Tigers and Wine
Good morning Tullahoma, Tennessee. Welcome to episode 022 of “Two Vegans on a Mission Podcast”. We’re going to talk about where we’ve been and what we’re doing. Of course, we’re going to first tell you about a wonderful Harvest Host winery we stayed at.
And then we’re going to talk about the state park in Alabama and what it was like. Then we’re going to talk about the sanctuary that we were able to visit, which had a lot of tigers and lions. Finally, when we get into Huntsville we’ll tell you about the vegan restaurants we visited and how we almost got suckered into eating chicken! So stay tuned.
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 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!
Another Harvest Host Site
So we were able to leave Guntersville Lake, and it was beautiful there. But, we headed towards the Harvest Host site, over in Attalla, Alabama, because it was right next to the animal sanctuary that we wanted to visit.
You know we like Harvest Hosts because most of them are the wineries that we stay at. And this lady was very nice when I called her and said, “Could we please come visit you for the night?” She knew we were going to the sanctuary so she gave me directions. She said that we would be able to come in right after we got done over there, and that that might be around four o’clock. She would meet us at the road and guide us in. But she was worried that our RV might get stuck in the mud, so she offered our RV to stay over by their house instead of at the winery, which was very kind of her.
Michaels’ going to tell you all about our wonderful stay at Wills Creek Vineyards!
So, one of the beautiful things about the Harvest Hosts is it connects you with not only great places to stay but wonderful people. We would have never stopped in a small town with a small winery and go out of our way, but Harvest Hosts gave us that opportunity.
This little place was situated in a small valley with beautiful vineyards. The winery itself was just really teeny, in a place where you probably would drive by and not even see it as you passed on the road. But they produce the local wines of the area, and they were delicious and tasty!
And then their private home that they made available for us to stay outside of was magnificent! It was a really enjoyable stay. Once again, I really recommend you sign up for Harvest Hosts so that you can explore some of the beautiful out-of-the-way places!
It used to be a dairy
I just want to give a little more background to our visit here in Attalla, Alabama with Janie and her husband, because they really went out of their way and allowed us to park on their main property so that we wouldn’t sink into any mud. They explained to us that Janie was a teacher who now works at the winery, which used to be a dairy, which was kind of ironic, being that we are the vegans! She caters on the weekend at their house, which is where their events area is. And, it was just absolutely gorgeous! It also has a pond on the property, as well as the area for them to hold the banquets or the weddings. It was really very pretty.
Like a lot of the wineries we visit, they host weddings and parties, and the setting, like I said is gorgeous. And I was so excited to stay there because we knew it was right down the street from the sanctuary. And a funny thing is, when Janie met us at the road, and we were able to turn in, she gave us a spot to park, and then she said,
“Oh, and don’t be concerned in the morning if you hear the roar or a lion.” I looked at her and I said,
“Wow, we’re that close to the sanctuary?” And then she said, “Oh, no, no. There’s a lion in the neighborhood that has been also saved and is in another place but we might hear it in the morning so not to worry!”
That was very gracious of them to allow us to stay on their property, and we met Cleo their dog, who she said was deaf, and Sugar didn’t have any problem with that dog. But, Sugar enjoyed running around the property without a leash, which is always a whole lot of fun. There was nobody else there that evening, except for us, and so we had a very peaceful night.
Monte Sano State Park – Alabama
Next up we visited the state park in Alabama called Monte Sano, which means “Mountain of Health”. It was about an hour north, near Huntsville, Alabama. We wanted to go there because we had heard so many great things about Huntsville, and we thought maybe we could find some vegan restaurant options, and we did. So we’ll talk about those in a little bit.
First, we want to talk about the state park in Alabama, which actually had water and electricity. It was $38. We didn’t really have the peace and quiet that we usually like, because this was catering to a lot of tents. And when you have people in tents right next to you that means they use the campfires. They don’t have places to cook so they have to make the campfires for breakfast and for dinner. And then also they use the restrooms because they don’t have the facilities like we have in our RV. So a lot of people running around. A lot of smoke. Michael’s going to tell you a little bit more.
Alabama has 22 state parks, and they really do a great job at maintaining their parks, and opening up to the general public. This park was unique, as far as I’m concerned, because it was really elevated above the city of Huntsville. Where we were parked you could actually look down on the whole landscape of Huntsville. They had secluded trails, there was a planetarium in the area. They also had a lodge, which we didn’t get a chance to visit. They had hiking trails, and even though there were a lot of people there you could really get away and walk down the trails and the streets. The place was clean, even though there were a lot of people there.
So, again, traveling in an RV really gets you an opportunity to see these little out of the way places that we just would never have envisioned visiting. Also, it has a beautiful tea garden in the state park area, and Huntsville has so much technology. I mean, that’s where rockets are being developed. They had a recent visit by the Vice President to encourage the development of us getting back on the moon. There are hospitals, there is technology, all in this area. We were really surprised! We just weren’t aware what was happening in Huntsville, Alabama.
We were able to stay in this campground for a couple of days, and then we headed off to Tennessee. But first we’re going to tell you all about the animal sanctuary that we visited, so stay tuned!
“Tigers for Tomorrow” Sanctuary
Welcome back! And now we’re going to talk about the animal sanctuary that we found in Alabama. Who knew that we would find a place with tigers and lions and coyotes and wolves, and all sorts of different creatures? It’s not a zoo necessarily. It is a sanctuary and it’s called Tigers for Tomorrow Exotic Animal Preserve. “It was founded in July 1999 for the sole purpose of creating a safe haven for wild animals in need of a permanent home”. Now we were able to get this tour because it was spring break, and so they opened up their doors from 1:30 to 3:30 every day during spring break. Otherwise they’re only open on the weekends, so that people can come in and visit the animals.
We had a nice tour guide and there were about 50 people in our group. And we spent the two hours walking through the entire preserve. And I have to say I was so impressed with the way their animals are treated, and each one of them has a name, and they’re very well taken care of!
I asked each time, “Where did these animals come from?” And most of the answers were things like, “Well, people have pets that grow up to be big cats and then they can’t take care of them, and so they call the Tigers for Tomorrow people and say, ‘Please, can you take our tiger or our lion?'”
They do not breed the animals. They only take care of them until they die a natural death, which in captivity is a lot different than in the wild, so they live a lot longer. And they do always need support from outside people to help, because there is no government funding. Our tickets were $20 each, which goes for animal food, animal shelters, and paying for the people who take care of them. I was very impressed by this shelter, or this preserve. And Michael can tell you his take on it.
It was wonderful being educated about large animals. You can go to any zoo in the United States and get the same kind of education, but here these people were actually saving animals that would be euthanized or taken to these big game hunting sites and shot. So that’s disgusting. It touches our heart when we can see private organizations doing everything they can to give these animals a decent life, decent shelter. And it’s just great to be able to visit these places, contribute what we can.
Hopefully, by us talking about animal shelters you all will visit your local animal shelters and sanctuaries and give your time, give your money; and at a minimum, talk about them. Maybe people will come out and support those!
Maybe it will touch someone to say, “You know, maybe I shouldn’t have that cute little lion kitty. It’s going to grow up to be too large for me to handle!”
Exactly. Because people do go out and they buy pets for their families, or they buy pets for themselves. And then they realize they can’t take care of them. And so then they either take them back to the shelters, or they take them to get euthanized. So people really need to think about where they get their pets, and we want to be really grateful that some of these people are taking care of the animals that others cannot!
So if you are ever in Alabama go visit Tigers for Tomorrow, and take the tour, and then offer your time or your money so that they can continue to operate and take care of the animals!
Next up we’re going to switch gears and talk about the vegan food we found in Huntsville, Alabama, and how we almost got suckered into eating chicken! So stay tuned.
Vegan Eats in Huntsville, Alabama
We were very excited to get into Huntsville, Alabama, because we knew it was a big city. Michael could look at his HappyCow app on his phone, or his Vanilla Bean app, like he always does, and find us a vegan restaurant where we could have a nice vegan meal. So it was real exciting for us to go in for lunch.
Mason Dixon Bistro and Bakery
We went to a place called Mason Dixon Bistro and Bakery, and it wasn’t exactly all vegan. This was a place that had some vegan options, and when we walked in it was a nice cozy little building that looked like it might have been a house at one time. We parked in the back. We were able to fit our RV in the parking lot, so that’s always a good sign.
As you walked in you see that they had some paleo options. They had some keto options. They had those donuts that people were talking about a couple years ago. And a lot of people were in there buying up those.
We asked at the counter what kind of vegan options they had and the gentleman behind the counter gave us the menu which had several options that actually were not vegan, but could be made vegan if you wanted. So I was looking for something different because we often go into these places and they have the vegan burger, which is usually a bean patty of some kind.
They had this one meal that was called the Steve Martin, and it usually came with chicken. But it had the vegan option of changing the chicken out for a portobello mushroom. I was looking at the other items, and I was getting a little confused as to what I really wanted…I decided to go with the same thing Michael had. Now Michael will tell you what he ordered.
So I had the Steve Martin, which was actually jackfruit marinated light to taste like jerk chicken. They also put on a portobello mushroom and a pineapple. And then their own home-baked bun, which was actually delicious. And, they got my order correct. However-
Yeah, however. We ordered these “to go” because we had Sugar in the vehicle and we didn’t want to leave her out there. It was warm that day. It was in the probably mid 70s. So we thought we would just get our food “to go” and then take it up to the campground which was only about a 15-minute drive.
Well, needless to say, we got into the RV and changed our mind about driving. So we thought we’d just sit there and eat it… and we opened everything up. Mine looked quite different than Michael’s, even though I said, “I’m going to have the same thing he had.” Now, Michael had a side that was sweet potato chips of some kind and mine had pickles, which actually were very tasty.
But I looked at my burger, and you know we like to take pictures of them before we eat them, so that we can put them on our Instagram, which is @heaveninaclassc. So go there and see the pictures if you like. But we wanted to take the pictures. And I said,
“Wait a minute. Why does mine look different than yours? I thought we ordered the same thing.”
And then I realized that mine had some ligaments kind of come off of it as I pulled it apart, and it a little bit freaked me out, so I promptly closed it all back up and stomped into the restaurant, and asked the lady behind the counter to please tell me what it is I ordered!
She opened it up and she said, “Oh. Well, that’s a Steve Martin.” And I said,
“But this is not the Steve Martin I ordered because mine was supposed to be vegan.” And then she said,
“Oh, I know what happened.” She promptly took it away and went into the back room. Yes, it needed a little fanfare there, because it was actually chicken! We had already talked with them for about 10 minutes before we went and got our meal, about being vegan in Alabama, and how excited we were to find them! They were so thrilled to be able to fix us a meal…And then they gave us chicken!!
Had we driven all the way to the RV Park without looking at our food first we would have been so disappointed! But, what this taught us was we always will check our meal before we leave the place, because even though the gentleman behind the counter was so gracious in taking our order and making sure to show us which options were able to be made into vegan options, that lo and behold, we got dead chicken on our plate!
And I almost threw up when I saw it. Which is really weird because I’m getting so indoctrinated into not wanting to see dead animals that having it on my plate was disgusting! So I actually didn’t want the portobello mushroom burger anymore. I said,
“Could you just make me the plain bean burger, because I am too traumatized to have the other one at this point?”
And so I did. And it was delicious. And like Michael said, the bun was to die for, because this is a bakery. I don’t know that the bun itself was vegan, but they promised it was and gluten free. And then the pickles were very tasty as well!
So that was our experience with that Mason Dixon Bistro and Bakery in Huntsville. So we’re going to tell you next about the next day’s lunch, so hang on.
The Mellow Mushroom Restaurant
Another place in Huntsville we ate at was called the Mellow Mushroom. It was a hippy-themed place with lots of pizza and pizza-related stuff. They also had about, I think,100 beers on tap. They had surfing folks in there and it looked like a fun place. Lots of TVs with sports, et cetera. We had a vegan option, bruschetta, and a vegan pizza.
Now, you would think that would be pretty easy to make, but once again, here in … I don’t want to blame it on the South, but when you go into places that their main theme is not vegan, different things can happen.
So it’s really important to make sure you clearly discuss what you want with the person taking your order and to follow up once that order gets to you. Because these vegan option places, we found that the chefs get into the mindset of doing their normal routine and not thinking about the special things that are needed to make any meal, vegan.
And by the way, what that means is no animal products whatsoever on the plate. No butter, no cheeses, no meat, no foul, no fish. And that’s what we expect when we order a vegan option.
Needless to say, we got our bruschetta, I took a bite and it tasted very sweet and the waitress came running over and said,
“Oh my gosh! Stop eating because there’s butter on that bread.!”
And I have to say, I was very impressed with their concern, because maybe they might have just looked at us and said, “Oh well, never mind.” But they were real concerned.
She was also was concerned that we knew we were having vegan cheese, and that the rest of everything would be vegan. So the fact that she knew there was a problem, it was really very heartening to see.
So I stopped eating, they took the plate, and then they remade it without any butter on the bread. And it was actually very very good. I was impressed!
And then didn’t the manager come over and talk to you, Michael?
Yes. The manager of the Mellow Mushroom came over and personally apologized for the mistake, and was really wanted to make sure that we were satisfied with the meal that we received. He did not charge us for the bruschetta, and also gave us a coupon for our next visit for another free bruschetta. He really emphasized how he expects his chefs to get orders right the first time!
And the pizza was done correctly, but it wasn’t my favorite pizza. It didn’t have anything that I would write home about or talk on the podcast about, but it was vegan, and so we enjoyed having our tummies full. Then we went back to the campground and made our own meals the next day.
So just to reiterate, when you’re going to a restaurant that is not all vegan, you have to be very vigilant. You need to talk with the waiters and the waitresses, and then they have to talk with the chef or the cooks and make sure that everybody’s on the same page!
And again, everybody was very gracious, everybody was very disheartened that they got us the wrong food. So it turned out fine in the end…and the bruschetta was very good. So I highly recommend if you go there to Huntsville, go to the Mellow Mushroom. You can see pictures of the place on our Instagram, so I hope you go there and take a look.
And so another episode of our “Two Vegans on a Mission” podcast comes to an end.
Shout out to Mary!
I’d like to shout out to Mary for listening to us, and for leaving us a five-star review on iTunes. Thank you so much, Mary!
Also, if you’d like to go to iTunes and leave us a message or leave us a five-star review, or any kind of review, we’d really appreciate that. Again, join us next week as we head to Nashville, Tennessee, and the VegFest on Saturday. So we will give you a big review of that as well as our visit to the Gentle Barn Sanctuary, which is down in Christiana.
In the meantime you can follow us on Instagram, @heaveninaclassc, or you can go to our website for show notes and any links to products mentioned in this podcast episode. That website is www.vegansonamission.com.
So thanks again for joining us and we’ll see you next week. And… be vegan!
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.