Interview with New Vegans – 43
Good morning from Duluth, Minnesota!
Good morning from Duluth, Minnesota! This is episode 43 of the Two Vegans on a Mission Podcast. We’ve got campground reviews, a vegan eats review, and a wonderful interview with some new vegans. Plus, we’ll talk about how we were able to do some animal rights activism while in Minot, North Dakota, and a great opportunity for you to join our new Facebook page where you can put some input in, or you can ask questions, or you can just watch what’s going on, so thanks for joining us and stay tuned.
Intro 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 motorhome, 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. Once again, thank you for joining us on this episode of the podcast. First off, we’re going to have a wonderful interview with some friends we met about six months ago in Mexico while we were there with the escapees.
Interview with New Vegans
These people are wonderful friends now, we’ve been in contact over the last six months. We met up with them in Minot again, and then they invited us over to Duluth, Minnesota where we had never been, so we took them up on that offer to be tourists in their hometown! So, we’re over here now, chatting with them. I sat down and asked them some questions about their journey into veganism. I hope you enjoy it. This is Judd and Denise with their story in how they became interested in being vegan and what it’s like now for them.
Judd: Yeah, a video that you guys showed us about clearing the heart, and that’s a big concern for us, and both our families have heart issues, and so that a video showing the blockages being cleared with a vegan diet was really exciting, and that’s probably our number one thing why we decided we want to do it. What did you think?
Denise: Well, we’ve been vegans about six months now, and we met a group of vegans on a trip to Mexico, and they shared some scientific evidence that many chronic diseases can be controlled or reduced, or even reversed by eating whole food, plant-based diet. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers run in my family. Three of my grandparents died of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, all in the age range of what I am now, in between 60 and 70, and my father had his first heart attack at age 30, died at age 74 for heart disease, so I’m ready.
Judd: Our concerns were cholesterol, high blood pressure and our weight, and I was always concerned about that chart, height to weight, and I’m very concerned I’m not tall enough. I was hoping for better-looking too, but we’re still working on those areas.
Louisa: Denise, tell us about your interest in becoming vegan.
Denise: After a three-hour ambulance ride for symptoms of a heart attack last September, I was ready to find a way to get better nutrition to improve my health, and prevent or reverse any disease, especially the high cholesterol. I want to prevent diabetes. I was diagnosed as pre-diabetes, plus generally, just being healthier and have more energy. I saw a lot of good energy coming from the group of vegans. They are very active and they looked great, and they had some pretty good-looking food too, so we wanted to be active and have sound nutrition.
I wanted to do this by avoiding any fad diets. I’ve tried some of those, but my main concern was really to have some sound nutrition, and the vegans really took their time to give us some good resources and some great scientific evidence that was very believable.
Judd: Yeah. One of our challenges for me was I love pizza, and we don’t have good pizza on this, but one of the successes is I really liked the variety. I thought I was going to eat bean burritos and salads for the rest of my life, which I do like, but I was really, I enjoy the variety of food and tastes and flavors on this diet.
Denise: One of the challenges for me was being the only vegan at the table, in order to take control of the food that we were eating when we’re not in control of the menu. We live in the Midwest, a lot of really meat and potatoes kind of offerings, and so some of the options are limited, but they are there, so it just took a little more research and education. Once others saw that we were serious about this, they took us seriously, so knowing that you need to do research on your nutrition so you can have a sound eating plan, and also for us, we are traveling a lot, so allowing time to prepare the good food, the plant-based food, or to make the effort to really research restaurant, stores and places that offer the vegan food was really easy for me to not be worried about dairy and cheese. I have a little bit of a food allergy to those anyway, so I was able to eat the substitutes, which I like much better, and there’s no after-effects of coughing or sinus issues.
Louisa: What about you, Judd?
Judd: Yeah, I do miss cheesy omelets and steaks, so I got to tell you that, but I do feel healthy. We’re eating fresh food, we’re staying away from processed foods, and we’re eating a lot of vegetables, and rice, and beans and things that are grown items, plant-based, and it’s just definitely, it feels like a healthier diet.
Louisa: What about successes?
Denise: A success was that I have lowered my cholesterol, I have more energy, more stable moods, better moods. I don’t miss the grease or the mess of dealing with the animal products. I don’t have any guilt, and also no problem with constipation, and I’ve learned to work … I’m working on reading labels to eliminate any, what I call vegan junk food, trying to get away from sugar, candy. That’s been a lot easier once you have good nutrition, and also I’m enjoying learning new ways of cooking.
Judd: One of my successes, I did lower my cholesterol and was able to come off of my statins, and so I’m not on statins anymore, and I’m still in an acceptable rate, so we’re very happy with that.
Louisa: What do you guys eat these days?
Denise: I’m still able to eat one of my favorite meals for breakfast. Only, this time, I use dairy-free yogurt, which I actually prefer. Lots of berries, granola, some flax seed. I’ve always liked salads, and I just watch the dressings. I have black bean burritos, vegetable stir fries.
We eat Beyond Meat. It’s a great meat substitute. If you’re feeling like you want a hamburger, it’s better than a hamburger. We eat a lot of brown rice. I love making curries.
That was something I didn’t make before the green and red curry, minus the fish sauce… lentils, avocados, as many fruits and vegetables as I can. I actually seek out the farmer’s markets. I like to see what’s fresh, in season. We make vegetable kabobs. We grill Portobello mushrooms, bake squash, lots of good things. If we go to a barbecue, we just throw our veggie burgers on the grill, and they’re wonderful.
Louisa: Can you tell us about your experiences with helping out at the women’s shelter?
Denise: We’re one of the couples that went to the women’s Shelter to provide a meal, and a vegan meal, and it was really encouraging to see how receptive they were to the spaghetti, made with Boca crumbles and lots of yummy vegetables, peppers, mushrooms, and brown rice pasta, and it was delicious. It was better than any spaghetti that I’ve eaten in a restaurant!
Judd: Yeah. One of the ladies said that, “If this is vegan, sign me up.”
Denise: Right, and the kids enjoyed it, too. We had a healthy fresh fruit salad. The bread was a garlic butter where I discovered a great vegan substitute for butter, which was one of the things I was missing, but about the only one.
Louisa: Are there any foods that you guys are missing?
Denise: I really enjoy the vegan substitutes. I don’t miss any foods. I feel like I’m eating better and taking care of myself, and luckily for me, I was not that fond of milk. It actually made me sick, and cheese was not a must-have for me. I like the substitutes better.
I’m trying to think of something I really miss. Well, a hamburger was replaced by Beyond Meat. As I mentioned earlier, my Greek yogurt was replaced by a soy substitute, and the brand I have really enjoyed is spelled D-A-I-Y-A. You can look for that in your store and try that. I have less sinus problems too, no coughing after eating dairy, and as I said, I missed the butter, but now I have that substitute.
Louisa: What kind of challenges have you’ve met along the way?
Denise: Our challenges were made easier by having a great support group. Michael and Louisa, RV Vegans, friends from Mexico, people who have been successful at being vegans, and the resources they gave us, Forks Over Knives, books, cookbooks, videos, some great apps, a Facebook page, but most of all, the encouragement. We’ve been very excited to be vegans, and we’re looking forward to being our best.
Louisa: Wasn’t that a great interview with Judd and Denise? I want to thank them again for taking the time out of their day to sit down with us and tell us their story about how they became vegan and what they’re doing now as they’ve been vegans for six months, and how this has impacted their lives. We hope this is inspiring, and maybe you too will get on the bandwagon.
We’re going to take a little break here from the podcast, but when we get back, of course, we have to talk about where we’ve been camping, so stay with us. We have three campgrounds to review this week because we were heading from Minot, North Dakota over here to Duluth, Minnesota, and we had some time to kill in between getting here for our reservation at the Lakehead Boat Basin.
Grand Forks Air Force Base Camping
We’ll review this place next week, but for now, we’re going to talk about Grand Forks Air Force Base, and then we’re going to talk about a Harvest Hosts spot that we spent time and money at, and then, of course, a Corps of Engineer park called Winnie Dam Campground. First up, we’re going to tell you all about the Grand Forks Air Force Base FamCamp. These are places where you do not get to reserve, but you drive up and you hope there’s a spot. This was $16 a night, and it was really a well-run place. Michael, what do you think about this one?
Michael: Just a reminder, I found this place on Allstays in military section of their app, and I recommend everyone go out if you’re an Rver there, full-time or part-time, to have an Allstays app on your phone, and also, I believe Allstays has a higher, more expensive one for your PC. Anyway, it’s a outstanding app. They keep it up-to-date, and you can find these little, small places. I’m retired military, so we can stay at Department of Defense RV facilities around the world literally, and in this particular case, Allstays pointed us at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and I must say for an air force base, it’s the second quietest air force base we’ve been at. I think we heard one plane the entire time.
There were some railroads in a distant, but a very quiet base. They have 16 sites, and it’s in the back of their base, and there is a, surrounded by a housing area. We saw a few folks from the housing area at the dog park, but literally, it was a very serene, very pretty layout of the place, and there was a little bit of a farming area, but we didn’t see any farming going on. It looks like they were growing some type of grain around there. We had electricity and water.
The bathrooms were well-kept and maintained, and we used our National, in addition to the low Department of Defense price, we used the National Pass, Golden Age Pass, I think it’s called, and that lowered the price to $16. Really fantastic. A great place to stay, and it allowed us to unhook and drive into Grand Forks Downtown, and we aimed at one place there and did some shopping while we were in Grand Forks. All in all, it was nice stopover.
Louisa: We spent two nights there, and Michael, you forgot to tell everybody about our walkthrough, the Prairie Regrowth area. There’s a whole area on the base that they have let go back to its natural environment looking-like place, with the different plants growing and the paths are disappearing, so you have to be careful where you walk, and of course, we were walking on the asphalt, closer to the end of the road, and a snake ran underneath my feet, and Michael just yells, “Yuck, look out.” I didn’t know it was a snake, but as soon as I saw it, I jumped and we ran off. We don’t like snakes, but that was pretty fun, different activity for us in our walks along the way.
Next up, we’re going to talk about our stay with the Harvest Hosts. Of course, if you’re not a member of Harvest Hosts, we’re always amazed at people that we meet along the way who have never heard of it, so we like to tell you again, go to Harvest Hosts. That’s H-O-S-T-S, and you can join them for $79 a year. There are over 800 spots around the country and into Canada and Mexico, where you can stay for free overnight, one night usually, and there are no hookups. You have to be self-contained because these are at either wineries, museums, farms, or some kind of place, maybe a museum.
Forest Edge Winery (Harvest Hosts)
Did I say that already? Anyway, a place where you cannot rely on having access to the restrooms or any electricity or water, so you have to be totally self-contained, and then you call ahead and you say,
“Hey, we’re going to be in the area. Can we spend the night at your winery?” That’s what we did. We stayed at Forestedge Winery in LaPorte, Minnesota. We drove from there to the Itasca State Park and got to see the Mississippi Headwaters.
That was really cool, but we’re going to tell you first what our experience was like at the winery because that was a lot of fun. Here you go, Michael.
Michael: This is a unique winery in that it was the only one down the road. Usually, they seem to be clustered in five to 10 wineries, and we were really blessed to come up on this place. One of the unique things is it has a beautiful outdoor setting with lots of plants, flowers as you come into the door, they had local band. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a band, but there were some couple of ladies playing the French horn, which was really unique, and there were people sitting outside having a glass of wine, so that was a nice atmosphere to drive up. Speaking of driving up, it was somewhat normal, but you could probably get class Bs, Cs, and maybe if you’re really a great driver, a class A.
We parked in the back. Inside of their shop, they had lots of wine for sale, lots of souvenirs, and shirts, and hats, and we bought some of those, but interesting, again, this is very unique up here in the North, they have a lot of berry wines. The owner, Steve mentioned that all of his wines are from a combination of berries, and apples, and plums, and so we did a tasting of the various wine. He gave us seven tastings, on which for me was more than enough, and they were combinations of apple, and chokeberries, and cranberries, and plums, and very unique. I found one that I really enjoyed, but you really have to have a different taste for berry wines, and that’s the nice thing about Harvest Hosts. They’re all over the place, you can go into various wineries, and where you might see this wine sitting on the shelf at your local store, liquor store, et cetera, you might bypass it, but at least what we get a chance to do is stay overnight and taste the local vineyards around the nation.
I’m really, really excited about Harvest Hosts and excited to see how many other places we can discover as we travel down the road.
Winnie Dam COE Campground
Louisa: Speaking about traveling on down the road, the next day, we went toward the Winnie Dam Campground. This is a Corps of Engineers park, and it was really, really fun. It’s near Deer River, which was probably 20-minute drive, even more East, but we came in from the West. We found it along the way. We’re using our Campendium app, and it was $24 a night.
I called and made the reservations about a week before. They had plenty of sites they told me, and with our National Park Senior Pas, that Golden Age Pass that Michael talked about earlier, it was only $12, and I really enjoyed this campground because first of all, it had lots of space between each of the different RVs, and there weren’t a lot of people in there. There were only probably 22 sites in the entire place. They had showers that were private, and probably almost brand new, so it was a very nice experience taking a shower. Then, you could walk around to the part with the water.
We were on site number three, and you could walk down to where all the kids were playing in the water, fishing. That was fun, but we were not right on the water, so that was disappointing. If you can hear that noise in the background, a ship is now going through the Lift Bridge here in Duluth, so we’re going to stop this for just a second while that happens. Okay. That ship has gone through, and we’ll tell you all about that next week in next week’s episode, so make sure you stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, we’re going to finish talking about the Winnie Dam Campground, which was near Deer River, Minnesota, and it was a Corps of Engineer park, so Michael, what do you think about it?
Michael: One of the things I loved about it in addition to a beautiful small Corps of Engineers Park is it was located close to many, many hiking trails in the national forest. National forest around that area is called the Chippewa National Forest. Speaking with one of the visitors center guides, they said they had about at least 150 miles of trails in this forest. We went on the Simpson Creek Trail, and it was majestic. It was rural.
It was quiet. We didn’t see another person on the trail, and it just went on and on and on, until we decided to turn around, so our turnaround spot was about 2.45 miles into the trail, and we loop back, but you could have gone on and on and on and on until you were exhausted. Beautiful, lush, green, quiet, serene. We only saw little, small frogs, but we were told there were all kinds of critters out there. The one big encounter we had where mosquitoes.
Now, to me, it’s late in the year, and the visitors guide said,
“Oh, the mosquito count is really low now,” but from the moment we stepped foot on the Simpson Creek Trail, we were inundated by mosquitoes. Luckily, we had our spray with us, and that helped a lot, but I still received a bunch of bites. This is part of hiking, and you got to be prepared when you go hiking with your water, your backpack, your food, and we always carry all those hiking poles. Also, we take things to keep our bikes down also, but it was a beautiful hike, and if you’re ever in the Deer River area of Minnesota, really recommend hiking down the Simpson Creek Trail.
Louisa: Yup. That was a really fun hike, but we didn’t find any vegan food in and around the area. The only restaurant that we were able to find some vegan eats this last week was during our stay at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the FamCamp over there, and we drove into Grand Forks, which actually, there are two Grand Forks. There’s a Grand Forks, North Dakota, and an East Grand Forks, Minnesota, so we are right on the border. Michael will tell you all about the restaurant that we stopped in at as soon as we get back from this break.
Vegan Eats – Japanese Steakhouse
Michael: I found Sakura Japanese Steakhouse Restaurant in downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota using our HappyCow app. Now, once again, North Dakota isn’t known for their many, many vegan restaurants. Matter of fact, HappyCow only listed two, and so we said, “Well, let’s see what we can do,” so we decided to drive downtown, and we found this little quaint, little place. As we went in, we asked the waitress, “Do you have any vegan options?” She said, “Of course we do,” and they said they could make a sushi with vegetable options, and we mentioned that it looked like they were perhaps using a fish sauce, and she said, “No worries. We’ll omit the fish sauce and make sure that there are no meat products in your sushi,” so I ended up having my …
I had two types of sushi for lunch. The first one was really delicious. It was fried sweet potato with a little vegetable inside. Then, my second type of sushi was a mixed vegetable sushi, which was wrapped with a seaweed wrapping with my rice, and both of them were delightful, delicious, and that’s how we go about doing it. When we’re in these real, strange, I won’t call it strange places, but places that don’t have vegan options, and certainly, you really have to look, you really have to work with the restaurant and make sure that they understand what your dietary needs are.
Louisa: Ha-ha, strange places. It’s because we’re from the California, Texas side, where we have lots of vegan options, but when you’re over here in North Dakota, we do have to make do, and yes, mine was basically the California roll. It had rice and cucumbers and the seaweed wrap, so it wasn’t that tasty, but if you’re hungry and in a pinch, you could always go to the Japanese Steakhouse and ask for the sushi rolls, so it was okay.
Vegan Eats at Home
Because we don’t get to find vegan options all around the country, we do want to tell you a little bit about what we find to eat in our own refrigerator, so we go to the local grocery store and we look for Gardein. This is a product that is all vegan all the time, and I love the burger patties, but they can’t always be found.
Sometimes you go through the frozen food section, and you can see the Boca burgers. Those are not vegan. They have egg whites or some other kind of cheese stuff in it, so you have to be very careful. Also, the other kinds of healthy choice kinds of things that say they are vegetarian, if they don’t say vegan, they are not usually vegan, so read your labels and know that we like to have those on hand for, on the way when we stop at a rest stop for lunch, we can turn on the generator, pop one of those in the microwave, or if we don’t want to turn on the microwave and the generator, then we might have some hummus on a wrap. Michael, will you tell us one of the favorite kind of wraps that we have in the refrigerator right now?
Michael: One of my new favorite wraps is called Flatout MultiGrain Flatbread with Flax. It has 100 calories, and it also has eight grams of fiber per wrap. That’s a lot of fiber just the wrap. Then, we fill it with wonderful vegan options like hummus. I love the greens, and one of my favorite greens is arugula, kale, so we’ll add that in there.
Then often, I’ll use things like leftover peppers from the night before. The other wraps we’ll use, but it’s just been difficult to find them up here in the far North, are Ezekiel wraps. They have just tons of fresh grains in them, and no oil, but those are the two wraps that we’ll carry all the time, and it’s quick, easy. I usually will warm the flatbreads out or the wrap out in our microwave or on the grill, and they are ready to go within five minutes, and just wonderful, nutritious vegan and good for your health.
Louisa: Hopefully, this gives you some new ideas on what to have for lunch or a quick snack if you are on the road and need to have something for your healthy lunch. That’s it for the vegan eats for this time, but when we return to the podcast, we’re going to tell you all about some of the animal rights activities that we got involved with in and around Minot, so stay tuned. We’re back. Thank you for joining us again. I want to tell you a little bit about what we did for some animal rights activities while we were in North Dakota, which you might say, “What is going on up there?”
Well, there’s not a lot going on up here. I couldn’t find any Anonymous for the Voiceless cubes going on. I couldn’t even find a chapter, but I did go to the people in charge of the Family Motor Coach Association Convention here at the North Dakota Fairgrounds because I wanted to file a formal complaint about the fact that they were allowing a person by the name of Daryl to have pig races at the convention!
Well, pig races are exploiting pigs, and so I as a vegan knew that I could not just sit back and let that happen without them knowing that I didn’t approve. I went up to the people at the convention and lodged my complaint, and then we went over to watch the race because I wanted to witness what really goes on.
Of course, we got there 10 minutes late, and the races were over, but that didn’t mean that the session was over because the carnival guy, which is Daryl, he just went on and on about how wonderful this was and how great the pigs are, and they race three times a day for about three weeks, and yada, yada, yada, and somebody else yells out, “Bacon, and this is wonderful,” and so I went over to his daughter who was selling T-shirts on the side at this point, and I asked if I could see the pigs. She said, “Of course.” Of course, I didn’t wear any of my vegan shirts or animal rights shirts, so they didn’t know what I was, so that was okay. I went into the trailer, and I got to pet the pigs, and I got to take pictures of the pigs. Then, I asked her, I said, “So what happens to these little pigs that are done racing because your dad said that they would be done racing in about a week?”
She said, “Oh, they just go back to our farm, and then they’re sold off to other people who want to butcher them and have them for meals.” I said,
“Oh, don’t you ever get attached to these little piggies?” She said,
“Oh, yes, I do, but you know, that’s the life up here.” I said,
“What do you mean that’s the life up here?” She goes,
“Well, people like to eat the pigs,” and I said,
“Do you mean to tell me that you value taste over the pig’s life?”
She just looked at me and she said,
“Yeah. Quite frankly, yeah,” and so at least I planted a little seed. This is North Dakota. She probably has never run into a vegan in her life, nor has she ever had any desire to have a conversation with one. The fact that I at least pointed out that she was valuing a taste for pork and ham over the life of a pig, at least maybe she’s going to have that thought if she ever hears it again, but that was my way of having some vegan outreach activity at the North Dakota Fairground.
RVegans Chapter of the FMCA
What was really exciting was I was able to get together with a group of people who wanted to join a chapter that doesn’t exist in the Family Motor Coach Association, so we decided to create our own group. We are calling it RVegans, which is the name of a Facebook group that was already started by a lady named Dory. She has allowed me to become an admin on this group.
It’s RVegans Facebook group, and what you need to do if you want to join it, it’s a closed group right at the moment, so we’re just letting people join it if they ask us. You can go to our Instagram @heaveninaclassc, and send me a comment or a DM there saying, “Yes, I want to join your RVegans Facebook group. Then you get to see all the different kinds of things that we eat along the way. RVers get to post things there, too, so that could be really fun to get to meet other people who are in RVs or eating vegan-like, and needing some tips or tricks or just want to help out some other people. We made this chapter with the Family Motor Coach Association. We filed the paperwork.
I got seven other people to sign the petition so that we could start it, and that means that as we travel around the country, we get to say,
“Let’s meet up here and let’s join the community and feed some homeless people or some people in need a whole food, plant-based meal,” which is what we did while we were in Minot. We found the YWCA. I called them up and said,
“Hey, we are some RVers. We’d like to provide a lunch or dinner for your people there who are staying there.” She said,
“Oh, of course, we’d love it.”
Last week, we might have talked about this, but I really want to say it again, we spent $86 and fed 20 people spaghetti with lots of vegetables, and that paid for the fruits that we put together for a fruit salad for dessert and the whipped cream on top. All vegan, of course. Then, oh, I forgot, we had the garlic bread, so I bought vegan butter and we put garlic salt on it, and it was the best garlic bread I’ve had in a really long time.
I don’t usually eat that, but it was a treat, and so we all enjoyed it. Everybody who ate it, we had 20 people eating it, they all said, “Hey, this is the best food they’ve had in a long time, and my goodness, they were surprised it was vegan, and they didn’t know that vegan food could taste so good.”
That was our way of planting seeds about being vegan, and of course raising awareness about, it’s all about the animals. That about wraps up the podcast for this week. We hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any tips, or tricks, or ideas, or how to make this even better, you can go to our website at www.vegansonamission.com, or you can go to our Instagram page, that’s @heaveninaclassc. Leave a comment there. Join us in a discussion. We love to hear from you, so have a great day, and remember to 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.