Sanctuary Road Trip 2021: Day 1

For those of you who follow me on social media (the links are in the top-right corner of my blog), you probably saw me mention how I was planning to go to Zimbabwe this month for two weeks to volunteer at a wildlife conservancy (with rhinos, elephants, and big cats, oh my!). Obviously, I was very excited and had long wanted a follow-up volunteer travel experience to my trips to Fiji (2015) and Thailand (2017). And, my last time overseas was in January 2019, to Israel on the Birthright trip. I had to cancel my originally-scheduled  trip to Bolivia last May (for 2-3 weeks) at a wildlife rescue, and I was beyond upset about that, although at that time everyone was cancelling their vacations due to COVID. I’d thought that things would be okay, at least travel-wise, by October 2021, and while many of us are vaccinated, many of those overseas — including in Zimbabwe — are not, and there was the possibility of my needing to quarantine there when I arrived and/or when I returned to the U.S. I didn’t want to take that chance; thankfully, I hadn’t spent that much money, although I still haven’t received money from my travel insurance claim (I guess that takes a while).

So, instead of this, I have decided to embark on an animal sanctuary tour, primarily of NY, and also making stops in VT and MA before turning home to RI. Here’s my itinerary, which is subject to change based on any number of factors beyond my control:

-Yesterday, 10/14: Driving to Highland, NY to stay at an Airbnb for two nights (more on that day below)

-Today, 10/15: Drive to and volunteer at Woodstock Sanctuary in High Falls, NY (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.); return to Highland and figure out dinner 

-Saturday, 10/16: Drive to and visit Catskill Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY (11 a.m. tour); drive to Dundee, NY to stay at a vegan Airbnb (this is a long drive, so I’m hoping to find someplace to stop in between)

-Sunday, 10/17: Maybe explore the Watkins Glen area before visiting Farm Sanctuary (tour at 1 p.m.); using my Unlimited Pass at Regal Arnot to see some movie (not sure what yet); drive to an Airbnb in Redwood, NY 

-Monday, 10/18: Visit Garnsey’s Feral Acres in Chaumont, NY; maybe go to another Regal theatre to see another movie (if the weather’s nice, I won’t want to be inside); drive to and visit Schoharie Creek Sanctuary in Amsterdam, NY and stay at an Airbnb in town

-Tuesday, 10/19: Drive to and visit Vine Sanctuary in Springfield, VT (11 a.m. tour); drive to and visit Lucky Llama Farm Animal Rescue in Oakham, MA; return home to Westerly, RI

So, it’s not a super long trip, although there’s a lot of driving involved. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

First, I drove with my mom to pick up her car at the dealership, where it’d received some repairs and I transferred my stuff from my car to hers; I’d half-jokingly complained that it’d be a schlep to have to move my stuff twice, but of course there really isn’t that much of it. And, why, might you ask, did I need to transfer my personal belongings twice? Well, I’m glad you asked (am I really?): I decided — at the last minute — to rent a car instead of using my nearly 10-year-old Volkswagen Passat, which runs fairly well despite being decently old. You see, the engine malfunction indicator light comes on quite frequently, and I’ve had issues with it in the past, in that it’d altogether stop while waiting for a light or something, and I’d also never taken it for a road trip like this. (To be fair, I never go on road trips). 

So, as you can imagine, the next stop was to Enterprise in Mystic, CT, and I transferred my stuff once again — this time into a 2021 Toyota Corolla, which is actually a great car. (Someday, though, I’ll have an electric car). I took some time familiarizing myself with the car, which is fairly simple, and even has a backup camera (which my VW doesn’t have). The one problem: I somehow lost a part of the phone holder that I’d be using in the VW and needed to dismantle in order to use in the rental. Unfortunately, that holder doesn’t work without that little piece, so I decided to look for one at Walmart (see below). 

Then, I had a hair appointment at 9:45 a.m. at Hair Unique in Mystic, where I’ve been going for probably over a decade at this point. I’ve seen almost everyone there, and I was happy to see a familiar face this time; I truly like having super-short hair. It suits me, and it’s fairly easy. 

Then, I went to the Mystic Aquarium for a short time; I recently purchased a membership so that I can go whenever I want. You might say: “Well, Alyssa, you’re vegan, so why are you giving money to an organization that places animals in captivity?” Well, whoever you are, I used to work there (twice, in fact, over the past decade or so) as a Guest Services Representative, and I really did enjoy working there, despite having to deal with annoying guests and such. Plus, they treat their animals extremely well, and focus on conservation, research, and education, and even have a Seal Rescue Clinic. There was a big hullabaloo about the recent additions of new belugas to the one-acre exhibit, and I won’t get into that too much, except to say that those belugas came from an over-crowded facility. 

I believe this was Kela, who does the jaw-popping behavior

After that, I wasted some time in Mystic River Park, waiting for Pizzetta to open so that I could order something to go; I love that they have a separate vegan menu, and I was really craving some homemade vegan pizza (I do enjoy the Daiya frozen pizzas, although if you don’t cook them properly, they can taste funky). So, at 12 p.m. I drove through the still-busy downtown Mystic and was able to find a parking spot in the Pizzetta lot. I ordered some vegan nuggets (with dirty gold sauce) as well as a vegan meatless pizza. It sounds like a lot of food, which it is, but I wasn’t planning to eat it all at once. And, you’d think that I’d want to immediately start eating it, which is true, although I was so focused on finding a replacement phone holder that I instead went to the closest Walmart. 

At Walmart, I was able to find multiple options for a phone holder, and settled on a suction cup-style holder in the hopes that it would be fairly easy to set up. Not only was I wrong about that, it doesn’t even work properly, so I may need to get another one if I want to be able to safely see my phone while driving. It got on my nerves quite a bit, but at least the bluetooth works. The struggle was in finding a good way to stop and eat my lunch, which was no longer that warm. I settled on the back of a Stop & Shop parking lot right next to the Walmart, and just ate in my car. It was messy and uncomfortable, but at least I got some food in my system. I probably eat less than half of the food, with the intention of finishing it later. 

And, with that, I was on my way to Highland, NY, the location of my first Airbnb. There’s really not much to say about the drive, aside from the annoyance of the phone holder not working and the the beeping from the rental car when going over a line (it’s usually a useful warning, except when I need to go over the line for whatever reason). Plus, there were definitely stretches when I could’ve used cruise control, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. The car manual wasn’t that helpful, or maybe I needed to look at it again. I aimed to stop at 3 p.m. for that main reason, and also to stretch my legs and to eat some more food. I ended up stopping at a Stop & Shop and just getting a couple food items that I knew’d hold me. Of course, the principal reason for my stoppage there was totally lost on me, so I’m hoping the next time I get in the car for a long time I’m prepared for cruise control. 

I ended up arriving at the Airbnb shortly after 5 p.m., and was greeted by the host, and older gentlemen who’s pretty chill and showed me the attached apartment. I stayed there the rest of the night, getting settled in and just relaxing after my long-sh day of traveling. There’s cable here, which is not something I use too often, although I’m taking advantage of it since I don’t have my Roku (which I use every day when I’m home). The apartment has its own kitchen and a bathroom, although I wish everything was a bit cleaner. That said, it has all the essentials, and I slept well last night, so what’s the problem? 

Look for more posts on my road trip, including about today’s, which involved visiting a sanctuary and volunteering there for several hours.