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.

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]

Engine Rebuild for a 1993 Land Cruiser

So last year I purchased a 1993 Land Cruiser FZJ80 in Bend.  The vehicle was in really good shape, but as a dedicated family overlanding rig, I was concerned for reliability for a 25 year old vehicle with over 260,000 miles.

Last January I decided to pull the motor out and do a complete rebuild.

I pulled the engine out in my shop at home with countless tools, about 300 ziploc bags, and the help of dear friends.

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Not even kidding. All screws and parts were organized in ziplocs.

After the first night, I had the front clip and hood off with some engine components.

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For organization, I used the aforementioned baggies and also a ton of blue masking tape with letters written on them.  The other end of the hose/item would have the corresponding letter so I knew where everything connected later.

Continue reading Engine Rebuild for a 1993 Land Cruiser

Restaurant Review: Hip City Veg [Philadelphia]

Spending a week in Philly has been an awesome chance to get out and check the vegan scene.  So far it has been an awesome experience.

Shortly after landing at PHL, I hit the road and had dinner at Hip City Veg on South 40th.

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The spot was super nice, and had seats in the huge front window for epic people watching.  I arrived later in the day, even after dinner, so the place was pretty empty.

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The next challenge was to choose something from the menu.  It isn’t a super expansive menu, but there was a decent variety of things.  After hearing rave reviews of the Disco Chickin Sandwich, I ordered one up.  I added a side of sweet potato fries, and the mysterious black bean dip.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Hip City Veg [Philadelphia]

Lots of Changes at Offroad Vegan!

I have taken a little breather from writing new content for the blog.

A large part of that is due, in part to….wait for it….selling my Jeep!  That’s right, I sold my Wrangler.

A lot of people asked me why.  Basically it was a combination of things.  Primarily, I was just a little bored with it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Wranglers.  And I will have another one.  But for now, I wanted something different.

Second, I was bored with rocks.  I have done the Rubicon 3 times, Moab 3 times, and countless trips in Oregon and Washington.  I want to try overlanding and exploring with the family, not just bouncing off rocks.

And last, I want to learn something new.  I have worked on my Jeeps for many years, and want to learn something new.  In addition to overlanding, I want to try a new vehicle, a new platform, and even a new brand.

Continue reading Lots of Changes at Offroad Vegan!