We spent some time in Nashville a couple of a weeks ago, as you can tell by the last post. We went a big vegan crazy, as we usually do. But we also dove in headfirst into a bit of their culture, too. One of the coolest things we did while in Nashville was take the Olive & Sinclair chocolate factory tour one Saturday morning.
While we didn't expect the owner to hobble out with a cane and theatrics, we did however, expect to taste some incredible artisan chocolate. At first, we had no idea what Southern artisan chocolate was. Sounded a bit fancy for us. Especially when Vanessa is vegan and can only eat certain chocolates, and I personally only like chocolate at very specific times of year. Or month. But anyway...
We took the plunge and signed up for a factory tour. They conduct tours only on Saturdays, so you'll need to reserve in advance. For just $5 per person, you'll be able to take a tour of the factory, learn all about the chocolate making process, and even taste test a few of their favorites.
I have to say, this tour was well-worth the price and our time. The way that Olive & Sinclair make their chocolate is truly unlike any other company out there. They source their ingredients and know everything that goes into each bar. The bean-to-bar chocolate roasting process is fascinating to learn about, and then watching their rare antique melanguers (stone mills) in action, are something to to marvel over. Plus, that smell....wafting through the air. Mmmm.
They have vegan bars, by the way. So we were both able to enjoy the chocolate feast. Plus we even went home with a sea salt bar of our own.
If you're in the Nashville area, then check out Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., for a delicious take on artisan chocolate. Take the tour with the whole fam, it'll be a delicious experience for everyone.
The last time we were in Nashville, it was for such a short window of time—literally just passing through. However, we did check out the famed vegan spot The Wild Cow while we were there which was phenomenal. Being in Nashville this time, a few things had changed.
First, we had more than 24 hours to spend. We actually ended up staying almost a week, exploring the city and primarily chowing down on all the vegan food in Nashville. The other thing that had changed? The Wild Cow opened up a sister spot basically in the same plaza. So here we were thinking, "okay, if The Wild Cow wowed the hell out of our tastebuds, then sky's the limit with this one, right?"
RIGHT DAMNIT. Introducing to you the best vegan food in Nashville, Graze. Vanessa and I decided to check out this gem for an early dinner on our first night in town. And honestly, that set the bar for any other meals we were going to have from that point on.
What makes Graze different from Wild Cow, is that they are more of a bistro-style restaurant. They have a full bar with unique cocktails and specialty beers, not to mention happy hour specials which bring in an entirely different clientle. It's less of a family-style setting and more of a vegan date night spot, or place to catch up with old friends.
The menu is so damn eclectic, you'll be in shock that everything is vegan. Seriously. After Vanessa andI ordered the Mac n Chorizo, we had to double-check that the deliciousness was entirely plant based. It tasted THAT GOOD.
While I opted for a brown ale draft to sip on slowly, Vanessa ordered a shake which included almond butter, dates, nut milk, and banana. It was thick, and topped with nuts, and despite needing to thin out a bit to make it completely drinkable, it was just the right amount of sweet.
I'm not going to lie, after the draft beer and appetizer, I was kinda full. The portions at Graze are huge. Wonderfully huge, might I add. But still, we had two sammies coming, and really couldn't say no.
We each got a sandwich and gave half to the other. This usually is how we do things in restaurants, just because we want to try as much as possible. Vanessa ordered the vegan bahn mi with mashed potatoes and vegan gravy, while I ordered the roasted Brussels sprouts and portobello sandwich. Both sandwiches were out-of-this-world. The pesto aioli on my sandwich was the perfect addition to the crisp, roasted flavor of the Brussels sprouts. Meanwhile the tempeh used in the bahn mi was so flavorful.
Honestly, our meal at Graze was so satisfying...we decided to come back to brunch over the weekend. Which, I need to add, was BETTER than the dinner we had. Brunch can be hit or miss in a lot of vegan places, but brunch at Graze would absolutely we our weekly vegan food fix if we lived in Nashville.
It's so funny to think that everything they served at Graze was plant-based. Because not only were we extremely full after our brunch, but we also felt good. Not heavy with grease and fat like most other brunches. The tofu scramble was light, and seasoned perfectly. Oftentimes tofu scramble can be watered down and bland, but this wasn't the case. Then you have the Brunch Bowl, which is hands-down the best thing on their brunch menu. You get to taste a little bit of everything, including vegan sausage, tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, homemade biscuits, all topped on a bed of spinach and doused in hollandaise. I can't imagine vegan food better than this brunch bowl.
If you're in Nashville, you have to visit Graze. It's vegan cuisine like you've never had before. Vanessa and I are dead set on trying to recreate these meals in our small RV. Stay tuned to see if that turns into a successful reality, or if we need to visit Nashville pretty much every other week.
One of the best investments we've ever made was the National Park Pass. For $80, you can enter any and all National Parks, Forests, sometimes monuments for either a discounted price or completely free. It has really saved us a ton of money in the long run as far as adventuring goes.
But, Vanessa and I were thrilled and surprised to find out last week that Great Smoky Mountain National Park doesn't charge entrance fees at all. It's freeeeeeeeeee. Which is a beautiful and glorious thing. The only downside to this incredible park being free, is that it gets busy. So busy that on our first afternoon up to Cades Cove Campground, we found out that the entire, ENTIRE park was booked. Turns out there's a group of people dubbed "Leaf Peepers" who travel from all over to watch the leaves change. Since it's definitely leaf changin' time in the Smokies, we were without a campsite for the night. But that did not hinder our RV camping in the Smoky Mountains agenda. No ma'am. It was solitude or bust.
Thanks to the Park Ranger who tipped us off to Cosby Campground on the other side of the park we were able to nestle in for a 4 day, 3 night stay in the mountains. It was an extremely quiet park, no hook-ups, with ample space between sites. There are about ten RV sites so reserving is definitely what you want to do. But we showed up on a Tuesday and were able to find a spot right away.
What we loved about Cosby Campground, is that besides the low, low price of $14 a night, you also have access to about 8-10 different trailheads. Vanessa and I chose two trails during our stay, the first was the Mount Cammerer trail, and the second was the Hen Wallow Falls Trail.
Mount Cammerer Trail was insanely beautiful and insanely difficult. I'm not going to lie, it's a 2900-ft ascent, and you're legs may or may not be in agony. But the feeling you get once you reach the top, and cross over part of the Appalachian Trail is worth the entire trip.
Hen Wallow Falls was on the following day, and this was much less strenuous of a hike. Clocking in at about 5 miles roundtrip, what breaks up this hike is a stunning waterfall at the end of the trail. You can bring a picnic, snap some photos, or just sit and enjoy the flowing falls. Besides a few climbs, and an annoying bee sting, we made this hike in under 3 hours.
We needed this time away to disconnect from everyday RV living and reconnect with nature. There wasn't any service, so you may as well tuck your phones away while you're there. We had campfires every morning, read four books in total, and relaxed in the hammock as much as we could. We also spent a lot of time with our animals. It's nice every once in a while to be out in the middle of nowhere, and let them enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, too. It was pure bliss.
Also, make sure on your way up to Cosby Campground, you stop at Mountain Hardware & General Store in Cosby. Buy some firewood, because you'll need it. And say hello to Aileen and Jay. They're transplants from Miami, and opened the coolest mountaintop store around. Tell them The Roamans sent you.
Oftentimes we're asked on the road, "so, how do you guys make money to perpetuate your travels?" I'll be honest, sometimes people ask that question and it's really condescending. It's almost as if they assume we were given trust funds as teenagers and just live life in pure bliss all the time. Reality = we work. Just like everybody else. Okay, maybe not exactly like everybody else. We don't spend all day in an office, or behind a desk. We did, at one point. Which is what prompted us to get the heck outta dodge in our RV. We weren't being fulfilled with 9-5 desk jobs. Vanessa and I crave experience, adventure, and change. That's why we pick up odd jobs while we travel full-time in our RV.
But also as a writer by trade, I'm able to pick up freelance work on the road. Writing for different companies along the way has allowed me to feel fulfilled, but also continue to travel as much as we do. One of the freelance gigs that I absolutely love, is with the stationery and invitation company, Polka Dot Design. I've officially worked with them for over a year, coming up with clever content, SEO-friendly landing pages, and working on their blog articles. Truthfully, the company is amazing, and Phillip Vanarsdel is the type of guy most people wish to have as a idea generator and email companion.
Check out the guest post I recently did for Polka Dot Design, and see for yourselves why this company is so great.
Meet One of the Writers from Polka Dot Design: Marisa Roman
On a whim, we decided recently that we wanted to upgrade Maude, our small RV. To be honest, when we started the journey of full-time RV living, we didn't really do any upgrades or remodel besides just easy cosmetic stuff. Vanessa and I wanted to get on the road as fast as possible, rather than renovate and upgrade, and stand still too long. Turns out, we made the right decision. Because after a year of living on the road, we knew exactly what was necessary, logical, and functional in order to make Maude feel more like home. So, our Class C RV remodel began just a few short weeks ago.
Here are a few things we wanted to change immediately:
Maude's floors were a bit outdated. They were a yellowy, Vinyl sheeting, and it really made her look old. We wanted something new and fresh.
Ditch the old carpeting. Maude's beige/yellow/gross ten-year-old carpet had to go. It wasn't pretty, nor did it smell too good.
New paint. After painting Maude initially over a year ago, Vanessa was not feelin' the gray. She wanted something cleaner, brighter, and more representative of Maude's modern/bohemian vibes.
The good news is, we finished everything we set out to do in about a week. Maude looks like a COMPLETELY new rig. Check it out:
We went with a StainMaster Vinyl Plank Flooring and it worked out beautifully. We purchased it from Lowe's, and it only took two packages of 40 planks each to finish our 24 foot RV. This was with a lot of mistakes, and using more planks to correct those mistakes. We decide on vinyl plank flooring for a few reasons, the most important being weight in the RV. There were other choices we were debating, but in the end, we decided that the vinyl plank was the best idea, in terms of adding excess weight to Maude.
It took us about two full days to get the flooring finished. Not because it was strenuous, but because there were a lot of precision cuts to make and.... we are perfectionists. We really didn't have any mathematical, or engineering prowess to guide us through. It was kinda just, cut, measure, cut, and pray it fits. The good news was, the vinyl planking was so easy to cut with a regular blade, and broke like glass once you made the initial cuts.
We completed the flooring and the carpets simultaneously. The carpet we picked up at Home Depot for $14.57 a sq yard. We ended up with a bit more than we needed. Thankfully, when we tore up the original carpet, there was tons of wood which we could use to staple down the new carpet. On the spots where there was no wood, like the stairs for example, the old carpet adhesive was SO intense, we didn't even need to add new adhesive, it just stuck perfectly. We finished the carpets in a day.
We really couldn't be happier with the outcome of this project. But it is only the beginning for Maude Mods. Consider it a part one of sorts. Because we have some more major renovations in the works, including a movie projector, new fridge (YAY), solar kit, painting pics, new blinds, and a custom-build banquette in our slide. Stay tuned for more mods to come!
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