Day 141: Beaver Creek – The Disney of the Vail Valley

I hung out in Beaver Creek on day 141 of the Nowhere To Be Project. I might describe Beaver Creek as the younger plastic step sister of Vail. It is located above the town of Avon, just twelve miles west of Vail. Like Vail, Beaver Creek offers four seasons of outdoor fun along with upscale lodging, dining and shopping. Unlike Vail, Beaver Creek has a decidedly manufactured feel to it. I would liken this to the vibe one gets while strolling down Main Street USA at Walt Disney World.

The multilayered village area of Beaver Creek is a slope side sea of brick filled with hotels, shops, art galleries and dining venues. The center of the action is shared by the Vilar Performing Arts Center, a popular spot for concerts, and a plus-sized ice skating rink (winter only). Mountain sports options are just steps from the village and include hiking, biking and a ropes course in the summer, and snow sports in the winter.

It was a perfect sunny day today, so I lunched al fresco at 8100, the mountainside casual dining option at the beautiful Park Hyatt Resort. I went with the grilled vegetable sandwich minus the feta and was shocked when it arrived cold. I wrongly assumed that grilled vegetables would be hot. No such luck! The view from the patio at 8100 was great, but the sandwich wasn’t even close to worth the $17 price tag, even by Beaver Creek standards.

What are Beaver Creek standards, you ask? I would go with pristine, pricey and very well-manicured. In sum, there are many things to love about Beaver Creek particularly for those who prefer a country club experience. If you’re looking for hyper-controlled luxury in the mountains, this may just be your spot.

All opinions are my own and I am never compensated in any way.

Day 140: Sacred Abundance at White Bison in Vail

On Day 140 of the Nowhere To Be Project I enjoyed another fantastic meal and just had to share it with you! I dined at White Bison in Vail. The restaurant’s namesake (the White Bison) is sacred in Native American culture, reportedly bringing great abundance to those who spot one. I’ve visited this restaurant a handful of times, mostly due to their outstanding open air terrace overlooking Gore Creek. Today’s experience was so pleasant that the view became secondary. Similar to most other restaurants in Vail, their menu is meat-centric. The difference at White Bison is that the staff and chef go above and beyond to accommodate the dietary needs of their diners. This level of service, paired with a desire to please their patrons, is so refreshing in an area where that authenticity is often absent.

We chose three menu items to share, all of which were already meat and egg free. Minor tweaks in the preparation made them dairy free as well. This amazing feast began with an appetizer of their flavorful crispy French fries. We usually don’t eat fries, but we spotted these on a fellow diner’s table and just had to try them. They were excellent!

Next we had the charred Caesar salad without cheese or anchovies, and with the addition of a nice vegan garlic dressing. Again, this dish was outstanding. The watermelon seeds and paper thin fresh beet slices helped to make this a standout. Even more char on the romaine lettuce would not be a bad thing though.

Finally, we shared the gnocchi which was drizzled with a luscious truffle oil. The dish was very unique with the addition of baby carrots, fava beans and snap peas. The savory blend of flavors was like nothing we’ve ever tasted. It quickly became our favorite recent meal and something that we will absolutely order again.

Be sure to try White Bison on your next visit to Vail!

As always, opinions and experiences are mine. I am never compensated in any way.

Day 138: My Travel Uniform

I threw on my favorite traveling uniform on Day 138 of the Nowhere To Be Project. This outfit is my first choice for the “getting there” and “getting home” parts of travel…long haul flights, road trips, cruises, or literally any other type of travel. As a young woman, fashion was always the primary focus of my travel wardrobe. Back then, I didn’t care about function or comfort, and was frequently hobbling around on heels no matter where I was heading. With age comes experience and eventually wisdom (if we’re lucky), right? While I’m still suffering from the fashionista bug, I now demand comfort and function from my travel clothing. The stiletto-induced throbbing feet and stomach aches from too tight pants are out and the track suits are in. Yes, you heard me correctly. My go to travel uniform is a track suit! They are designed for versatility, extreme conditions and physical challenges (sounds like a long-haul flight, lol) which, in my mind, makes them the ideal travel uniform.

Track suits have gone way beyond the Rocky-style sweatpants of the 1980s with stylish high quality fabrics and trendy designs. Track suits offer the trifecta for travel: highly fashionable, functional and built for endurance. I seek out those made with lightweight performance fabrics (dries quickly and makes on-the-go hand-washing and stain-removal a snap), an elastic or draw-string waist and zippered pockets. I avoid anything with buttons and belts like the plague because I do not wish to slow down the security line or fight with a buckle in a microscopic airplane restroom. I finish it off with a favorite mix and match t-shirt (long-sleeved in cold climates and a tank in hot climates).

I have two current favorite travel uniforms (the green in photo above and the white below), both made by American designer Tory Burch, and they are with me for the long-haul. What is your favorite travel uniform?

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 134: Have Dog, Must Travel

I was feeling bad for my pooch today, day 134 of the Nowhere To Be Project. We rescued him nine years ago after he was found (as a puppy) wandering the streets of Orlando. He had been abandoned by his mother and was malnourished. I think that this is when his wanderlust began because since then he has visited 41 states and one foreign country. The only time he does not accompany us on our travels is when we fly. At 90 pounds, he’s just too big to bring on board and I refuse to cage him in cargo. That will change should I ever win the lottery…I’ll buy a private jet so he can see the world!

Just a few states left!

I was feeling sorry for him today because he loves travel as much as we do and has been home bound for the past several weeks. While he loves the long hikes and brief car rides we squeeze in each day, he just doesn’t get the same thrill as that of life on the road. He especially loves staying at Kimpton hotels (he’s been to more than three-quarters of their U.S. locations) because they out and out pamper their four-legged guests. His bunk on our R.V. runs a close second likely because it has a panoramic window to the world (see photo above).

Getting comfy at a Kimpton!

The good news is that he’ll be knocking off the remainder of the continental United States by early March of 2019. Not bad for a pup that was days away from being euthanized, huh? Adopt don’t shop! You never know, you might just find your next travel partner.

Day 133: How To Stop Robbing Yourself of the Travel You Deserve

As a constant traveler, I understand the assumptions and misconceptions that people have about the jet-set lifestyle. This flawed thinking literally robs people of travel…”I can’t afford it”, “I’m too busy” and so on. Therefore, the focus of day 133 of the Nowhere To Be Project is the notion that travel is accessible to everyone, all the time.

Open the door to travel!

People assume that travel is only for the wealthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth because travel comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. It is what you make it. I’ve splurged a few times on what might be considered luxury trips. More frequently though, I’ve camped for free with just a book and a backpack full of homemade treats. I’ve also hopped on last minute cruises where one all-inclusive week at sea can cost much less than one on land. Low cost travel is a real possibility for the diligent and prepared. For some things it pays to plan well in advance, while others require the ability to get up and go on a moment’s notice.
Some think that frequent travel is limited to the very young and very old. TRAVEL IS NOT JUST FOR COLLEGE KIDS AND OLD CRONIES!!! While constant travel has become easier since my retirement, I never let life get in the way of my wanderlust. For example, my kids are very well-traveled because I never saw them as a barrier to travel. Some people think that it is too much of a pain to pack up the kids (and the diaper bag, playpen, toys, etc.), but I always viewed their presence as a bonus. I strived to use travel as a learning tool because I believe that it teaches us much more than any textbook ever could. The time crunch of working full time and accommodating busy schedules can certainly make long trips more fleeting, but day or weekend getaways are always a possibility. It could be as simple as a Saturday visit to a state park in an adjacent county, or a house swap weekend with a family in a bordering state.
There are those who think that travel is self-indulgent and that any extra money should be squirreled away for a rainy day. I am all about living beneath my means. What I mean by this is that the spending choices we make each day can profoundly impact our financial bottom line. Over time, a frugal approach really adds up and opens the door to travel. For instance, I’d rather make my own coffee each morning (whether at home or on the road) and take trips. I refuse to spend $10 a day at Starbucks not only because I like my coffee better, but because over time it would rob me of travel opportunities. Case in point, I flew to Paris round trip last year for $300. I just can’t imagine who’d choose thirty days of prepared coffee over Paris!

What excuses do you use to rob yourself of travel?

Day 132: Perpetually Packed – The Five Must-Have Items for Travel

Day 132 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me the sudden realization that I pretty much live out of a bag. I do have a home base that is filled with a lifetime of memories and possessions, but with a life of near constant travel, my suitcase definitely gets much more use than my closet. Even when I’m home (as I have been for the past couple weeks), I keep the bag packed.

The Puddle Jumper by Lug is my favorite bag!

You may be wondering what the heck is in this always-at-the-ready travel bag? Besides about ten monochromatic mix and match (always black except for summer when white is prominent) wardrobe staples, I have several must have items with me always.

1- Small Toiletry Kit stocked with essentials: medication, toothbrush, SPF moisturizer and lip gloss. I use a zippered clutch that doubles as a purse with a pop of color.

2- Eye-mask and Earplugs – I protect good sleep no matter where I might be in the world! These two are sleep’s best friends!

3- Inflatable Pillow and DreamSack – These small luxuries are the (slightly larger) natural extensions of the eye-mask and earplugs. They take just a few cubic inches of space yet create a clean sleeping space anywhere.

4- Smartphone with Charger – A globally-enabled smartphone is a no-brainer. It provides basic tools like a compass and flashlight along with the ability to communicate and stay entertained. Mine is loaded with favorite travel and entertainment apps.

5- Noise Canceling Headphones – The tiny pocket headphones that we all use everyday may seem more practical for some travelers, but I find that they are not as effective in noisy conditions…R.V., airplane, ship, etc. Noise canceling headphones make movies, music and audio books a possibility in any setting.

What’s in your bag???

The DreamSack is a portable silk sleeping bag.

Day 131: The Seriousness of Souvenirs

On Day 131 of the Nowhere To Be Project I took a mental vacation with the help of the souvenirs that grace my home. I’m not talking about the typical types of mementos collected by tourists. While I’m traveling, you won’t find me within a mile of a souvenir shop selling t-shirts and stuffed animals. I’m speaking of the meaningful trinkets that hold the power to magically transport me back in time to the joy of a specific locale.

One of my favorite practices while visiting a new place is connecting with the terrain. That might mean gathering sand and shells on a beach, mining small rocks from a mountain trail or retrieving a feather in the forest. These free and priceless items literally carry the DNA of a place. This makes them perfect souvenirs. As a bonus, they usually won’t take up much space in your suitcase!

When I’m not trekking through foreign landscapes on my travels, I’m looking for the local artisans. Street markets, fairs and thrift shops are usually the best places to find one-of-a-kind objects to reflect the uniqueness of a place. Over the years I’ve purchased watercolor paintings, handmade ceramic tiles, carvings, and needlework, among so many other things, to grace my home and warm my heart. What could be better than cozying up under a shawl that was painstakingly knitted by the hands of an elderly Russian grandmother? One perk of buying these types of homespun souvenirs is the direct support of the local economy.

In sum, I believe that souvenirs should reflect the people and experiences gathered through travel. How could a tacky t-shirt ever accomplish that?

What are your favorite types of souvenirs and where do you find them?

Day 130: Cultural Immersion Via Gastronomy

Day 130 of the Nowhere To Be Project fell on a Sunday. No matter where I am in the world, summer Sundays are synonymous with farmer’s markets. Buying local food directly from the source provides an unmatched opportunity for cultural immersion. If you’re like me, you worship food and understand that it, alone, holds the key to truly understanding the nuances of a locale.

The farmer’s market in Vail today was bursting with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and squash. These flavors reminded me of a delicious Tuscan Panzanella I once experienced (yes, food should be an experience!). With that sensory memory as my inspiration I created a quick yet magnificent slow cooker lasagna. It is naturally plant-based and dairy-free, and to be completely honest, it is so decadent that you wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t told you! Enjoy and be sure to share!

TUSCAN PANZANELLA LASAGNA🌿🍅

Ingredients

1/2 pound assorted varieties of squash, thinly sliced*

1/2 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced

4 cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce**

1 ball of fresh plant-based mozzarella cheese, sliced***

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Oven ready dried lasagna noodles****

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

-Begin by drizzling a bit of the EVOO into the slow cooker.

-Add a ladle full of tomato sauce to the slow cooker.

-Crack the lasagna noodles to fit the slow cooker, creating a single layer on top of the sauce.

-Drizzle a tad more EVOO on top of the dried pasta.

-Use the 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella to create the filling for the first layer of the lasagna, topping it with another layer of dried pasta and a ladle of sauce.

-Use the sliced squash to create the second layer of the lasagna, dusting it with EVOO, salt and pepper before adding another layer of dried pasta and more marinara.

-Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a single layer directly on top of the dried pasta.

-Sprinkle the chopped basil and garlic on top of the tomatoes along with another light dusting of EVOO, salt and pepper.

-Crumble the remaining mozzarella on top of the tomatoes before pouring the remaining sauce in the slow cooker.

-Cook on high for two hours and then turn the heat to low and cook for another hour or so, until brown and bubbly.

-Let the lasagna sit at room temperature in the slow cooker crock for 30 minutes before serving.

-Serve with garlic bread to mop up every morsel of deliciousness!

Notes

*I used patty pan and zucchini squash.

**Victoria White Linen is a wonderful option (and what I used) for simple marinara sauce.

***Miyoko’s makes an amazing vegan mozzarella that tastes and melts just like dairy cheese. I used this in the dish.

****Never assume that any pasta is vegan as many are made with eggs. I used Pastamoré dried lasagna noodles, purchased at the farmer’s market.