Day 188: Fall Color

Day 188 ushered in the first day of obvious color change among the Aspen leaves in Vail. Change is in the air and the leaves are doing their thing with color! Just imagine green, yellow, orange, pink and red as far as your eyes can see. That is our incredible reality right now. Even more exciting is that we are at the center of the bullseye of fall color right now which means that we can chase the color in any direction from the mountains for a few weeks to extend our leaf-peeping delight. My husband and I are heading out in our RV in a few days to do that very thing and I AM SO EXCITED! Have I mentioned that autumn is my absolute favorite?

Day 181: A Rose By Any Other Name???The Impossible Burger Controversy Flies at The Rose in Edwards, Colorado

On day 181 of the Nowhere To Be Project I lunched at The Rose in Edwards, Colorado. The Rose is located at 97 Main Street West (suite 102B) in Edwards, Colorado. This was my second visit to the quaint café, both being at lunchtime. On my first visit I sat outside on the small patio. This time I was inside which presented some unique challenges (keep reading).

The establishment’s website describes the restaurant as one that is focused on locally-sourced foods which is always a draw for me. The bigger draw though is the Impossible Burger, a plant-based delight created by Impossible Foods. As a vegan, I am always searching for plant-based options and have literally chased this burger across the country since I found out about it a few months back.

Before I get into specifics about The Rose, I should address the controversy over the Impossible Burger. Recently, the CEO of the company revealed that the product was tested on rats to receive FDA approval. Cruelty-free products are the goal for most vegans, myself included, so this has obviously ruffled some feathers. After considering his statement and the methods employed, I feel that the company had little choice in the matter in order to achieve the greater good of having a vegan meat product approved by the FDA (thus widely available for consumption). Animal testing was not something that the company approves of, ever wanted to do, or plans to do in the future. Sadly, without it the product would not have come to fruition. Now, back to The Rose…

The Rose appears very small from the outside, but opens to several rooms upon entering. I would describe the decor as “industrial tea room”. There are comfy couches and tiny two-tops. There is also a bar and a pool table, so the social vibe of the space likely changes depending on the time of day. My guest and I were seated at a small table and instantly noticed many, many flies occupying the space. They were in the air, on the furnishings and buzzing in our faces. I asked to open a door to the outside and was permitted to do so, but was told that it probably would not help because they had been having an ongoing issue with the flies! We were a bit grossed out and considered leaving, but decided to ride it out.

We began with hot tea (they have a nice selection of interesting loose leaf teas) and the fried pickle appetizer. The tempura-style pickles were amazingly delicious and the addition of the sriracha flavor was unique. After the pickles, both my guest and I enjoyed the Impossible Burger. It was topped with avocado and more pickle, and was served with a side salad. The bun was good, but would have been even better if toasted. While we loved our meal, the flies were certainly an issue that left us both wondering if we’d return. Hopefully, they can get the issue resolved because there is potential for charm at The Rose Restaurant & Bar in Edwards, Colorado.

Day 170: The Legend of the Pubsub

On day 170 of the Nowhere To Be Project I enjoyed a little bit of heaven in my hometown. This ethereal feeling wasn’t found through visiting old friends, or family or even my favorite haunts. The joy was created by a Pubsub. If you’re from the south, you’ve no doubt delighted in a Pubsub as well. If not, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, a Pubsub is.

Unwrapping a Pub sub is a feeling like no other!

It all begins with Publix, a southern supermarket chain. Within the walls of every Publix lies a deli where the legendary Pubsubs are created. The are many varieties of subs to choose from, but my favorite is the veggie with no cheese on Italian five grain bread. The subs are laboriously made to order which, along with their cult-like popularity, explains the lengthy lines found at each and every one of the 1,231 Publix deli counters no matter the hour.

If you asked five Pubsub lovers where the deliciousness lies, you’d get five different answers. For me, it’s all about the bread. Oh, and the fresh cut veggies. Ohhhh, the garlic pickles! And the…

What makes a Pubsub legendary?

Day 137: Going Beyond Hamburg with the Burger

Day 137 of the Nowhere To Be Project was all about burgers (not the first time and sure won’t be the last:). Legend has it that the hamburger was created in Hamburg, Germany when ground beef was mixed with garlic and onions and served in an open-faced sandwich. This may be the case, but as a chronic world traveler and part-time hamburglar, I can confidently say that America has commandeered ownership of the hamburger. It’s no surprise then that a U.S. company has created what they call the Beyond Burger. The Beyond Burger is a very popular plant-based hamburger patty. It is the brainchild of the Beyond Meat Company, an innovator in plant-based options. The Beyond Burger is nicknamed the “bleeding burger” because its appearance and texture resemble that of a traditional beef hamburger. With the growing interest in healthier plant-based options, the Beyond Burger has become a very hot commodity with many stores struggling to keep it in stock. It is also popping in at many chain restaurants in the U.S. and the U.K.

As a burger-loving vegan, I prepare Beyond Burgers quite frequently. I either pan fry them or grill them. In my opinion, the pan frying gives them more flavor and a rich crust.

I am always trying to add a new twist each time I make them and today, I must say that I took the burger way, way beyond in the best of ways.

To begin, I warmed a tablespoon of avocado oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Next, I added sliced white button mushrooms to the pan, sprinkled them with a bit of garlic salt and sautéed them until they were just shy of crispy. I then placed a thawed Beyond Burger patty in the same pan, cooking it for about three to four minutes on each side. During the final minute of cooking, I spooned two tablespoons of Treeline soft french-style herb-garlic nut cheese on top of the patty and covered the pan with a lid. Once the cheese had warmed, I popped the patty onto thick piece of toasted sourdough bread coated in a layer of dijon mustard. The final touch was made when the mushrooms were spooned over the burger and a second slice of sourdough was placed on top. Yum!

I have not been compensated in any way for this post and have no vested interest in Beyond Meat or Treeline Cheese. As always, I write about my perspective alone.

Day 136: Is Vail’s Most Popular Casual Dining Restaurant Really Worth A Visit?

The open kitchen at Mountain Standard

Day 136 of the Nowhere To Be Project is dedicated to a review of Mountain Standard restaurant. Mountain Standard has been around for a couple of years and quickly made its mark in Vail Village. It is owned by the same proprietors that made Sweet Basil Vail’s go-to fine dining option. The restaurant boasts a casual western atmosphere with the open fire kitchen featured prominently. It is situated along the banks of Gore Creek in the heart of Vail and offers both indoor and patio seating along with a full bar.

I’ve visited the restaurant five times in the past year or so, trying both lunch and dinner. Most of the meals I’ve eaten at Mountain Standard have been good or slightly better. Most recently, I was delighted by the Crushed Fava Bean Toast appetizer ($14-ordered without the mozzarella cheese to make it vegan) at dinner. It was a fresh and slightly minty combination of deliciousness that I had never experienced and the unique taste of it will stick with me for a while.

The Fava Bean Toast

Mountain Standard is a meat-intensive venue which can be a bit challenging for those of us who follow a plant-based diet. In situations like this I get creative and compile a meal out of side dishes. Several different servers at Mountain Standard have told me that no menu changes or substitutions are possible at the restaurant, while others have worked with me to create a vegan option. Most recently that included tempura fried shitake mushrooms and a nice variety of fire roasted vegetables ($29). My fellow meat-eating diners have indicated that both the Rocky Mountain Trout ($29) and the pork shank ($35) are good choices.

My custom vegan dish

The service at Mountain Standard is mostly attentive although they are usually very busy which can make the place seem a bit short staffed and chaotic. For example, at dinner last week I asked that no cilantro or raw onions be included on my dish. The server acknowledged this request and repeated it back to me. Unfortunately, it was delivered with both. When I spoke up the response was, “oh, sorry” with no effort offered to correct it. The restaurant includes a mandatory 3% service charge on all checks which is apparently earmarked for the servers, so be sure to factor this in when considering gratuity. Overall, prices are in keeping with the local norm, so lunch for two will run you about $50 without alcohol and dinner about $75.

The unwanted cilantro and onion

Is Mountain Standard my favorite restaurant in Vail? No. Those I’ve dined with have agreed. The rather limited menu is good, but it isn’t outstanding. In other words, this isn’t food that you’ll dream of in the future, but it gets the job done in a tasty way. With that being said though, I have enjoyed my previous visits and will likely go again…maybe just for the Crushed Fava Bean Toast.

Day 135: Is Sustainable Travel a Thing?

On day 135 of the Nowhere To Be Project, Vail, Colorado (my chosen hometown) was bestowed with the elusive title of “sustainable destination”. This is quite an honor considering that no other mountain resorts in the world have the right to carry the moniker. Exciting, I know, but what does it really mean?

Front page news in Vail today!

We’ve all seen the signs in hotels asking us to reuse towels to save water, but true sustainability goes way beyond that. A sustainable destination is one that focuses on environmental, cultural and economic preservation. In other words, formal procedures must be in place to protect and preserve nature, wildlife, regional history and customs, and to contribute to and support the local economy.

In Vail, plastic bags were banned quite some time ago and every public waste receptacle provides an education on items that can be recycled versus those that will end up in a landfill. There is also a profound focus on the restoration and preservation of natural resources and wildlife. Citizens benefit not only from an outstanding quality of life here in the mountains, but from a fabulous public transportation system and a push toward environmentally responsible affordable housing. All of these things (and many more) helped contribute to the title of sustainable destination.

Vail’s approach to rubbish!

All of the hoopla made me wonder how many travelers really consider sustainability when choosing a destination. According to recent research, that number hovers at just over half! As a frequent camper, the practice of “leave no trace” is a personal mantra, but I had no idea that so many other travelers prioritized it as well. It demonstrates that a zero footprint approach to travel should not end when the tent is packed away and the fact that one of the most popular resort towns in the world sees this is very encouraging.

Are you a sustainable traveler?

Day 31: Three Drinks

I was in the air on day 31 of the Nowhere To Be Project. Flying just isn’t fun anymore. The flights are always overbooked. There are too many people and far too many bags in a stifled space. I thought I was mentally prepared though with a good book in hand. I planned on four hours of solitude within the pages. That was until my seat mate arrived.

It all started with the question she posed. She asked me if I needed the aisle seat. I replied that I did and that I had specifically booked an aisle. I always book an aisle because I get claustrophobic. I didn’t tell her that though because I did not want to further the conversation. Again, my book beckoned.

Instead of reading, I did my best to remain alert and still throughout the flight so as not to disturb the three drinks she rested on our shared center armrest. She had full glasses of red wine, white wine and water teetering precariously close to disaster throughout the flight. Each time a flight attendant passed, she requested a top-off for each glass. Pair this with the fact that she was not in the mindset of quiet and still (despite her full bar). She was watching golf on television and cheered exuberantly. This included flailing her arms, clapping and bouncing up and down. The three drinks and the flailing continued for nearly four hours. Needless to say, I did not read much as I was nervously policing her beverages. Add to this unfortunate escapade the typical in-flight oddities such as the shoeless, the extreme recliners and the coughers who refuse to cover their mouths and you see why flying is so hard for most.

I am always baffled by human behavior on planes. It is as if we lose all sense of right and wrong, doing things that we would never dream of doing on land. Shouldn’t we work together to make it as pleasant for everyone as possible? I ask for too much. This I know.

Day 21: Miles and Miles of Markets

Day 21 of the Nowhere To Be Project was focused on organizing my upcoming travels. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I absolutely live to travel. So, tomorrow I’m going to Denver for an overnight. The following week I’ll be in Florida for a wedding. At the end of April I’m heading to Sydney, Australia. From there it will be a month long RV trip across the country. August brings a journey by sea to Norway, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. I’ll close the year out in California, Oregon and Washington state. You never know though, I could sprinkle a few more in there if the opportunity (and a great deal) arises. After all, that is the whole point of the Nowhere To Be Project, taking advantage of all that an obligation-free life offers.

My point in organizing is to set personal goals for my travels to ensure I get the most out of my time in each spot. My husband’s primary travel goal for the past few years has been to hit every Major League Baseball park. He has just two to go and they will be knocked off in May. He suggested that I select something of interest to me to conquer on our adventures. I usually just focus on enjoying the local culture, but agreed to take on his challenge. I briefly considered haunted sights, cemeteries (for genealogy, of course) and museums. I’m super interested in all of those, but they just didn’t feel right for right now. After a bit of thought, I’ve decided to visit as many local farmer’s markets as possible. With a plant-based diet, I’m always searching for the freshest fruits and vegetables anyway, so this makes total sense. Above the practicality of my choice though, I’ve learned that farmer’s markets go way beyond produce. Many offer local delicacies, homemade delights and handmade treasures. In short, they are fascinating gathering places for passionate and talented locals. What touristy attraction could top that?

Local Blueberries

For me, the best part of traveling is getting to know the people who call each place “home” and I have a strong feeling that I’ll find them hanging out at farmer’s markets. With that, I’d like to ask (beg:-) each of you to reach out with the names of your favorite farmer’s markets. I promise to share a comprehensive list of each one I visit in an effort to spread the good news I find.


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Day 11: The Easy Way Down

My son and me
Day 11 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent skiing on Vail Mountain. I’ve been skiing since I was two years old and learned how to do it on this very hill. I can remember a time when pretty much any black run was appealing to me. That time has most certainly passed. I almost never choose the black runs these days, but prefer the blue groomers. As a seasoned skier, I initially felt bad about this. It felt like cheating. Why would anyone ever choose to take the easy way down (or out)?

Fighting with a mountain used to be so much fun…such a challenge! I’d feel accomplished when I’d reached the bottom with all limbs intact. Nowadays, fun for me is a gentle ride with a great view and a pit stop to visit the lovable avalanche rescue dogs. I think this change has evolved from a life full of unexpected thrill rides. Seeing my children heartbroken. Betrayal from those I held so dear. Holding my mom’s hand as she suffered through the process of death. These things were much harder to endure than any mountain and the scars left in their wake seemed to dull my desire for thrill-seeking. Sometimes, the easy way just feels good.

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Day 2: The Upgrade Rainbow

As children, we’re taught that rainbows bring good fortune in the form of luck and pots of gold. Today I learned that this is not the case in Maui. Here, rainbows bring upgrades. This realization came after spotting one of the most beautifully vivid rainbows while on a shuttle to our resort. It was so bold and bright as it stretched from side to side above the highway we traversed that I questioned its validity. Was it a trick of the eye created by the tourism board to entice people to stay longer, spend more…? I mean, it literally led us to the portico of the resort!

These questions dissolved as I checked in to the resort. We were greeted the second we stepped out of the shuttle with shell leis and a warm “Aloha”. Delicious tropical beverages were placed in our hands as we were almost carried to reception. That’s when the rainbow proved itself. The buoyant hostess explained that we had been upgraded from a basic room (booked completely with AmEx points) to a one bedroom oceanview suite! The suite is nothing short of awesome in size and luxury and has taken this adventure to another level entirely. In short, Day 2 of the Nowhere to Be Project taught me that following rainbows is always a good idea.