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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
On Day 98 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself unexpectedly jetting back to Florida from Detroit due to a family situation that requires my immediate attention. I was bummed to have to leave my husband, the pup and the RV ( the Tiny Dancer, Too). Alas, they’ll forge on without me and I’ll rejoin them as soon as I am able.
I found a nonstop flight from Detroit to Orlando on Delta Airlines. It was decently priced at just over $200 considering I was flying on such short notice. The seat was in their Comfort+ section. This is a slightly upgraded economy fare offering the option to change the flight at no charge, pre-boarding, a larger seat, designated overhead storage bins and free entertainment, snacks and alcoholic beverages. I reserved an aisle seat online, but for some reason ended up by the window in seat 10A, one row behind the First Class section of the airplane. Other than that hiccup, the experience was pleasant. The seat was large with a lot of legroom, the overhead bin was wide open and a flight attendant retrieved my bag from me with a smile and placed it in my assigned bin. Once we reached cruising altitude, I was offered an assortment of snacks (Oreos, bananas, crackers and pretzels) which I declined and a glass of wine which I accepted. Passengers in First Class were offered the exact same options. The two and half hour flight flew by with the help of Jason Bateman’s recent movie “Game Night”. The entertainment was available only to passengers seated in First Class or Comfort+. All in all, I was really impressed with the Comfort+ option. It offered nearly identical benefits to a First Class fare at about half the price. Who knows, Delta Airlines might just become my preferred airline now that I’ve given up on United? Check them out the next time you fly and let me know how it goes!
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.
On Day 90 of the Nowhere To Be Project I stupidly broke my decades long stretch of zoo-free living. I spent the day at the Toronto Zoo and it was a big mistake. In the 1990s, I began a personal boycott on any facility that caged animals. I just felt that I could not support any organization except those that operated as sanctuaries. Lately, I’ve been hearing so much about conservation and the importance of supporting groups that focus on it. With that in mind, I broke my ban when I entered the gates of the Toronto Zoo this morning. I realized that I’d made a mistake almost immediately when I spotted so many of the animals pacing frantically in their cages. They may have basic care needs met, but life in cages snuffs out much of their natural instinctual behavior. The pacing looks like a manifestation of anxiety and that simply breaks my heart. Many of the patrons try to interact with the animals by calling to them or (even worse) tapping on the glass and this seems to agitate them even more. Today I saw a hyena repeatedly jump on the glass trying fruitlessly to reach a woman in a beeping scooter. The sound paired with the motion of the scooter was literally driving him nuts!
The breaking point for me today occurred when I gazed into the 46 year old eyes of Charles, a gorilla. Charles is a beautiful silverback who has lived at the zoo since 1974 (he was two). I’m not sure how or why he came to Toronto from Africa. The zoo indicates that they reintroduce animals to the wild when possible which clearly didn’t happen for Charles. I liken his existence to 44 years in prison. Yes, he’s fed, receives medical care and interacts socially with other gorillas. However, he exists in a cage that is similar to the size of an average one bedroom apartment.
The Grizzly bears were really hard to watch as well. The male began pacing at the access door to his cage when the attendant drove by in a golf cart. I think he thought it was feeding time because he has associated the cart’s engine with meal time. His natural instinct toward foraging for berries and catching fish in a stream has dissolved into pacing at a manufactured gate. To me, that’s just terribly sad!
I am able to see some of the benefits of zoos such as education and the controlled breeding of endangered species. I just wish that there was a more determined effort to return animals to their natural habitat. I also believe that those animals who are not candidates for a return to the wild should be released to sanctuaries rather than caged at zoos. No mores zoos for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on zoos…
On Day 85 of the Nowhere To Be Project we started the day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. After such a nice time last night and this morning, we decided that we needed a vacation from our vacation. We’ve been moving from place to place each day, packing it all up each morning and unfurling it later each night. For those who’ve never RVed, the lifestyle requires a surprising amount of work and physical labor. As a result, we’ve been feeling a bit worn out and decided that we needed to find a spot to park and pamper ourselves for a few days. We lucked into a place with a RV Park called Turning Stone Resort and Casino. It is located in Verona, a beautiful area of New York with rolling hills and wide stretches of nature. The park itself is about a mile from the main resort and casino, but a free on-call shuttle service makes that a nonissue. Our goals for this get-away from life on the road are to relax at the spa and pool, and to live it up at the casino, restaurants and night clubs that are on-site. We’d also like to take showers that are longer than 30 seconds for a few days, haha.
We had an RV when our kids were small and always felt so exhausted after those trips. Back then, we were working around the kids’ busy school and activities schedules as well as our crazy work hours. These limitations made us feel like we had to cram everything the kids were interested in seeing into one trip. Now, we have nothing but time, yet we still find ourselves spinning like crazed tops. The bottom line is that we literally have Nowhere To Be (hence “the Project”) and it is about time we start enjoying it! I think a massage will be a good place to start tomorrow, don’t you?
On Day 81 of the Nowhere To Be Project we left Jersey City in the rain and made our way to Newark to drop my son at the airport. From there, we drove to Greenwich, Connecticut in search of food. We found plenty options, but none had RV parking. Boo boo! I was super bummed because the shopping in Greenwich looked very enticing. I think my husband was secretly happy that Greenwich isn’t at all RV friendly 😉.
After driving through several more scenic townships in Connecticut, we headed north toward Bishop’s Orchard in Guilford. We reserved the spot through Harvest Hosts, a membership program that allows free overnight camping at farms, orchards and vineyards. In exchange for the complimentary camping, guests are asked to purchase something from the host. That was easy at the market at Bishop’s Orchard! They have live plants, fresh produce, a bakery, meals-to-go and an extensive selection of wine, among countless other things. They even create and sell their own yarn! Even better, we are parked for the night next to llamas for crying out loud! The air is crisp and cool making tonight the perfect one to shut off the A/C and open the windows! I think I can smell the sweet fragrant apples already. Who knew that orchard camping was a thing?!?