So, we're back. I'd love to say we had a wonderful trip, but unfortunately I threw my back out my first night there. I'm slowly getting better, but it is still rather uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time. I won't go into details, because this is a blog about veganism, but man... If you're having guests (we were staying at my cousins at the beginning of our trip) you should do a little to make them feel welcome. Soap, shampoo... a reasonable bed to sleep on. We're not in college anymore people. Sleeping on the floor doesn't work for us!!!! (My cousins are older than we are, so they should have a clue.) The rest of our trip wasn't as much fun as it could have been because of my back, but we made the best of it. Wow Montana is GORGEOUS! But I really wanted to talk about traveling while vegan.
We were a little apprehensive about what we were going to eat, so Jane did some advance sleuthing on the internet. She scoped out the local health food stores along our route, and that basically saved us. She even printed out maps to these locations, so were were able to find them without any trouble. I'm happy to announce that we were fully vegan our entire trip with the possible exception of our B&B breakfasts. The inn keepers assured us our meals were vegan, but unless you do the actual food preparation you have to accept that you'll never really know what you're getting.
Before we left home, Jane packed us a lunch and some goodies for our flights. She made us sandwiches, and we had nuts and a bunch of fruit, and she also brought about 10 protein bars, fearing our food options for the rest of the trip. All this extra food proved to be a good thing even before we got to Montana since our two 1-hour flights with short layover turned out to take over 9 hours! But we did get Biscoff cookies (vegan) on our Delta flights. Yum!
Our plan was to stop off at the food co-op in Bozeman after we landed. Since we didn't get out of the airport until 8.30 pm and we had a 2+ hour drive into the wilds of MT, we skipped it. My cousins are gluten-free and said they'd have some vegan fare for us. But we had no dinner that night. We got in at 11 pm, and they didn't think to offer us anything, even though we were supposed to eat with them. (We'd kept them apprised of our constantly updated ETAs.) Thank God my wife is a girl scout! (Another hosting hint people: offer your guests food and water when they arrive!)
Our stay with the cousins was okay. We did get vegan food, but no discernible protein. Since we had our stash of protein bars and nuts it wasn't a total disaster, but it would have been nice to have something other than grilled veggies and rice. Normally I don't hold people responsible to feed me when my diet is so far from the mainstream, but wife-of-cousin is a licensed dietician, and said it wouldn't be a problem to feed us. Just goes to show you that you can't really count on anyone else.
After cousins, we drove up to Great Falls. We checked in to our B&B and went in search of provisions and dinner. On Jane's list was one option in Great Falls: 2 J's Market. I wasn't expecting much. WOW! The selection was amazing. We bought a ton of food there simply because we could (also, we had access to a fridge in our B&B). We bought mixed greens for salad, picked up a bottle of salad dressing, wraps and vegan cold cuts, vegan cheese, an avocado, Primal Strips, and some ice cream. And a variety of beautiful fruit. And for dessert, a pint of Purely Decadent Chocolate Brownie Almond. Then it was off to Taco Bell for bean burritos, no cheese please. We brought all our goodies back to our room and had a nice spread for dinner.
After we made our reservation at both B&B's we phoned and asked if they would be able to accommodate a vegan diet. They both assured us they had experience feeding vegan guests. Our first breakfast, at The Collins Mansion, was an oatmeal bake which was good, if a little dry. But the second morning we had a baked banana thing with home fries and fruit. Jane was laughing with that we could go into diabetic coma, the bananas were shockingly sweet as they were topped with marshmallow. When we asked about them, the hostess assured us they were vegan, the marshmallows were made with no egg white. We explained about the gelatin, but she wasn't particularly receptive and insisted they were vegan. We picked around the fluff. You have to go with the flow when you're not eating in your own home!
We spent the day at the Montana State Fair. Jane made sandwiches for us, and we brought along some fruit. That was actually critical. There were NO vegan food options at the fair. The closest thing was the fried pickles. But I'm sure the batter ruled them out. There were also fried oreos, fried jalapeno peppers, and fried meatballs -- on a stick of course. And just about everyone we spoke with raved about them.
Unfortunately I really couldn't stay at the fair that long. I actually got a massage during the fair and managed to stay on my feet until around 6.30, but then we needed dinner, and I needed to lie down. Once again we hit Taco Bell for our bean burrito fix. Then back to 2 J's for more salad and vegan ice cream.
After Great Falls, we drove through Helena. Another Taco Bell stop for lunch and then off to the Real Food Market. Another beautiful store. We picked up some more salad for dinner and a some vegan soup and a loaf of french bread and vegan cheese. We arrived at our second B&B, the Howlers Inn, (a federal wolf preserve) and settled in to make dinner. Our room was equipped with it's own kitchen, which made things simple.
We had the B&B prepare breakfast for two days of our stay. Our first breakfast was an oatmeal bake. Sound familiar? I was laughing with Jane that there must be a Montana B&B Breakfast Cookbook they all use. Thankfully, we had vegan french toast for breakfast the next morning. Again, I'm not 100% positive the breakfast was vegan, but the hosts truly cared. (If you're going to stay in Bozeman, we really recommend this place. The hosts are friendly and helpful, everything is clean, and they get the concept of breakfast... free flowing food and beverage. Unlike the Collins Mansion -- coffee, tea, or water.) They're also pretty accommodating of alternative eaters. One morning they had vegans (us), gluten free folk, one vegetarian, and "regular" eaters, and took everything in stride.
For our afternoons around Bozeman, we had Primal Strips, a delicious vegan jerky, and other snacks. If you haven't tried them, you should. They are amazing. We really enjoyed the teriyaki flavor. Yum. One day we ate at the Bozeman Food Co-Op. We visited them twice. Once to pick up a few provisions. Gorgeous place. We were jealous. Although we don't have difficulty finding vegan foods here, the food co-ops and health food stores we visited in Montana were much nicer than what we frequent here. How unbelievable is that?
Before heading to the airport we also stopped at Huckleberry's Natural Market. They're attached to a regular grocery store, but you can find tons of vegan food there. Again, beautiful store with a wide variety of products.
If it sounds like all we did was visit grocery stores, that's not the case, but I wanted to point out all the food options available whenever you travel. Also, I really couldn't sit down to eat, so restaurants (which appeared to be VERY limited) weren't really an option for us. I'm sure there are plenty of locations where we wouldn't have been as successful an we were in Montana, but there are strategies you can take to make your travels as a vegan easier. I'll touch on that in my next post.
Anyway, Montana is gorgeous, at least in the summer. And you can make it a vegan friendly trip if you don't mind preparing your own food.