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 190: Review of Vail’s Tavern on the Square (a sort of vegan dining option)

I dined at Tavern on the Square on Day 190 of the Nowhere To Be Project. The Tavern is a casual yet upscale dining option in Vail. It is attached to The Arrabelle, a luxury hotel owned by Vail Resorts (Rock Resorts) located in the Lionshead corridor. The prices are a bit inflated in keeping with the local norms. I was alerted to the fact that they offer a full vegan menu by the “Vanilla Bean” app and decided to give it a go for dinner.

We dined outside on the patio with a lovely glass of Malbec and a breathtaking view of the mountain which was alight with stunning fall colors. After we were seated, I asked the server for the vegan menu. He apologetically confessed that it has been scaled down significantly for the off season. He went on to list a few salads, a hummus appetizer, the Impossible Burger, and sorbet as the obvious vegan options. I chose the Impossible Burger with a side salad.

I’ve eaten many Impossible Burgers and they are always enjoyable. This one, although extremely dry, was tasty. The bread to meat ratio was really off though, with way too much bread. My husband had a cheeseburger which came with the same huge bun. The difference being that his burger had about four times the amount of meat that my Impossible Burger did, making the bun a much better fit for his meal. A vegan cheese option and/or a vegan “special sauce” would definitely add some flavor to the Impossible Burger and might help to reduce the dryness.

The service was very attentive and the million dollar view was well worth the trip. I’ll more than likely visit Tavern on the Square again, if for no other reason than to lay eyes on their elusive “vegan menu”.

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 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 178: Vail’s Very Non-Vegan ‘Gourmet on Gore’ Tasting Festival

I attended Vail’s Gourmet on Gore food and wine tasting festival on Day 178 of the Nowhere To Be Project. This annual Labor Day Weekend event offers tasting menus and special food-centric events in town. It is always popular with locals and visitors alike as the streets of Vail are cordoned off and filled with tents staffed by local food and drink vendors. I have attended the event several times and was hoping that this would be the year where vegan options would be plentiful. With that hope in mind, I purchased $25 in vouchers at the get go keeping in mind the fact that most tasting dishes range in price from $3 to $8.

I wandered from tent to tent gazing upon nothing but meat-laden dishes. Some of the vendors offered several dishes (Almresi, Mountain Cupcakes, Craftsman) while most others had just one option (Larkspur, Sweet Basil, Elway’s, Leonora, Blu’s). There were sausages, chicken skewers, hamburgers, steak tacos, short-rib plates and countless meaty sandwiches. There were even a few breads and sweets here and there, but all were made with egg. I finally found an heirloom tomato gazpacho with pistachio at a tent hosted by the staff of Craftsman, a whisky and sandwich tavern located in neighboring Edwards, Colorado. I told them that they should make a sign to let vegans know that they had the only plant-based option at Gourmet on Gore. The chilled sip of soup was tasty, but cost only $3 in vouchers. That left me with $22 worth of vouchers which were begrudgingly spent on a pricey Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon by Beringer. Not necessarily the lunch of champions, huh?

The only vegan option at Gourmet on Gore…heirloom tomato gazpacho with pistachio made by Craftsman
I don’t usually spend $22 on a plastic cup of wine, but when I do it’s because there were no other options for spending my Gourmet on Gore food vouchers, lol

Vail is so progressive in so many ways, but food is not one of them. According to recent research by a company called Globaldata, 6% of Americans identify as vegan (an increase of 600% in just three years). Furthermore, plant-based eating has been earmarked by Google Trends as the future of food globally! In Vail we have one vegan dining option, Green Elephant Juicery. It is a casual spot that I frequent offering mostly cold-pressed juices, a few cold take-away foods and occasional hot soups. I love that they exist and I hope that they’ll eventually expand their menu. Other than that, very few restaurants in town offer a plant-based choice on their menus. As a town that was recently certified as the only “sustainable mountain resort” in the world, one would assume that plant-based dining (which is widely viewed as the most sustainable method of food production) would be readily available. Sadly, that isn’t the case in Vail. Despite the lack of vegan choices at Gourmet on Gore, I had a lovely day in my chosen hometown. I am really thankful for that gazpacho though!

Day 176: The VIP Life at Rosewood Mansion in Dallas

It’s Day 176 of the Nowhere To Be Project and I just checked out of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. The centrally located Dallas property was originally built as a private estate by a cotton tycoon in the 1920s. From the moment I entered their doors until the moment I left, I felt like a VIP. Each and every staff member I encountered from check-in to check-out demonstrated impeccable attention to detail and a true desire to please. I booked a room package for the Rosewood Mansion through American Express Travel for $333/night (and 5x AmEx points:-). This rate included breakfast ($60) and an additional $100 dining credit along with a complimentary room upgrade, if available (which we did receive).

The hotel is very secluded (yet minutes from everything) and has the feel of a private home. I fell instantly in love with it and wasn’t really sure why until I realized that it resembled my childhood home in terms of classic southern grace and style. We stayed in room 602, a large and well-situated king room with a view of the courtyard. The room and ensuite bath are very well-appointed for relaxation with fine linens, waffle robes and slippers. We felt as if we were the only guests in the hotel because it is so amazingly quiet. There is a heated outdoor pool and an impressive full gym on site as well.

The luxury at Rosewood Mansion certainly doesn’t end with the accommodations. We enjoyed happy hour in the stately lounge, a favorite among locals. We were irked that we lacked the time to enjoy dinner in the lovely dining room, but were impressed by its beauty and elegance. Room service breakfast was outstanding in terms of the service, and in the quality and presentation of the food. I was over the moon to find a vegan breakfast option that included an avocado-basil smoothie, chilled chia oats and fresh fruit! My husband went with a traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs. Their homemade jams were to die for!

We’ve been to Dallas many times and have stayed at several other upscale properties, yet none compare to our luxurious stay at this hotel. This may have been our first visit to the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, but it definitely will not be our last! If you’re looking for subdued luxury and pampering in Dallas, this is THE place!

*As always, I use my blog to present my own experiences as a paying traveler. I am never compensated in any way by the properties and companies I review.

Day 174: Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club

Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club boasts a lovely oceanfront location
The Oasis Bar

I just spent several days at Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club and have chosen day 174 of the Nowhere To Be Project to tell you all about it. The lodge is the smaller sister property of Ponte Vedra Inn & Club which is just two miles down the beach. The lodge has just 66 rooms, all with access to the amenities at the Inn and with views of the ocean in differing degrees. We were in what is referred to as a “deluxe oceanview room” with two double beds, a large bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub and a shower (room 330). The decor is light and bright and the rooms are very spacious when compared to standard hotel accommodations. Our room was on the first floor which made our patio a bit less than private as it was part of the thoroughfare for beach and pool access. Despite this, we had a nice view of the courtyard with firepit and the beach beyond that.

Room 330

The not-so-private patio

The Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club is situated on a very quiet beach in a residential area. This gives it a very private and exclusive feel. The facility also operates as a beach, tennis and golf club which adds to the neigborhoody vibe. The common areas of the property are fairly well-kept, but slightly dated with a solid late 1980s flair. Dining options include a casual poolside beach bar, a lounge and a more formal restaurant, all of which offered outstanding ocean views and decent food and drinks (with vegan options:). Room service is also available.

The heated pool with ocean views
Room service

On my second morning in Ponte Vedra I walked the two miles down the beach to explore the Inn and Club. From what I saw, the Inn is more catered to families. There is a beach club and family pool on the beachside of the resort. The lodging is located across the street along with a tennis club, golf course, coffee shop, several restaurants and a few upscale gift shops. From what I gathered, the Lodge & Club is newer and slightly more refined than the Inn.

The family pool at the larger sister property, the Inn & Club

Overall, the stunning oceanfront location and the solitude of the lodge make it a desirable property and would probably be motivation enough to get me to visit again. The rooms are comfortable, but could use a deep cleaning. Furthermore, the service at the lodge is underwhelming when you consider that the property touts itself as a five star resort. For example, table service at all dining outlets was slow, I was brought the wrong meal by room service staff, the floors in our room had not been swept or mopped prior to our arrival, and a man awakened us by trying to forcibly enter our room at 5am. When I mentioned these issues to the front desk clerk, she said simply “I’m sorry”. There was no attempt on her part to make these things right which does not align with a five star luxury experience. In short, the location is five star worthy, but the facility and staff hover at the three star level.

Wiping up a splash of water from the bathroom floor just after we checked in revealed this gross surprise of dirt and hair! We have light-colored hair, so clearly not ours:-(.
That view though!

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 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?