Day 77: The Eight Hour Tourist

I spent day 77 of the Nowhere To Be Project in Washington, D.C. We pulled into Cherry Hill RV Park last night and called it a night fairly early. The park itself is okay, but our spot is really flooded due to the recent rains. That is a problem for a clean freak like me because the dog (and the husband) keep tracking in mud. We stayed at this park many years ago and liked it due to its proximity to the city. That part remains good, thankfully.

We hopped on a bus at 9:45am at the park and took it to the metro which took us directly into D.C. This is my fourth visit, so I didn’t feel pressured to do everything. Instead, I meandered around Smithsonian’s Museums of Natural History, American History and their Freer Art Gallery. My favorite thing was the exhibit on America’s First Ladies. Despite not having an official role, our First Ladies have been outspoken and action-oriented. As a fashionista and collector of antique dishes, I especially loved seeing their gowns and their china patterns.

We enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite outdoor cafes (Cafe du Parc) where I enjoyed an amazing vegan streusel and wiled away the rest of the day by roaming the streets of our nation’s capital. It is a beautiful place that everyone should try to visit, even if you’re limited to just eight hours as we were today.

Day 76: How Many Cookies Does It Take To Get To D.C.???

Day 76 of the Nowhere To Be Project was a loooooooooong travel day that took us from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to College Park, Maryland. We usually try to keep our travel days at no more than four hours, but with today’s journey we’ve been on the road for seven hours already with about two more to go. While road trips in a RV are much more comfortable than being confined to a small car, the challenge of finding ways to pass the time remains.

I guess I could watch TV using the satellite system we installed on our rig. For some reason though, I feel the need to keep my eyes somewhat on the road in my chosen role as an annoying backseat driver. As an avid reader, I could devour the next book in my current literary addiction, the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon. I’m not sure why, but I find it difficult to focus intently on my reading while zooming down the highway at 70 miles an hour, so that’s out too. That leaves me with needlepoint, which I’ve done so much of today that my eyes are blurred from trying to keep the stitches in line while bouncing up and down country roads and interstates. I’ve also spent a fair amount of the day snacking- a hidden danger of traveling in a vehicle with a fully stocked kitchen. How do you pass the time on the road???

Day 74: Ocean Lakes

We stayed in South Carolina on Day 74 of the Nowhere To Be Project, but traveled from Hilton Head Island to Myrtle Beach. We reserved a spot for two nights at a place called Ocean Lakes Family Campground. It is a sprawling beachfront resort loaded with cottages, RV spots and thousands of golf carts! If the beautiful beach wasn’t enough, they have swimming pools, a water park, a market, snack bar and more! For $60 bucks a night, it seems like a steal so far. We walked a few miles on the beach gathering shells and now we’re flying our kite and firing up the grill for a beachside veggie feast. I used to dread Sunday nights because I knew that work would be calling again in the morning. Nowadays, I am able to enjoy my newfound appreciation for Sunday and I’m most certainly doing that tonight. Hang tough…retirement makes it all worth it.

Day 70: Never Enough

For each of the past few days I’ve been slowly gathering supplies for our six week road trip and Day 70 of the Nowhere To Be Project was no different. Our trial run in our new RV at Fort Wilderness last weekend reminded me of the challenges of preparing for long stretches on the road. It seems that we either end up in desolate spots with no access to supplies, or in touristy places where the necessities are astronomically priced. Hence the need to hoard the goods now!!! Today, I hit the mother-load at Trader Joe’s (see photo below where my passenger was literally wine and food, haha).

I know I’m late to the party as always and, yes, I have been living under a rock because I had never been to Trader Joe’s prior to today! It is a veritable wonderland of super affordable organic veggies, herbs, spices and wine. Did I mention the wine??? Recently, I was asked to name the three things that I find absolutely necessary for my travels. My answer was honest and simple: my dog, water and red wine. Obviously, I found much, much more at Trader Joe’s, but those three make up my personal survival kit. In other words, they are the things that feather my nest no matter where it may be parked. What are the three things you simply cannot live without on the road?

Day 69: Not Just Any Sandwich

On Day 69 of the Nowhere To Be Project, I happened upon an amazing new restaurant in Central Florida. Don’t you love when that happens? I was out gathering supplies for our upcoming six week voyage in our RV when my stomach came a calling. I used my Happy Cow app for the first time to find local restaurants offering vegan options. A place called “The Wildflower Co.” popped up as an option just a few miles from where I was. When I pulled into the parking lot, my first thought was, “oh, well, the place must have gone out of business”. I was so bummed! As I was about to exit the small rundown plaza, I spotted a sign that read “Vegan Cafe Around Back”. With that, I parked and headed out back hoping for a yummy feast.

Thankfully, I spotted the “Vegan Cafe Around Back” on the sign just as I was about to leave the plaza!

The facility itself is nondescript to the point that I wasn’t sure if they were open when I entered. I did see someone sitting at a table, so I approached the counter and perused the two-page photocopied menu. Just then, a staff member came from the back to take my order. I was informed that the photocopy represented their brand new menu. I was torn between the ReLoaded Tots and the Shrymp Po’ Boy. I went with the sandwich despite not knowing what soy curls were and was offered a choice between tater tots, potato salad and macaroni and cheese as a side and decided on the latter. I grabbed a seat by the window to wait for it all. While the decor at The Wildflower Co. is very utilitarian and sparse, there was a lovely view of a pond and outside dining area from my hightop table. After about ten minutes, another staff member delivered my meal.

I was shocked by the enormity of the sandwich. It looked and smelled amazing and I couldn’t wait to bite into it. The soft Cuban bread was overflowing with warm crispy chunks of the fried soy curls. The sandwich was dressed with apple slaw, tartar sauce and cranberry sauce. It may sound like a bit of an odd combination, but it was honestly love at first bite. I’m sure I sound hyperbolic, but this was, without any doubt, the best sandwich I have ever eaten in my life. Let me qualify this by saying that this includes all the sandwiches I’ve ever had, both as a vegan and a non-vegan. I was so enamored by the sandwich that I almost forgot the mac ‘n cheese. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as memorable as the sandwich anyway. It could have been a bit warmer and it generally lacked flavor despite the heavy seasoning (paprika?).

I decided to take half of my sandwich home to share it with my son who ended up absolutely loving it. He is not vegan and usually survives solely on cheeseburgers from Burgerfi. When asked, he said it was “really good” and rated the sandwich as an eight out of ten! I gave it a perfect ten and plan on taking my husband to The Wildflower Co. for dinner tomorrow so that I can try more of their offerings! The only recommendations I might offer to the proprietors would be to get a large chalk board to present their menu (instead of the single photocopied paper one) and to offer freshly made iced teas as an additional beverage option. This place was a lucky find (thanks Happy Cow) that has been placed on my list of favorites in Central Florida!

My son also loved the Shrymp Po’ Boy sandwich!

Day 66: Why Is Food An Afterthought at Disney?

Day 66 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked our third, and final, day at Disney. As natives of Central Florida, we’ve been coming to Disney all our lives. We are always beyond impressed with the cast members, facilities and parks. We just don’t know why Disney cannot pull it together when it comes to dining. Several years ago, we had an amazing meal at Disneyland’s fine dining option, Napa Rose. This was the driving force in our decision to celebrate our son’s 21st birthday at Victoria & Albert’s, Walt Disney World’s most upscale restaurant.

The restaurant itself is located in The Grand Floridian Hotel. The hotel is promoted as the finest option for lodging on Disney property, so it makes sense that Disney’s premier restaurant would be housed there as well. Victoria & Albert’s is located on the second floor overlooking the lovely hotel lobby. Guests are greeted at the door and seated in a time-staggered style to avoid a rush at the entry. We arrived approximately ten minutes prior to our 6:30pm reservation. I had booked the reservation months in advance, first having tried and failed to reserve the popular chef’s table option. The maitre d’ informed us that he would not be able to seat us for twenty minutes and escorted us to the adjacent bar while instructing us to return shortly. We did as he said and returned twenty minutes later with a bar server who said she had to carry our drinks back to the restaurant for us if she wanted to keep her job. We were warmly greeted again and promptly seated.

Our waiter greeted us by name, acknowledged my son’s 21st birthday, and distributed personalized menus to all four of us before explaining the menu. There are two options: seven course or ten course. Within each option, there are several additional choices, some of which require an up-charge (e.g caviar, Kobe beef, etc.). A representative from the restaurant had called several days prior to our visit to gather information on dietary restrictions. At that time, I had indicated that I was vegan, so was given strictly vegan options on my menu. We all chose the seven course option ($185.00 each) and I added the paired wine course ($105.00). This included seven paired samples to accompany each course of my meal (2oz each).

Non Vegan Seven Course Menu
Vegan Menu

The presentation of each course was lovely and the service was solid and refined. While the dishes were a genuine pleasure to gaze upon, they didn’t really ignite our tastebuds. As foodies, we had been looking forward to innovative dishes and explosive flavors. What we got was just okay, nothing any of us would seek out again, and that is beyond tough to swallow when spending $1100.00 to do so! Food at this price point should completely blow you away, shouldn’t it? Furthermore, the facility itself is extremely dated with worn upholstery, tired furnishings and china, and dated restroom facilities.

We’ve had a wonderful time at Disney and really enjoyed the celebration at Victoria & Albert’s despite the disappointing meal. I just can’t figure out why Disney drops the ball with dining. Over the years, I’ve eaten at almost every quick service (in park) option and probably all upscale fine dining venues at Walt Disney World and am consistently underwhelmed. I really wanted to love Victoria & Albert’s, but it simply did not deliver. I guess we can’t expect a company that has set the bar so high for entertainment to do the same for food. Next time I visit, I’ll dine off property.

Day 63 – Review of Ethos Vegan Kitchen

On Day 63 of the Nowhere To Be Project I enjoyed the profound luxury of lunching with my son. We were running errands prior to his birthday celebration tomorrow and he agreed to accompany me to one of my favorite spots in Orlando, Ethos Vegan Kitchen. The all vegan restaurant is located on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park is a popular suburb of Orlando, known for its oak-shaded brick streets filled with countless shopping and dining options. Ethos Vegan Kitchen is adjacent to the quaint campus of Rollins College (where I was a student for two years:) and Park Avenue, a swanky historic street teeming with activity.

The restaurant is popular with diners of all types because the food is simply delicious. The menu is vast, offering many homemade appetizers, salads, soups, pastas, entrees and desserts. Ethos also serves a wide selection of unique beers and wines. The favorites include popular foods like tacos (the special today), calzones and hamburgers that are usually reserved for traditional restaurants. I think this adds to the restaurant’s popularity.

I have dined at Ethos three times and have never been disappointed. Today, we started with the bruschetta. It was delicious with fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.

My son (a nonvegan) went with the lasagna. It was served piping hot from the oven. He cut into it before I could get a great photograph, haha. It had great flavor and texture. The garlic bread served on the side was also very tasty.

I ordered the Sheep’s Pie, my favorite dish at Ethos. It is satisfying comfort food at its finest with piped whipped potatoes forming a crust over the luscious vegetable stew. Fresh broccoli, carrots and peas abound in the dish and the rich vegan gravy provides a burst of flavor.

We were both so stuffed that we decided to take dessert to go. Ethos has amazing desserts and I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of them in the past. Today we selected an assortment of cookies including chocolate chip, gingersnap and snickerdoodle.

Gingersnap…my favorite!

I wish there were more restaurants like Ethos with a focus on serving real food that appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike. Many people incorrectly believe that vegans eat freaky and obscure foods that taste like sawdust. Ethos Vegan Kitchen debunks this myth in spades!

Day 62- Even a Caveman Can Do It

On Day 62 of the Nowhere To Be Project, my husband and I (along with our dog:) worked our way back to our home in Lake Mary to close out four days on the road. As we drove, we passed several trailers filled with livestock. I mentioned to my husband that they were probably being taken to a slaughterhouse.

My husband is a self-proclaimed cave man when it comes to diet. Meat is definitely his primary food group. I have never forced my plant-based diet on him nor would I ever. I do encourage him to try many of my meals and he usually expresses surprise at how good meat-free food can taste. When we stopped for lunch at a sub shop, he decided to eat what I ate, a vegan sub on what bread loaded with fresh veggies, spices, olive oil and vinegar. After lunch, I asked him if he felt satisfied and he responded by saying that he didn’t miss the meat and cheese one bit! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked! For dinner, he again decided to “have what I was having”. This happened to be vegan Italian sausage with sauerkraut on toasted sourdough bread with a side of fresh sweet corn on the cob. He dug in and said, “this is really good!” Again, I was shocked because he is the sausage king!

I am excited to share my delicious plant-based food with my husband, but I still don’t plan on forcing it on him. I do have a sneaking feeling that he is inching more toward a plant-based approach though and that makes my heart sing! He adores animals as I do and he has a strong desire to improve his health. The bottom line is that baby steps can add up to enormous differences and I’ll take that!!

Day 60 – Who’s the Captain Now?

On Day 60 of the Nowhere To Be Project we made our way from Amarillo, Texas to Shreveport, Louisiana. We had just one high point today, a quick pop in to Southfork Ranch, a property made famous by the 1980s television show “Dallas”. It was fun to reminisce about the many nights I spent with my mom glued to the set watching the Ewing’s scandal and treachery. Sadly, this was one of the few happy vibes I experienced today.

We are traveling by car (wishing we were in our RV) with our giant rescue mutt, so pet-friendly pit stops and accommodations are essential. When selecting big-dog-friendly hotels, our first choice is always Kimpton. Unfortunately, this route didn’t allow us to crash with Kimpton, so we’ve been relying on La Quinta. La Quintas can be very hit or miss and so far, we’ve missed. We were greeted in our room last night in Amarillo (Airport location) by a nasty insect infestation. The squirming creatures sent me back to the front desk for another room. I only found two dead mini-roaches in room #2, so we braved the night. Tonight, in Shreveport, Louisiana (La Quinta located at 6700 Financial Circle) we attempted to turn on the television upon entering our room only to realize that it was out of order. As I waited for the repair, I bent to clean up some water that had dripped onto the tile floor from my dog’s dish. I was stunned by the amount of filth that transferred to the tissue from the floor. Thankfully, the TV was eventually repaired, but the staff were visibly and audibly off put by our asking for help. I brought their attention to the black dirt on the cloth that I had used to clean the floor. They didn’t acknowledge me at all and simply left the room. At this point, we were starving and the only option was the adjacent IHOP.

Frankly, this location should not be in operation. The entryway was littered with food, bugs and drained liquor bottles. We sat for fifteen minutes watching the five visible staff members chit chat with one another and play on their phones. We were the only guests in the restaurant save for one other gentleman. A server finally approached our table and took our order with attitude, again as if our presence was putting her out. Nearly thirty minutes later, some food was delivered, but it was not at all what we ordered. We explained this to another indifferent server. I stated that I had ordered the veggie salad with dressing on the side and soup, but instead received a chicken Caesar salad swimming in dressing and no soup. As a vegan, I don’t eat chicken or Caesar dressing, so was out of luck on dinner tonight. The server told me three different times that she was working on the soup. It never came! My husband ordered a breakfast dish that came with pancakes. He got French toast instead. We tried to straighten it out with the staff to no avail. We were given a check for food we did not receive and/or could not eat. We asked for a manager in an effort to remedy the situation, again to no avail. We paid the bill, tipped the inept staff out (I’m not really sure why) and left completely flabbergasted and unbearably hungry. Peanuts and red wine (thank goodness I packed these) for dinner it is, haha.

Days like this make me miss the RV even more. RV travel has it stresses for sure, but they just aren’t as extreme as those I’ve experienced lately with hotels, air travel and food service. Maybe because it is less reliant on the service of others (e.g. I am the captain now…couldn’t resist). I’m positively counting down the hours until our spring RV journey ensues: t-minus 96 hours!

Day 59 – Only in Texas

On Day 59 of the Nowhere To Be Project, we made our way from Vail, Colorado through New Mexico and on in to Texas. We are slowly working back to Florida to retrieve our spanking new Winnebago RV. We’re road tripping with our oversized dog, so we always stop frequently to give him a chance to sniff out his whereabouts. We purposely look for weird and unusual spots along our routes to keep things interesting.

Today, our odd find was the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. My husband heard about it in a RV forum and figured it was worth a look. It is located just off of Interstate 40. I knew nothing about it other than the name when we pulled up. There were cars lined up on both sides of the road and a giant limo adorned with steer horns on the grill, both of which made me believe that I was in for a treat.

I guess I would describe Cadillac Ranch as a public art installment. It consists of a line of old Cadillacs partially embedded in the earth on angles. Each of the ten Caddies are coated in layer upon layer of spray paint. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own cans to leave their marks on the, shall I say, exhibit. Many people seemed to partake in this tradition, myself excluded. Everything, including Cadillac-themed art, is bigger in Texas, right? As we were leaving, I learned that the limosine was providing free rides to a famous steakhouse in town (Big Texan Steak Ranch) that boasts a free 72 ounce steak to those who can consume it entirely within one hour. I decided to pass on that offer as I had doubts about their vegan options, lol. Heaven knows what tomorrow may bring, but I’m willing to bet that it won’t be an installment of graffitied Cadillacs all in a row!