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Meet the “Roving Vegans”

Saving cats in Oxnard, California and chatting with the Roving Vegans in Carpinteria. It’s a wonderful time to be on the road!

Episode 32 – Transcript

Good morning from Los Angeles, California! This is episode 032 of the Two Vegans on a Mission podcast.

Stay tuned for highlights of our trip from Tucson, Arizona, all the way over here to Los Angeles. But along the way, we’re going to tell you how we make vegan meals out of non-vegan restaurant. Also, we get to interview a lady who is saving cats in Port Hueneme. But first, we have a great interview with Jackie and Joseph, who call themselves the “Roving Vegans“. You’ll not want to miss that either, and grab your vegan snacks, and here we go!

Overview to the podcast

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!

Meet the “Roving Vegans”

It’s with great pleasure that I get to introduce this interview of two of our new friends from the road, from Instagram, and from the podcast network that we belong to. These are two friends that we met, who have a similar story to a lot of people who begin to be vegans, and we thought it was important for you to hear what everyday people go through, in order to become vegan, and to maintain a vegan lifestyle.

So, stay tuned for this wonderful interview, and we thank Jackie and Joseph, once again, for sitting down with us in Carpinteria at a coffee shop, so you might hear some background noise and some road noise, but I think you will get the gist of the information, and it’s wonderful.

I’m Joseph Wolfgram.

And I’m Jacqui Letran, and we’re the “Roving Vegans“.

Yes, and tell me how you got to be the Roving Vegans.

Well, I think the vegan part came before the roving part, actually. It took us a few years, interest of personal health, initially, to get to being vegetarian. And then, 30 days later, we became Vegan, and that was after we got exposed to the animal and the environmental side of things, through some documentaries. Primarily, first, through “Cowspiracy”, and then through “What The Health” and “Forks Over Knives”. I think it was a matter of education for us to make the decision to be vegan.

Well, that is Joseph’s side of the story.

Yes. And yours?

So, Joseph is very heady, and he needs all of the stats and the info to make decisions. And I make decisions more on intuition and from my heart. And my transition was more because of the animal aspect. To this day, I care about my health, but I’m still for the animals. And the first hint of me wanting to go vegan was when I was chopping a whole chicken, and I, somehow, out of blue, made the connection, and I could not stop crying. I’m looking at this chicken, and all I can see is my cat, and I’m imagining me chopping up my cat, and that just destroyed me, inside out. And that was the beginning of our journey into vegetarianism.

But, the vegan aspect for me, again, it was more from the heart. We were at the Ashville Vegfest, listening to panelists talking about their own journey into veganism, and it just touched me to the core, and I was crying, and I looked up and sure enough, Joseph had tears in his eyes, too. And even though we didn’t verbalize this, but with our eyes, we kind of gave each other a nod and made the commitment to go vegan.

So Joseph, you said you were starting to watch the videos, the documentaries. How did you find out about those?

So, what brought us to the video? The documentaries. So, I’m not a foodie. I eat to live, whereas Jacqui lives to eat. And so, I had always thought, for a number of years, you know,

“I don’t care what’s in front of me to eat. I’d like it to be the healthiest version of something possible. But I’m too lazy to cook. I don’t care about food. Jacqui does the food and chooses the restaurants, most of the time, because I don’t care.”

So, I was kind of waiting around for her to come along, so when we were both sat down to watch the documentary, I knew that I was going to make some progress on getting really healthy food in front of me because the first couple of minutes of Cowspiracy shows these cows going in to be slaughtered, and the look in their eyes, and how they try to get away at the last minute and stuff like that… I mean, it just looked like, you know, one of our boys, one of our pets. It could have been Frosty having that same expression on his face. And so, then I knew eating meat was going to be done for us.

I, kind of, have always… too lazy to do it myself, but always kind of wanted to be that way. I read a lot, too, and spirituality, and a lot of the messages there, too, is that we don’t treat our animals well. We need to be treating them with more compassion and things like that, so that was in the back of my mind, too. And that all kind of played together, when we watched these movies, to make the decision easy.

So, I’ve heard about the documentaries a while back. My sister, who is primarily plant based, we’re very much into health, and she started talking to me about these different movies that could help me to make the connection, again, for health reasons, and I wasn’t quite ready. And I also have a vegan friend, who was a little, I wouldn’t quite say pushy, but very… I’ll say pushy. And she’s been telling me that, you know, I’m a vegan, I just don’t know it yet. And I told her, “No, I know I’m a vegan, I’m just not ready for it yet.” And so, I knew about these movies, but I wasn’t ready to make that decision until it just happened. Again, I do things on intuition, when it feels right, I do it. And when it felt right, we watched a movie and made the decision, right on the spot.

I think that is so cool. And what I’d like to know is, what would you say to new people who are just getting that same idea that hey, they want to go vegan, but what are you going to do next? Can you expand on that for us?

So, I think the most difficult thing about making a decision to eat a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet, is that so much of the food available to us, on a daily basis, isn’t that way. There’s dairy in everything, there’s meat in everything. You know, there’s this belief that, “Oh, where’s your protein?” You know, is it a beef, chicken or pork? You know, like that’s the only protein options, and very not true. So, it was more about finding food that didn’t include the things we didn’t want to eat. To me, a vegan diet isn’t some special diet, it’s just, there’s stuff I’m not going to put in my mouth anymore. And so, I need to find food sources that don’t include those things. So, from my perspective, it was more about identifying those places where I could find that food, if that makes sense.

So, I’m the one that makes all the food at home and make the most of the decisions for restaurants. So… and I’m a researcher at heart. I love researching. So, first thing I did was just, I went online and read as much as I could, joined as many Facebook support groups as I can, joined meetups, to meet people locally because I know, for me, support is going to be really important. I like to be with people who think the same and who’s going to be supportive in what I do.

And so, we made a whole new set of friends, started going to all the vegan potlucks, learning from those people, meeting people on Facebook, talking to them, looking at recipes, and starting to read the ingredient lists of every single thing we bought. I mean, grocery shopping, instead of being half an hour, it became an hour and a half because, in the beginning, you were reading every single box. We were reading everything and deciding and trying to… and looking up things, too, because sometimes, like whey protein, I had no idea that’s milk. Right?

And so, it took us a little bit of time to grocery shop, and stuff like that, in the beginning. But then, I got my few favorite recipes, and I was cooking those over and over. And I used a lot of meat replacement or mock meat in the beginning, because I had no idea how to cook vegetables, only because I was not really a huge vegetable eater before this. But you know, once we got into it and we realized that the mock meat and all of that, are just processed food, and although there’s no animal cruelty, it’s our body cruelty. We’re putting crap and chemicals into our body, so we’re trying to eat more and more whole foods as we can, unless we’re eating out, then we kind of go to town on that one.

It was so refreshing, listening to Jacqui and Joseph talk about how they began to be plant-based and vegans, but I really enjoyed this next part, when Joseph explained how they maintain their lifestyle these days.

I think one of the most important things that I learned about being vegan and remaining vegan, if that’s your interest, is it’s got to be more… there’s got to be more reason than just one aspect. If you do it just for the health aspect, it’s easy to fall off that bandwagon because when you drop the weight and you look good again, how you want to be, from eating healthy, it’s easy to just go ahead and slip that meat back into your diet.

So for me, it’s about the three things, personal health, the impacts to the environment, and the avoiding animal cruelty. When you connect all three of those things together, you got safety, boundaries that, when temptation comes in to get off the bandwagon, it’s going to save you, right? So, it’s more than just one reason. So, I think that’s a really important aspect. If you can get in touch with all three of those very positive things, the personal health, the health of the environment, and the cruelty free for the animals, then I think it’s a long lasting, lifetime commitment.

Mm-hmm (affirmative). You know, I completely agree with what he just said. One thing I want to add to that, is kindness matters significantly, and I’m talking about kindness to yourself. We are so harsh on ourself, and oftentimes, when we make that commitment to be vegan or whatever else we decide to do, and we mess up that first time, we beat ourselves up and we stop. So, I want to bring kindness back in, and just remember that you know, if you’ve been eating meat your whole life, and you’re transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, you’re new at this, and you don’t expect anybody new to be perfect. So give yourself that same grace, and if you messed up, and you make the wrong choice, that’s okay. Forgive yourself for that choice, and re-decide.

This was great insight from Jacqui and Joseph, and great advice for anybody who’s hoping to become perfect at being a vegan. Remember, there is no perfectionism in being vegan! 

We would like to say, once again, thank you to Joseph and Jacqui, of the “Roving Vegans”, for taking time to meet up with us in Carpinteria, at the Lucky Llama Café, where we had some vegan toast. And, if you’d like to see pictures, go to Instagram, @HeavenInAClassC. And then, be sure to join us after the break, for our trip from Tucson over to Los Angeles.

Shout out to Nancy at Benson Animal Shelter

So, we headed out of Tucson, which is one of our favorite cities so far, in our travels, and headed west toward Los Angeles. But, before we got to Tucson even, we wanted to mention that we stopped in at the Benson animal shelter. And so, here’s a shout out to Nancy, who’s doing a wonderful job in Benson!

She’s not only the animal shelter coordinator, she’s also the only employee, and she’s also the person who is in charge of animal control. So, she might be cleaning out some cages, or she might be walking some animals, and then she gets a call to go pick up a stray or to go find another animal that’s being a nuisance perhaps. But, she is a one woman show, and she’s there in Benson, but there are animals to adopt there. So if you are in Benson, and you’re looking for a cat or a dog, and you don’t want to go too far, you can go to the Benson animal shelter, check in with Nancy, and find one of those cute kitties or the cute dogs, and take them home forever. Thanks again, Nancy!

BEAUT Burger in Tucson, Arizon

Now, we’re going to go twist a little bit here. Pivot, as you might say, to talk about a vegan restaurant that we found on our way out of Tucson, and we want to give a review of that. It’s called Beaut, B-E-A-U-T, and it was all vegan burgers, fries and some wine even. So, Michael’s going to tell you what he thought of that.

Well, once again, a shout out to HappyCow. We use the HappyCow app. They really put a lot of effort into keeping the app up to date, and pointing us in the right direction for vegan restaurants. Beaut is in downtown Tucson, along the river.

The river was dry while we were there, but they say there’s a river that runs through it starting in July, generally. But the architecture of this complex is really unique. They use large shipping containers, which they have modified to make into restaurants, bars, and they are all together down there. So, in addition to this vegan restaurant, there were bars, there were art studios, there were clothing studios. It was a really pretty area.

So Beaut is a hundred percent vegan restaurant, and they specialize in burgers and magnificent toppings that they put on there. For instance, I had a grilled mushroom, caramelized onion, Swiss mayo, vegan burger, but they also have things like caramelized green peppers, onions, chipotle mayo, peanut butter toppings, and then also your standard toppings, such as ketchup, mustard, and lettuce.

And they also have a bunch of side dishes, along with their burgers and… French fries, Sweet potato fries, they have potato salad,  beer battered cauliflower bites, and they also have things like wine and beer. So, we really recommend this restaurant when you’re in Tucson. Stop by there, it is unique architecture and the food was delicious.

Escapees RV Park in Congress, Arizona

So, after we left Tucson, we headed through Congress, Arizona, through Twentynine Palms, California, and into Port Hueneme, up by Oxnard, California. And so, along the way here, we did stay at different campgrounds, but we didn’t find a lot of vegan restaurants, so we’re going to tell you how we do vegan in a non-vegan world.

So, we stayed at the Escapees park in Congress, Arizona, not a lot of restaurants around, so we ate in our RV at that place. Then, we drove to Twentynine Palms, and we stayed on the Marine Corps base there, which is really not an RV park, it’s a mobile home park. There was not even a restroom facility in the RV area, so we would not recommend staying at Twentynine Palms RV Park.

There were no vegan options either, so we didn’t eat there. But then, we got into Port Hueneme in Oxnard, and we found some restaurants that had vegan options. Of course, that means they were not full-on vegan restaurants, so this is how we make do in those kinds of places.

One of the beautiful things about being a vegan, is that the world is coming around to offering us a lot more choices. I’d say 90 to 98% of the cities that we stop in, we can find vegan options, and we believe it is exploding. I think chefs, restaurants value their customers, and they look at their customers’ needs, and so, what we tried to do is, we use HappyCow and another app called Vanilla Bean, to guide us into places.

Once we choose a restaurant, what we always do, is look at the menu of course, to select the vegan options, and then it’s really critical to have specific discussions with the restaurant staff. We’ll ask them if they understand that we don’t eat any kind of animal products, including fish broth, things of that nature, anything that comes from an animal. And we will go over that we don’t use butter and cheeses and as a general rule, they get it, and if there’s any any doubt in their mind, or they don’t understand, we’ll walk away and find another place that understands what a real vegan option is.

For example, when we were in Spain, and I would order the salad and asked for them not to put the tuna on it, they always said to me, “Oh, but tuna is a vegetable, and what’s wrong with that?” Or sometimes, people look at us funny and say, “What do you mean you don’t eat cheese? That’s okay, isn’t it? Or Fish!” But we like to remind them that vegan means no animals at all. And, at this place that we went to in Port Hueneme, Michael’s going to tell you all about the Vietnamese restaurant called Basil & Mint.

Basil & Mint Vietnamese Restaurant Review

 

So, this restaurant had a lot of vegan options, and they really wanted to cater to vegans coming to their restaurant. We had appetizers of… it was a wrapped up seaweed spring roll with tofu meat. Also had fresh herbs and served with peanut sauce. Of course, if you have a peanut allergy, you have to be very careful. But it was delicious. And then, I had the house fried rice, which also had green beans, carrots, peas, corn and an imitation SoyBase meat. I think they had Teriyaki-based tofu, and it was really delicious.

So, the online menu was a lot different than the in-store menu. And so, I was really disappointed in the fact that once we started ordering, we were told, oh, that’s vegetarian, it’s not vegan, meaning the broth is not vegan, it’s a vegetable broth with meat based… something, fish, maybe in it. But the gentleman was very helpful, he guided us through the menu, and I ended up having the tofu, rice, chicken plate, which was actually some kind of fake chicken meat, and it was tasty, but I was able to have brown rice instead of the white rice and lots of vegetables on top.

I really enjoyed those spring rolls that we had, that were wrapped in seaweed. They were crunchy and they were very delicious. We tried to have it out at the beach, but it was kind of chilly out at the beach, so we went back to our RV, and we ate our food inside, where it was warm. I enjoyed this restaurant. I would recommend, if you’re in town, and you’re dying to go out to a restaurant, and you’re looking for vegan food, you can find some vegan options at this place, the Basil & Mint Vietnamese restaurant.

So, the next night, we were off base, looking for laundry facilities because the RV Park on Port Hueneme has some real issues keeping their laundry facilities available. They’re not all working, and there were only two machines for the washer and two machines for the dryer, for the entire RV park, so we could not do laundry on base. So, off we went, off base, and it got a bit long in trying to get it all done. And right next door, there was a Thai restaurant. So, Michael will tell you what it was like.

Blue Elephant Thai Restaurant Review

Once again, we were saved by HappyCow, and the name of this restaurant was the Blue Elephant Thai restaurant. Thai restaurants have the ability to have vegan options, so that’s always a good place to look. So, I had the yellow curry meal that had potatoes, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and it was mildly spicy. Quite frankly, it was delicious.

I had the basic fried rice with vegetables, and the lady who was taking our order was not quite sure what we wanted. She kept throwing in things like, oh, with some egg, and with some chicken or something. And then, there was another lady there that understood we meant vegan, and so, she kept saying,

“No, no, no, just vegetables and fried rice with no eggs.” And so, we got it, and it was wonderfully yummy. I enjoyed it. I liked the fact that yes, you can go into a Thai restaurant and just get fried rice with vegetables. And, I wouldn’t eat this every night, just like we wouldn’t go into the Vietnamese restaurant every night because you never know what kind of extra things they might accidentally use. But, it’s a good place to go in a pinch, when you’re doing laundry. And there’s one right next door, so… the Blue Elephant Thai restaurant in Port Hueneme is one place that you could go.

We’re going to take a little break here, and when we return, we’re going to talk about the cat rescue that we found, just by walking into the pet store in Oxnard.

Surf Cat Rescue – Oxnard, California

Did you know that here in California, you can no longer have pets sold, at a pet store, that are from puppy mills or puppy farms or home breeders? From now on, the law says you must have pets that are from shelters or rescues, and so, I happened to walk into a pet store in the middle of Port Hueneme.  I was looking for some food for Sugar, and I found, as I walked in, there were some kittens for sale. And what was fun about it was, it was a Cat Rescue that I had looked up already, so I was familiar with it. It’s called the Surfcat Rescue and Adoptions, and I have an interview with the owner, Leslie, who’s going to tell you all about it right here.

Well, I started Surfcat Café and Adoptions, to be a café-like setting, where people can come and eat with kitties. But, after doing this for a little over four years, we realized that we didn’t want to be in the food business because we realized how many people were just unaware of what’s going on now, versus when they were little.

What do you mean, what’s going on now?

Well, what’s going on now, is that there are so many different avenues that you can take to adopt a pet, especially cats, which is what we do. We’re a small nonprofit rescue, and we pull from our shelter because it’s important to take care of your own backyard.

You’re talking about the city shelters?

As soon as they have a 100% live release rate, my work will be done here. So what we do is, we go in and we take kitties out that are not doing well in the shelter, mostly special needs cats, diabetics, hospice, kitties that are just not the most desirable for people to go in and adopt, if they’re going to pass soon.

And is that because… You go rescue them out of a shelter because if you don’t, the shelters going to euthanize them?

Not in our case, no, I’m not rescuing from the shelter. The shelter is the one that’s doing the rescuing. I’m helping out, by getting animals out of their facility, that just don’t do well, which in a lot of cases, cats just don’t do well. Some will adjust, some will lay there, some will shut down a little bit, but then there’s the ones that start to lash out by scratch, and they don’t want to have that kind of cat there because it’s dangerous for their staff, and potentially dangerous for their visitors as well.

Oh, I see. So, when you’re there, do they call you and say, “We have some cats,” or do you just go there regularly?

Kind of both. I’m in touch with a couple of staff workers that are there, that will say,

“Have you seen this kitty? This is where she is. She’s just adorable. You need to meet her, and she really needs to get out of here,” so that’s usually when I’ll go down and try to do my due diligence on what they’re going to need.

If it’s just that they’re aggravated and whatnot, it’s not a huge fix. It’s just, get them out of there. Some of them are super sick, liver failure or kidney failure, and with those, because we don’t do heroics, meaning we don’t resuscitate an 18 year old cat that’s gotten pneumonia. We just use our good judgment, common sense, to know who’s going to get to live a really good life. And if they’re not, then they can just… I have some hospice fosters, we call them fospice, and I have some that are available, that take those kinds of cats. My last one took a cat for what she thought was going to be six weeks, and she finally passed three and a half years later, at 21 years old!

Wow, that’s amazing!

So, I love stories like that, and if we can make a difference in the cat’s life, and in this case, this lady’s case, which was, she was thrilled. After the first year, she said,

“I think I’ll adopt her.” I said, “Okay,.” You know, we have a lifetime plan for hospice kitties We pay for medical, and if somebody decides that they want to adopt a hospice kitty, which is great, we will help with the medical for the life of the kitty.

So, how are the cats adopted through the foster?

Some of the fosters want to use the ambassador program. That’s an ASPCA program, where they allow the fosters of any, good or bad, to be the final decision maker. Our foster program isn’t developed enough yet to do that. I still have people that are not necessarily at that point, where they are considering what’s best for the animal, but still considering what’s best for the human. And when you have a cat that’s dying of cancer, and the person loves that cat, and they want to do chemo and all of that, it’s not something we’ll foot the bill for, at this point. We might, somewhere down the line, because right now we’re brand new and we don’t have a whole lot of money.

And at this point in the interview, the store got very busy, and it was time for Leslie to take the kitties home, so that they could get into their foster care once again.

But, I really wanted to thank her, again, for the interview. It takes all kinds of rescues and all kinds of shelters and all kinds of programs, to keep these animals safe and in a protected environment until they find a forever home!

So, if you are, at all, looking for a kitty, go see the Surfcat Sanctuary, and find out how you can adopt one of these kitties!

And there ends another episode of Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. I want to thank Jacqui and Joseph for their interview, as well as Leslie, and I’d like to thank you for joining us again, but please be here next week, as we tell you all about the National Animal Rights Day event that we attended in Los Angeles, and my visit at the Pig Vigil with the LA Animal Save. It was very emotional and very enlightening. So, please be here.

We hope that you will go to our website, at www.vegansonemission.com, to read a transcript of this podcast, or you can also see pictures at our Instagram @HeavenInAClassC. There, you can see pictures of all of our travels and all of the animals that we meet along the way. So again, thanks for joining us this week and 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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