A Winter Stay in Galveston, Texas

At the end of November, as cold weather was beginning to take hold of Tennessee, we headed south to Galveston to take part in the Xscapers Winter Basecamp. Hoping to avoid cold weather and meet other full time travelers like us. We connected with a bunch of travelers and had a wonderful time getting to know them and while the weather wasn’t perfect, we had plenty of beautiful days to explore and learn that Galveston has a lot to offer.

Galveston Island has a long and colorful history that begins when pirates built the first permanent structures on the island. It was the capitol of the Republic of Texas, and a major port city. Then it was almost completely destroyed by a hurricane in 1900, only to be reborn as a paradise of drinking and gambling during Prohibition. All of these layers of history make Galveston Island, and the city of Galveston, on the island’s eastern end, an interesting place to visit even if it didn’t also have the long stretch of beach along the Gulf Coast.

You get to Galveston by driving across the causeway from Texas City, or you can arrive by ferry from the Bolivar Peninsula, a route on and off the island that avoids Houston traffic. Once on the island you’ll find the city is laid out in a grid with numbered streets running north to south and named streets running east to west which makes it very easy to navigate.

The downtown includes Galveston Seaport and The Strand Historic District. Named for Strand Street, the district includes a large swath of the city. There are lots of shops to explore and restaurants to try. Since we don’t have room for anything we avoided going into a lot of the shops, but, we were tempted in by The Kitchen Chick, on Market Street, which features a really well curated collection of gourmet kitchen gadgets, olive oils and vinegars. I had to exercise real self control but I did leave with a little something. The other place we were tempted to visit is La King’s Confectionery. The store began in Houston in 1927, then moved to Galveston in the 70’s to recreate an old fashioned confectionery. They make about fifty different candies from old time recipes from salt water taffy to hand dipped chocolates and the store features a 1920’s soda fountain as well. It was hard to choose, but we left with several chocolate candies including rum cordials and chocolate covered peanut butter caramel cups. These were not your typical peanut butter cups, either. They had a layer of peanut butter covered with a layer of buttery caramel surrounded by a layer of chocolate.

A few blocks away on Market Street is Maceo Spice and Import Company. The store features jars of just about every herb and spice, plus a number of spice blends to go with local seafood, barbecue or brisket (this IS Texas, after all). The rest of the store features Italian food staples from pasta and sauce (including their own excellent tomato gravy) to pannatone and good olive oil. At the back of the store is a deli counter where you can order lunch to go or to eat at one of the tables outside. If you want a good muffuletta, this is the place to go.

The historic district includes a neighborhood of gorgeous Victorian houses with lots of tropical flair, survivors of the 1900 Hurricane that devastated the island. Since it was Christmas time, many of the houses were dressed up for a Christmas decorating contest. It’s well worth your time to wander the tree-lined streets. Wandering the neighborhood is also a great way to spend your time as you wait for a table at one of the many restaurants.

It’s short walk from the Strand to the Seaport where you will find the Ocean Star Drilling Rig and Museum. If you’ve ever been curious how a drilling rig operates, this museum is worth a visit. There is an indoor museum to help orient you before you go outside to walk the decks and look at all the heavy equipment up close. Much of the museum, though, is an advertisement for the oil industry.

On the Gulf side of the island are the beaches and the famed Seawall built to better protect the city after the 1900 hurricane. Here you’ll find the beach town vibe with lots of gift shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. Standing amid the garish newcomers is the Hotel Galvez and Spa which has been facing the Gulf since 1911. Just a short walk down the Seawall is Pleasure Pier (pictured at the start of this article), an amusement park on a pier extending into the Gulf. The Seawall is worth a visit to stroll along or to ride your bike, though there is no guard rail to keep you from falling on to the beach. It’s great for an early morning stroll to watch sunrise over the gulf, or to watch lights come on on the piers as daylight fades into night at sunset.

The Hotel Galvez.

Driving west on San Luis Pass Road soon takes you out of the city and you find yourself surrounded by bright colored beach houses for several miles until you cross through the Galveston Island State Park which covers the island from the Gulf beach to Galveston Bay. Beyond the state park is the town of Jamaica Beach which has churches, a police and fire station and several stores. Beyond the town there are clusters of beach houses along both sides of the road all the way to the end of the island. On the bay side of the island there are some very nice residential communities with boat access to the bay.

Galveston island offers quite a few RV campgrounds. Sandpiper RV Resort at Stewart Beach is the closest to The Strand area, but is little more than a parking lot for RV’s. On the west end of the Seawall is Dellanera RV Park which is a small campground located right on the beach. If you want to see the ocean from your RV, this is the place to stay. Next is Stella Mare RV Resort a large campground across the road from the beach. Jamaica Beach RV Resort is a very busy campground that offers a lot of amenities including a mini golf course. The last one is Galveston Island RV Resort where we stayed. It’s the furthest west on the island which has the advantage of being far from the noise of town. I will have more to say about them in a future post. Spoiler alert: we loved it.

Galveston Island may not have tropical weather— most days were in the 60’s and there were a few cold and rainy days—but it still has a lot to offer for a winter stay. The city is home to UTMB hospital complex for any medical needs, there is a Home Depot, Target, Kroger and most other stores you might need. Anything you can’t find on the island is just across the causeway in the Houston area. After two months we only scratched the surface. We skipped many of the museums and the Moody Gardens because of Covid 19 activity in the area. But, we will be back to explore more.

All photos by Lee Rowe

RV Life Highs and Lows…and Highs

Full time RV life is a great adventure, but, adventure isn’t always fun. The highs are amazing but, unfortunately, so are the lows. You have to be ready to adapt and make the best of bad situations. We’ve had to learn this lesson, mostly the hard way.

Labor Day began bright and early at Great Sand Dunes Oasis, a store just outside the gates of Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we rented sand sleds for the day. A sand sled is made of plywood with an upturned front and a small cushion near the rear to sit on. Along with the sled you get a block of wax that you rub on the bottom of the sled then polish by rubbing the sled on sand before you make your run. After we got our sleds, we drove a couple miles to the parking area, gathered our sleds, sunscreen, and hats and headed for the dunes.

Walking on sand dunes is not easy, for every step forward you fall back at least a half step. Walking on sand dunes at 8000 feet of elevation quickly becomes a slog because there is less oxygen to breath. It felt like it took forever to walk the mile from the parking area up the first, and smallest, dune because we had to stop more than once to catch our breath.

But, everything changed once we were on our sand sleds. We had an absolute blast sledding down the dune! We both wiped out spectacularly and repeatedly but, once we got the hang of it, we wiped out even more spectacularly in between a few good runs. The downside, of course, is that each good run down was followed by a long slow walk back up the dune. After a few hours we were covered in sand and close to exhaustion. We each made one last run down a steeper slope. Carolyn wiped out, rolled a few feet then stood up, laughing, and got back on her sled to finish the run. My final run went through a patch of soft sand and I ate a lot of it. Completely exhausted now, we slowly made our way back to Belvedere and dumped the sand out of our shoes (and shorts). Then our luck began to change.

The weather forecast for the next day was a surprise early winter storm that would bring lots of snow and freezing temperatures across a large portion of Colorado. We made a decision to cancel our reservations at the campground inside the park and head somewhere that wasn’t expected to freeze. That led to some quick research to find a place that wouldn’t have sub freezing temperatures. We decided our best bet was to head to lower elevation about three hours away in Montrose, Colorado. Decision made, we headed out to fill up on diesel and start the 4 hour drive.

Thank Goodness For Our TPMS

There is absolutely nothing but open land for about fifteen miles between Great Sand Dunes and the town of Mosca. On a desolate county road about five miles from the gas station , the alarm on our tire pressure monitoring system went off. It showed us losing pressure in one of our rear tires at an alarming rate! With no room to pull off on the side of the road, we had no choice but to limp to the gas station in Mosca. Once there, I asked if there was anyone who could help us with our tire. The very nice lady pointed me to a truck and tire company just six miles down the road. I filled up our tire and we limped to the little town of Hooper and pulled into the tire place.

Did I mention it was Labor Day? The tire place was closed and our tire was now down to 14psi, so we called roadside assistance and they dispatched help. When they arrived and got the tire off we could see that the valve stem had cracked and broken off on the way to Hooper, taking the TPMS cap sensor with it. While I was unhappy about losing the sensor, I also realized we were VERY lucky that the tire did not blow out.

Belvedere waiting for her tire to come back.
The remains of the valve stem after it had been removed and replaced.

It had taken about an hour for help to arrive, and once they arrived and got the tire off, they decided to take the tire back to their shop, repair it there then bring it back. A process that ended up taking another three hours. That’s when we learned that being broken down is a very different experience in an RV. We were parked in an empty parking lot, not on the side of the road. So, while we waited, we made lunch and settled down to watch tv while eating ice cream. Carolyn even took a nap. Except for the road noise it was kinda nice to have a quiet afternoon after such an active morning.

Finally, we were able to get back on the road. But, it was now five o’clock and we still had a three and a half hour drive ahead of us on winding roads and the smoky sky meant darkness would fall earlier than normal. We decided not to stop for anything else and get as far as we could before dark. In fact, we were so intent on getting over the mountains that we barely noticed the sign when we drove over the Continental Divide for the first time ever. There was simply no time to stop for pictures.

After all the twists and turns on dark roads we finally pulled into Centennial RV Park outside of Montrose. I’m very grateful to the campground owners for meeting us at the office when we rolled in. We were also both thankful for the long hot showers to wash all the sand off before we climbed into bed. It’s not a large park, but it’s very nice. In different circumstances we would definitely stay there again.

The next morning, Tuesday, was the day the storm would be rolling in and, while no snow was predicted for Montrose, there would be plenty of rain. Since we had booked at the last minute, we only got to stay at Centennial for one night. We unhooked and moved to a another campground that had a spot for the next three nights. The rain was just beginning to fall as we got hooked up. I opted to not hook up the water hose in case it got down below freezing. Fortunately, it never did.

Exploring Montrose

Until the storm forced us to change our plans we had not intended to come to the western side of Colorado on this trip. But, I’m so glad we did! Our new campground, Riverbend RV Park and Cabins became one of our favorite places we stayed on our trip. It sits on the banks of the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, Colorado. The sites are gravel, but they are very level and the office is a brand new building with a new laundry room and nice showers. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. We could not have asked for a warmer welcome and even though we had to move sites after our first two nights we couldn’t complain because our new site was right beside the river. We truly were lucky to have found them.

When there was a break in the rain, we walked to the Ute Indian Museum and spent some time exploring their exhibits. It’s a small, but very well done, museum with a great story to tell and some beautiful artifacts. Ute are the only Native American Tribe that doesn’t have a relocation story. Though they lost most of their land, the Ute reservations are on a very small portion of their ancestral land. The museum sits on land that had once belonged to Chief Ouray a chief who was chosen by the US government to be the spokes person for the tribe and for whom the town of Ouray, Colorado is named.

Just outside the museum, we discovered the city trail that went right past our campground and continued all the way to the city center. A short walk down the trail brought us to a bridge that led to a shopping area with a Target, a Natural Grocer, and other stores.

Since we were settled at Riverbend for a few days I contacted Borg, the valve stem manufacturer, to see about getting a replacement. They were incredibly nice about it! I sent them a photo of the valve stem stump and they FedExed me two replacements, one for the missing stem and one just in case it happened again (spoiler alert; it did!). The replacement stems arrived Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we had the new stem installed and with the return of warm sunny weather it was time to hit the road again. This time toward the San Juan Mountains newly covered in snow.

Neither of us can believe how fast things changed from a fun day of sand sledding to being broken down and fleeing a winter storm to discovering wonderful new people and places. But, we’re learning that this is what full time RV life is. It will test you and reward you and test you again. The only thing you can do is keep your sense of humor and in the darkest moments and celebrate the good times. Like the first sight of beautiful snow covered mountains.

Where We Ate:

Since we were on vacation the week after Labor Day and the weather was fairly bleak we decided to find a different restaurant for lunch each day. These are the places we tried.

Camp Robber: This very nice casual restaurant has been in business since 1994. It’s unusual name is the name given to the Canadian Gray Jay because the birds have a habit of swooping in and stealing food from campsites. The staff was friendly and the food was very good. We started with Green Chile Chicken Potato soup, then I had Green Chile Pistachio Crusted Pork Medallions. A favorite dish that has stayed on their menu since they opened. It was a nice treat on a cold rainy day.

Himalayan Pun Hill Kitchen: This unassuming restaurant occupies a small building tucked between a liquor store and an auto parts store north of downtown. But, inside you are a world away. There is an extensive menu of Nepali and Indian dishes so we took time to study it before making our choices. Portions were generous so we ended up taking home half of what we ordered.

Passing Up A Million Dollars in Durango, Colorado

You can see the San Juan mountains in southern Colorado from Aztec, New Mexico and they are breathtaking even as a mere shadow on the horizon. As we got closer and could see them clearly they only became more imposing as they surround the little town of Durango.

The town sits in the southwest corner of the state not far from Mesa Verde National Park. It was founded as a railroad town in the 19th century, a place to carry supplies to mines deeper into the mountains. The main road through town, U.S. 550 roughly parallels the train tracks to Silverton then over high mountain passes to Ouray. The stretch of 550 from Silverton to Ouray is called the Million Dollar Highway and it’s one of the most beautiful roads in the U.S., also one of the scariest to drive because of the tight turns and the sheer drop offs. We passed up this route to Ouray and instead took a longer route. Maybe we’ll do it when we have more practice driving our house.

The downtown area is compact and easily walkable, and there are so many great little shops and restaurants you can stay busy for a couple days checking them out. But, if you are just arriving, you might want to give yourself a day or two to get used to the 6500 foot elevation before you try to go exploring. In our case, we had already spent a week in Santa Fe at 7000 feet, so we were pretty well acclimated. But, we still made sure to use sunscreen, wear a hat outside and drink plenty of water.

Our first day of exploring began with lunch at a brew pub. After a flight of beers and an excellent meal we walked the length of downtown, ducking into shops that caught our eye. Not surprisingly, many of the shops sell outdoor clothing and gear, but, there are many shops to appeal to almost any interest. If you like chocolate, then don’t miss Animas Chocolate and Coffee on Main Avenue. Their truffles are incredible!

After walking through the main shopping area we found our way onto the Animas River Trail. This seven mile paved path connects to many of the city’s parks and serves as an important part of the city’s transit system. It follows alongside the Animas River and connects neighborhoods to the downtown area and shopping areas further out. It’s a great place to walk, but watch out for the many bicycles that use the path to commute to and from work!

Our last full day in Durango was Carolyn’s birthday so we booked a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Because of Covid 19 the train isn’t doing its usual run to Silverton, instead passengers embark at Rockwood Station about 18 miles north of Durango for a two hour scenic ride to Cascade Canyon and back.

To insure social distancing the train cars were only half filled, and the day we rode, our car only had five other groups so we had lots of space to move around during the two hour ride. Even though we were getting a shorter ride, it was still well worth going. And, if you go, I highly encourage you to book your seat in one of the gondolas which are open air train cars. The cars are open from about waist high and you seat faces the open sides so there is nothing to obstruct the scenery as you travel. Believe me you will want to see everything!

The two hour ride took us through breath taking scenery, past rivers and mountains with the train seemingly clinging to the mountainside past steep drops into the river valley below. Since the car had so few people in it we were able to get up and change sides in the car to get the best view as the train made its way to Cascade Canyon.

Where We Ate

Steamworks Brewing Company: Located on the corner of E 2nd Avenue and W 8th Street, this place offers great food along with some very good beers. We got a flight along with lunch and followed it up with a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Panna Cotta for dessert. Their IPA called Sultan of Stoke was perfect for a hot day with its tropical flavor. But, our favorite was the Red Eye, the first taste made me melt and it was the first glass emptied in our flight.

Seasons of Durango: We went here to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday after we spent the morning on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The dining room is beautiful, but we opted to sit on their rear patio because it was a beautiful day. Carolyn had the roasted chicken and I had the Fennel Pollen Dusted Salmon Filet. Our waitress was friendly and very helpful in navigating the menu.

We packed a lot into three days in Durango and we both fell in love with the town. But, there is still so much to do and see. When we return we want to get out of town and on to one of the many hiking trails that surround the city. And, maybe, tackle the Million Dollar Highway. After a quick bite, of course, and maybe something from Animas Chocolate and Coffee!

Our First Harvest Host Experiences

If you aren’t familiar with Harvest Hosts, let me tell you a little bit about them. Harvest Hosts is a membership organization for RVer’s. Members get access to a network of thousands of farms, wineries, breweries, distilleries, museums and most recently, golf courses across the country that let fully self contained RV’s park overnight. In exchange, members make a purchase or otherwise participate in the host’s business. Thanks to our membership we had the opportunity to stay at two incredible wineries in New Mexico and a brewery in Southern Colorado with great beer and a unique backstory. All three experiences were unique and absolutely magical.

Black Mesa Winery

Our first stop was Black Mesa Winery in Velarde, New Mexico; about halfway between Santa Fe and Taos. The winery sits at the base of a sandy, rock strewn hill just across the road from the Rio Grande River. The river valley is green and full of life in contrast to the dry rocky hills on both sides.

The winery is a set of adobe buildings with the vineyard out front beside the parking area and a green lawn with shade trees and tables where you can enjoy your wine tasting while watching the many hummingbirds stopping at feeders hung in the trees. Alex, the person working behind the counter was charming and accommodating and the owner chatted with us briefly. We were even greeted by one of the winery’s cats as we went to take a seat.

The wines were wonderful and we spent time chatting with some other guests from a safe distance. We bought bottles of our favorites and as the sun set, we returned to the RV parked beside the vineyard. After a quiet night, despite being close to the road, we finished our visit by following the trail behind the winery to see ancient petroglyphs.

Wines of the San Juan

After a day of visiting Taos and driving west across New Mexico we came to Wines of the San Juan in Blanco, New Mexico. The drive in makes this place all the more surprising. We drove through desert landscapes, then turned off the main road toward a stand of trees. Once we reached the trees everything changed. The winery sits on the banks of the San Juan River. Huge shade trees covered us from the sun and we were greeted like friends at the outdoor tasting bar. After talking through the menu we each got a glass (or two) and were invited to go sit by the pond.

The pond had tables with umbrellas and the grounds were populated by a menagerie of animals. Two geese weren’t happy that we sat at the table closest to them and they yelled at us for a bit before wandering away in a huff. Then, a family of peacocks walked up to greet us. Finally one of the cats came to say hello.

We sat in the shade enjoying our wine until they closed then we wandered back to Belvedere to make dinner. They were unusual in that they had electric and water hookups and we were the only guests there so we had a very quiet night. In the morning we were stopped on the road by a young cow that had escaped and was standing in the middle of the one lane road. We weren’t stopped for very long and we called the winery to let them know they had an escapee.

Colorado Farm Brewery

A week later, on our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park, we stopped for a night at Colorado Farm Brewery outside Alamosa, Colorado. We thought our GPS was taking us completely the wrong way when we left paved road behind and proceeded down a dirt road for a couple miles, however, we eventually came to another paved road and subsequently learned that we didn’t have to take the dirt road to get there. Anyhoo! We finally made it to their incredibly beautiful location.

The brewery is on the grounds of a family farm. The parking area was alongside a huge field of golden barley that was being harvested the day we visited. We received a very warm, friendly welcome and once we were set up for the night we wandered over to try the beer and get dinner from the food truck they had onsite for the night.

While our beers were being poured we chatted with the owners and learned that the farm has been in the family for four generations. With debt piling up and the barley business dwindling they turned to making barley into malt and became the largest international producer of craft malt. The brewery was founded on the property in 2018. Of course, we had to try the Wheatverly, their estate beer. Every ingredient of which; water, yeast, hops and malt all come from their property. It didn’t disappoint, it tasted fresh and slightly fruity.

The tap room, a former storage shed, was busy and the atmosphere was friendly and casual. The owners told us a lot of the customers are their neighbors from surrounding farms as well as people from town and other Harvest Host guests. Tables are all on a patio, under awnings, looking out over the fields. There was also a large children’s play area with things to climb. We ordered tacos filled with chicken and chorizo and enjoyed the food and the friendly atmosphere until the sunset.

Once the sun started to go down it was time for me to grab my camera and capture one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The night was quiet and the skies were so dark I was able to do some astrophotography. We were both a little sad when morning came it was time to pack up and leave. But, we may find ourselves making excuses to travel through Alamosa so we can visit them again and again.

The skies were dark and the stars were bright.

So, those were our first experiences. When we became Harvest Host members we were excited to visit these places. Covid got in the way but we finally got to make use of our membership and have been absolutely blown away by how wonderful our first experiences were. We’re looking forward to many more experiences on our travels. If you have a self-contained RV, check out Harvest Hosts and you can have these experiences, too.

Minor Mini Rant – Staying at a Harvest Host is not about a free place to stay; there are Walmarts and Cracker Barrels aplenty if all one needs is a patch of reasonably level ground upon which to park. Harvest Hosts stays are experiences; a chance to see and participate in someone else‘s dream for a little while. There have been reports of RVers abusing this experience which frustrates us, as we get a lot out of and actively seek these kinds of experiences. We want hosts to be glad they are hosts so that we can keep staying with them. The expectation, clearly communicated by the Harvest Host organization, is that guests should follow rules set by the host and expect to support the Host with a purchase. Our rule of thumb is to spend as much as we would on a night of camping at an RV park (okay, sometimes it’s the same as a REALLY NICE RV Park!) If what they have on offer does not appeal to us— which is rarely the case because we are the ones choosing where we stay— it becomes a gift for others. Additionally, we show our appreciation during our visit by trying to be easy guests and afterwards by liking them on social media and writing about our experience in our blog. The hosts get nothing from Harvest Host in payment, and especially in these COVID times, success is a struggle, so we feel it is important to do our part to support these organizations as best we can.

Disclaimer: We are not sponsored by Harvest Hosts. We purchased our membership not long after we took delivery of our RV.

Home Turf Tourist: Tomato Art Fest in Nashville, Tennessee

Since before we placed the order for our RV we have been dreaming of all the places we want to explore, but as we get closer to actually having the RV it has occurred to both of us that we have taken our home town for granted. Like a lot of locals in an area popular with tourists, we tend to stay away from the most popular areas and when we do go explore Nashville attractions it’s because we are taking friends and family from out of town. So, with our RV delayed we decided to change that and get out to explore Nashville. This post is the first of our Home Turf Tourist series where we will highlight places and events in the Nashville area and, hopefully, entice you to look beyond the Grand Ole Opry and the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway when you visit.

For the first entry in this series we visited Tomato Art Fest in East Nashville. The festival began in 2004 when a pair of gallery owners held a series of events to publicize an upcoming tomato themed art show. Since then it has grown into a wacky yearly event that draws tens of thousands to the Five Points area of East Nashville to celebrate the uniting qualities of the fruit that’s also a vegetable. The festival features contests, tomato themed art, food trucks, contests and live music, a Bloody Mary garden party and it highlights the vibrant East Nashville community.

The opening event on Saturday is the Push, Pull & Wear parade that features people dressed in tomato inspired attire pushing or pulling homemade tomato-themed parade floats surrounded by marching bands and lots of revelers. When we arrived the parade was already in full swing and it’s quite a sight! It’s like a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans except everyone was in red and green and the floats were a whole lot smaller! But, folks pull out all the stops to create their costumes and construct their floats. The streets were jammed with revelers as the parade went by making it hard to tell who was a spectator and who was in the parade! I guess it didn’t really matter because everyone was having so much fun.

Small vendor tents lined the streets radiating in every direction featuring local artists and lots of organizations from dental offices to car insurance. About a block away the street was lined with food trucks featuring gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and other delights. There was even a tent offering a place for your dog to cool down in a kiddie pool full of ice! A valuable thing to have on a very hot August day. There were also farm stands selling tomatoes and other produce where we bought a slice of watermelon to nibble on as we walked around enjoying the music on three different stages.

The stages featured something for everyone, from a New Orleans style brass band to acoustic harmonies to rock. There was also a cooking stage featuring local chefs and the contest stage where they held competitions and announced winners. Some of the contests this year included a pet fashion show, a tomato 5K, tomato haiku, a cornhole competition, a biggest littlest ugliest contest and a home decorating contest for neighborhood homeowners to get in on the fun. Other activities included a Giant Ice Cream Sundae extravaganza, a kids art show, a tomato toss and bobbing for tomatoes.

If you wanted to escape the heat you could duck into one of the many fine local eateries located in Five Points. The area features Five Points Pizza which has incredible New York style pies, I Dream of Weenie, a creative hot dog stand and local institution based in a converted Volkswagen bus and a host of other great options.

I Dream of Weenie was doing a brisk business.

Despite all the great options, we decided to leave the festival and go find another local highlight about 10 minutes away. Mas Tacos Por Favor began as a food truck making incredible $3 tacos before settling into its home on McFerrin Avenue in the Greenwood neighborhood. There we had the chicken tortilla soup, a couple of sweet potato and quinoa vegan tacos, and chilequiles, a dish we knew nothing about beyond the description on the sign that said “breakfast nachos”. That description didn’t begin to describe the bowl of sheer awesome that we experienced. Chips covered in a thick, slow cooked tomato sauce and shredded chicken, literally exploding with flavor, topped with a perfectly cooked fried egg. It was large enough that we split it and had to get the soup to go. We washed down lunch with a pair of refreshing agua frescas in flavors of pineapple, orange and carrot.

Chilequiles topped with a fried egg. Come really hungry or be prepared to split it.

Before I finish talking about lunch I have to talk about the tortilla soup that we carried home and ate for dinner. Most tortilla soups are thick and stew-like and usually have a decent quantity of cheese on top. Their tortilla soup is nothing like that. It’s a slow cooked, deeply flavored chicken broth with a little lime juice, corn, cilantro and perfectly sliced avocado in the soup. A small bag of tortilla strips came on the side to add.

Mas Tacos Por Favor made a fine finish to our morning of exploration and it’s definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Nashville. Just make sure to bring cash because they don’t take credit cards, however, they do have an ATM in the back in case of taco emergency.

If you happen to visit Nashville during the second week of August, the Tomato Art Fest is a must see. It’s been called one of the best festivals in the south. Admission to the festival is free and activities kick off with a concert on Friday night, then go all day Saturday. Since August in the south is usually hot enough to roast a tomato, bring water, sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat… preferably in a particular shade of red.

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