Day 215: Winter is a Bully

I awoke on day 215 of the Nowhere To Be Project to snow-covered peaks hovering above me. It is so lovely to be surrounded by postcard beauty, but I’m just not ready for winter yet. Autumn is simply too precious to be cut short by an over-eager winter. Sweaters and colorful falling leaves and crisp (not freezing) air have just arrived and yet they are already being overshadowed by snowflakes! Maybe (hopefully) winter just needed to fire off a warning shot to let us know it is lying in wait. Just a few more weeks, please?

Day 212: Coffee at Dawn

Day 211 of the Nowhere To Be Project completely escaped me. I guess I’ve been too focused on indulging in all the yummy offers during Vail’s restaurant week. With that, Day 212 began with an amazing sunrise in the mountains. As the colors illuminated the sky, I sipped my coffee and munched on my vegan scrambled eggs on sourdough. Mornings like this make the 6am wake up call from the dog a bit easier to swallow. Did you find beauty n your day today?

Coffee at Dawn!

Day 207: The Hidden Secret of Colorado’s Priciest Town

Day 207 of the Nowhere To Be Project was the best Sunday of late. It began as most of my days do with coffee by the fire followed by a thigh-busting Peloton ride. Then it was on to a lovely creekside lunch with my daughter and a walk through the second to last farmer’s market of the season. Finally, a long windy walk with the pup through layers of crunchy fallen leaves closed out the day in quiet solitude with nary a person in sight.

The perfection that was today represents most Vail days at this time of year. This leads me to Vail’s best kept secret: October is the optimal time to visit. There’s a saying around town that people come for the winter, but stay for the summer. That may be true, but is very short-sighted because it doesn’t mention the glorious month of October. October is a time when the leaf-peepers are mostly gone, and when the town looks to the locals instead of the tourists to fill the coffers. I can confidently say that there are more dogs than people in Vail in October! This means that everything is ON SALE. From restaurant week (more on that later in the week) to the end-of-the-season sales in most shops and hotels, bargains abound. In short, prices in Vail fall with the quaking Aspen leaves. That first snowflake will usher in the harsh reality of living in one of the priciest communities around (recently ranked #1 most expensive in Colorado), so get here now if you’re like me and live for the bargain!

He loves having the mountain to himself!

Day 204: Vail’s Best Bargain

As a Vail resident, I’ll be the first to admit that aren’t a lot of bargains in town. However, day 204 of the Nowhere To Be Project opened up a whole new world for me and my family in terms of transportation. You see, Vail is 100 miles from Denver. It can take between two and three hours, depending on weather and traffic, to reach Denver International Airport from our home. Despite the fact that we are constant travelers, we rarely drive ourselves to and from the airport (for various reasons) and have been relying on Colorado Mountain Express (now Epic Mountain Express) for transportation to and from DIA for years. The prices we’ve paid for the popular shuttle service per passenger for a one way fare range from $55 to $120 plus tip. The service is owned and operated by Vail Resorts, so the high prices are to be expected. Nevertheless, it really adds up with frequent trips and multiple riders. Thankfully, we’ve discovered a brand new option!

The 7:05am Bustang at Vail’s Transportation Center

Bustang is a bus service that runs several Eastbound and Westbound routes each day between Denver and the mountains. My husband was brave enough to give it a try for the first time today. His ticket was less than $20 and the travel time was just over two hours. After departing Vail at 7:05am, the bus stopped briefly along the way in Frisco, Idaho Falls and Lakewood before arriving at Denver’s Union Station. He then hopped on a direct train to the airport (35 minutes) for another $9.

My husband described the bathroom-equipped Bustang as clean and relatively comfortable. The WIFI was reliable and there was ample space to store bags, equipment and even bicycles. He felt that he had a lot more legroom (he’s over six feet tall) and privacy on this big bus as compared to the jam-packed eight to ten passenger vans that are most often used by Colorado Mountain Express.

Bustang provides much more space than the passenger vans used by other companies

I simply can’t wait to give Bustang a try! It is vastly more affordable than other transportation options in Vail and seems to provide a more comfortable experience. I also love the fact that tickets are quickly and easily purchased via the Bustang app and are not date-specific which means no expensive change fees! One drawback might be the fact that riders must haul their bags from a bus to a train before reaching the airport, but that seems very minor when the savings is factored in to the equation.

My happy traveler!

Day 203: Eat It Raw (and Roasted)

My trophy kohlrabi

The past few days of the Nowhere To Be Project have been very food focused and day 203 continues the trend. Several days ago I talked about kohlrabi, a vegetable that I just learned about from Celia Brooks at an event for her latest book SUPERVEG Related Blog Post and Related Blog Post. I’m told the name translates as German cabbage. I asked for kohlrabi ideas from readers and literally EVERYONE said “eat it raw”! I’m not a huge salad eater, but gave the raw kohlrabi a chance by making Celia Brooks’ recipe for a mint and kohlrabi salad (page 74 in SUPERVEG).

Crisp and fresh…that’s how I’d describe this lovely little salad

Not only was the end result a beautifully colorful plate (almost too pretty to eat), but the combination of crisp mint leaves and crunchy and mild kohlrabi was so refreshing. I altered the recipe a bit by using dairy-fee plain yogurt and omitting the poppy seeds and honey from the dressing. I also added pea shoots for extra pizazz. This salad reminded me of spring and I would compare the taste of raw kohlrabi to that of jicama. I used just half of my kohlrabi on the salad and decided to try a bit of an experiment with the remainder of the elusive vegetable.

My two secret ingredients for unbelievable roasted kohlrabi

I cubed the second half of the Kohlrabi and tossed it in a few tablespoons of olive oil. I then spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet before generously sprinkling them with freshly ground salt and pepper. Next I grabbed my fakin’ bacon bits (Frontier Co-op Bac’ Uns) and favorite freeze dried garlic nuggets (Rinaldo’s Organic) and thoroughly coated the cubes. I popped them in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes to finish the job. I ended up with the most delicious outcome…crunchy flavorful crust on the outside and smooth mild flavor on the inside. Interestingly, the kohlrabi took on a completely different flavor when cooked…somewhere between fried zucchini and roasted potatoes. Will I go for a kohlrabi again if I happen upon one? Absolutely! I mean, who doesn’t love playing with their food?

These roasted kohlrabi cubes may look like apples, but they taste like a luscious mix between potatoes and fried zucchini

Day 202: Plays Well With Food

Unusually, day 202 of the Nowhere To Be Project was not a travel day. That, of course, means that it was all about food. When I’m not traveling (and eating), I’m cooking at home (and eating). Food is most definitely a passion and since becoming vegan nearly a year and a half ago, I’ve had to renegotiate recipes and favorite meals. I’m not a salad eater nor am I a preachy vegan because I believe that everyone is entitled to their own lifestyle, food included. However, I know that eating more vegetables is never a bad thing. I wasn’t raised on vegetables (unless they were canned, haha), so it has been a transition to say the least. All I can say is that I’ve never felt better in my life and I chose to “go vegan” primarily for health reasons. Guess what? It’s working! My most recent blood work reveals superior levels on every single measure. Furthermore, I have no vitamin deficiencies despite the lack of the animal products and (somewhat frustratingly) my weight has stayed about the same. People often ask me how a true foodie can possibly avoid animal products. Here’s a glimpse into a recent day…

BREAKFAST

Soy “eggs” scrambled with soft herbed nut cheese, root vegetable hash browns and avocado

LUNCH

Crepes stuffed with sautéed veggies and cashew mascarpone-at the Café at the Bookworm of Edwards

DINNER

Baked ravioli, stuffed asparagus and herbed toast

As you can see, no matter where I am I eat well. As a constant traveler, I’m forever trying new foods and hunting down vegan options wherever I go. I’m always happy to share my home recipes if you’re interested. Just reach out via email at nowheretobeproject@gmail.com, twitter or instagram.

Day 198: Did We Just Become Boondockers? KOA Steamboat Springs

Day 198 of the Nowhere To Be Project is dedicated to a full review of my recent stay at the KOA in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. First, a little background info…We reserved a deluxe full hook up RV spot online a few days before our arrival. The rate for each night was $61.89 plus tax and we stayed three nights. We visited in mid-September, but the park is open year round.

The Pool at KOA Steamboat Springs

The park is located on a busy highway just three miles from downtown Steamboat Springs. Our first night was spent in spot 69, but the trees on the spot blocked our satellite dish so we moved to spot 30 for the next two nights. The first spot was beside the busy highway. This created a 24 hour soundtrack of semis blowing by. The second spot backed up to a trailer park which created a 24 hour soundtrack of a very different type (use your imagination:). Unfortunately, spot 30 also had a serious problem with flies. I think this is the result of a dumpster on the trailer park side of the fence. This made outdoor dining impossible. Another issue was a complete lack of internet despite the fact that the website touts wifi access throughout the park.

Spot 30, our second home within the park. Just over the fence is a trailer park where a dumpster created a festival of flies for us.

The park offers a pool, hot tub, laundry room and shower rooms, all of which were clean. There is also a playground and putt putt golf (we didn’t partake in these activities). Perhaps the best feature of the KOA Steamboat Springs is the onsite bus stop. This makes it so easy to take advantage of the free bus to and from town.

Honestly, we usually shy away from KOA campgrounds because we’ve never really found one worth the price. We chose this one due to its proximity to town. My husband and I decided that we would not stay here again as it was crowded, noisy and very overpriced. Furthermore, we learned of several very scenic options for dry camping in the area which we think would offer a much more authentic mountain experience. And just like that, we seem to have transitioned from convenience campers to boondockers! I guess it is a process…

We’re seeking this type of view and solitude. I guess it’s the boondocking life for us from now on?!?

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 182: Destination Nowhere

I spent day 182 of the Nowhere To Be Project driving. Driving is a fabulous way to travel even when you’re not really traveling. It can be as simple as taking a new route to work or school to find a fresh new perspective. Road trips, more than any other mode of travel, offer catharsis. Roaming foreign roads is both hypnotic and healing as each twist and turn has the power to unveil something new. Some days I just drive aimlessly, inevitably ending up smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere is unlike any other destination. It soothes the soul. Nowhere rejuvenates the spirit. Nowhere is an ideal destination!

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!