Currently viewing the tag: "roadside attractions"

A long time ago, when the Earth was green, I swam with the manatees in Florida’s Crystal River, where hundreds of manatees flock to in the winter months when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are not as warm. It was time to see the manatees again, though the unusually warm temperatures would we see any? We made it to the dive site at the crack of dawn to find out.IMG_7826

The bay around Crystal River is a safe zone for manatee. RIMG0116

After a slow start acclimating to the snorkel gear and my underwater camera, I managed to get a few great shots of the few manatees we saw, as well as some other beauteous things at Three Sisters Spring, a remarkable crystal clear spring. RIMG0068

Tail.RIMG0074

Getting some yummy bites.RIMG0080

Posing for a profile shot.RIMG0096

Just swimming by.RIMG0098

Schools of fish at the Three Sisters Spring.RIMG0151

This ethereal spring is a snorkeler’s paradise.RIMG0189

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These posts coming from the springs ground are what remains from when Three Sisters was first used from manatee rehabilitation. The fence that it was part of was placed in order to rehabilitate a manatee who had been stuck in a sewer in Miami. The man spearheading the rehabilitation: Jacques Cousteau. RIMG0196

A huge turtle I followed.RIMG0135

Though the snorkel was beautiful, our wildlife viewing was not over as we headed back to land. We saw a dolphin feeding! It was similar to the bubble-net feeding I saw the whales do in Alaska. But this appeared to be only one dolphin, though a opportunistic pelican was always near to feast on the fish the dolphin worked out of the water. It was wonderful to witness a dolphin in its natural habitat, doing its natural thing. Especially in Central Florida, where that sickening SeaWorld calls home. Blackfish is one of most upsetting documentaries I have ever seen. I am delighted that the public has responded by not supporting their terrible form of entertainment, putting them in jeopardy of bankruptcy. However, they are behind a new exploitative venture called Discovery Cove that offers you a chance to swim with their captive Bottlenose dolphins. PicMonkey Collage4

After swimming with the manatees, we wanted to check out Weeki Wachee. It is home to a very unique attraction–an underwater dance performance from the city’s live mermaids. The kitschy show has been going since the late 40’s when a man named Newton Perry decided he wanted to see mermaids in real life. It only take a man and a dream, I suppose.IMG_7834

The beautiful resident mermaids are voluntarily captive. They train for over a year to be able to perform. They are very talented. I’m grateful to have joined the likes of Elvis Preseley, who also visited the tiny city to see the mermaids. The small city has an inspiring history and I was so glad we learned of it through word of mouth. Now, this is my word of mouth–check out Weeki Wachee.IMG_7895

A mermaid chugs a Coke while surrounded by turtles.IMG_7854

The mermaids use a breathing apparatus that is like a hookah, except it’s oxygen and they’re underwater.IMG_7858

Lovely live mermaidsIMG_7877

After getting up at the crack of dawn to snorkel on the gulf-side, we hadn’t eaten the whole day. We made a b-line to Market on South, a plant-based shared market with the some highly anticipated vegan food offerings. It is home to Dixie Dharma and an outpost to Valhalla Bakery, an all-vegan bakery in the neighborhood. Ah, a chalkboard full of delicious choices. PicMonkey Collage1

Sammies ordered. I got the Pulled Carolina BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with delectable jackfruit in a scrumptiously sweet barbecue sauce with fried onions, pickles, and a ton of fresh arugula. It had these amazing preserved lemon pieces that popped the sweet and the briney.  It was heavenly, with a side of potato salad. In the background, a fried green tomato sandwich which was apparently equally impressive.DSC_0008

Little details rile, like the swirl on the bread. Or just the bread–damn good.IMG_7905

I got a s’mores bar from Valhalla Bakery that was a brick of blondie layered with marshmallow and chocolate. My ideal dessert–marshmallow, some chocolate and vanilla. These are a few of my favorite things.PicMonkey Collage2

The rest of the case.IMG_7912

After some rest, we skipped the Bernie-fest at Market on South and headed to the equally progressive Dandelion Comminitea Cafe, a more hippy-veg eatery house in a pretty green house that didn’t photograph well in the evening. We started with their Nachoes Libre, organic blue chips topped with their chili and their cheese. IMG_7923

I had to continue on the marshmallow theme and get their vegan Fluffer Nutter–almond butter, banana and Ricemellow Fluff, topped with a chocolate drizzle. I wanted to order it and take a picture of it more than I wanted to eat all of it, especially with my local-made strawberry kombucha and my choice in side, a salad. It all kind of clashed together but was yummy separately.IMG_7943

Lastly, we checked out Artichoke Red… because it’s an all-vegan store. Nice to see those things around.PicMonkey Collage5

The Sanctum has a fresh, vibrant vegan breakfast items that are the perfect start for a long day of sites. Any place with a mural like that is bound to deliver on plant-based goodies… equally important, kick-butt French press coffee equivalent to nine cups of hotel’s brown, hot water.PicMonkey Collage1

Normally I don’t buy into “wraps,” but this was all I wanted for breakfast in hand-held form. A spot on curried up tofu scramble, rosemary potatoes, roasted vegetables, fresh greens, tomato & red onion topped with cashew cream and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Oh wait, I also wanted avocado… so I got some avocado toast, too. Avocado toast is really in its hey day right now.DSC_0003

Oh, I forgot. I added their well-loved tempeh. Because tempeh is my favorite soy form.IMG_7685

The 7-mile Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, cuts through untouched marshes teeming with birds and other wildlife. My first encounter was this little alligator hanging out on the water’s edge. DSC_0014

Most of the other sitings were various slender-beaked beauties like this one, nibbling here and there for some sustenance. DSC_0035

The marsh has no trace of human life, besides the occasional placard and, of course, your automobile creeping along at 10 miles per hour. DSC_0047

Looking for food. I can relate… DSC_0057

This guy took off when I exited the car to photograph him… which made for an even better picture.DSC_0104

Then I saw a much larger alligator who was causing quite the stir among the other wildlife viewers.DSC_0153

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My final alligator, a bit more shy than the others. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!DSC_0160

The Washington Nationals do there spring training on the Space Coast. Though I have always wanted to see a spring training game, the event lost its luster after 4 boring innings and not much action on The Mets side. IMG_7744

A quick lunch before heading back towards the Orlando airport… at Happy Healthy Human. With a name like that, how can you go wrong? They offer all-vegan raw food in an area with a dearth of vegan options. IMG_7754

I got the “Human Sandwich,” partially because I wanted to order something called “Human Sandwich.” Besides this, it was just what the doctor ordered: onion bread, nut cheese, taco meat, avocado, spiralized veggies,and a tangy hot sauce served with a side of baked kale. And a beets juice… IMG_7751

Raw food is deceptively filling. I saved half of this yummy sandwich for later in the evening.IMG_7753

Palm. IMG_7757

Roadside attraction in Kissimmee. IMG_7771

Other ridiculousness outside of the Disney tourist catering Kissimmee.

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Lastly, dinner at Toasted, a grilled cheese counter spot with two locations in Florida and an all-vegan menu with housemade cheese. That’s right. On the door it says, “Vegan Inside.” Yes!PicMonkey Collage2

Did I mention the vegan cheese topped truffle fries with rosemary. Absolutely heavenly. This place is fantastic and priced to please. IMG_7791

I got the Vegan Blackberry Melt with blackberry mash, that housemade vegan cheese, and arugula. Pinch me, for real. CP got Vegan 101 with cheese and tomato. IMG_7786

Ok, last thing I eat today. We certainly didn’t need to eat more but a bit of “when in Rome” struck when we learned you do not have to pay for Disney admission to join the slightly disturbing bustling throngs of people walking Disney Spring, Disney’s downtown. It is here that Erin McKenna of Babycakes fame has a bakery location. Yes, the all vegan and gluten-free bakery is in Orlando for some reason. The place was filled to the brim!
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It is quite hectic to walk through Downtown Disney with American riff raff. So here is a map I wished I had brought along. ds dec 2015.pdf copy

It seems the world gets more and more vegan-friendly everyday. As a vegan food blogger, the surge in vegan options near, kinda near, far and very far is overwhelming. From big cities to small locales, I can’t keep up. But I try… And I looove trying. It’s very delicious.

My most recent mission: New Jersey. A neighboring state with a lot of vegan activity teeming under a guise of… whatever it is New Jersey is known for. I’m on a mission to fine-tooth comb the state for vegan options. Partly because, there it is right next door, partly because I’m inspired by what I am discovering at each step, and partly because under the radar is way more exciting than the obvious.

So I headed south to continue he hunt. But distance from point A to point B has many in-betweens. The first was Papa Ganache, an all-vegan bakery in Matawan I first visited back in 2013. Ha, “Back in 2013” makes me chuckle. PicMonkey Collage

Papa Ganache has an extensive spread of vegan delights. Eye candy in glass cases. I swooned for their rainbow cookie cupcake, topped with an equally bright and colorful cookie bite. It tasted just like rainbow cookies of yesteryear, which means, unfortunately, they kind of look better than they taste. But the vivid, pleasing aesthetic of those colorful layers compensate for a bit of chemically-tinged flavor. IMG_7190

I brought a bunch of flavors home for sampling later. In each, the cake was impressive but the tremendous solid mound of shortening was best taken off. And you could take it off cleanly with your hands with minimal mess, which was the weird part.IMG_7194

A quick stop at the beautiful historic home along that same stretch of road, and we were ready to continue south.DSC_0009

Can I just have this house?DSC_0015

But wait! A proper breakfast along the way and we had another in-between: Local Urban Kitchen, a warm and welcoming café in Point Pleasant that surely loads ’em in during the peak season. But at the time of our visit, it was peaceful. IMG_7204

We were there for their vegan option: The Vegan Boy. I love vegan breakfast so, I love a dish like this: tofu scramble, sausage, pancakes, and hash browns. Though we were not blown away by execution, we appreciated the option. DSC_0026

We made it to Atlantic City, our destination, with plenty of time to explore a few of the roadside attractions, like Lucy the Elephant in Margate City, a city fixture since 1881 with a fascinating history.
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Ain’t she cute? Again, off-season is ideal so you don’t have to share with anyone.DSC_0048
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The Jersey Shore’s Atlantic City, with her casinos in the distance.
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Lucy, again.
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Another water tower I wanted to go Gilbert Grape on.
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Photobomb.
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So we made it to our destination, now it was time for the reason for this trek, as if water towers and boardwalk shenanigans was not enough. Los Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in Berlin and Atlantic City, has been hosting all-vegan 4 course tasting dinners in both of their locations. !! We were excited to experience vegan Mexican from Atlantic City. Because it’s vegan… it’s in Atlantic City… and this random discovery and ensuing adventure is the reason I love vegan travel blogging. PicMonkey Collage2

We started with a substantial Amuse—our own pile of chips with Spicy Salsa Macha, a ground peanut and sesame seed paste with chili “arbol,” and tequila. This had a welcome kick, but along with my cocktail and the shot of tequila it was served with, maybe too much? The sweet Horchata Aqua Fresca, made with coconut milk and not the traditional almond (I think), helped me keep going back for more.DSC_0057

The first course was my favorite, Smoked Eggplant Tostada. This handheld delight hit all the right notes: meaty eggplant, a fresh cilantro cabbage slaw, pickled onions, creamy avocado, and a smoky coconut queso on a housemade plantain tortilla. The sweetness from the plantain along with the other components was spot-on. I wanted another. Or two. DSC_0062

Next, the Mole Coconut Queso Enchilada. This was a very dessert-y tasting plate, with a very chocolate-y mole and a thick, sweet piping of coconut “crema,” which was custard-like. With a few fresh berries, you have the start of a great dessert. I craved savory, salty, and protein.DSC_0065

Intermezzo! A delicious cilantro mint mango margarita. Refreshing, bright and palate-cleansing.IMG_7279

The 3rd course was the Tamale Al Pastor, braised jackfruit in pineapple masa with a vanilla verde salsa. Inventive… and sweet.  DSC_0067

Lastly, the Dark Chocolate Chili Orange Mousse–a true mousse that was creamy and set, loaded with chocolate orange flavor. A sweet end to a sweet dinner from two sweet vegans. DSC_0071

Here are the vegans responsible for spreading delicious vegan eats across Southern New Jersey. They are making New Jersey vegan-er, and this vegan delighted.  Follow Trent on Instagram and be on the look out for their next tasting event.IMG_7286

StatenIsl-NYCFinally! Some Staten Island reporting!
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, but besides the familiar MTA bus signage and towering NYCDOE public schools, the Island is an island unto itself. The hilly land contains a city-suburb hybrid mix of residential spans and all the needed industries of a small city. It was time now to explore that space. And considering how many times I have traveled through Staten Island to escape New York City to further southern destinations, I had no idea what to expect from the borough. With slim vegan pickings, I might be able to name all pertinent spots in one singular blog post. Well, that was my intention. So let’s get eating.

We headed to San Rasa for authentic Sri Lankan food. PicMonkey Collagex1

A pretty, bright space with attentive, friendly service–I was already pleased with the place before eating. The waiter helped me to identify dairy and egg-free vegetarian selections for the menu. PicMonkey Collagex2

We started with Masala Wade, patties of crushed lentils mixed with onions, green chilies, and spices, and Vegetable Cutlet, bread-crumbed fried vegetable cutlets. Both were delicious and flavorful… and made our noses run, which is a very good thing. IMG_6941

The Masala Wade with thicker and heartier. The Vegetable Cutlet, smoother and potato-y. PicMonkey Collagex3

Then this tower of yumminess arrived, the Kottu Roti, strips of “Godamba Roti” stir fried with onion, garlic, green chilies, and various vegetables. It was as delicious as it was beautiful with a variety of textures and tastes… and some spice relief in the form of cucumber and tomatoes. I am going to need to eat this again soon. IMG_6960

Eating the base of the pyramid. In the background, Vegetable Biriyani.IMG_6958

Onward, we stopped at the very busy Beans & Leaves, a popular coffee shop that offers vegan cookies. I waited patiently on the long line, which caused me to buy one of each of their vegan cookies, totaling $18. After inquiry I learned they were not in-house cookies but delivered from Vegan TreatsPicMonkey Collagey1

And file this one under Roadside Attractions, Lenny’s Creations is the gallery space for scrap metal artist Lenny Prince. Though the gallery was closed when we arrived, there are plenty of his sculptures outside to take pictures of. PicMonkey Collagey2

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A quick stop at Tastebuds Natural Foods for a perusal of their vegan-friendly stock. This place reminds me of the old vegan days, when a smallish health food store seemed a Mecca. And a vegan-friendly pay-per-pound, a world class meal. They had a great bulk section where I for 3 pounds of organic gluten-free rolled oats for like $3. Take that, Bob! (Just kidding, I love you, Bob.)PicMonkey Collagez1

And finally: Jade Island, the kooky tiki bar in the strip mall, for a Polynesian cocktail.PicMonkey Collagez2

I came for the decor and not necessarily the standard Chinese food options. Blowfish hung above us…
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Large, lighted tropical light boxes…IMG_7003

The best pendant lighting.IMG_7004

And tiki totemsIMG_7007

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Our zany drinks after our Staten Island exploration…IMG_7023

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I officially love this place. Maybe Chef Daphne can work on the menu.IMG_7042

And you can go video game shopping afterwards. Only in Staten Island. Wait, can I say that after one day of exploration? Yes.PicMonkey Collagez3

That’s it for now, Staten Island. I’ll be back at some point!

For as long as I have worked, I have always taken off my birthday. It’s a gift I give myself–to be under no obligations but my own. So I do the things I enjoy… driving and finding new places to take pictures of.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville has a shrubbery Rosary Walk and a Stations of the Cross exhibit. Both are nestled in the calm, peaceful woods. You can walk about, unbothered.PicMonkey Collage2

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And an old favorite of a roadside attraction, “The Big Duck.” This quacker is a Long Island icon. PicMonkey Collage

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Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant in East Shoreham never really was a functional nuclear plant. Though its construction topped $2 billion, red tape and public outcry–especially after the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor breakdown and, later, the horrendous Chernobyl disaster–ultimately decommissioned the plant in the late 80’s. But the turquoise wonder still sits in Shoreham behind the trees of the now plentiful homes in the area. Its nuclear materials gone since the 90’s, the site is now a vessel of alternative energy, though I couldn’t see the turbines. But then again, I prefer the idea of roaming about a bright turquoise abandoned nuclear power plant…

The view from the trees of Creek roadDSC_0066

Further west on Creek rd, next to some fancy homes and local beach access, is a docking area with a parking lot. Some old timer was clamming in the teal waters when I pulled up. I followed the foot path towards the plant. The surrounding creek was teeming with life… loon-y looking birds, a swan couple, and lots of aquatic activity. DSC_0087

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In kind of nearby Riverhead, I ate lunch–looking out at the Peconic river. Turkuaz Grill has plenty for a vegan to choose from… and they know where the dairy is. I started with Acili Ezme, minced tomatoes, peppers, onions, walnut, spices, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. Delicious on fresh, soft pita. IMG_3376

Then, the falafel platter. My waiter made some substitutions to make it dairy-free, but I avoided the beets because I convinced myself they were covered in yogurt. It was a fresh, flavorful secretly-my-birthday lunch. IMG_3381

Smudgy window pictures of peaking foliage look like paintings. The power, phone and cable lines bisect the beautiful scenery, designating layers. And the rolling Catskills, blotted with orange, carry the cloud’s shadow spots. I love autumn in the east, where the trees give up for the winter. But not before saying goodbye beautifully.DSC_0006
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Robibero Family Vinyards in New Paltz, New York had its annual grape-stomping festival this weekend, the first weekend of autumn. It was the perfect excuse to run north for the day with CP. After managed expectations, I was delighted by the peaceful, bucolic property and the opportunity to check another item off my bucket list.
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But I had to look the part first. PicMonkey CollageBarefoot and waiting. The bushels of Concord grapes ready for squishing.PicMonkey Collage2

We were the second stomp, so new grapes had to be added.
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It feels exactly like you think it would.
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Such a beautiful, bright color!IMG_2543

Grape-covered toes.IMG_2550

A quick soak (and foot massage!) for vineyard personnel. Hmmmm.IMG_2552

When vegans are in New Paltz, they go to Lagusta’s Luscious. It’s just that simple. Her signature blue ought to be trademarked, like TiffanyIMG_2565

At Lagusta’s, the creme de la creme of vegan sweet treats mingle together, BiFFers Lagusta’s chocolates & Sweet Maresa‘s macarons and baked yummies.
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My box of chocolates, Sweet Maresa’s rose and cardamom cupcake, a chocolate macaron, some enormous ice cream caramel chocolate thing, and, in the bag, Miyoko cheese. Yet another vegan goddess enters the picture! Not to mention to two vegan babe customers. PicMonkey Collage3

And speaking of goddess, check out my chocolates, including the famous Furious Vulva. Also: Maple Pecan Caramel, Strawberry Balsamic Caramel, Eggplant Miso Truffle, Peanut butter cup, Thyme lemon seas lat caramel, Basil truffle with corn, and Rosemary sea salt carmel.IMG_2571

New World Home Cooking in Saugerties, New York has some great vegan options, most notably are the 5 types of seitan wings!PicMonkey Collage4

We also go the vegan poutine fries. IMG_2595

The wings were unreal–deliciously tender and succulent scratch made seitan with a yummy red BBQ sauce.IMG_2597

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Our entree was a bit of mismash of underseasoned, sauce-less vegetables. Should have order a few more plates of wings. IMG_2602

One roadside attraction on the way back, the Poutine / Furious Vulva sculpture outside of Rockland County’s courthouse. IMG_2607

Yonic.IMG_2609

Travel tucks you into new environments, which facilitate different experiences. And experience is the basis of all learning, all growth. So, travel is enlightenment…. Luckily, there is no need to head to an ancient Buddhist temple to derive this wisdom. There is plenty of beauty, adventure, inspiration, oddity (and vegan eats) just a couple of hours away. This is particularly gratifying for me… as those are a few of my favorite things. I had 18 hours to pack with as much of those things as I could.

Planning a trip is a bit of an art form, a form of self-expression. It expresses your values, how well you know (and care for) yourself, and, most importantly, how to feed your heart and soul. A day trip should be purposeful. After all, it’s the condensed version of a regular trip, where there are days of acclimating built into the rising action towards one or several trip pinnacles. Day trips are more concentrated, requiring a bit of forethought in order to avoid quick burnout. The trick is to induce that road trip euphoria quickly… then feed it in a variety of different ways. The best way to get this going is to go somewhere beautiful, where nature’s majesty bonks you on the head joyfully and reminds you that you are more than a couch recliner or cubicle dweller; you are more than the you inside your daily circumstances–you are a part of a gloriously intricate expanse of wonder.

That was accomplished at Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, spanning the entirety of the mighty Hudson River. You can walk the bridge by entrance in Poughkeepsie or Highland, to the west. Or you can take an elevator 212 feet up to end up right smack dab in the center of the bridge, lazy bones. PicMonkey Collage1

Looking south you can see it’s slinking its way towards New York City. DSC_0027

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Poughkeepsie looks like a miniature model set, like a big HBO is going to fly through.DSC_0046

Planning spots to eat is important. A hungry traveler does not make rational travel decisions. She may forgo worthy or spontaneous stops, lead by her irrational belly. Or, worse yet, she may quickly head to a familiar chain to grab a bite (“Oh! They have a Panera!”) Food stops are a big part of the experience. Regional takes on well-loved forms vary. The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with no Feta abroad is the same as the one at home. Unless you’re in another hemisphere and the visit gives you a well-needed comfort from home, don’t hit a chain. But do hit a regional chain, like Mother Earth’s Storehouse, a small grocer with locations in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Saugerties,
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Mother Earth has a big selection of vegan treats to choose from. And on a day trip, you can get more than enough and take them home!IMG_0240

I always took a lot of pictures. Way before there were easy means of sharing pictures. The I only have 24 exposures on a roll but the inside of this Porta Potty bowl is art days. The I have to wait a week for film to be developed days. I love taking pictures. In travel planning, you create the conditions to do the things you love: not incidentally, supplementally and in passing, but singularly. It’s like honoring each part of your being’s delicious pie chart, one slice at a time. Don’t rush. That’s part of regular life. When you’re traveling and partaking in activities you love, you relish. You take your time. Of course that is more difficult when you are illegally trespassing. DSC_0060

Holy Land USA is an abandoned theme park in Waterbury, Connecticut. What was the theme? The Bible. The park had a miniature model of Bethlehem Village and a variety of diaoramas.  This article has some great before and after shots, which give the ruins a bit of context.DSC_0062

The place had its hey days during the 1960’s and 1970’s, closed in 1984 with a plan to expand and was never reopened after 1986 when founding visionary John Baptist Greco passed away. DSC_0063

Though the grounds were the crime scene of a brutal and disturbing rape and murder in 2010, there have been many revival attempts for Holy Land USA–the most recent being last year, when Waterbury’s current mayor had trees cleared and brush removed. DSC_0074
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Back to planning for food options. Sometimes you have to eat cupcakes twice. Because you’re there and you won’t be there again soon, usually. I know, I know. It’s just terrible. So you break the rules that ground your daily life; be flexible. Flexibility is the foundation of happy travel. And the lack thereof is the main reason someone is not a good traveler. Openness, adventurousness and a sense of When In Rome-ness–not everyone has the confidence required to birth these traits. Leave the phooey-phooey’s at home. Leave the folks who can only celebrate adventure through movies and television at home. And move on with ya bad self–bring a to-go container; bring a flexible traveler who values the same things… or no one at all. DSC_0115

My second cupcake (great band name): Hardcore Sweet Cupcake in Oakville, CT. Kind of tucked away is fun, as is accolades like Cupcake Wars winner. It’s about discovering. And it feels more like discovery with a few twists and turns not dictated by the GPS. IMG_0251

Hardcore Sweets have a few vegan options at their bakery. Today it was Chai Latte, spiced cake filled with a mixture of cardamom, cloves and ginger, topped with a tea infused buttercream and Dust to Dust, chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting, Oreo and Biscoff Cookie crumbles. These are huge cupcakes, with tons of frosting. DSC_0120

So you’ll need to shift directions before you’ll have too long a stretch of driving to do to get home. The key is to find destinations to break up the entire loop. So as you are traveling to the destinations, you are looping back towards home and not traveling more then a couple of hours straight. With an 18 hour trip, no more than 6 hours of total driving is ideal. You also want to plan that against rush hour traffic if you’re near any metropolises.

A word on your destinations, you want to find the unique offerings of the area. Like a vegan cafe inside a music store in North Haven, CT.  PicMonkey Collage2

It’s a music store (Music Center). And it’s a vegan cafe (Musical Forest Cafe). It’s a music store / vegan cafe (a “slashy,” my new post tag). Yes, you can eat your vegan sandwich with a full view of the guitar section, as I did. Mark, the owner, gave me the history of the place, which included brown rice and broccoli-related miracles and the power of Reiki. And, pow, that’s how a vegan cafe is born! With a reverence for the true power of plant-based food and the desire to spread that power to the community.  Sounds like gospel. And in a way it is.  DSC_0122

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I had the Philly Cheesesteak-ish sandwich, with very tasty marinated mushrooms, caramelized onion, and protein twinsies: seitan and tofu, with a sprinkling of Daiya (my yearly allowance now full).  After a long day of travel, this yummy, hearty sandwich was so needed. DSC_0132

He let me sample his very rich chocolate cake, as well. So densely rich is was like a bar of fudge. I could barely eat half of it. More for my to-go box!DSC_0137

So I mentioned earlier that plans should include feeding the heart and soul in a variety of different ways. This is an important purpose. And although a stop may seem silly or trivial, underneath might be something pretty important. As a longtime weirdo and social misfit, it’s sad to witness such a flashpan society whose collective spirit barely seeps past a surface crack. Homogenized popular culture and marketing forces shape what should be a far more personalized living experience. Why? Because it is more profitable if everyone likes the same cr*p, wants the same material things, has the same version of “success,” and contributes, often subconsciously, to one of the many machines that keep that all running smoothly. But there are places where counterculture is alive. Places that exist and thrive in honor of weirdness–weirdness before it was watered down and doled out in mainstream acceptable forms. Wild Bill’s Nostalgic Center, feeds my my inner weirdo. PicMonkey Collage3

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Then the requisite visit to a Muffler Man. This one was in Norwich, CT.IMG_0278

With my car parked for boarding at the Cross Sound Ferry terminal, I had some open exploration time at the New London waterfront. And there was more beauty to behold–this time man-made. It was the El Galeon, a gorgeous reconstruction of a Spanish sailing vessel that was only in town briefly. Its reconstruction was 1:1. Tremendous. It was difficult to capture all of it in a shot without incorporating some detail that was so not 16th century, like a lamp post on the pier.IMG_0302

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Bucket list entry: I want to stand up there.DSC_0208

You know those theories about blobs / orbs in photos being ghosts. These orbs were all over the pictures I took of the boat with my SLR. In different spots. I thought that this bright one, directly at the foot of the saint, seemed most convincing.  Spooky…DSC_0185
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It was time to head home. 18 hours completed and I’d arrive back on that long island in style. But my final tip… enjoy the views till the very end. Lean against the rail, breathe it in… and keep a little inside for yourself. DSC_0215

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Till next time…

I took several winding mountain roads inside morning’s low-hanging clouds, much to the surprise of feasting deer families, to reach Unger, West Virginia’s Farnham Colossi, the home of George and Pam Farnham… and their collection of colossal lawn ornaments. I had driven the extra mile for roadside attractions before, but I was very eager to make it to the Farnham property. It would be the equivalent of many stops in one. DSC_0001

The couple’s fiberglass family greets passers-by. Some of those passers-by stop, take some pictures, and chat. I was one of the latter, climbing onto the property as a professional photographer maneuvered his noisy drone, recording aerial shots of the property, as an excited George Farnham stood by. DSC_0011

The Farnhams reap the benefits of West Virginia’s nonexistent zoning laws. As a former Washington lawyer, Mr. Farnham has experience in such ins and outs. PicMonkey Collage3

I couldn’t help but notice that some of the giants were adorned with tattoos. George let me know that those were painted on after delivery. The giants were given the same tattoos Pam had, proof of their love for these towering characters.  DSC_0020

My favorite was the pacified Paul Bunyan. The flannel-clad giant was without his signature ax. DSC_0022

As if it wasn’t amazing enough, the property also has a roller coaster with the entire Simpson family.DSC_0035

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Another shot of the giants with George to the left as he admired the drone next to the grazing area of their 10 alpacas. I look forward to seeing the footage on Roadside America.DSC_0043

Now for the kicker–I was delighted to learn that Big John, below, is soon going to go vegetarian! That’s right. George, who is vegetarian, is ready to update the apron and grocery bags with various vegetarian quotes and images. Maybe Big John will go vegan? I will have to come back after these transformations are complete. Equally exciting, the true Muffler Man to the left of Big John will also be “coming out.” Yes, George is thinking of aligning his fiberglass family with his progressive values, including gay rights and non-caucasian representation. If you build it, George, they will come!
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Traveling on back east, I made a stop in historical Brunswick, Maryland to try their vegan options. It is always a treat to undercover stops like this. PicMonkey Collage

The two vegan cookie options were so unique: strawberry basil and lemon rosemary.PicMonkey Collage2

I got one of each and headed on my way. A very welcome and flavorful sweet bite!IMG_8716

My final stop on the way back north off the 95 was Drop Squad Kitchen in Wilmington, Delaware. Drop Squad Kitchen shares a space with an ice cream shop and features all-vegan versions of some down-home eats. I was excited to try their menu, another tucked away vegan option happily discovered by V.V. IMG_8723

I tried their V-Steak sandwich, their recommendation. Their seitan was so good, flavorful and tender with nice crisp parts from the sauté. Also important to note: this ain’t no Daiya cheese. They used a housemade ?) noochy cheeze sauce. Fabulous! IMG_8722

Thanks for the vegan eats in Delaware!  But it was time to head home…DSC_0047

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