Day 108: No Guts, No Glory

Day 108 of the Nowhere To Be Project took place largely on the top of Vail Mountain. This is because once we reached it after two hours of climbing, our legs were too tired too budge from our scenic perch. We hiked one of our very favorite trails, Berry Picker. It gets it name from the plethora of wild raspberries that line the path. It is a 3.2 mile climb through breathtaking terrain and ending at Eagle’s Nest. I’ve been hiking this trail for over 40 years and never tire of its challenge.

Today marked the first hike of the season and that one is always the toughest. The altitude paired with the ascent help make the climb a trek in all senses of the word. Many people choose to take the gondola to the top and hike down, but I always do the reverse. I want to earn that view because it makes me appreciate it more. That’s the thing with life and travel. We must amble through the rough patches tirelessly to be capable of feeling true gratitude for all of the lovely flat ground.

Day 107: The Wicked Web of Travel

On day 107 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself back in the mountains of Colorado. For some reason, the mountains always nudge me into a contemplative frame of mind. I got to thinking about a conversation I had yesterday on a shuttle with a couple who had been up for 36 straight hours as a result of travel. It reminded me of the countless times I’ve promised myself that I’d sleep on the plane or nap during layovers. It almost never works out that way though, does it? If you’re anything like me and my husband, you make all sorts of empty promises to yourselves to rationalize travel…

“We won’t eat out”

“We will stay out of the gift shops”

“This is our Christmas, birthday and anniversary present to ourselves”

The list goes on and on.

The reality is that when we’re in the heat of a trip, we do anything and everything available to immerse ourselves in the experience of the place. We relish in the reckless abandon of each moment betraying the promises we made to ourselves at the outset. Oh, the wicked webs we weave when travel is our mistress!

Day 106: In the Middle

On Day 106 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself crammed in the middle seat of a 737. Clearly, karma sought to even things out a bit after the pleasantness of my flight ten days ago. Life in the middle seat bears a striking likeness to middle age with it’s annoying limitations. If the middle seat is midlife, the aisle most definitely represents youth with its freedom to escape on a whim. That would leave the window as an ode to old age, I think. The window gives sight and with that comes the wisdom we often associate with aging. I don’t care for the middle seat. I don’t especially like the window either. I absolutely adore the aisle though. Does that mean I’m young at heart? Or perhaps I’m just trying to hang on to the zeal of youth with all my might? The bottom line is that no matter which seat we find ourselves in, we must find a way to make it fit. If we can do that, we might just enjoy the ride.

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 104: The British Isles Are Calling and I Must Go

On Day 104 of the Nowhere To Be Project I received “good mail”. When I was a kid, all mail was exciting! I had a pen pal that shared the foreign-to-me ins and outs of rural life through her letters. I also belonged to a book club that had me running to the mailbox with glee on delivery days. These days, mail is rarely exciting. No one really writes letters anymore and my box is usually filled with bills instead of books. Today, the contents of my mailbox brought back the childhood joy of mail with the delivery of my cruise documents from Viking!

In August, my husband and I will take our first ocean cruise with Viking. We’ve taken five river cruises with Viking and have been impressed and beyond pleased each and every time. We’ve also taken oodles of ocean cruises over the years on other lines. Ocean cruises were especially appealing when the kids were little because there was literally something to keep everyone entertained. As we’ve all grown older, we traded in the huge ocean liners for smaller, more intimate travel adventures (river cruises, small group tours, RV trips and so on). While the Viking ships are still very small compared to the mega liners, they offer more amenities and a broader range of itineraries than is possible on a tiny river vessel. The British Isles Explorer itinerary was the draw for us: Norway, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Of those countries, England is the only one I’ve already visited!

Truth be told, we are a tad bit worried that the things that attracted us to Viking initially will change…small ships, very few passengers, cultural immersion, educational opportunities, etc. I’m literally chomping at the bit to answer these unknowns and am extremely hopeful that Viking will deliver excellence once again! It is so thrilling to have the British Isles journey in my sights and I promise to share a blow by blow of the highs, the lows and even the in-betweens.

Day 103: Orlando United

On Day 103 of the Nowhere To Be Project I had the privilege of revisiting the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Florida. The museum presents key events in the history of Central Florida ranging from Native American occupation to the Florida Cracker pioneers to Walt Disney World and beyond. Sadly, the Pulse Nightclub Shooting has been added to Orlando’s historical timeline since my last visit. The two year anniversary of the incomprehensible mass murder of 49 innocent people just passed on June 12, 2018.

At first I wondered if the wound was still too fresh and raw for a museum exhibit to be appropriate. However, upon viewing it, I found the museum’s exhibit to be a moving, respectful and tasteful memorial to the victims. The museum’s approach is geared toward presenting the event through the lens of the overwhelming response from the community. Included in the exhibit are heartfelt letters and toys left at the nightclub in the aftermath of the terror, quilt blocks made to comfort the injured and the families of the victims and to memorialize those who were lost, and impassioned anti-hate artwork. The exhibit closes with a trip down a flight of stairs embellished with ribbons, each carrying a personal sentiment from a visitor. I hope you’ll make your way to the Orange County Regional History Center should you ever find yourself in Central Florida. We must never forget or relent. #OrlandoUnited

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!