It’s back to school week!! I don’t even have children (thank god) and I am excited. A couple of my nieces are in kindergarten, one is in grade THREE and my nephew is in pre-school… where did the time go?
I’ve said many times I grew up a little differently than most kids. My parents divorced (for the better, they are now good friends) when I was about 5 and I moved with my mom to this tiny town and eventually moved to an even tinier place called Keats Island. I would take a small boat over to town to attend school, day in and day out. It made for random stories that I look back on fondly. I could even say I miss island life. Being from a coastal city, I remember our gym classes weren’t the “norm”… we would actually have to go outside and RUN 2km each class. We had this forest that wrapped around our school and we would run daily. We would go on snowboarding trips, beach days and even big treks to the big city (Vancouver) for a day of rock climbing.
In about grade 5 or 6 (I can’t remember I had the same teacher both years) we would have Greenpeace come in and talk to our class about the importance of the environment and my teacher would explain to us the meaning of respecting nature and all living things. Ms. Russell was her name. She knew I lived on an island and, more often than not, I would have some weird story about the commute to school. She would do roll call and right before we started class she would ask me about my ride in. Some days there was nothing to report, others, like in the fall or spring, I would tell the class stories of riding the tiny little 20 passenger ferry when pods of orcas would come right up to the windows and peer in the boat. I would talk about the dolphins that played in the wake or that one time the ferry caught on fire (under my mom’s and my seat) or when the ferry hit a “dead head” log sticking out of the water and I went flying the length of the boat, thinking I broke my wrist… see? Different/weird upbringing. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world now that I look back on it.
She would be teaching us geography in class and asking us the capitals of countries and I would jump out of my seat to answer, eagerly waving my arm in the air. Normally I was a pretty quiet kid, but my obsession with traveling started in that class, in Ms. Russell’s class! I would dream of these far away places in other countries; the languages they would speak, the food I could try. I felt, even in Grade 5/6, I needed to see the world. I have only had ONE dream in my life that I hope to accomplish before my time is up and that is to travel to Nepal and set my eyes on Mt. Everest. I didn’t say climb it… I would like to just see it. 🙂
Ms. Russell took us on our first ever climbing experience to Cliffhanger Climbing in Vancouver. (I can’t believe I remember this far back!) I remember my instructor, a shorter girl with spiky hair who many, many years later both her and I learned we knew each other way back when. We became friends and played in a band together and toured North America. (Small world, eh?) Ms. Russell taught me to reach for the stars, to go forth and see the world and experience new things. The best education was to see the world and experience everything it could offer.
She told us of this place she used to kayak on vacation, it was called the “Bay of Fundy” in Nova Scotia. I’ve never been but you bet your ass that place has been on my list of places to see since I was 10 years old.
Ms. Russell, thank you for inspiring me to see and feel the world, to experience it on my own and with others. The best education you can give yourself is to immerse yourself in what you are truly passionate about. I am passionate about travel (we already knew this). I now get to travel the world, taking photos and collecting tattoos along the way!
I’m considering writing that book you always told me I should write. I hope you are well. 🙂
I had left SLC heading south to warmer weather and to a few other places AND surprises. At about 9:30am I hit a gas station for a fill up and was texting a friend about how warm it was outside. She was telling me it was raining back home so of course, being the douche that I am, I FB some photos of the sunny weather I was having and tagged her in them.
Not even one hour later karma was out for me. Driving down the highway from SLC to Vegas I noticed my car shake in a weird fashion then all of a sudden, BOOM, my back passenger tire explodes!! All over the highway is tire “guts” from my car. The car swerves left then right, I’m on the e-brake trying to get it under control. I manage to get the car off the NOT AT ALL busy highway. I flick on my hazards and start looking in my wallet for my AAA card… not there… I’m looking in my glove box when I hear a honk behind me. It’s a flatbed tow truck! YAY! I’ve been saved!
This little old man with an oxygen tank strapped to his back gets out of the truck and wanders over to me. “Seems you need some help, ma’am.” Uh, duh! ☺ I explain I don’t know where I am and DO need the help. It turns out Kevin, old dude’s name, has a shop in the next town over so we get Smelly car up and on the flatbed and off we go. 10 minutes down the road, we hit the town and his gas station/shop.
My car is put up on a lift and his shop hand, a lovely dude named Bruce, gets working. Bruce was an older guy, probably my dad’s age; he had 2 rescue dogs that I played with until the damn POM (with no teeth) bit me. The best part of this story is I had ordered a new credit card before I left for my trip that I had originally planned with a friend and of course it didn’t come in time. I ended up calling my friend Rhonda and she helped me out. I have kickass friends, yo!!! I found out when I got home my new credit card arrived that Wednesday afternoon… go figure!
Bruce and I exchanged road stories while he was fixing my car up. Sometimes you hear of women getting taken advantage of in these situations but Kevin and Bruce were AMAZING! Not only did they fix my car, they fixed a couple other potential issues for free, filled up my gas and when I asked what town I was in, gave me 2 free t-shirts saying where… BEAVER, UTAH!
So if you’re ever in Beaver Utah, stop by the Conoco and say hi to Kevin and Bruce, tell them Devon, the tattooed Canadian, sent you.
And also… NEVER EVER tease your friends about the weather and your travels or you’ll end up with karma hitting you back, sorry Ashley.
Yes, I drove to Salt Lake city for a sandwich, don’t judge me. It wasn’t the only reason, I LOVE SLC. The town, the people, even the religion going on in the city. 🙂 I still didn’t really have a destination for my trip so I decided to spend a few days around the SLC area and go camping up at Antelope Island. It was so peaceful.
I got in around 2pm, got my sandwich(es) and made camp. I set off to explore the island some more and was met by these two very lovely students from BYU. We talked roadtrips. I told them the best places to see the bison on the island and soon we parted ways.
I took off to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. Having been to the island once before, I had a good idea where I was heading. I was told by the park ranger earlier that evening that only four other groups were camping on the island that night… that put the head count at about a dozen people on Antelope Island that night, CRAZY!
I must say watching the sunset from the roof of my car was a highlight of the trip. I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up onto the roof of my Honda Fit and just laid there taking in everything around me. No phones, no cameras, no distractions.
Watching the sun setting off in the distance and as I lay there taking in the scene, three bison walked over to my car to sniff it. Remember, I am on the roof sans phone or camera, just watching the sunset. I’m laying flat on the roof of the car so as not to startle the bison, when all of a sudden the three of them move towards the trunk of my
car to give it a sniff (I’m sure they are smelling my dog). I flip over to my stomach ever so calmly so now I am laying the entire length of my car (on the roof). I could have reached out and touched the bison but no, instead I just laid there watching in awe as they sniffed around my car, grunted a few times then wandered off. My heart was RACING. A total Jurassic park moment for me… Cue the music 🙂
After the sun set over the hills, I hopped back into my car and took off for camp. When I ran into those same three bison again, I jumped out of the car and grabbed this photo of them, wished them a peaceful night and back to camp I went. I watched a movie in the car and fell asleep being sure to set my alarm for the sunrise that would be anything but lame. 🙂 Utah, you are one of my favourite states!! 🙂
Our summer road trip was planned around Graceland. That was on Jade’s bucket list and being the amazing girlfriend I am (shhh mom) it was definitely a place I wanted to see with her. We had only 3 planned stops on the road trip; drive through Moab, Utah, Graceland and see wild bison for the first time. I have always been interested in the bison and I’ve never gotten a chance to see them. I was craving a sighting since my last road trip to vegas with a friend where I got that wicked bison tattoo.
My friend suggested Wind Cave park in South Dakota if we were going that way. Well… It was on the list now, after Graceland we cruised up the interstate North past St. Louis MO through one of the worst thunder storms either of us have ever seen. We woke up and hit the road pretty early, 7am I think. The sun was coming up over the highway and it was raining like crazy. Listening to the radio, the music was interrupted with a national weather service message. Both of us have never heard these. It was a severe thunderstorm warning (watch video here) for the exact area we were driving into. We laughed it off but the radio was telling everyone on the road to take cover, people in houses to get in the middle of the houses away from windows and ride it out. I looked at Jade with a bit of panic in my eyes, I said, “Well… let’s look at the animals that are outside. If they are running for cover we will…” Sure enough a couple of horses we saw were bolting for some cover. Ok… the next exit we got off the road with most of the interstate traffic. We ended up sitting at a McDonald’s that had no power until the storm was ridden out. We laughed about the circumstances, and J & I exchanged storm stories. I have MANY storm stories having grown up where I did. Who else can say they’ve been rescued by the coast guard, had a boat catch on fire, have had trees come so close to your house you swore they hit it and had lightening hit your treehouse… lucky me 🙂
The rest of the drive was pretty basic. We felt Missouri sadly wasn’t a state for us. As we drove through it, billboard signs line the highway so much so I felt I wasn’t giving the road enough of my attention. One sign stuck out so much as that’s the only thing we can remember from that state, it read “if you have an abortion, you WILL get cancer” who the fuck puts that on a billboard? I get that abortion is a touchy subject but come on, don’t lump those two together. When we asked about the signs at the local gas stations we were just brushed off. Ok, got it, small town Missouri doesn’t like Devon in her sweats, tattoos showing with a Kum & Go hat on. Gotcha! We continued our drive up to Sioux falls SD. Finally we hit the last state on our things to do before making our way home.
We thought Missouri had some signs, WOW, SD you are filled with them. We drove the ENTIRE state, east to west, and all we saw were these signs for “Wall Drug”. Not knowing what it was, I emailed home to my friend who told us to take this route. Sure enough, it was the store she said we HAD to stop off at, a tourist paradise to pick up souvenirs. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate these stores, but J loves them. Ok… we go. On the way there, we decided to drive through Badlands National Park. We were going to spend a few days there but as we approached the park, I didn’t feel this was our time to explore there. It didn’t feel right. It felt like we were intruding on something big happening within in the park. We took a quick loop towards Badlands Park which would put at us the famous Wall Drug. But first… after filling up on gas and asking for directions (remember the GPS broke right across the border) we were told we HAD to stop off at the prairie dogs and not to worry you would know when you saw them. Boy, did we see them. A giant, six foot tall pink prairie dog statue lets you know you are there.
We pulled in and while stretching our legs, saw it was closed. We were about 2 hours too early. Dammit! We are always too early for things. The people who run the prairie dog store leave out a garbage can full of peanuts and you donate .50 cents and grab a bag and off you go to feed the little guys. They are in a field behind the store. They see you coming, popping their heads up and shouting to each other that those tourist suckers with the food have arrived. Walking excitedly and calm, J and I separate to go spend time with the prairie dogs. They are BEYOND ADORABLE! I wanted to take them all home or at least get a job at this place and feed them all day. J went overboard and bought probably $20 worth of peanuts. I sat on the ground and waited for them to approach, ever so gently taking the peanuts out of your hands. Just J, myself and the prairie dogs. They take them out of your hands, they play “cat & mouse” with you. I think J was even petting a couple of them, a mother and baby. A mother prairie dog was teaching its offspring how to “hunt” for peanuts and they would cautiously walk up to J for treats. These guys made my morning. Feeling a tad home sick that day, it was nice to just sit with some animals for awhile.
Down the winding road we came upon the Badlands National Park ranger station. We paid our fee and entered the park. It’s beautiful… in the “no one else understands its beauty” way. It’s barren, deserted desert roads with scaled rock faces. White, yellow hues, it was ghostly. Not many people seemed to be in the part of the park we were in that day, it was amazing. We hiked a couple trails, took some photos and said to the park we would be back when we were supposed to be back to explore.
Once we left the Badlands we are bombarded with signs for Wall Drug. The time has come. Putting on my “game face”, I get ready to deal with… tourists. When we pull up to Wall Drug, I near threw up, all those people. Shit! I didn’t know what I was walking in to and I think our friend purposely didn’t tell me or I would have avoided it. Thanks, douche. It seems to be some type of outside mall where each store on the inside is connected. Store upon store, each store has the same thing, but different prices. I was so overwhelmed and felt the need to buy something I ended up walking out of the Wall Drug experience with socks and a poncho… WTF?!? J grabbed some t-shirts, she was in heaven, all these stores, all this shopping. Wall Drug is famous for their .5 cent coffee. You go to the cafe, put your donation in a box and fill up on coffee. I had to walk back to the car several times to put things in it, then grab the postcards we mailed off, then the damn coffee cups I kept forgetting. Nothing says road trip like a cheap ass cup of coffee. This I learned on my road trip back in May and now it’s a road trip must, along with Swedish Fish and douchepants. While in Wall Drug I asked a cashier, who seemed more or less ticked off I was even talking to her (damn those tattoos), where a good place to get a salad was. I was really wanted a salad and how hard is it to fuck one up?!? Pretty easy, actually. She said the Dairy Queen had a great salad. Yep, I went hungry in South Dakota too. Having spent 3 hours at Wall Drug we hit the road again. This time up to the Crazy Horse memorial.
We didn’t mean to hit all these things in one day, it just worked out that way. I will say this about Crazy Horse, the visitor centre is AMAZING! So many artifacts donated by the local tribes. We could have spent hours in there but I was not feeling the monument at all. I humoured J for an hour and a half then finally said I had to leave. I know the monument/visitor centre was made for the dude who was making the Crazy Horse monument but I find it terribly offensive that walking into the visitor centre not a single native person was in there to tell the story of Crazy Horse himself. It was a bunch of old white guys walking around acting as if they knew what was going on. I felt terribly insulted. Maybe I’m just an ignorant tourist.
The first day of our crazy road trip started off like any other. Everything packed up & off we went. The first day of our trips are always about distance. Putting distance between us & our lives back home. Washington state is beautiful. The lush green backdrop is a constant reminder of how lucky we are to live in such a vibrant environment. The Pacific Northwest is amazing, hands down. However, if we don’t make it out of Washington on the first day of a road trip, it simply feels like we’re cross border shopping. So we moved like bandits on the run from the law. Making it all the way down into Oregon that first night.
The first hiccup of our trip has to be the moment our “new” GPS decided it would be awesome to crap out on us. It was back to reading a map for me & navigating old school. Having searched the map for a worthy camping site close to the Idaho state line, we saw a state park sign for Anthony Lakes in between La Grande & Baker City OR. Enjoying the 20 mile drive up to the park, we came upon fields of cows who were more than willing to pose for photos & seemed to enjoy the attention. Once we were on the drive up the mountain into the park, we both remarked how similar this felt to Yosemite, but on a smaller scale. The mountain tops were blanketed in mist making the whole drive up there both beautiful & mystical. After arriving atop the mountain we were surprised to see it was a popular destination. We managed to snag a spot away from the groups of families. We then went for a quick walk around the area & found ourselves surrounded by crisp air & vibrant colours. The peak itself, Mount Ireland, was stunning. After a while, what I thought was a campsite we did not want to intrude upon turned out to be one of the lakes, we hiked down to the water to take in the living postcard before us. Every angle was an amazing photograph. There were a few people quietly enjoying the lake, fishing & taking their own photos. Devon picked up some discarded fishing line so it wouldn’t become a hazard to the wildlife. Then, we heard the distinct sound of a base being tuned up. Apparently, there was a wedding reception starting up. With that, it was back to the camp site.
Devon set up the site while I walked down to the camp site host for a bundle of firewood. We enjoyed a quiet dinner with the crackling of the fire pits seemingly in unison. A rather nice lady from the site across ours came over to introduce herself. She saw that we were Canadian and wanted to say hello. A fellow Canadian, we ended up having a lovely chat with her & quickly fell for her beautiful rescue German Shepard. The next morning, I walked over & gave them the remaining firewood we were unable to use up or take with us. Their dog was super sweet & quiet playful. Just seeing her made us miss our Jacke Boy that much more. We said our goodbyes, gave them some advice on travelling back home up to Victoria & started out for the day. A quick stop in historic Baker City OR for coffee & then it was on to Boise ID.
I’ve never been to an REI but I can tell you this, after stopping at the one in Boise, I really want to go back! The employees are so nice, and the product selection is varied & far more cost effective than the items back home. We also stopped in at Whole Foods for some much needed food supplies for our cooler. From there it was on to Salt Lake City, Utah. The drive through Idaho went faster than it has in prior trips. I wish I could tell you that the scenery on the drive through Idaho is unreal but the reality is far more bland. We spent more time watching the roadside for deer than the landscape itself.
After high fiving having crossed into Utah, a state of calm washed over us. It truly feels like a vacation when we hit Utah. The drive through this section is breathtaking as you see the land change colours before your eyes. After consulting the map again for the exit to Antelope Island, Devon saw a sign for it & we started in on our next adventure. Making our way through the small town of Syracuse we found ourselves at the entrance for the Great Salt Lake State Park on Antelope Island. Paying for our entry & campsite, Devon almost drove off in a mad rush to just relax after having driven for 10 hours straight. The park ranger handed us our booklet & our campsite pass then we drove into the park. Devon remarked that the drive in seemed eerily reminiscent of Tsawassen and the drive to the ferries. The first thing we read about Antelope Island is, of course, the antelope that inhabit it, as well as the bison. There are roughly 500-700 head of bison that call the island home. The road ahead forked and we picked the left hand road because Devon read that the bison like to hang out near the water. Not 5 minutes into the drive down this road were we met with 5 bison chilling by the roadside, grazing. The biggest smile took over Devon’s face & it looked like she would cry. These creatures are so massive & gentle. They meander with not a care in the world. We stopped the car, put on the hazards & took as many photos as the bison would let us. There were three to the left of the road on the lakeside & two more to the right of the road. A giant bison lumbered slowly across the street not 5 feet from our car. Both of us slack jawed & awestruck while furiously clicking away on our cameras, the bison had no worries about our presence and took his time crossing the road. I looked over & I felt as though Devon would burst into tears, her eyes reddening, her voice shaky with excitement. We waved at these beautiful creatures, said our thank you’s & made our way down the road a bit more before turning around and heading back down toward the turn off for the campsite. We were assigned campsite #18 and as we drove up into the Bridger Bay campground Devon saw a bison in the distance and quipped, “I’ll bet you he’s at our spot.” Truer words never spoken. As we circled around the site, looking for #18, we slowly pulled up & there he was, sitting there, like an official welcomer to Antelope Island. There he was, this gorgeous animal enjoying a dust bath not 15 feet from our site. We stopped the car, grabbed our cameras and took a handful of pictures of him as he lay there, enjoying the weather. We took a few shots of the sun setting as it tangoed with the low hanging clouds creating this crazy halo above us. Looking back at the bison, he would stay there all night, as if to say, “I get it, we’re cool.” These mammals made peace with mankind long ago & now they live in harmony with the land while we get to share in their beauty. I think that he hung around all night because he knew that we needed him to be there. We appreciated his presence and will continue to be grateful that we got to share his energy all night long.
We set up camp, made a fire & ate beans as our meal while quietly enjoying the bison laying within 20 feet of us. Laying down for the evening, I could not wipe the grin off of my face & I wondered why I was so happy. The moment we set foot on the ground there a calm energy washed over me & stayed the whole time we were on Antelope Island. I kept sitting up, looking for the bison as darkness fell all around. Though hot all night it was a peaceful sleep. We arose the next morning, our new bison friend had moved on. Devon was awoken by a magpie sitting on the post next to our car. He cheerily chirped & sang her awake. Once up for the day, we made a BioLite breakfast of coffee & peanut butter & banana sandwiches. There were several pheasants visiting the surrounding sites. Curious little birds, they walked about looking for food. After packing up, we decided on exploring the island a bit before leaving. We ventured down the roadway & back down the road that first took us to the bison. Sure enough, they were there again. We waited as they marched on past us. This time they galloped past, then settled down & calmly walked across the road. We grabbed a few more photos then carried on our way down the island to the Fielding Garr Ranch. A working ranch for over 100 years before stopping operation in 1981, in modern times, the ranch house is still the oldest building on its original foundation in Utah. We took the self guided tour around the ranch. I enjoyed the simplicity of the 100 year old blacksmithing equipment, while Devon wasn’t much impressed with it having being raised on a farm. Her grandfather had a dairy farm & understood the inner workings of it all while I had to stop & read about everything. She humoured me & let me read each display while she tried to say hello to the horses in the corral. Once we were finished with the tour, it was back into the car & back on the road into Salt Lake City for the most amazing vegan buffalo sandwich I have ever tasted.
I noticed something today; I seem to get tattooed when something big is happening in my life. Either positive or negative. I never really saw that until I was talking to a friend.
On my last Vegas road trip, I learned about giving up control and forgiveness in myself and others. My friend and I got tattoos during this trip as well! I fought with placement of that tattoo; I already have a bunch of meaningless tattoos so I didn’t really know where I would put this one… It was one of many topics on the trip. My friend suggested on my solar plexus! One of the most sensitive places on your body and some also refer to it as the core/center of your being. It was perfect! Made total sense for what we were experiencing on the trip. Now, what tattoo to put there? I had an idea from the start of the trip as to what to get. But it wasn’t until hours before the appointment that I finally decided. Jade had given both my friend and I presents of Buffalo Sage for the trip (to keep us safe). She had given me some before I left and placed some in the car for my friend. The theme of buffalo from the start was everywhere, from the sage to stories in the car, food, everywhere!
Then my road trip friend was telling me stories of the buffalo on our drive. I didn’t know much of the history of them so I listened with open ears.
When the white man came over from Europe they nearly eradicated the buffalo/bison population. It went from in the millions to just a few thousand!! Even though this mass slaughter and harvesting of fur and meat happened, the buffalo always carried on. In the animal kingdom animals don’t hold onto grudges, they hash out the problems and move on. Why can’t we? Why can’t I? My friend also told me of her encounters with the buffalo. She spoke of seeing captured buffalo as opposed to a free/wild one. The hurt and sorrow and soullessness of the captured ones compared to the calm, peaceful ones of the wild. My heart aches for the captured!
This species has almost been wiped out by the greed and disrespect of mankind and yet it forgives. It lives in harmony with the people of the earth and holds no grudges. I haven’t seen a wild buffalo yet but I WILL on this upcoming trip. This is my mission.
I’ve needed to hear these stories for a while. I’ve learned to heal and forgive myself. Just be in the moment and appreciate it all.
The buffalo tattoo was EXACTLY what I needed and so fitting ON THIS TRIP as well! It’s my favourite of all the tattoos I have and holds the most meaning. Maybe because I got it in Vegas on a killer road trip, maybe because I was with one of my closest friends and there was a reason these stories came up. Maybe it was all meant to be… It really was all meant to be!
Getting the work done was as though I was purging out everything negative in me while the artist was plunging ink into my body and soul.
A tattoo is, in itself, a healing process even before it begins to heal physically.