn’t go back, that there was nothing to visit. Well, it only took three years for that hellish ghost of a city (so many urban dead zones and maddening sprawl) to get me back.

Tom had an event down there and he was going with or without me—and we were in desperate need of a vacation—so we decided to make a road trip of it. We’d spend a night in San Francisco (staying with a friend), two nights in L.A. (also staying with a friend), two nights in Vegas (a suite at the Monte Carlo for ONE THIRD of what we paid for a last-minute Saturday night in a tiny room), then a night in Reno (also super nice room for the same price as a freeway-side motel). Cheapest vacation ever.

Before I get into the L.A. part, a few words on road-tripping. We’ve done a bunch of it and have had our fair share of crappy black coffee and crackers due to poor planning, but especially if you’re stopping at hotels or friends’ homes along the way you can bring most of your food. If you’re camping, a tiny camp stove like this one makes any rest area your own little kitchen. We pack one small cooler no matter where we’re going; you can fit big water bottles in it but you’re not trying to cool a giant space. You know you’re going to go through a lot of water on the road, so why not freeze most of it? That’s your ice pack right there—heavy-duty zippy plastic bags can be your ice packs wherever you stop. Then pack whatever you can slather on a bagel: hummus, make-your-own veggie cream cheese, pesto. Fruit’s a tricky one, depending on where you’re traveling and what kind of checkpoints you have to go through, but dried’s always OK. And chocolate! Go Max Go bars are a must-have in our car. Oh, and this has nothing to do with food, but a good old-fashioned road atlas could save your GPS-addicted ass.

All right, now for L.A. We didn’t have time to go to my favorite vegan-friendly Chinese place, Mao’s, but please check it out if you’re around Hollywood or Venice. We did manage to hit our old sushi haunt, Taiyo, and even though it was under new management it was still good. Their vegan roll selection had dwindled, but we chatted a bit with our server and message received. Perhaps future diners will be able to have the sun-dried tomato or super-green (spinach, asparagus, avocado, and cucumber) rolls we used to love. She did, however, suggest that they make us an off-the-menu veggie tempura roll. Sold!

That’s what you get for being nice and not just getting mad and storming out of the place.

The other night, we were so tired that we needed a quick somethin’ to quiet our bellies before the hanging out and the making each other laugh. Our one-bag, impulse-buy meal was this:

A pound of pasta, a chunk of broccoli, sun-dried tomato, a package of baked tofu, and a container of no-nuts vegan pesto (and some olive oil and garlic they already had) came together in maybe 15 minutes, start to finish. I super dug this pesto and was lucky enough to find it again in Vegas.

On our way out, we swung by Whole Foods and picked up sandwiches for the road. Tom got a hummusy one and this one (mine!) is a roasted vegetable with pesto. They actually had a decent little vegan sandwich menu—the guy making the sandwiches kept checking the ingredient listing, so it seemed like he didn’t make many of them, but whatever.

And that was eatin’ in L.A. I’ll leave you with a photo of the Getty Villa, which we had no knowledge of while we were living there. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. If you’re in the area, you must go. Plan ahead, though, and go online to get your parking pass—it’s a reservation to prevent overcrowding.

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