There are probably some SEO experts that would have a lot to say about that title, but whatever forever. Because we are Midwestern, we decided to drive from Chicago to St. Petersburg, FL over Christmas break – with lots of stops in between. We’ve made this drive once before, so this time we packed for SURVIVAL and despite spending nearly three full days in the car, we made it! Here are a few things that made the long, long drive a lot less hateful than it could have been:
1. The Empowered Cookie
The day before we left for our trip, a PR package from The Empowered Cookie arrived. I took a peek at the nutrition panel and decided they were pretty close to a power bar I might eat for breakfast or a filling snack so I threw them in the snack bag we packed.
But then… I started kind of freaking out about packing for unpredictable Florida weather and I stress ate the Ginger Molasses cookie and hot damn! It was really good. Like, cookie good. A cookie I would just eat for fun and not because it’s healthy. So I was super excited to eat another one for breakfast in the car.
The next morning, we hit the road a little after 6am and after about 40 minutes I handed cookies out to Tony and Teno. I gave Teno a Chocolate Cherry, Tony a Chocolate Walnut, and I took the Lemon Lavender Poppy Seed because I knew neither of them would like it. The lavender was strong, but kid of mellowed out the more I chewed. Still, that flavor may not for everyone. But anyway, they were both happy with their cookies and I was sad we didn’t have more to eat as the trip went on.
The Empowered Cookie is gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, and low-glycemic (so they won’t spike your blood sugar, leading to a crash). But most important, they’re soft, chewy, and really good. Definitely got us off to a good start that first morning.
Want to try these for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post! One lucky winner will receive a custom 6-pack of The Empowered Cookie. (Prize can ship to US addresses only.)
2. Happy Cow
I love to get recommendations from locals when I travel, but I also always have the Happy Cow app handy to find vegan options wherever I go. You can plan ahead, making lists right on the app of places you’d like to go. But you can also just pull it up and let it use your location to find options instantly.
I especially like that I can filter by open hours (why are so many breakfast places not open until 11am? I’ve been awake for like five hours already by then!) And of course, the community reviews and photos are really useful for separating the “options” from the “things I actually want to eat.”
I even use Happy Cow in my own city because there’s always something new, and the community is always updating with new listings.
There are other apps like Happy Cow, such as Kompas, and Plantastic. In addition to reviews, they also team up with community leaders so you can get recommendations from vegan activists and influencers in various cities.
No, I did not spend the whole time Tony was driving staring at Instagram. I spent it listening to podcasts and holding a Cheeze and Thank You cheese ball in my lap, making him a cheese cracker every once in a while. But, as I posted about our various stops – Nashville, Chattanooga, etc. I’d get suggestions from people who follow me, and even the occasional DM from a local restaurant.
One of those DMs came from Willow St. Deli in Chattanooga, which I later realized came as a result of my friend Kaitlyn tagging them in one of my posts and letting them know I was in town. Linley, the chef and owner, invited us to come by for brunch the next morning and boy howdy, were we glad we did!
We had the seitan chick’n and biscuits with greens, two kinds of quiche and Linley sent us on our way to Atlanta with one of her sweet rolls. It’s kind of a hybrid of a cinnamon roll and a croissant, laminated with lots of flaky layers, gooey in the middle, and smothered in a not-too-sweet cream cheese icing. I literally got shivers writing about it just now.
Instagram, you brought us those things people put in their mouths for white teeth, and and endless stream of FabFitFun sponsored posts, but you also brought me Willow St. Deli and for that, I am grateful.
Duh, everyone listens to podcasts. But often times I get 20 minutes into a new podcast and realize I hate it. This did happen on our trip, with a podcast about mythological creatures that wasn’t bad… but was just kind of boring. But luckily people on Instagram had recommended lots of them, so we listened to (and enjoyed) these:
- Motive – The true story of T.J. Jimenez, a Chicago teen who was wrongfully convicted of murder and later awarded $25 million… which he used to become the self-appointed leader of a violent street gang.
- The Dream – We listened to season one, a deep dive into the shady world of Multilevel Marketing (direct sales) companies like Young Living, LulaRoe, Posh, etc. Bonus if you’re from Michigan (like Tony) there are lots of Owosso references.
- How Did This Get Made – The hilarious Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas watch bad movies and tell you about them. This later influenced us to watch Double Dragon, which was a HUGE mistake.
5. Build Your Own Bowl/Salad Places
This one’s kinda generic, but I just want to say thanks to the universe for letting me be alive during a time when made-to-order salad and grain bowl places are popular.
It’s easy to eat nothing but power bars and chips on long trips like this, or to overdo it when you find a vegan restaurant you’re excited about. So, even though they’re never anything to write home about, I was grateful for the places along the way where you pile healthy stuff in a bowl and someone cooks it for you, or where you go down a line and build a ridiculous salad. It forced me to eat whole vegetables and leafy greens, which my guts were very happy about.
I guess while I’m at it, it’s also nice to have options at omni chains like Chipotle and Mellow Mushroom that are more than just “get it without all the stuff on it.” What a time to be alive.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I may earn a commission. That being said, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.