Day 105: The Hideous Side Effect of Endless Travel

On Day 105 of the Nowhere To Be Project I was faced with a new side effect of constant travel. It came in the form of well-worn jeans that decided that today was the day they’d simply refuse to button. This happens to everyone, right? My mind immediately attempted to rationalize the affront by blaming the dryer for shrinking the pants, but deep down I knew that my Nowhere To Be Project lifestyle was the real culprit.

A life of constant travel brings temptation in so many forms. Food is a big one because for me, truly experiencing a place hinges on indulging in local dishes. Add to these bites the local wines that absolutely must be tried and I’m headed for trouble. So, even though I exercise daily and follow a plant-based diet, the jet-setting mojo is catching up with me. What to do?

Well, as tempting as it is, I’m not going to buy bigger pants and I will always aggressively shun the Spanx-life. I also refuse to change my pace of travel because who knows how long the opportunity to wander aimlessly will last? I will, however, do my very best to add additional exercise (e.g. more cardio and at least twenty burpees a day) and cut back on portion sizes a bit until that button on my jeans relents. How do you battle the side effects of fun?

Day 102: Another Day, Another Burger…without the Funky Bunch

Several days ago I blogged about Burgerfi’s version of the vegan Beyond Burger. After that post, someone enlightened me about what he described as “the absolute best vegan burger out there”, aptly named the Impossible Burger. That conversation led me to hightail it to Wahlburgers in Orlando, Florida on Day 102 of the Nowhere To Be Project (Waterford Lakes location). This was my first visit to a Wahlburgers and I’ve never seen the show, so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Unfortunately, neither Marky Mark nor the Funky Bunch was present (yes, I’m that age and I did have the infamous Calvin Klein poster on my wall as a teen) but a very chipper server was. I looked the menu over top to bottom and did not see anything about the Impossible Burger. I finally spotted it when I turned to grab a napkin from the dispenser on the table. It was featured there in full color on an insert. Wahlburgers version includes several non-vegan additions (bun, smoked cheddar, Wahl sauce) though so after a brief consultation on food preparation and ingredients with the server I created the “Nowhere To Be Burger”. This vegan masterpiece took the Impossible Burger to a truly plant-based pinnacle with toasted sourdough (no butter), avocado spread, sautéed mushrooms, chili spiced tomatoes, caramelized onions, pickle, mustard and catsup. With my additions, the price of my burger totaled $14.95, which is a bit high when compared to my son’s regular beef Double Decker which was just $8.95! I threw caution to the wind and went with a side of the sweet potato tots as an accompaniment. My son, a Mac ‘n Cheese aficionado, chose Wahlburgers’ Smoked Bacon version as a side.

After about fifteen minutes of marveling at the sheer number of Wahlberg-centric movie titles plastered throughout the industrial-vibed restaurant, our food arrived hot and fragrant. It was at first bite that my love affair with the Impossible Burger began. It looks, smells and tastes like a traditional beef burger. The mouth feel is absolutely identical. The flavor reminded me of a White Castle burger, delightfully greasy, oniony and mustardy all at once! I am a huge fan of Beyond Burgers, but the burger I ate today is now the king of my plant-based burger-loving heart. It was so authentic that I asked my son if they could have made a mistake and given me a regular beef patty. He assured me that they did not and I greedily gobbled up the remainder of the doppelgänger. The tots were really tasty too with a crisp, very slightly sweet and savory flavor. My son described his burger as “very good” and the mac ‘n cheese as “alright”.

After a quick Google, I learned that the Impossible Burger is not a Wahlburgers creation, but the brainchild of a company created by scientists called Impossible Meats. They are available at select restaurant locations only with no retail options for do-it-yourself patties. There is some laboratory engineering involved in the creation of these vegan marvels, so if you’re sensitive to that you’ll want to check it out fully before indulging. Thankfully, their website indicates that they are working to make them more widely available. Music to my ears!

*As always, I have no affiliation with any of the products or locations I write about and am not compensated in any way.

Day 101: Climbing Mount Dora

I spent day 101 of the Nowhere To Be Project in Mount Dora, Florida. It sits at a whopping 184 feet above sea level which is most definitely considered high altitude in Florida. I’ve been coming to this town for years because is represents one of the last strip-mall free corridors in the state. The charming downtown district is situated adjacent to Lake Dora and was founded in the mid 1800s by Dora Ann Drawdy who arrived there from Georgia in search of the frontier life.

These days you’ll find a scenic scattering of independently owned shoppes and restaurants throughout town. My personal favorites are the Hospice Hope Chest, where all proceeds support palliative care, and Goblin Market, an adorable restaurant with a cool library treehouse vibe. Their menu is not rich with vegan options though (hint, hint to the proprietors), so I’m mostly limited to salad when dining with them since my transition to a plant-based diet. There are many options for lodging as well including several b&bs and a hotel making it a very popular weekend and wedding destination.

It was 93 degrees with full humidity during my visit this afternoon which made the open air design quite stifling, but useful for the loss of a bit of water weight, haha. Mount Dora is a wonderful stop for those who are seeking an authentic taste of old Florida, but I would recommend visiting during winter months unless you’re interested in a nonstop steam bath. Welcome to the swamp sauna that is Central Florida for the better part of nine months each year!

Day 100: Ghostbusting with Ice Cream and Lip Gloss

On Day 100 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself on the verge of an emotional meltdown. I’ve been in my hometown for the past couple days to deal with some family stuff. I’m not one of those people who longs for the familiar comfort of their hometown. Quite the contrary actually. For me, my hometown is more comparable to a haunted graveyard than a welcoming respite. As a result, I came here very, very reluctantly after receiving some news that left me feeling compelled to leave my husband and dog midway through a RV road trip. In short, a sense of obligation led me back here again. Truth be told, I usually avoid being here at all costs because the ghosts of my dysfunctional childhood seem to lurk around every corner, both literally and figuratively. Every street holds a memory. The faces seem to stare with a sad and familiar knowing. This place nearly stole my spirit and that is why I left. I knew that happy people existed and I eventually found them. I also found my own happiness along the way and I protect it fiercely.

Many say that running away is never the answer. As a retired mental health professional, I can tell you that sometimes running is an effective survival mechanism. This is especially true if what you’re running from is incapable of change. Flight can provide sweet relief when you’ve exhausted every ounce of fight within you. My personal beasts only show their fangs in Central Florida so I generally stay away.

The good news about today is that I self-medicated with a joyful lunch with my happy, healthy, fang-free adult son. I followed this up with a trip to the mall (another perfectly acceptable coping mechanism, within reason of course:-). First, I devoured a scoop of Häagen Dazs dairy-free chocolate salted fudge truffle ice cream, each lick bringing a bit of calm and composure. Then I bought a luscious cruelty-free tarte lip gloss at Sephora in the cheeriest color I could find. Surely it will help me shine my way through the rest of my time here. Self-care comes in so many forms, doesn’t it? Maybe, just maybe, these small indulgences will keep the ghosts at bay until my impending escape.

Day 99: Not A CheeseBurger and Not In Paradise

On Day 99 of the Nowhere To Be Project I was craving a burger something fierce. Since shifting to a plant-based diet, Beyond Burgers have been my go to choice when these cravings arise. I tried to purchase some yesterday at Earth Origins Market, but the store was out of them. This is not unusual as the popularity of Beyond Burgers has soared and grocers can’t seem to keep up with the demand. Never fear though, Burgerfi now carries them and I decided to check out their version for the first time today.

The burger as delivered
Minus the non vegan onion ring

Beyond Burgers are prominently featured on the menu board at my local Lake Mary Burgerfi. It is described as plant-based yet their version includes American cheese and mayonnaise, both of which are not plant based. I ordered the burger without those two items at which point the clerk asked if I was vegan. I told him I was and he explained that ordering the burger “vegan” had a special preparation and a wheat bun. I also asked for the burger to be topped with an onion ring. He shouted “vegan beyond” to the crew and rang me up. The associate kindly asked for my patience at that point because evidently the vegan burgers take a bit longer than other burgers.

The burger was delivered to my table about ten minutes later. The staff member who brought it to me asked if I was vegan. When I said “yes,” she explained that the onion ring batter was made with buttermilk. I appreciated her telling me that and wished that the associate who had taken my order had done so because I had paid a $1 upcharge for it bringing the cost of the burger to $10.47!!! Nevertheless, I removed the onion ring and dug in. The burger was tasty, but slightly over cooked. The bun was also a bit brittle which detracted significantly from the taste. Personally, I prefer my homemade version of the Beyond Burger. I pan fry the patty in avocado oil, melt on some Chao cheese and serve it on toasted sourdough bread. Regardless, I am beyond thrilled that Burgerfi has added a plant-based option to its menu. Maybe they’ll take it a step further to create a unique and tasty signature vegan burger, hint, hint…mushrooms, vegan cheese, avocado, special sauce and so on!

Day 96: For My Mom

On Day 96 of the Nowhere To Be Project I made my way to Mackinac Island, Michigan. It is a picturesque island in the upper peninsula of the state. There are no cars on the island, but bicycles and horses provide transportation around its quaint streets. While I’d never visited the island prior to today, it lived in my memory from the stories my mom told me about her visits here as a child. She and her family would drive up in the summer for a day or two for their “vacation”. Both of my parents came from meager means and according to their shared memories, Mackinac Island was a retreat for the wealthy. I remember my mom describing The Grand Hotel, an historic hotel on the island, as a palace. She recalled peeking in the windows as a little girl, awed by the grandeur of the elegantly dressed guests. Of course, The Grand Hotel was my goal today and I enjoyed lunch there in honor of my mom. The stately building is teeming with people and history. The sprawling front porch is a great place to rock away the hours to the sound of the surrounding water and the perfect spot for remembering those we’ve lost. The only thing missing today was my mom and I certainly felt her spirit with me. To that end, I’m pretty sure she forced me into her favorite fudge before boarding the ferry back to St. Ignace, haha.

My Mom (1945-2012)

Day 92: Lake Hair, Should I Have Cared?

Day 92 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent in Leland, an historic fishing village in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It is a quaint bevy of boutiques and restaurants. We popped into The Cove restaurant for lunch after admiring the sweet 1963 Corvette Stingray sitting out front. As we were enjoying a glass of local wine and contemplating the menu, a gentleman approached us and asked if we’d be willing to comment on our meals for a television program he’s producing called Seaside Snacks & Shacks. I’ve not seen the program, but was told that it airs on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. It just so happens that I skipped the shower, hairbrush and makeup this morning, so I was hesitant. I did brush my teeth, so that was a plus! Against my better judgement, my husband convinced me to do it (he’s always getting me into trouble:). It was all very quick and simple…some lights, microphones, a large camera and about ten minutes of questions. I guess we’ll see if my unintended grunge look makes the cut in July when the show airs.

Today made me think of all the uberbloggers I follow who always look like supermodels! Do they travel with stylists and lighting experts, or what? I am so busy enjoying the adventures of each day that I don’t have a lot of time left for primping. It wouldn’t be that practical for me either. I rode my scooter ten miles from the RV Park today to reach Leland, leaving my hair authentically wind blown! For some reason, I feel like something would be lost in the experiences if I was worrying about my appearance each day. What do you think? Should bloggers strive for magazine cover perfection, or should they just be real?

Day 43: If You Give a Mouse a Vegan

On day 43 of the Nowhere To Be Project I had breakfast at a local restaurant, Northside Kitchen in Avon, Colorado. It is a popular spot in the Vail Valley, particularly with the locals due to the decent food and reasonable prices. My meal was alright, but it was what happened next that has me reeling. As I was calculating the gratuity for my server and signing the check, a mouse dashed through the restaurant and over my feet before holing up underneath a booth. I was so startled by the little critter that I uttered an audible screech. The restaurant was pretty dead at the time and no one really seemed to notice the brouhaha. I sat for a moment pondering my next steps.

Mouse House???

I eventually decided to quietly mention it to my server. After catching her attention, I explained (in a whisper) that a mouse had just scampered through the restaurant. I whispered because I didn’t want to shame the establishment or alarm any of my fellow diners. With a knowing and completely unsurprised look she said, “Oh, yeah. Can I offer you a free doughnut for your trouble?” I had noticed the doughnuts when I came in, mostly because they were sitting out uncovered on the front counter. Needless to say, I declined the doughnut and began wondering how many mice friends might be in the vicinity waiting for their free doughnut.

A Feast Built for a Mouse?

I left feeling conflicted. I mean, mice are nice, but they belong in forests, not in kitchens! I do not want to be the one to report the rodent problem to the health department. Wouldn’t that make me a mouse-killer? At the same time though, the staff at Northside Kitchen clearly know about the issue and yet they continue to operate. Is there a humane way to get rid of rodents? What should I have done? What would you have done???

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Is it wrong to recline?

I just returned from a river cruise. My third, in fact. The trip spanned ten days and began in Amsterdam. It ended in Basel, Switzerland. I will take it day by day and will try to touch on the many different aspects of the journey. Before we begin though let’s examine the harsh realities of air travel. Is it just me, or do people seem to lose all class and sensitivity upon boarding an aircraft?

From the basic passive-aggressive behaviors to the downright disgusting overtures, it is as if the act of embarking an airplane strips fine upstanding citizens of their human likeness and replaces it with traits that might be useful in a cockfighting arena. A rather fascinating nuance of this mid-flight phenomenon is the tendency for these animalistic tendencies to increase as one approaches the rear of the cabin.

The brass ring in air travel is, of course, the upgrade. Most of the time, those painstakingly accumulated miles rescue me from the hell that is economy class. If all else fails, I can usually pay for an upgrade at the airport. No such luck on this trek.

The outgoing trip had two legs, both on United Airlines. The first was a brief two and a half hour jaunt to Newark. This took place on a 737 where I nearly lost the use of my fingers when the passenger in front of me fully reclined his seat at mach speed. The seatbelt light had just gone dark as we were but a few minutes into the flight. I was engrossed in a book on my tablet when the seat in front of me came roaring back to collide with my hands. This led me to a lively debate with my travel companion.

Is it ever okay to fully recline one’s seat when traveling in economy? I know there are no hard and fast rules against it, technically speaking. However, doesn’t human decency trump the recline? I am one to avoid it at all costs because I feel that I am stealing the already stifled space that the fellow budget-conscious person behind me inhabits. How could I possibly justify making another’s experience worse for a fractional amount of quasi-comfort? Am I insane? Should I just go for it? Do these greedy recliners even consider the comfort of their fellow passengers? This was the meat of our debate. I am not sure we fully exhausted the topic, but we did make it to Newark on time.

We had three hours until our connecting flight to Amsterdam. This layover began with a trip to the duty free shop to load up on chocolate for the impending nine hour flight. Next, it was off to a restaurant called Saison. This was an interesting place. The hostess attempted to seat us but seemingly became distracted by something and disappeared. Not to be deterred, we bellied up to the bar. Each seat had a tablet for placing orders and several electrical outlets for charging devices. We placed our order as follows: one glass of French Rose for $11.25, one Stella Artois for $8.75, a shrimp cocktail for $20.00, a Prime dry-aged burger with swiss cheese for $20.55 and potato puree for $9.00. Once the order is placed, diners swipe their credit cards to pay and the order is sent on. A few moments later, a server brought the beverages. Thankfully, they were chilled because it was stiflingly hot in Saison. May in New Jersey is fairly mild, but without fans, ventilation or air conditioning it was a bit steamy. The food was delivered after about fifteen minutes in accordance with speedy airport culture. To be honest, it was pretty tasty…for airport food. The shrimp were very large and served on ice with fresh lemon and a wee bit of cocktail sauce. The potato puree (mashed potatoes) was smooth and creamy although lacking a bit in seasoning for my taste. The burger was juicy and cooked as ordered, medium rare. With gratuity this experience totaled $93.19.

With a solid measure of satisfaction, 100% battery power on all of our tech tools and full bellies, we moved on to Caps Beer Garden. This is an open air bar in the middle of the terminal. Again, we were greeted not by a server, but by a tablet. We placed our order of one glass of Australian Shiraz ($15) and one microbrew beer flight ($12) and swiped to pay. The drinks arrived a few moments later and we polished them off with a few minutes to spare before boarding.

This leg of the itinerary placed us rather happily in bulkhead seats with fingers intact. Even though we were delayed on the tarmac for an hour, the Ambien kicked in quickly and before we knew it we were in the land of tulips, red lights and coffee houses. The moral of the story might be that medicating oneself (with valid prescription only) is a viable means of avoiding inflight incivility.

Image of airplane view
Mid-flight to Amsterdam