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Family Motor Coach Association Convention – 42

Helping out at the YWCA

Podcast Transcript:

Good morning from Minot, North Dakota. Wake up everybody! It’s still time to go vegan! Thanks for joining us on this 42nd episode of the Two Vegans On A Mission Podcast. We’re just about ready to head East toward Duluth, Minnesota. And this week’s episode will be all about our experiences here at the FMCA convention. We’ll share what we learned, where we found vegan eats, and how we are expanding our vegan activities among the RV community. So grab your vegan snacks and enjoy!

Louisa: Welcome to the Two Vegans On A Mission Podcast. I’m Louisa, and together with my husband Michael and our dog Sugar, we’re traveling and living full time in a Winnebago Class C motor home, visiting animal sanctuaries and animal rescues all across the country. Each week we’ll share what new camping spots we’ve found, what great vegan meals we’ve eaten, and our latest vegan outreach activities. So please join us as we strive to inspire, educate, and support you in your efforts to be vegan.

Louisa: So this week finds us here in Minot, North Dakota, and the saying here is, “Why not Minot?” It’s called the “Magic City”. And we are here for the FMCA’s convention. That’s Family Motor Coach Association’s convention. This is their 100th convention, and we are excited to be here. We’re going to tell you all about what we did. But first up we’re going to tell you about the camping, because we paid for camping in the parking lot with 1,600 other RVs. Now, these aren’t just any old RVs. These are mostly motor coaches, meaning they’re mostly class As. So we have some pros and some cons.

Camping at the FMCA Convention

Pros

Louisa: So first we’ll talk about the pros. We did have an electric hookup, so we had 30 amps, no problem. The site was pretty much level. We only had to use our leveling blocks in the front. There was a bathroom with some showers that were decent enough to be able to use every day. You could get around on golf courts if you needed to go any place, but we walked because we were in Lot A, so we were within walking distance. And there was an easy access to town where you could just unhook your tow vehicle and then go into town if you needed to during lunch or evening to go shopping for groceries. And we did that a couple of times.

Louisa: But then we have some cons. So Michael, why don’t you tell everybody what the cons were like?

Cons

Michael: North Dakota is a really rural agricultural area, and that’s fine. Actually, I enjoy it. It’s better than being stuck in a gigantic city stuck in traffic. So that’s fine. There’s not a lot of gigantic shopping areas, but most of the stores that they have meet our needs.

Michael: As far as the North Dakota State Fair grounds, it’s a fairly modern facility once you get inside. However, where you park your RVs varies. The first night we were on asphalt and we had extremely loud portable generators. Actually these were giant generators. Because this is a Western town that literally was founded because the railroad went through it, and the railroad still transit through this town 24 hours a day, we were maybe a hundred yards from a very active railroad. And at the intersection where the railroad crosses, by law, I guess they have to blow their horns all night long. So that’s a gigantic con.

Michael: The other issue was, after the first night, we were required to move to a different lot. It was all dry initially, gravel, hard packed, fairly level. RVs were fairly close together, but that was okay because when you put 1,600 people together, you’re not going to have a lot of space. But then, like within two or three days, it started raining off and on throughout, actually throughout the whole convention. And the weather changed. With the rain came lots of mud.

Michael: Now, our area had really hard packed gravel so we didn’t suffer as much as a lot of the RVers, but there were some people that were really, really angry about their placement because it turned into such mud that they could not drive out. We were lucky in that. Yeah, shoes got muddy and wet, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s part of the RV experience that you are going to have whether you are going to have mud, you’re outside 24 hours a day literally. And we just kind of shook it off and decided not to let that be a a issue for us. But definitely there was mud and rain.

Michael: And I still consider this summertime, but the weather in the evening dropped down into the low 50s, and that was a little bit unnerving because I thought this was summertime and we would be running our air conditioner almost 24 hours a day. But that’s not true. Matter of fact, the only time we run the air conditioner is when we’re out of our RV and we leave it on for Sugar, our long-haired chihuahua, just to make sure she doesn’t get overheated.

Michael: So that was the biggest con, weather and mud.

Louisa: And some people complained about the fact that we were all parked in here side by side in a major parking lot without any trees. But there were some prime spots that had some grass and had some trees right along the river, especially over here in lot number A. But also, if you got here early, there were no lines in order to get parked. We got here early for the two-and-a-half day RV Basics course, which we’re going to talk about in a second, but a lot of people were complaining about the fact that they stood in line in their RVs for a couple of hours in order to be parked, because this is a massive undertaking and everybody’s volunteers. So those of you who were complaining about it, maybe you could put your two cents in and volunteer to help that out next year.

FMCA Classes/Sessions

RV Basics Course

Louisa: But here’s the next thing we want to talk about is our RV Basics class, which is why we arrived two days early. Michael, come tell us about that.

Michael: This is our second RV Basic class. We initially had one about a year ago in Lake Havasu when we had our Class B Roadtrek. This time I kind of considered it more of review because we had been out here for about almost 14 months now. They covered items like towing a vehicle, tire knowledge, solar. They went over specific products like tire pressure monitoring, things like how to use your propane heater, looking at electrical safety, how to get out in a fire, which was always a good review. Also how to drive on the road, things that you don’t even think about.

Michael: And it was a nice little review. They had a lot of great experts. They gave a lot of links for follow-up. They also interjected all along that everything that they were going over in the RV Basics was part of the FMCA Knowledge Library, which we have access to 24/7. So all in all, that was a really good review. We met some nice people who we eventually ended up doing some outreach with, and it was a good start to the RV convention.

Louisa: Yeah, that’s really good. And if you haven’t been to an RV Basics course, either with Escapees or with FMCA, we recommend it, especially if you’re just getting started into the RV-ing lifestyle, because there’s lots to learn and a lot of things that people don’t know to do when they’re driving, especially these big class As that are out there, running down the road with a tow vehicle behind them. It’s a little scary when you think about how much people might not know.

Louisa: But we also met a lot of nice people, like Michael said. And then we’re going to tell you what the convention was like once everybody else started getting here, because there were maybe 200 people in the RV Basics class, but there were 1,600 rigs that eventually showed up. And that’s when the parking nightmare began. And we just watched people roll in, in these big huge Class A motor homes with their tow vehicles, and then they all parked around us, and we met lots more new people. And it was really quite fun meeting everybody.

Louisa: But the big draw was going to the different sessions that they had every day for the next four days. And I’ll tell you what I went to. Michael and I kind of split up and went to different things because there were so many different sessions you could choose from. Of course they had a nice little app that you could look at for the schedule and for the different exhibits that were available to go see.

Boosting WiFi session

Louisa: So I went to one on wifi. It was supposed to be the five things that you need to avoid in order to get good wifi on the road. Well, it was really one of those sales pitches and they wanted us to buy their equipment to put on the top of our rig, which we already have equipment on the top of our rig. We have the Winegard Boost. Right, Michael? That’s what it was called?

Michael: Yes.

Louisa: And we also have a Jetpack from Verizon. So we’re pretty well-connected when we need to be. And oftentimes I’ll use my phone as a wifi, what’s it called? A hotspot, so that I can get into the internet if I need to use my laptop, which is what I do when I need to edit and then upload the file. So that one was a little disappointing because I thought I was going to learn something new and not be sold a new product.

CBD Oil Session

Louisa: But I then went to the next session, which was called CBD Oil, and all about, what’s the big buzz about? And I wanted to know what the buzz is about because I’ve considered using the CBD oil on my lower back pain, which I have periodically, which is why I never sat down when I was a teacher, because standing always felt better. And we do sit a lot when we drive, so I try to maybe see if I can find something that will help the back pain, which we’ll see if it helps or not.

Louisa: I did learn something there. According to this salesperson, CBD oil is the miracle cure for everything! Who knew? And it even will cure your heart disease. Of course, not if you keep eating hot dogs like this guy was going to do as soon as he finished his sales pitch, as he told us. But it was fun to listen to. And, my goodness, the crowd that was there tells me that this is a big deal. People have a lot of issues and they’re looking for the miracle cure. And who knows, maybe CBD oil is that next miracle cure. I don’t know.

Louisa: And like I said earlier, Michael and I went to separate sessions so that we could learn new things, and so he’s going to tell you which ones he went to and what he learned.

RV Entertainment Systems Session

Michael: Two of the interesting classes I went to were on RV entertainment systems. That’s the big thing with all your new cars, as you’re well aware of. And our RV comes with a gigantic entertainment system. So even though they were showing us different models that cost up to an additional $5,000 for them to install, I learned a little bit more about the future of the entertainment systems. Also, there was a new system that diagnoses what’s going on with your vehicle as you’re driving down the road. Mercedes-Benz has included that in our 2019 Winnebago View. So it was just nice seeing what other people had.

FMCA Chapter Information

Michael: The big event for the day for both of us was meeting all of the different chapters of the FMCA. I believe there were 39 chapters there, and they were highly recruiting everyone that came in. Literally, you had thousands of people visiting each one of the chapters. They were set up in little booths in this gigantic conference room. And literally, we visited and at least introduced ourselves to each one of the groups and listened to their pitch about why we should be part of their chapter. Some of the bigger ones were the military chapters, the Elks, each section of the country to Southwest and Northwest, the Far East, full-timers. They had quilting clubs, you name it, singles clubs. They were out there recruiting.

Michael: And that was really fun meeting all the people. And the cool thing was everyone made you feel welcome. They really are always trying to recruit and grow their clubs. So we spent about a good hour and a half meeting all the groups there, and we decided on a couple of groups to join.

Louisa: Well, that of course is what FMCA was started way back in the day… way back in the day. Way back in 1964, a group of friends got together and decided that they would want to go camping together. And so, from that point on, as the club itself grew, different chapters developed, because they would say, “Well, we all live in Texas, and we aren’t going to get out there to Maryland or New York on a regular basis. But we’d like to camp with friends here in Texas.” And so they started groups in different areas of the country, like Michael said, and also with different interests.

Elks Club and Full-timer’s Club

Louisa: So we joined the Elks Club. Yay. We are now members of Minot Elks, and they have RV parks at some of their places in the different areas of the country. But it’s also a charitable organization, and so we wanted to join that one. Then we also joined the chapter called Full-time RVers, which we are. So we went over there and met the people there, joined their Facebook page. And so that’s going to be fun finding them around the country.

Louisa: But the most exciting thing I think that we got out of this was, as we walked around the convention and walked around in the parking lot looking at all the different rigs and finding out what was available out in town, we realized there’s nothing to eat here for anybody who wants to try to eat healthy. I mean, the only thing they had were things like bratwurst, and pulled pork sandwiches, and hot dogs, and hamburgers, and oh my gosh, nothing at all vegan of course. So we decided we would start a vegan chapter.

RVegans Club

Louisa: And that was quite interesting because we have three friends that we met in Mexico when we went with the Escapees, who are also members of FMCA, and they came to this convention. So we talked to them about, “Hey, let’s start a club.” And they said, “Yes, let’s do it.” So we did. I got seven other people to sign up so we could start an associate chapter. And now we are going to be an official FMCA associate chapter. We got to get some more members to become a big chapter, but we’ll just grow as we go, because we don’t want people in our club who are not in it for the animals, or in it for health, or for the climate.

Louisa: But one of the things that we got started with this club idea was, when we’re in a different area of the country, whenever we are in Portland, or Seattle, or Vancouver, or any of the big cities that have active animal rights chapters, like Anonymous for the Voiceless or anything like that, we get out and we support that community. Well, what we also have done, in El Paso, we’ve joined the Vegetarian Society there, which is actually called the, yeah, Vegetarian Society, but they only serve vegan food. They also go out and serve the homeless, and they serve them vegan meals! So I said to myself,

“Hey, there’s not a lot of animal rights stuff going on here in Minot, but maybe we could go feed some homeless people”.

So I called the YWCA, and they thought it was a wonderful idea.

Shout out to Ashley and Liz, who direct the place and actually support all the women and children who stay there! And so we were able to put together a nice whole food plant-based vegan meal along with some other friends that we made during the RV Basics class. And some other people gave us some money, and then weren’t able to actually go to the YWCA to help us out. But we had about eight of us working on fixing the meal, and then serving it. And it was a great way to give back to this community.

Louisa: Michael, you want to tell them what we made?

Michael: We wanted to keep it delicious and basic, so what we made, we cut up fresh vegetables, peppers, mushrooms, and arugula for greens, and we made brown rice pasta, and we got a vegan tomato sauce, mixed that all together and made a wonderful vegan spaghetti for the residents and the people that were helping us. Additionally, for dessert, we had mixed berries, and we used a vegan whipped cream. And also, I almost forgot, we also had garlic bread, which we used garlic and vegan butter. And everybody was amazed by the meal.

Louisa: Yeah. Even the meat eaters who were there helping us were amazed at how tasty everything was and how easy it was. We served about 20 people, and I only spent $86, which sounds like a lot, but 80 people … I mean, 20 people for $86, and it was not skimping on the food. So everybody got lots of food, and the residents even came up for seconds and thirds. They were amazed at how yummy it was! So, that was our way of reaching out and saying,

“You, too, can be vegan! You don’t have to eat animals. You can eat whole food plant-based and be having wonderfully yummy meals.”

Louisa: So we’re going to take a little break here because we need to take a deep breath, and we’re going to come back and tell you more about what we found to eat in Minot, vegan style, as well as what we did actually buy at the FMCA convention, because you know there’s always lots of exhibits and things for you to buy. So stay with us.

Louisa: So just so that we can wrap up our time here at the convention, I want to let you know that we did actually buy a really cool Magne Shade, that’s the name of the company that makes these really nice shades for your windows, the front and the sides, so that it keeps the sun out and the heat out, but you can still see out from inside, which when we put the shades up that we have now, you can’t see out. And sometimes that’s where the view is, out of the front windows.

Louisa: So we were able to get these really cool Magne Shades. It’s going to have a vegan message on it. We have to wait about six weeks to get it. We hope we’ll know where we’ll be when they need to send it to us. But it’s going to be great. We’ll send a picture out on Instagram when we finally get that. And of course, you know our Instagram is @HeavenInAClassC, so go there and see any of our pictures of food and our camping spots, and maybe you will leave us a message, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Louisa: But then what I want to continue also telling you is, why become a member of FMCA. So Michael, want to tell us?

Michael: So if you decide to join FMCA, you have access to the FMCA University, which is a library that combines decades of RV knowledge. They have FMCA campgrounds in Ohio. They put out a monthly magazine with all kinds of RV-ing activities and information.

Michael: One of the huge benefits for folks who are on the road year-round is what’s called FMC Assist. Members are automatically covered. And what happens is, if you are hurt and you can’t drive your RV, they’ll set up to have somebody drive your RV back to home. If you die on the road, which unfortunately happens, they’ll help your remains get back to an appointed place.

Michael: So that’s the FMCA Assist. They also have a lot of perks, discounts on RV batteries, which can save you hundreds of dollars, windshield replacement. They have an FMCA insurance policy for your vehicle itself, which they claim will save you lots of money towards your insurance. They actually have, which we didn’t purchase, they have an FMCA healthcare plan. They do tours. They also, it costs a little bit extra, but they also have an FMCA roadside assist and rescue. They offer discounts on RV internet with Verizon and Sprint. They do tire discounts, which I’m sure we will use in the future.

Michael: So those are a few of the benefits that FMCA … And then I believe there are 81,000 members that you can connect with, and there’s always a wealth of information with this giant organization.

Louisa: And of course there’s always the conventions, or the rallies, or the meetups that you can go to. And you should never feel like you are RV-ing alone, because there’s lots of people with the same interests or the same locale that you might be in. So we really recommend FMCA as an RV club. But it’s $60 a year, and that’s the joining fee. And then you get access to all this stuff that Michael just said.

Louisa: So we really enjoy this convention. And two of the things that I went to that I was shocked that we would have the opportunity to hear about was, first, the seminar on human trafficking, which, we’re in a lot of rest stops, we’re in a lot of truck stops, and you see these posters on the wall in there that say, “If you are in danger, please call this number, yada yada yada.” So it was a good way for all of us who travel across the country to be aware that there are people out there that are in need of help. And so we should just up our game a little bit. Also, you can put a phone number in your window of your RV, so if somebody is needing some help, they’ll know who to call.

Louisa: And then I also went to what’s called the RV Disaster Corps, which sounds like a really cool thing. If there’s a hurricane, you want to go help, you’re in an RV, just drive on over and help. Well, they started this about three years ago, but it’s only now in Texas, because they have the FEMA and they have the state of Texas support. And so that means that if we go to help in one of these situations, we’re covered by the insurance of the state.

Louisa: But you have to become a member. And you go on their website and you fill out this little form, and then you have to watch a couple of videos, and you have to pass a little quiz. But it’s called RV Disaster Corps. And so far it’s only official in Texas. So if you ever are in Texas and you say, “Hey, I knew they had a big hurricane in Houston, and I’m going to be in that area. I wonder if they still need any help,” that’s what they say that people forget. Once the hurricane passes, all the emergency people come in, all of the FEMA people come in, and they don’t really want us there at that time because it’s too hectic.

Louisa: What they need the RVers there for is, a couple weeks, a couple months later when they have the food banks and they have all of these clothes that come in, and they need somebody to help sort them and help hand it out, because just because the news is over and nobody is dying anymore in the flood or in the wind, they still have needs. And so that’s where the RV Disaster Corps comes in. So if you’re interested in doing that, there’s lots of opportunity in Texas. So look online, it’s called RV Disaster Corps, and it’s in Texas, and you can check it out. So we’re going to check that one out.

Louisa: So that pretty much wraps up the FMCA convention. And we paid one more night to be here at the North Dakota fairgrounds because we didn’t want to watch 1,600 people trying to leave, 1,600 rigs trying to leave this area on a Sunday morning. And we didn’t want to get into that crowd. We didn’t want to have to sit in line for two hours or whatever. So we watched everybody else leave. And it’s really nice and relaxing, except they have some kind of NASCAR whatever running around the track right now. So it’s really loud. And they didn’t tell us that, “Oh yeah, one more night, you can stay, pay $25, have your electric, have the showers, have the restrooms. Oh, and by the way, you get to have all that noise.” But hopefully it stops soon and we won’t be having to sleep through it.

Vegan Eats in Minot

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza

Louisa: But I wanted to tell you that we did find two places to have vegan meals in Minot. Now, they’re not all vegan restaurants, but they had vegan options. And the first one was a pizza place. Michael, what was the name of that pizza place? Okay. He just looked it up for me. It’s called Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, and it was over there by the Cash Wise grocery store, which was amazing. This place had probably five rows of very healthy vegan plant-based products, that, don’t go into Minot and say, “There’s no Sprouts, there’s no Whole Foods, there’s no place to find good vegan food.” Oh, yes, there is. It’s called Cash Wise grocery.

Louisa: But right next to it was a place called Uncle Maddio’s Pizza. I went in there, and of course they have all of the original pepperoni, and sausage, and all the gross animal product stuff, but you can also order a create your own pizza, which I did. We did it on two different occasions. So I got the tomato sauce, and then they had Daiya cheese, which is amazing. And then, they didn’t have as many vegetable choices as they do in the MOD Pizza or the Blaze Pizza, but they had enough. I got artichoke hearts, and some banana peppers, some mushrooms, and olives. That was about it. Maybe … Oh, I did get some spinach on it as well.

Louisa: But they don’t really know the word vegan around here, so when I said,

“I would like to have two vegan pizzas,” the girl looked at me and said,

“Two what?” And I said,

“Okay, “create your own pizzas.” And then I had those. And I asked them to change their gloves because they’d just put all the dead animal products on the one right before mine. But that’s called educating people on how to serve vegans. So we really appreciated that.

Paradiso Restaurant

Louisa: And then last night we went out with our friends Denise and Judd to a place called Paradiso in the middle of Minot, North Dakota. It’s a Mexican restaurant that had vegan options on their menu. And we were so happy to go there.

Michael, tell everybody what we had.

Michael: Mexican restaurants generally are a good place to get vegetarian, vegan options. And this particular restaurant had a full page of vegetarian options. But when we spoke with the waiter, he said,

“Oh, we’ll work with you and make each one of the things that you decide to order vegan.” And that’s exactly what he did. And he was really willing to omit things like sour cream, and regular cheese, and of course no meat items.

Michael: We ended up having Spanish rice, beans, corn tortillas, lots of vegetables, peppers, which were really, really spicy. And on the side, we actually even had guacamole. And it was a wonderful atmosphere where we talked about whole food plant-based eating and educating our friends more on how to eat when [inaudible 00:28:42] very few places to choose from.

Louisa: So, see, you can eat whole food plant-based vegan style anywhere in the country. You just have to know how to talk to the waiter, how to ask what you want so that you don’t end up eating something that you don’t want. In fact, I clarified with him the tortillas, I said, 

“So what are the choices of the tortillas? Are the flour tortillas made with lard?” And he said,

“Yeah, probably.” So we had the corn ones. And it was very nice. Then we also always eat in our rig. We never ate lunch up there at the convention. We always went back to our rig and had leftover dinner from the night before. So you can eat vegan, you can eat whole food plant-based if you think ahead.

Louisa: So that wraps up another episode of Two Vegans On A Mission Podcast. And join us next week as we make our way over to Duluth, Minnesota. We’re going to stay at a couple of golf courses, we’re going to stay at a couple of Harvest Hosts, and maybe even another Air Force base. And we’ll tell you all about that next week when we get there.

Louisa: In the meantime, you can follow us on Instagram @HeavenInAClassC or you can go to our website at www.vegansonamission.com, and see what we’ve been up to.

Get a transcript of this podcast right there. And leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you. And in the meantime, be vegan!

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We are a retired teacher, Louisa, and a retired physician assistant, Michael, married for 39 years, who want to help busy travelers begin and maintain a healthy life-style while on the road.

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