I CAN Drive 55, or Nom Eats: A Journey to Hollywood

Hey there Internets, I’m Ian McIntosh and I am one of the owners of Nom Eats Vegan Food Truck (www.renonomeat.com).  We just got back from Vegan Street Fair (www.veganstreetfair.com) in North Hollywood, CA and I thought I’d make a blog post about the life of a small business owner (namely a vegan food truck).

So there we are thinking to ourselves: “Selves…it would be a great idea to get out there and see what the vegan scene is like on a bigger scale…and I bet the best way to do that is to drive your stupid 1975 Chevy food truck to Los Angeles from Reno, NV (spoiler alert…there are some mountains in between those 2 locations).”  The unanimous answer from ourselves being: “Hey!  That idea is brilliant; what could possibly go wrong on 524 mile journey…nothing obviously.  Also let’s bring a ton of produce in a hot smelly sweat box of a food truck…cause again…great idea!”  So it was settled, we would grab as many people as possible to cram into our food truck and another car for when something went wrong (which could never happen, right?). 

Fast forward to a week before we leave for the trip: [queue sweet flash forward music and visual effects] we take the truck to have a plethora of work done to it to ensure a swift journey (swift is a bit misleading) to Vegan Street Fair.  With a whole suite of new gauges and shiny things installed we test drive our lovely food truck (it needs a name…we’ll have to think of one) approximately 3 miles from one freeway entrance to the next exit.  BAM!  It hit 65 mph…life is great.  We’re going to make it to LA in record time cruising at ludicrous speed (also known as the speed limit).  I forgot to mention this test drive was 8am on March 18th, which is the day we leave for sunny California, with Vegan Street Fair taking place on the 20th…plenty of time to get there and enjoy the sights and sounds of Los Angeles.  Our vessel made it up to speed, let’s cram 4,000 burritos worth of junk into said vessel (spoiler alert pt. 2…it’s near impossible to make 4,000 burritos…we tried and failed).  There we are, we’re on our way!  Next stop the land where dreams come true, that space steeped in mystery and bathed in sun, palm trees as far as the eye can see, sunny southern California.

We made it to Auburn, CA, 106 miles from the beginning of our long and arduous journey to our destination of fame and fortune.  Upon arrival in Auburn, CA, I, Ian, thought: “hey let’s go to Ikeda’s and grab some food…I love food, we make food, this all makes sense.”  So I get off the freeway, roll up to the stoplight (it’s red), and there it is a complete lack of brakes.  Again, inner monologue: “hmm…this isn’t normal, I’ll downshift, throw on the e-brake and see where this takes us.”  One single honk of the horn later, I’ve rolled through 2 red lights and am back on the freeway slowly (and I mean slowly) coming to a stop on the side of the road.  Turns out a taco truck from 1975 doesn’t like vibrations, yet it does a lot of vibrating, and a bracket for our front brake lines broke off, causing the line to hit our alternator belt (or as I call it a chainsaw underneath the hood of a rolling death trap).  Our beloved alternator belt decided to cut its’ way through the brake line.  There we were stranded on the side of I-80 awaiting a compassionate and caring citizen to come to our aid…it didn’t happen (until later).  We stroll into town, find out a Friday at 3pm in small town USA is a bad time to get a food truck rebuilt, as everyone has left for the weekend.  Eventually an awesome mechanic comes to our aid, bashes the brake line with a rock a few times (we tried our best to crimp it, but we’re not the best at crimping 40 year old “steel”) and we’re back on our way; at least to the nearest gas station to try and figure out where to get a real repair.  Again, small town USA…nowhere is open.  Kyle (my trusty co-copilot) finds a mobile mechanic; said mechanic doesn’t show up for what seems like forever, so we drive off.  As we’re pulling out into blazing fast traffic on 49, our savior Nick appears…quick U-turn and Nick is there to solve our troubles!  Fast forward [queue visual effects] to 8pm or so, and we’re good to go!  We’ve been at it since 8am, but 8pm…8am it’s all the same.  We’re on the road…and don’t make it far because we are all too sleepy, and we ran out of gas around Lathrop, CA (196 miles from our starting point), but this is why we have the extra vehicle.  Rikki and Ali save us by getting us gas…then we realize to ourselves: “let’s sleep…and drive tomorrow way faster and get there so early that it’ll be like none of this happened.”

Here we are, day 2 of our journey.  We embark from beautiful Lathrop, CA to the city of angels, Los Angeles, CA.  We make it roughly Bakersfield, when our radiator hose decides it can’t handle the pressures of being a radiator hose attached to a food truck trying to make it in the big city.  It just gives up on us right there!  Funny noises ensue, water, steam, more water.  We find ourselves at home on the side of the road…again.  This time we’re on the side of the I-5…even though it’s a different road, it seems pretty similar to being stranded on the side of I-80.  We wait for what seems like an eternity for things to cool off, so that we may access the situation.  Luckily we have a gas can that has an extra-long hose attached to it (this is where I should mention that all gas pumps have the lovely vapor recovery system, so that evil hydrocarbons don’t escape into our atmosphere…but in a 1975 food truck it cares not for the environment or hydrocarbons, so we fill it up one gas can at a time…which is slow, very, very, very slow).  Let’s remove a section of our trusty gas can hose, and splice this into the radiator hose.  Thirty minutes later, it seems to be holding…we’re on our way again!  Bakersfield to Los Angeles!  Let’s go!

Next we find ourselves greeted by the lovely Grapevine; the breathtaking entryway to the chorus of angels, within the gates of the city of Los Angeles.  Upon reaching any sort of hill, even an anthill, our beloved steed deems it necessary to travel at the spry pace of 25 mph.  Up the Grapevine we go at 25 mph!  Next stop Vegan Street Fair.

To paraphrase and eliminate more length to the recap of our journey…we made it to Los Angeles and North Hollywood to attend the Vegan Street Fair, and it was a blast!  The event was great!  The journey to get there (and back…it’s like the Lord of the Rings…just cause you make it to the mountain, you still gotta make it back…unless you ride giant eagles, then forget the crap in between) was worth it, even if it was beyond stressful and all of my hair turned grey.  Also, a lot more stuff happened in between, with everyone doing their part to not make it a total train wreck and recover from the disaster that is driving a giant propane-powered missile from state to state.

I (Ian) want to give a shout out to: Carly (she left a relaxing weekend by the pool/bachelorette party to get covered in buffalo sauce), Robyn (she got a gnarly burn on her leg and can cut vegetables faster than ANYONE alive), Rikki (always came to the rescue), Ali (had to deal with Rikki the WHOLE time! And let us ruin Sping Break), Kyle (my trusty co-copilot and second fastest vegetable chopper), mechanic dude in Auburn, Nick in auburn, lady at the organic grocery store with the kid in Auburn, every single gas station on the I-5 from Stockton to Los Angeles, Vegan Street Fair, Justin (for the dope pad…I’ll be back and without a work trip), Brad the mechanic (who made miracles happen with no time whatsoever…or notice), Butler Soy Curls (we <3 you), 1975 Chevy Food Trucks everywhere, the movie Chef and Jon Favreau…for making it look easy (spoiler alert…our food truck doesn’t like to travel more than 5 miles away from its resting place), Mike Vallely for getting a burrito, Kat VonD for not getting a burrito (next time?), Steve-O for maybe being at VSF, John Salley for maybe getting interviewed with our truck in the background, and Los Angeles/NoHo/CA for the warm welcome!!

The end here is where I put my conclusions about what I learned from this life experience.  You won’t gain anything in life, business, whatever, unless you take a chance and put some risk into it.  You don’t throw all caution to the wind, but hey…you can, and maybe you should.  Shrug your shoulders and say “fuck it” and get behind the wheel of your 1975 Chevy food truck (or whatever the bad/good decision is) and just do it.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  You lose your brakes coming down a mountain and plow through an intersection killing a decent amount of people?  Life’s a gamble, and you might not wake up tomorrow cause you choke on a spider in your sleep…think about that!  It could be a HUGE spider.  I would do that hellride of a weekend 1,000 times again because it showed me that maybe 40 year old taco trucks don’t want to drive through 2 states, but they will and have and will continue to do so.  In closing, if you see our big bright green truck broken down on the side of the road, or in your town, or in our town stop by and say “hi”…we’re nice and have tasty burritos.

-Ian McIntosh, bringing you eats without meats.