travelin’: las vegas

Yup, this is how I’m starting my Las Vegas post. Because this was the single most amazing moment of my stay. It’d been a few years since I’d been to Vegas, and we had just learned of a death in the family, so we were both incredibly depressed and worried that we wouldn’t make it home to Portland in time to fly to Chicago for the funeral. Needless to say there was no gambling, no naked nightclubbing, just a lot of walking off nervous energy and making plane reservations poolside (with orders from my mother to have a Mai Tai on her behalf, which we dutifully obeyed). As down in the friggin’ dumps as we were, when we stumbled upon this series of tram stations completely covered in Doze Green murals, we were just beaming. I love this man so much and I’m absolutely thrilled so many are exposed to his art. A single painting is worth more than my car, so to be so close to his work was a lovely surprise.

I sooooooo wish I could have a decently lit, beautifully focused shot of this for you. It’s Kung Pao Gardein! And it was great! Not on the menu, it was a suggestion made by our incredibly helpful server. We told her we were looking for something vegan but without mushrooms or nuts (Tom’s allergic!), and she made a couple of suggestions. Here’s the vegan section of the main menu; there’s also a vegan section in the dim sum menu. Just ask questions—they’re used to them! Side note: I wish this plain Gardein was available in stores. I’ve seen the beefy and heat-n-serve stuff, but I’d love this for adding to recipes.

In Fact, the Wynn is really your best bet for vegan-friendly dining. Both upscale and casual, every place I popped my head in had a vegan menu. This one here’s for The Pizza Place, and I also checked the Terrace Pointe Cafe, which was lovely but also closed between meals. Not that I expect everywhere I go to know the word “vegan” and what it means, it’s pretty sweet when it happens. The first night we got in, we were just exhausted (and again, super depressed), so I did some quick checking and trusted the claims that The Cheesecake Factory was vegan-friendly. Ugh, was that a nightmare. The server had no idea and was not helpful at all. I ended up with the crappy salad and Tom had the edible pasta—can’t remember if those were the exact names on the menu but it sounds right.

It may not be exciting, but there are probably 50 Starbucks locations on or around The Strip. And as chains are wont to do, they will have a totally boring and totally overpriced yet totally reliable cup of oatmeal for you.

It was time to head out for the 17-hour drive back home. Vegan or not, you’re going to want to pack your own food for this trip. With the exception of Reno, there is NOTHING along the way. When you see a gas station, fill up, and if you’re among the weak-bladdered, get a bottle or Ziploc so you can pee in the car. (I myself have an elitist bladder, but luckily it is also the bladder of steel.)

You’ll see a lot of this

…and this

…and this.

Because we knew to be prepared, we stopped at the Whole Foods just south of The Strip. And lookee what we found! We picked up some focaccia, pesto, and Tofurky (for fancy roadside grub), OJ, more water, and these little fancy-ass chocolate-n-peanut butter tarts:

Again, not bad for roughin’ it on the road. (Disclaimer: This photo was taken once we got home. We did not carry pretty dishes with us in the car.)

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