Trail Report: Rubicon Trail [California] Day 2

Buck Island Lake to the End

September 1, 2013

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So last night was just about a disaster.

There was a lot of partying in them thar hills – and shouting, and driving around, and being all rednecky.  So I woke up pretty grumpy.

Luckily, I was up before anyone else in the group.  So, I wandered down to the lake and decided to get my morning started with a swim.  I jumped into the lake with biodegradable soap and wash some of the trail off me.  It was VERY chilly (probably about 8,000 feet) but worth it.

I wandered back to camp and started to prepare our breakfast at about 7:30.

My coffee routine has changed over the years.  I used to lug a huge silver coffee pot when backcountry camping (which was stupid).  Then, I moved to French Press on Jeep trips.  But even that is a huge pain in the butt.  You have a lot of grounds to deal with (both fresh and wet) as well as washing out the press and all that stuff.

So my new formula is Stumptown’s Cold Brew coffee (small glass bottles).  I heat up some water, and add about half a bottle of coffee to half a cup of water.  Stir in some soy creamer, and voila!  Trail coffee that is easy and grounds free.

Back to the trail.

We broke camp and headed out around 10:00AM.

The first set of ledges right outside of camp proved to be an abrupt and startling challenge.  Chad would use his winch again on these, as the placement of the ledges were right in the wrong spot.  Running an open diff was much harder in spots like these.

We made our way slowly toward Big Sluice.

Chad coming over the large rocks on Big Sluice.
Shauna navigating the rock field around Big Sluice.

We arrived at a great spot for lunch, just past Rubicon Springs.  This was a large granite area that butted up against a cliff, with large boulders piled up at the base.  A the Rubicon River meandered  through the site, and filled a good sized pond, complete with a rope swing.  This would be an amazing spot to camp next year.

Our lunch spot along the creek.

We sat here for a couple of hours, enjoying the water and some good lunch.

After departing Rubicon Springs, we now had to face the final obstacle – Cadillac Hill.

Helpful signs in the small “town” of Rubicon Springs.

This is the end of the Rubicon, and you could say they saved the best for last.  This is a very steep climb with harrowing drops on the right side.  Four or five obstacles (mostly ridges) dotted the length of Cadillac.

Chad kicking up some dust on Cadillac Hill.

This was the only spot where I sustained any damage.  On one of the steep ridge climbs, a rock struck my brand new Bilstein steering stabilizer and I had to work to remove it.

Me working to remove the busted stabilizer.

On our way up Cadillac Hill, we had a visitor.  A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Please go on with your business. Thanks.

The rest of the trail ended pretty uneventfully.  We aired back up around 5:30PM and left for town shortly thereafter.

Trail Report: Rubicon Trail [California] Day 1

Loon Lake Trailhead to Buck Island Lake

August 31, 2013

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I still cannot believe we are here.

Most people plan for years to come and drive the Rubicon Trail; we started planning this last Tuesday.

We start out in Grass Valley, California early.  Having pulled into town at a deadly 2:00AM and trying desperatley to find a hotel (on Labor Day Weekend) we finally found a room at the haunted Holbrooke Hotel.  I was not happy to spend $185 a night (plus they charged us $10 for the dog) but I was happy to get out of the Jeep and into some type of bed.

We dropped off our doors at a friend’s parents place at 9:30 and headed out for gas and to the trail.

A very expensive pile of doors at our friend's parents place.
A very expensive pile of doors at our friend’s parents place.

After fueling up one last time, and perhaps my second cup of coffee, we were on the road for the final stretch.

There are few ways to describe the sensation of driving a naked Jeep (no doors, no roof) to people that have never done it.  When you can smell the smokey pines, hear the birds and streams as you pass above, and feel the chilly morning air swirl around your face and hands, you are in a very happy place.  Add in some great music, hot coffee, and great company and you have the recipe for a wonderful weekend.

Chad following on our way to the trailhead.

Our goal was to arrive at the trailhead a little before lunch; we were not too far off.  We pulled in at 12:30.  The place was PACKED due to the annual fund raiser called “Cantina for the ‘Con.”

We slowly meandered through the rigs parked all over, and found a place to air down and make final preps.

A video still showing the crowd at the trail head.

We hit the beginning of the trail – a filter called the Gatekeeper – at around 1:30.  The Gatekeeper is a small section of pretty large boulders, intended to act as a test.  Basically if you or your Jeep cannot make it through this section, it’s best to call it a day and turn around.

Frank taking a breather just after the Gatekeeper.

After Gatekeeper we continued on the trail until 7:08PM when we finally made it to Buck Island Lake. Being Labor day and rather crowded, it took us some time and strategic thinking on where to find a spot to camp for the night.

We continued past the dam and found an awesome pull-out overlooking the lake.

Setting up camp just before sunset.

After quickly setting up camp and having some dinner, it was an early night for us all.  We climbed into tents and tried to get whatever sleep was possible with the shouting, fireworks, drunkenness, and other fun (I think I got about 2 hours of sleep).

We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.
We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.

Our Dinner:

Hello from the Rubicon Trail!

There are a few hobbies in life that have an origin…that single focal point where it all began.  And this is unfortunate, as there are just as few experiences like standing on the hallowed ground, in the same spot as countless others ahead of you.

The trailhead area is packed for Cantina at the 'Con.
The trailhead area is packed for Cantina at the ‘Con.

Such is the Rubicon Trail.

I will spare you the litany of over dramatic  phrases and metaphors I could drop in this post, and instead cut to the chase:  This trail is the single “Pilgrimage” every Jeeper must make at least once in their lifetime.

I mean, it is so iconic that Jeep actually names the trim package for their most capable Wrangler after this legendary strip of dirt and granite.

For more information on the trail, check out the Wikipedia article.

For now, I will compile some photos and prepare to send along some information from the Rubicon!

Welcome to Off-road Vegan!

Me enjoying a Tofurkey sammy on the Steelbender trail in Moab, UT.
Me enjoying a Tofurkey sammy on the Steelbender trail in Moab, UT.

Life can be defined a string of epiphanies that drive some kind of change in our direction. While this may seem like an overly analytical way to define fate, I also think it is a powerful view.

If I never decided to create an account on Yahoo! Dating back in 2000, I would have never met my wife of 11 years.  If I never decided to haphazardly drop off my resume at IBM (in windpants and a T Shirt, mind you), I would have never worked for IBM and enjoyed the career that I do.

And, if I never ate vegan jerky and Field Roast hot dogs on all my Jeeping excursions, I would never have thought to create this blog.

It is not always easy being a walking conundrum.

My friends know me as a vegan, yet also as a shooter and owner of guns.  I am something of an animal-rights person yet I support hunting.  I worry about the state of our planet, and yet I drive a 14 MPG beast through the woods.

So I felt a great way to share these personal adventures would be through a blog.

My goals for this blog:

1. Start and hold an active and functional (read: Adult) discussion on many things that plague our society.  These can be politics, policies, gun rights, pretty much anything.  All sides are welcome, but we need to be respectful.

2. Share some kick ass recipes.  Some of these will be from the trail, and others will be shared from the home base.

3. Post reviews.  I want to post reviews for my Jeep friends on new equipment I am testing, as well as things a vegan finds useful while on the trail.

4. Share our adventures from the trail.  Provide trail reviews, photos and video, tips on places, or anything else we feel is worth sharing when on the road.

Sit back, buckle your seatbelt, and enjoy the qinoa tofu salad.

Scott

Restaurant Review: The Cafe [Key West]

Note: This is currently my review on Yelp for the Cafe.

Vegan Cannonball Run?

I recently roadtripped  down US1 from Miami Beach to Key West, for a day trip with my wife.  On our way, my wife found a listing for The Cafe in Key West that promised to have some decent food.  Reading everyone’s reviews also gave her something to do on the rather monotonous drive.

Once we got there, I was soooo glad we went to The Cafe.   The place was empty and we were seated promptly.  We started our lunch with an order of BBQ “Unwing Dings” and they were perfect – little sticks of fried tofu (think more tempura than heavy breading) – with an amazing asian-style BBQ sauce.  Super awesome.

Un-wing dings were dingalings.

I also went with the veggie burger – I know, I am lame.  But I am also a dude, so what do you expect?  We wanted something quick and filling…we had to have the rental back in Miami Beach by 5PM.

Veggie burger was super rad.

Melanie got a marinated tofu salad (I forgot the name).  While she said it was “OK,” she was weirded out by the warm tofu on a cold salad.  She also said the tofu didn’t seem marinated, more “dunked in sauce.”  It seemed like something she could easily make at home.

The tofu salad.

For me, none of that matters as the house made vegan burger was phenom.  I also paired it with a tropical Mango Pale Ale from some brewery in the USVI which I highly recommend for those steamy Key West Summer days.

Amazing beer.

FWIW, we left lunch at 1:30 and pulled into the car rental place at 4:45 – record time!

And we had a great vegan lunch to boot.

Restaurant Review: Sublime [Ft. Lauderdale]

OFFROAD VEGAN TOP 5!

When vegans die, they decide to skip heaven and go straight to Sublime.

Tonight my wife and I took our terrestrial selves into this South Florida vegan mecca for a special evening of drinks and dinner.  We have been to Sublime before (in years past) but every time we go it just seems to get better and better.  The happy hour is awesome (BOGO on cocktails and half off apps when you buy one full price).

First, I ordered the Tangito (a tangerine infused Mojito) and Melanie went with the classic Mojito.  Both were very well prepared and just about perfect. For apps, you can’t go wrong with the Frito Miso (we’ve had this staple before) – which despite the name is anything but Fritos.  It is a bowl of crispy/tempura-like cauliflower in a seductive sweet chili sauce that will blow your mind.  We also went with something new for us – the Sliders…which, also blew our mind with their cheddary, Gardein-y, awesomeness.

The Frito Misto. You need to eat this now.

But enough of the chit chat about the little stuff.  Let’s talk entrees.

The choices were very hard.  I ended up with the enchiladas – a gamble for someone like me who is a total baby with spicy food.  It was warm, for sure….just on the upper end of my spice-o-meter.  But, it was still crazy awesome and just enough food to fill me up without needing a wheelchair and a linebacker to roll me out.  Melanie ordered the Mushroom Ravioli, which she loved and I tried a bite – but I am also a mushroom baby and wasn’t a super fan.  Not a dig on Sublime, but a dig on my needlessly picky self.

It’s also cool that Nancy – the owner- makes it a point to chat with customers.

Gardein sliders. Who says vegans can’t have awesome stuff?

Dessert was definitely to go (how could we NOT order something?).  Melanie went with the Chocolate Nirvana and I ordered the Strawberry Cheesecake.  We tossed them in the car for the long drive along A1A back to Miami Beach.  But, the floor heat might have been too warm for them as they both experienced a degree of meltage and, would have been MUCH better if eaten back at Sublime.  I won’t review them since we totally messed them up.

Bottom line, when I think of a top shelf Vegan experience in the US, I think of Sublime.  Our annual(ish) visits here keep reaffirming that this is totally one of (if not, *the*) best places in the country.

Restaurant Review: Green Room Cafe [Singapore]

UPDATE:  Happy Cow is listing this restaurant as CLOSED.  I have not been able to verify that is the case.

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Singapore is an incredible city, full of vibrant culture, great food and wicked humidity.  The vegan scene is on par with Portland/Salt Lake/Austin and is full of really unique offerings.

The hawker centers (almost like food carts but stationary) offer more of a local flavor, while vegan chain establishments like Vegan Burg have something a little more reliable.

I was looking for something in the middle on my first visit to SG, and now every time I return it is a must stop.

Happy Cow pointed me to the Green Room Cafe – a small intimate restaurant located on the fringes of Bishan Park.  It has indoor and outdoor seating (I always sit outside) available.

There is just something about the amazing outdoor ambiance here.  Maybe it is because of the tropical atmosphere, or the park, or maybe it’s the mesmerizing sound of birds and insects you don’t recognize.  Whatever it is, I hope you have the chance to sit outside and enjoy a drink and dinner here.

The open, outdoor seating area.

Speaking of drinks, the classic Mojito is one of the best I have had, and is made with all natural ingredients.  It is my staple drink every time I go back.

On my latest visit, I started with the Momotaro Tomato cup, which had a salad of avocado, shallots, abursage,  and brown rice. For main, I had the Vegan Soy Laksa, which is noodles, tofu and (I did not know this at the time) but Indonesian mushrooms.

Momotaro Tomato Cup
The Soy Laksa

Restaurant Review: Fu Hui Ci Yuan vegetarian cultural restaurant [Beijing]

Eating vegan was actually pretty easy in China, and I am not just referring to the suitcase full of Clif bars I had in my hotel room.

The ease of eating in the city was made possible by the Happy Cow app on my mobile that lets me pinpoint vegan (or vegan friendly) locations near me, regardless of where I am.

So I decided to browse HC for a lunch meeting with coworkers, and it led me to Fu Hui Ci Yuan.

The air was pretty polluted on the day we decided to walk down Wanfujing Street to find this spot, but it was a relatively short walk.  I grew slightly uneasy when we turned down a dirty, narrow hutong, as I hoped this place wasn’t a reflection of the area.

Sure enough, I was greeted by a big restaurant facade of concrete and wood, proudly proclaiming “Vegetarian” on the side.  I was comfortable with the veg part, not so much the dirty, gray outside.

But, never judge a book by its cover.

Once inside, we stepped down a few stairs into a large great room surrounded by tea pots and teas for sale.  The room was beautifully laid out and was very clean.

Inside the restaurant.

We all sat at a large table and began to review the expansive menu.

We decided on the following options:

Fried Rice (aka “Man’s Food”)

Turnip Tofu soup

Mock chicken with Bamboo Shoots

“Meatballs”

Mashed potatoes (I know, totally random)

An eggplant mock eel

Frozen, mashed yam with blueberry drizzle on sliced yaw berry.

The service was phenomenal (typical for my experiences in China) – prompt and courteous.

The price was also reasonable as seven people had this gourmet lunch for around $30 USD.

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