Day 196: Steamboat Springs

Day 196 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked the end of our brief stay in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This wasn’t my first visit to this mountain town, but it was the first time I’ve visited without skiing as the main goal. I would describe Steamboat as a town that became a ski destination rather than the reverse. What I mean by this is that the whole town is not based solely on ski revenue as so many other ski towns seem to be. The downtown (old town) area has very relaxed blue collar feel to it despite the fact that the historic homes sell for millions. A local told me that the old run down homes are lovingly nicknamed “the downtown dumps”. The highlights of my time downtown were several cool examples of street art and a beautiful stone Catholic church that just screams “mountain town”!

There is a main drag in the old town area with a few rustic lodging options and countless boutiques and restaurants. Steamboat is dotted with umpteen bus stops for the free town bus which makes getting around a snap. A few miles from the busy downtown is the ski area. Right now is shoulder season as they transition from summer to winter mountain sports, so almost nothing was open and a lot of construction was taking place. While I wouldn’t describe the ski area with the same label of “blue collar”, it certainly isn’t glamorous or uppity like so many other Colorado ski towns. If you’re looking for a relaxed and comfortable mountain town to pass some time, Steamboat Springs could be your spot!

Day 193: Review of Lazy Acres RV Park and Bear Trap Cafe, Riverside, Wyoming

On day 193 of the Nowhere To Be Project we checked out of Lazy Acres RV Park in Riverside, Wyoming after spending one sleepy night here. Riverside is a tiny town adjacent to Encampment. The RV park is actually situated on the Encampment River. The owner of the park, Leroy, could be one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and he clearly takes pride in his tiny enclave of rustic campsites. The pet friendly park offers reasonably priced full hook up RV spots (about $40 per night) and cabins for rent. Clean shower houses are there for the taking and just across the road is the Bear Trap Café.

He’s making friends with the locals, too!

The Bear Trap carries on the rustic cowboy theme that we experienced at Lazy Acres. As the only dining option for miles, it is filled with local ranchers. I imagine that the popular bar is the seat of the social scene in this part of Wyoming. The food and service at the café are what one would expect in an out of the way corner of the west…lots of meat and fried potatoes! My husband sure enjoyed his huge rib eye with tater tots! Thankfully, they offered a good salad to satisfy me (probably the only vegan for one hundred miles, haha).

The Bear Trap Café

Both Lazy Acres RV Park and Bear Trap Café warrant a visit if you’re seeking an authentic Wyoming vibe!

Just a local cowboy doing his thing!

Day 191: Fall, Here You Come Again

Day 191 of the Nowhere To be Project placed us back in our beloved RV, the Tiny Dancer, Too. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know that I’m totally obsessed with autumn. In the mountains of Colorado, we’ve been getting an early taste of the awesome beauty of fall with cooler air, bursting colors and festivals galore. Everything good comes to an end (including fall), but we are going to do our best to enjoy every minute of it.

With that goal in mind, we’re going to roam up to Wyoming and see what’s happening up there before making our way home very slowly through Colorful Colorado. I literally have the words of my beloved Dolly Parton in my mind (Here you come again…and there I go!) as we roll along in search of anything and everything autumn. Much, much more to come…

Day 187: Oktoberfest – Part One

Day 187 of the Nowhere To Be Project had us chanting “Prost” in the middle of Lionshead Village in Vail. This celebration was part one of Vail’s double duty Oktoberfest festivities. The Vail Village celebration is scheduled to take place next weekend. Three days of costume contests, stein holding competitions, bratwurst eating contests and live music gave Vail a very Bavarian feel. Add to that thousands of people (and dogs) downing German food and beer in the crisp almost-fall air and you’ve got yourself a street party. Can’t wait to do it again next weekend!

If you decide to visit Vail for Oktoberfest, be sure to stop at the ID and Token tent first. Once you’ve exchanged dollar for dollar in tokens, plan on spending about $7 per beer and $4-10 per dish to imbibe. Parking and all Oktoberfest-related entertainment is free.

Vegan German Potato Salad!

Day 185: Estes Park, Colorado

Day 185 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent roaming the streets of beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. This charming lake and mountain town is just 70 miles from Denver and boasts easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park. The downtown area offers large green open spaces, ample parking and is dotted with small boutiques and eateries.

I was lucky enough to visit when a local market was being held which granted me the chance to load up on local vegetables and crafts. As an RVer, I was most impressed by the designated area in town for RV and bus parking (this almost never happens:). If you’re traveling to Northern Colorado, a visit to scenic and friendly Estes Park is a must!

Day 184: Review of The Stanley Hotel

I checked out of the Stanley Hotel on day 184 of the Nowhere To Be Project. I spent one night at the Lodge, a dog-friendly inn adjacent to the historic Stanley. The Stanley Hotel was built by F.O. Stanley in 1909 as the first all electric hotel in the U.S. and the lodge was constructed just a year later as a lodging option for unmarried gentleman. The well-manicured grounds of the property hover above the small town of Estes Park, Colorado (review of town to come tomorrow) and offer vast mountain views.

The foyer at the Lodge

The craftsmanship and beauty of the Stanley is undeniable. There are some areas where her age is showing. For example, some of the guest room doors are so warped that gaps of at least three inches create a peep show for passersby. In my opinion, these flaws add to the character of the place. Even though the hotel and its surrounding buildings and landscape are spectacular, the service and overall lodging experience are not.

The first floor at the Stanley
A missing number plaque, torn wallpaper and warped doors reveal the property’s age

Check in at the lodge was profoundly slow. I arrived during the lodge’s wine hour which meant that the sole employee was filling glasses, dealing with guest issues and trying to check me in all at once. Our dining experience in the Stanley’s only restaurant, The Cascades, was the same song and dance…slow, inattentive and frustrating. The food wasn’t anything to rave about either despite the inflated prices, although I will give them a major shoutout for offering a vegan meal (Cauliflower Steak). We enjoyed a nightcap in the whiskey bar where the negligence of the staff continued.

The foyer at the Stanley
The second floor landing at the Stanley
The Whiskey Bar at the Stanley

Our room (#1209 in the lodge) was on the second floor and was rather large by hotel room standards. The furnishings and decor were in not necessarily in keeping with the hotel’s history, and the bathroom was a glaring mishmash of various decades. The accommodations could be notched up a bit with higher quality linens and a fresher approach to window coverings (dark drapes currently loom). Ventilation was an issue in the room as well with inoperative windows (of course, no air conditioning in the historic hotel.

Pet-friendly room 1209 at the Lodge

Overall, our stay at the Stanley was enjoyable simply because of the history and lore of the place. Other than that, it was a bit of a letdown. We certainly did not feel that it was worth the $330 dollar price tag for lodging and $200 for dinner. I would recommend visiting the hotel with a $10 guest pass (and possibly joining one of their history tours), but lodging and dining elsewhere.

Day 173: Secret Ponte Vedra…Florida’s quietest luxury beachfront town

I was more than happy to spend day 173 of the Nowhere To be Project in the luxury oceanfront alcove of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Ponte Vedra is just 20 minutes southeast of Jacksonville, but feels as if it is on an entirely different planet. This sleepy upscale town pleasantly lacks most everything you’d expect to find in a popular beach destination…tourists, t-shirt shops, and smelly beach bars. Instead, you’ll find stately seaside mansions and a whole bunch of beachfront solitude. Since there are so few public lodging options in Ponte Vedra, the beaches seem almost private which adds to the luxurious vibe of this northern Florida destination (I stayed at the Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club, full review to come tomorrow). What could make a visit to Ponte Vedra even more appealing? The fact that the beaches are dog-friendly and jam-packed with shells! I mean, what could be better than spending a day (or a lifetime) shelling as your pup frolics in the sea?

A beach with more dogs than people!

Day 172: Sweating It Out in St. Augustine

I spent day 172 of the Nowhere To Be Project in St. Augustine, Florida. As a Florida native, I’ve visited St. Augustine countless times. Every Florida student visits this historic corner at least once in elementary school, so I came as a kid and then chaperoned my own kids as they visited the oldest wooden schoolhouse (circa 1716) in the country. I’ve also come to town for the night-life in the past, taking advantage of several of the many quaint bed and breakfasts offered in the town for an overnight. Today’s visit was more limited as I was just passing through, but decided to stop and take a stroll through time once again.

St. Augustine is about 90 minutes north of Orlando and is just 45 minutes south of Jacksonville. Coming on a Sunday morning no doubt made parking a bit easier. It also meant that fewer people were buzzing about this tourist mecca (another win). In my opinion, the highlights of St. Augustine include Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States (circa 1672), the Huguenot cemetery which is directly across the street from the fort, the beautiful Memorial Presbyterian Church (currently undergoing extensive renovations post hurricane) and the lovely Spanish architecture that remains prevalent throughout the town. If shopping is your game, you’ll find unique (but mostly touristy) shops in the Colonial Corner. If you’re looking for a great meal to match the Spanish-vibe of St. Augustine, head directly to Columbia, a staple in Florida since 1905. If you’re visiting St. Augustine anytime between April and November, don’t count on Ponce de León’s fabled fountain of youth to keep you cool as temperatures are sweltering and everything here is open-air. Instead, head over the drawbridge to cool off on scenic Anastasia Island. You’ll be so glad you did and I’m willing to bet that your time there will be the highlight of your visit to St. Augustine!

The original gates to old town

Native Floridian’s Tip for Beating the Heat: I always pack a portable insulated lunch sack with frozen washcloths in an effort to beat the heat while playing tourist in my home state.

Day 171: Travel Homework

Any constant traveler knows that homework is necessary to truly experience all that a locale has to offer. However, if you’re lazy like me, it can seem daunting (or dare I say, boring) to minutely plan travel goals. I used to be very efficient at planning all aspects of a trip, honing in on everything of interest to me well in advance of my visit. Things have changed a bit since I met my husband because he is a wanderer. No matter how hard I try to plan, he prefers to “freestyle”. We just completed two weeks in the British Isles and I have to admit that I did not plan adequately. Same goes for many of our RV adventures. As a result, we’ve missed many things that were of interest along the way. The “bad” news is that I’ll “be forced” to revisit certain towns, haha. The good news is that I’ve found a free app that is sort of like Cliff’s Notes for travel homework. It is quite literally helping me walk the line between freestyling and obsessively planning.

The app is called Fieldtrip and it uses Google maps to serve as a virtual local tour guide for nearly any place in the world you visit. Upon downloading the app and creating an account, you’ll have the option of setting preferences (architecture, historic places & events, lifestyle, food, drinks & fun, cool & unique, art & museums). Based on your selections, the app automatically populates data from outside sources (from the well-known Zagat’s to lesser-known blogs, and everything in-between) to provide you with location-specific information including points of interest, historic photographs and recommended restaurants, among other things. The data is presented in what the app refers to as “cards” which are pinpointed on the map. Simply click on a point on the map, tap the related cards and take your pick of what you’d like to see and do!

I initially tried out Fieldtrip in my hometown and learned that I live just a mile from the historic home of a local trailblazer naturalist that I’d never even heard of! I can only imagine what Fieldtrip will do for this lazy traveler as I continue my aimless wandering through the world…

***Please be aware that Fieldtrip tracks your location and uses cellular data, so be sure to adjust your settings to a level that you are comfortable with.

Day 169: A Local’s Guide to Hidden Orlando

Yesterday, I was on an airplane listening to some of my fellow passengers discuss their plans for their time in Orlando. Not surprisingly, they were all discussing the theme parks. I was born and raised in Central Florida and am here to tell you that there is so much more to the area than Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter. Therefore, I’ve decided to spend day 169 of the Nowhere To Be Project highlighting some of my favorite spots in greater Orlando.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1- Wekiwa Springs State Park: If you’re interested in seeing what Florida was like for the Timucauns (way before Walt Disney moved in), take a drive to Wekiwa Springs (pronounced Wuh-kie-vuh). It is about 45 minutes drive from the theme parks and just twenty minutes from downtown. I grew up just a mile or so from the springs and visited regularly as an escape from the heat. Because Wekiwa is a natural spring, the water remains at 72 degrees year-round. Be careful while swimming because the rocks do get slippery and wildlife is abundant (yes, snakes and alligators)! Be sure to rent a canoe and paddle down to the island marina for a bite to eat. Feeding the raccoons there as a kid was a highlight of my youth. That was before we realized how detrimental it is to feed wildlife!

2- Cassadaga: Cassadaga’s nickname is the “psychic capital of the world” which tells you about some of what you’ll fine there. Aside from the spiritualists, it is an old artsy town filled with history and mystery. Many believe that the unique energy in this town is residual from the early Native American settlers who once inhabited the land. The town itself is anchored by an old hotel and is peppered with quirky shops, many of which have resident mediums. As teenagers, my friends and I would come to town looking for ghosts. We never found any, but always met interesting people. I still find the town, its scenery, and its residents fascinating. I recommend that visitors take a few hours to check it out for themselves.

3- New Smyrna Beach: Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach may get all of the glory (and people) in terms of Central Florida beaches, but New Smyrna Beach is the favorite of locals. During the week, the town and beach are mostly sleepy, yet can become quite crowded on weekends and holidays. Don’t worry about hauling your stuff to the sand because you can pull your car right onto the beach here. Try to park close to the jetties for challenging swimming and surfing. Be sure to stop at Frozen Gold on your way out of town for a chilly treat.

New Smyrna Beach