All posts by scottmcnamara

Scott is an offroad, vegan blogger from the Portland, Oregon area. He also started the Vegan Gun Club, and owns a wedding photography business.

Restauraunt Review: Cashew (Chattanooga)

On a recent weekend, we decided to explore a new city in our newly native Tennessee. So we pointed the Land Cruiser south on highway 27, and did some reseaerch on vegan options in Chattanooga.

Cashew came up as a pretty popular spot, and the menu seemed good, so we decided on Cashew for lunch.

Parking in this area was a little challenging, but it was Fall break here, and there were lots of festivals going on. I think Chatt is suffering from the “loved-to-death” syndrome we saw Bend, Oregon suffering from (where every weekend was another festival and parking issue). But the overall area Cashew is located in was funky, and had a really awesome city park with views of the river and bridges.

Cashew sits downstairs in a half-basement, half-first floor setting. The space was very well designed – super bright, welcoming, and modern. They have a pretty awesome baked goods selection, as well as a small refrigerated wall with some grab and go items (their own ‘chicken’ salads, Louisville Jerky, craft beers, and others).

Itv was cool to see Herbivore clothing for sale in the corner.

Staff was very friendly and awesome. We didn’t notice much of a southern accent on anyone, but I think that is testament to the sheer number of people flocking to the South as a much saner place to live. Chattanooga is not immune to the influx, sadly.

Baked good included fresh made donuts, cookies, cupcakes and more.

We were all starving and brought the ARB fridge with us, so we overordered (as typical) and planned to bring home the left overs.

Mac and cheese plate for the kids.

Kids both got a hearty order of their mac and cheese, served with fruit on the side. I went with the meatball sub (served with chips), and Kristin ordered the Thai Sweet potato. We added an order of nachos to top it all off.

Thai Sweet Potato.

The mac and cheese was actually really good. It was thick, but also not as warm as I would have liked it. But the kids had no problems.

The meatball sub on the other hand was pretty lackluster. First, it wasn’t a “sub” but a few balls of fake meat on a bun. The cashew cheese sauce on top added very little in my opinion. The chips seemed like an after thought, and were a weird addition.

The sad meatball sub.

Kristin seemed to like the Thai sweet potato, with the peanut sauce and a side of broccoli cheese soup (which she raved about).

The real star of the meal? THE NACHOS. Holy wow. I am not a jackfruit fan at all. But it was prepped perfectly, and whatever sauce they use it purely magic and delish. This was possibly the best vegan nacho plate I have ever had.

Nacho heaven.

Overall, Cashew is a super awesome spot in a fast growing Southern city. We love that it will be a reliable spot for us to return to. While I will not get that “sub” again, we will for sure be back and will 100% get those nachos!

Address: 149 River St, Chattanooga, TN 37402

Gettin’ Bogged in Pickett State park [Tennessee]

One of the most exciting things about moving to an entirely new area is the wheeling! it isn’t every day you get to truly explore and discover new trails and terrains.

I recently joined my friend Tyler and his family (with a beautiful LS-powered FJ60 Land Cruiser) in Pickett State Park here in Tennessee.

After making the journey through Big South Fork and up Black House Mountain Road, we aired down in the big staging area. Our plan for the evening was to hopefully find one of the legendary Cumberland lookouts to call camp for the night.

But the State Forest roads had another plan for us.

Not too long after leaving the staging area and heading up Black House Mtn Road, we came to an amazingly severe series of washouts. The tank traps were also incredibly deep and slick. So either you attempted that, or you ended up off camber and possibly rolling on the ruts. Tyler was pulling a trailer, and even though he gave it a good effort, I ended up winching him back out of the muck.

Tyler was stuck pretty good. A winch from the back was able to get him out.

Even the bypass to our right proved too tight for the Land Cruisers.

So we called it a night and backed into an epic camping spot among the pines and the stars.

Our epic campsite. We hope to return, just without the GIANT black bear we saw.

Day two began with a hot coffee and a renewed commitment to beating this surprisingly challenging bit of track.

Maybe it was the caffeine, or the sleep, but we were finally able to make the bypass work for us, as we weaved among the pines.

The fat pigs managed to make it through the bypass.

The unmaintained trails had some pretty burly washouts to contend with. After some careful tire placement and solid spotting, we were through, even though the Land Cruisers had a new relationship with a bush.

After a nice drive through the forest to an overlook, we turned back, hoping to check out Mineral Pond as a possible camp spot for the night. But this short bit of trail proved to be some of the toughest stuff I had wheeled in since the Rubicon.

It wasn’t long until the slick Tennessee mud had us both bogged, and the winch was whining.

The problem with Tyler’s placement, was as his driver side continued to dig, he became increasingly tippy.

After a series of winches and mud bogs we were finally on the downhill to the pond itself. After, of course, yet another washed out V-Notch.

Mineral Pond was a welcome sight, with its deep blue hues. After wheeling for 2 days in Tennessee Summer heat and no A/C, everyone was ready for a therapeutic swim.

The Land Cruisers at Mineral Pond.

After filling up on lunch, cold drinks, and an amazing swim, we were back in the rigs, and facing a ledge right away.

After some careful lines, we were up and over the ledge quickly.

But the Mineral Pond trail was not yet done with us.

A steep, rutted hill lay ahead with very high sides that looked like they could swallow a semi trailer. While Tyler’s V8 and working 4WD got him right up (my CDL is having issues), I ended up winching up the slick hill.

Tyler climbing the muddy hill of doom.

That night we ended up camping back at the State Park, after a swim at the lake. Pickett State Park has amazing cabins and camping facilities.

What is the Biggest Threat to Veganism? Vegans.

I cannot imagine the struggle of 1970s vegans.  While I was not alive, I assume most food was literally veggies and fruits.  Which, looking back was amazing from a health perspective.  But socially?  Probably not so much.  You couldn’t belly up to a fast food restaurant with your friends and order an Impossible Whopper, or Beyond Meatball sub at Subway.

We have collectively, worked so hard to prove the market importance of veganism, that large, multi-national corporations are finally paying attention.

And what is the fundamentalist vegan community saying about vegan options at places like Burger King, KFC, Del Taco, and Carl’s Jr?  Are they recognizing this as a milestone in our societal march to more and more veganism?

Nope.

They are whining. 

And it could disrupt all this progress.

On countless Instagram posts where companies like Beyond Meat are announcing yet another huge entrant into the vegan market, there are countless comments whining about how such a place runs in conflict with their own vegan drum-circle morality.

Just a few gems from some recent posts on IG:

“I am not giving my money to an industry that supports factory farming.”

“…they don’t give s sh*t about the animals, they just want a wider demographic. It’s all greed.”

“I advise the [vegan] community to be wary how we can fathom a murdering corporation will take the steps necessary to ensure a purity on a vegan standard.”

Purity on a vegan standard?  What is this, scientology!?  Are we all aspiring thetans?  Come on PEOPLE!

  1. Aren’t we supposed to be focused on the animals?

Let’s be real.  This whole thing – all the sacrifices and ridicule we have made and sustained are not for us.  We are doing this to save animals.  And, if you think for a minute that KFC or Burger King will ever stop selling animal flesh, you are mistaken.  So these companies will always profit off animals.  However, every single Impossible Whopper, or Beyond Chicken bucket sold at KFC will at LEAST save one animal life.  If that consumer likes it, and replaces more meat items with the vegan options, that turns into real change.  And real animals saved.

Furthermore, if vegans shop at these places and prove the market exists and is healthy, they will continue to offer these options.  That is meaningful change, albeit at the hands of an animal-exploiting company.

2. Where do Thetan-vegans draw the moral line with their superiority?

The common theme in these posts is that vegans should not give their money to a company that profits off meat.  Which is, on the surface understandable.  But what about grocery stores?  Even the hipster-loving “cruelty-free meat” purveyor Whole Foods sells seafood, chicken, and meat products.  Trader Joes, a close second cult favorite for vegans, also does.  So does Safeway, Wal-Mart, and others ad nauseum.

Our older vegan stand bys like Taco Bell also do.

So the effort of maintaining what meat-profiting businesses you will and will not support will become pretty complex and time consuming.

At the end of the day, if you are truly in this for the animals, you’ll put down the animal-tested Kombucha, and apply some common sense. This is not about you. This is about animals. And if we wish to continue driving change and seeing the massive wins we have, we need to change our personal definitions of veganism.

After all, the whole world is changing.  Won’t you join us?

Beyond Burgers at Carl’s Jr!

We all heard the news on Instagram at about the same time, and I think the collective vegan mind imploded.  It seems that Beyond Meat and Carl’s Jr. teamed up behind closed doors to surprise the heck out of just about everyone.

It wasn’t one of those lame media teasers, where a major brand was testing some new vegan option at one or two stores, this was NATIONWIDE.  Today.  Every. Carl’s Jr.

So I did what any self-respecting vegan would do – drove my happy butt to a Gresham, Oregon Carl’s Jr. and ordered a burger.

THE GOOD:

A sign right next to the front door proclaimed that the Beyond Burger was now an option.  All the staff inside we showing off Beyond Burger shirts and hoodies (I tried to beg for one, but no dice).  Everyone seemed knowledgeable about the new vegan options (at least how to make it vegan).

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It was odd (albeit nostalgic) to be sitting in a fast food restaurant waiting on a burger and fries.  It has been at least 10 years, if not more, since I had done that.  So there was a strange feeling about sitting there ordering burgers and fries.  It was cool.

Roadtrips will never be the same.  We can pull into a seedy Omaha truck stop, and have a vegan burger.  Coming home late from work and picking up dinner will also be changed.

THE BAD:

The staff’s understanding of veganism as a whole was severely lacking.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not looking a “gift horse in the mouth (to use a truly vegan colloquialism) ” but these guys seriously had NO CLUE.

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When asking about the cheese, I was told it was not vegan, as it had SOY in it.  But that because it was pasteurized, it was all fake anyway, and no dairy.  That aside from the soy, it was vegan.  We couldn’t believe it!  So we ordered it with this new “vegan” cheese option.  Thankfully the woman ran out from the back, in time to change our order, alerting to us the cheese was in fact NOT vegan.

Then we debated about what fries were and were not vegan.  So, I hope the grunts at Carl’s Jr are prepared for the onslaught of pissed off vegans asking questions and expecting answers.

THE UGLY:

I think we all knew this was coming.  But they DO NOT use a special area to cook these burgers.  They get cooked right where all the beef also gets cooked.

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The only reason I went ahead with my order is this.  They are only cooked on the “charbroiler.”  They invited me back to look at this contraption.  It is a wire mesh belt that feeds the burgers from one end through to the other.  Like a giant pizza oven. So the only shared cooking surface is a tiny amount of wire mesh.  Oh, and by the way, that mesh passes through that machine at over 750 degrees.  So I can only hope/assume that any meat residues are blasted and cooked off.

I know the vegan committee might dock me some points here.

IN CLOSING:

The fact I went to a Carl’s Jr. and ordered a burger and fries, and enjoyed a vegan meal is, in itself, remarkable.  it speaks to how far veganism has come, how much the market has changed, and how the perception of veganism has also progressed in mainstream society.  

I praise any company that has been historically a meat-offering establishment and is willing to try something along these lines.  It is a bold move, and one that can have massive positive repercussions for animals, fellow vegans, and even meat eaters.

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But there are two schools of vegans.  The first is an ultra-emotional, almost fascist approach where anything that deviates from this oft-unattainable vegan god-like status, is not a vegan.  They will shun anyone that walks into a business that sells any meat, regardless of how that company is possibly changing.  They will boycott Beyond Meat.  They will shame vegans on Facebook groups that even think about supporting a fast food chain.

The other group is a little more progressive in thought.  They see the bigger picture.  That sometimes you need to take two steps backward to take one forward.  Sometimes you must give your money to big, evil companies in order to show how popular vegan options are, with the only goal of showing other large companies that vegans are here to stay, and that market share is growing.  In the end, that will benefit the animals.

If you find yourself in the latter group, head down to a local Carl’s Jr.  Get the Beyond Famous Star Burger (but hold the cheese and mayo).  You’ll be glad you did.

If you are in the first group, well…maybe there is a drum circle somewhere for your rage.

On Eloquent Liberalism and the Failure of Portland

On a recent trip to visit family in Burlington, Vermont something struck me.  There are a lot of refugees (my mom is active in supporting the refugee population).  According to conservative logic, that would equate to a lot of people living “off the system” and getting government checks for nothing. And a general downfall of ‘murica.

Fast forward a day or two and after a walk down Church Street I was amazed at the number of retail stores designed to sell the stuff the refugee population made.  Amazing textiles, baskets, artwork, and clothing.  It was refreshing to see an outlet for the cultural value this population brings to Vermont.

Another thing I noticed?  The abundance of community gardens.  These areas of open space are given by the city to people that want to raise their own produce.  The number of folks I saw walking these rows with baskets on their heads and vibrant clothing was a stark contrast to the old brick walls and green mountains in the distance.

It is no surprise that Burlington is a liberal anchor in a sea of liberal cities.  It has born the likes of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben and Jerry’s co-founders) and other liberal monoliths. But what was a surprise is how Burlington has pulled off something amazing – an eloquent version of liberalism.

Not once was I asked for money from a junkie.  Not once was there an ANTIFA protest blocking the streets.  Not once did a Prius sit in the left lane on highway 89.  Not once was a tent city of homeless even seen. And, more importantly, the refugee population seemed happy and engaged.  Almost as if the entire system was done the right way.

In contrast, I look at Portland, my local city.  The city that made me disavow my liberal identity.  It is a city where anger is the new cool.  If you are white and not angry about how “underserved” or “underprivileged” other people are, well, you just don’t belong here.

It’s a city where every morning, I walk past tent cities full of homeless people that shoot up heroin in safe centers. I step over sidewalk chalk with angry scribblings of last nights protest-du-jour, the pending rain our only hopes to remove it from our collective memory.

It’s a city where ANTIFA literally calls the shots while the police sit idly by, their hands tied by an insane mayor. Oh, and the same police refused to assist federal agents during a protest at their local facility, too.

The contrast of these two cities could not be any sharper.  And, while they share similar DNA (I have often called Portland “Burlington on steroids.”), Burlington has proven that liberalism can be done well, and done right.  And I am proud to say the liberal side of my political foundation was built there. Back when Vermont passed one of – if not the – first civil union bills in the nation.  A political anger that is kept in check and leveraged only when truly needed, which avoids Portland’s issue of crying angry wolf.

Maybe the conservative base should examine the areas where liberalism actually does win, as an example of what is possible.  And how it can be so eloquent.

 

Alvord Adventure

One of my bucket list items, the Alvord Desert has always intrigued me.  The desolation.   The harsh environment.  The wide open spaces.  The hot springs. So this year, we finally went to explore it ourselves.

After loading up the Land Cruiser, we hit the road for the 7 hour journey ahead.

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The Land Cruiser creeping at Whole Foods.

We had to stop at Whole Foods in Bend, OR for the typical vegan overland chow – Beyond Burgers, Beyond meat crumbles, Chao cheese, cold beers, and all the fixins.

After passing through Burns, we began to experience the desolation we had been craving so much.

Continue reading Alvord Adventure

Trail Day: Tillamook State Forest

Today I joined my offroading friends for a day of wheeling in our “back yard” trails.  It was a big day for me and my rig, as it marked the first time I was meeting up driving a Toyota.  This group of friends had grown and bonded over our common JKs – build parties installing coil overs, and offroad/camping trips in Moab, the Rubicon, and elsewhere.

So it was a moment of truth for me – was selling my JK and buying a 25 year old Land Cruiser a good choice?

After the initial ribbing and airing down was over, we hit Archer’s Firebreak.  This was an awesome trail choice – Archer’s was my favorite trail in the JK, and one I led every year for the Jeep Jamboree.  So I had a lot of history with it and knew it well.  However, I had never wheeled it in anything other than the JK.  Now I was in a Toyota.  And an automatic.

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Me following a comp-cut JK on one tons and 40s.  Seemed like a good idea.

The biggest difference for me this time, was that I would bypass the burly stuff.  I was without rock rails, skids, and confidence in the new rig.

Continue reading Trail Day: Tillamook State Forest

Exploring the Upper Deschutes Canyon

Oregon has a lot of hidden gems when it comes to campsites.  I recently found a canyon on Google maps, where the road closely followed the Deschutes river, and dead-ended.  Being an early season shakedown run this seemed like a great option.

So I called my buddy Jesse and his overland-ready Dodge Ram, and we hit the road.

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At the first gravel road on the journey.

We drove from Mt. Hood through the town of Maupin and made our way to the BLM access road that would wind along the river, going deeper and deeper into the canyon.

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The road was very well maintained, even given the early-season conditions.

The road is dotted with many little campsites.  We slowed at each to see which one would lend the best experience.  We wanted something off the road yet close to the water.  We were surprised as we rounded a bend, to have a herd of cattle in the road.

Continue reading Exploring the Upper Deschutes Canyon

Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]

Growing up in Vermont, most places I considered “vegan” were stereotypical hippie joints – local co-ops bathed in patchouli oil, incense, and Birkenstock footprints.  And, while many places in the Green Mountain State still resemble those icons, the vegan scene in Vermont is changing.

On a recent trip home, we pulled our car into a non-descript parking lot in Essex.  The property is shared with a nursery/greenhouse. A small sign over a beautiful deck read “Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Cafe.”

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From the outside on this chilly Winter day, so far the experience was quintessential Vermont – from the rolling frozen hills in the distance, to the barn-esque design of Sweet Alchemy.  Once inside, the warm, sweet smells of a talented baker completed the experience.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]