The seed was planted early on…

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?

IMG_7017I’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.

Trust your JourneyShe 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.

lookout at Canyonlands National Park
Lookout at Canyonlands National Park.

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. 🙂

– Devon.

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Road Woes…

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.

The photo that had karma catch up with me
The photo that had karma catch up with me

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!

1 yr old rescued shop dog :)
1 yr old rescued shop dog 🙂

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!

My car Smelly Jr jr (don't judge her name) getting new "shoes"
My car Smelly Jr jr (don’t judge her name) getting new “shoes”

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.

– Devon

Salt Lake city and the mighty mighty Bison

The vegan buffalo sandwich!
The vegan buffalo sandwich!
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!

Wandering the streets of Antelope Island
Wandering the streets of Antelope Island

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.

Bison

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!! 🙂

Sunset on Antelope island
Sunset on Antelope island

– Devon

Bison, Bison, BISON!!!

Bison Traffic Jam

Leaving Crazy Horse we finally made our way to Wind Cave National Park where we would be camping out for the next 3 days. This place is easily up there on my top 5 places to visit. This was the only thing left on our list before we started the drive home. We decided to stay away from Custer State Park. Instead we drove along the outside of Custer Park into Wind Cave. The energy there… it’s something else. So calm, so peaceful. This was the perfect place to spend the next few days. We quickly raced to the visitor centre to ask a few questions before camping out. The rangers are SO nice at Wind Cave, answering all our stupid questions. The park is small and a small highway runs through the park. The park campground was near empty, only 3 other campers the first night. We quickly made a fire and settled in for the night knowing when we got up the next morning we would be seeing the famous bison 🙂 I was like a kid on Christmas, so excited I could barely sleep. Having the owls hoot me to sleep helped.

Bison

The next morning it was go time. I rushed J awake even before the sun fully rose, coffee and toast, check. Now, let’s go hiking. We drove down past the visitor centre not knowing where we would be going. We go up a hill, turn the corner, hang a right at the stop sign and BOOM there they are… The bison. Making their way across the green hills and up across the road to their daily mud baths, then into the Black Hills forest surrounding Wind Cave. Hundreds of them… everywhere!! It was like Antelope Island all over again. I was speechless and near tears. The bison just sauntered around like we weren’t even there, no other cars around us, just Jade and I along with HUNDREDS of these animals. They stopped in front of our car, two came right up to the window. I admit I panicked a bit and rolled up the window while J laughed at me. Once there was a break in the road we drove down a few miles until we accidentally left the park, turning around and re-entering the park we round the corner and BOOM again we are in grid lock with the bison. Can’t say either of us were upset by this. We pulled into a look out and turned off the car and just sat with them, for what seemed like an hour. Mothers and their babies walked past us. The leaders of the group, the big, huge males sniffed our car, they knew we were there to just sit with them, not causing any harm. We watched as they bellowed at other cars and jumped out of the way of some assholes who refused to slow down for them. We just sat with them and gave them our time, and respect.

Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park

I can easily spend all day talking about the bison we encountered on this trip. It was exactly what I needed for my soul. Sitting here, going through all the pictures, I feel a sense of calm wash over me, everything is going to be ok. Weird, those lyrics JUST played in my headphones. I guess it will be ok.

J and I went to Wind Cave just for the bison. We were greeted by more prairie dogs, deer, antelope, coyotes etc. all at once. We watched as a coyote stalked the prairie dogs, J telling me we need to let him know he will be eaten but no, this is nature doing it’s thing. The bison walked up and scared the coyote away all while ruining the prairie dog’s home by peeing in it and then rolling around. Prairie dogs have it rough guys. 🙂

View from Camp @ Wind Cave
View from Camp @ Wind Cave

We sat by our campfire just taking in the sights and sounds of Wind Cave. The owls in the forest behind us, the deer roaming the hills while the sun goes down, the crackling fire, the PERFECT rolling clouds and landscape. This was my favourite part of the trip, just sitting at camp with all of nature around us. We often get so side-tracked by life, we don’t get to experience or enjoy this. 3 days in Wind Cave I will remember forever, the bison everyday, greeting us with such delight, the final day we went to go say thank you and goodbye to them. They were doing their morning walk to the forest across the road. Today was a little different, we pulled off to the side of the road and just watched as the mothers and their babies walked up to the car. The babies playing right beside us, jumping and kicking in the air having the time of their lives while we watched. The mothers let this happen, they know, we knew. It was a peaceful moment we will both remember forever.

Mama/Baby

I drove out of Wind Cave extremely relaxed, ready to take on the world. I was commenting to Jade as we made the last uphill decent towards the gates that this trip really changed how I look at things. I then slowed the car through the prairie dog maze and stopped, yelling that there were TWO bison at the top of the hill just standing there. We both looked over and Jade said, “Oh yeah! There they are!”, then got out her camera for when we got to the top of the hill. When we got there, there were no bison to be found… I swear up and down they were there, in a park full of rolling hills and far away forests it’s hard to miss TWO 1500 lb creatures. Were they there?? Or was it another “Jessie” instance?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe it was some of that “Canada Magic” we’ve been told we have. 🙂

– Devon

Memphis Part Deux: GRACELAND!!!

Welcome For as long as I can remember, I have been an Elvis fan. When I was a child, my mum used to tell me stories about her & her sisters staying up past their bedtime to watch Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. In my teens, people started buying me Elvis collectibles for my birthday & Christmas. My mum gave me an Elvis calendar every year. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I do not live in an Elvis shrine. Devon would kill me! I haven’t been travelling long, I only started vacationing six years ago. A dream trip of mine has always been to go to Memphis, to visit Graceland.

About a year ago, Devon started dropping hints about finally knowing where to take me & that I’d never guess where. She told everybody about it, constantly teasing me by withholding all clues as to the destination. Even my mum told her it was impossible to give me any hints without giving it away. When she finally told me that it was a trip to Memphis to go Graceland, it took all of my energy to not lose it & jump up and down with excitement.

With minimal planning, the only thing that was set in stone were our Graceland tour tickets, everything else was up in the air. Once we made the drive down to Memphis, we were a few days early so we took one day to rest and another to explore the city itself. Then, it was finally time to see the one place I’ve always dreamt of visiting… Graceland. While at dinner the night before, Devon was talking to her friend Lisa and they were trying to figure out why it was called Graceland and not “Lisa-land” seeing how Elvis LOVED his daughter. These two crack me up, but I prayed to the baby jesus Devon would not ask this the day of the tour.

Waking up early, we drove over to the parking lot & walked the pathway to the ticket office. Standing in front of the window, the very nice ladies behind the counter could not locate our reservations. Devon’s name was locked in the system. We had stopped by the ticket booth the day before and changed our tour time from 12:30pm to 9:00am. Devon understood the technical issue & the three ladies assisting her assured her that all would end well. Unable to listen to the conversation, I’ll admit, I panicked a bit. There was a small part of me that thought, “Amazing, we’re here & our tickets are lost. Crap.” If it weren’t for the televisions on the wall playing Elvis concert footage & Devon staying calm and knowing what was happening, I just might have pitched a fit.

Finally, the issue was resolved and we were handed our tickets & VIP passes. The well oiled machine that is Elvis Presley Enterprises was impressive to see in action. We get ushered into groups, then off to a green screen where an employee takes our picture. Back to the group, we’re then led out to another line where they do bag checks. Not having any bags, we once again returned to the group & were then handed our headsets for the audio tour. It was hard not to feel a little bit like cattle with the way the employees move you about. Devon insisted on mooing like a cow while this took place, at least she got a few laughs from others in our group. (Blue hairs LOVE Devon, she must be a Golden Girl at heart.)

We boarded a shuttle, drove across Elvis Presley Boulevard, through the famous music gates & up the long driveway to Graceland. Before the tour, years before, I had already known that Graceland itself is modest in size. Several people on the shuttle remarked that it was smaller than they thought.

Looking up at the mansion

Arriving behind the mansion, just before the groundskeepers garage, we unloaded and walked back around to the front. Taking a few photos of the famous facade, the tour guide started with some information about the property & the house itself. Then she opens the door and says “Welcome to Graceland” & Devon starts humming the Jurassic Park theme behind me and again has people in stitches. Whatever keeps her occupied I guess. You’re left to start a self guided tour with the headset providing you with facts & curios along the way. I must admit, I was a bit nervous that Devon would do or say something to embarrass me but the tour had just started, anything was possible.

The tour itself is pretty cool. You have access to the main entryway & are able to walk through the hallways freely. Each room is lush in colour & very distinct in individual design. Every room is roped off & you have no access to the second floor at all. This was the same when Elvis was alive. It was off limits then to all but a few and out of respect they honour Elvis’ privacy by keeping it that way. On the way down to Memphis, Devon kept telling me how she was going to try and go up to the second floor. Now standing at the foot of the stairs, I was beyond relieved when Devon realized that it was impossible for her to attempt ascending the stairs with all of the tour guides & guards around.

Devon so wanted to run past the rope!
Devon so wanted to run past the rope!

There’s no use of flash photography in Graceland & they use such low, yellow hued lighting that it’s actually quite hard to get good photos. That didn’t stop everyone from furiously clicking away though. I noticed a few minutes into the tour that my headset wasn’t working properly. Devon offered hers to me, she didn’t seem like she was paying much attention to it anyways. She was more interested in people watching and laughing at the tourists. (That’s love.) We stopped at every room, every hallway, every framed picture hung on the walls, taking photos each time. We got to see every cool room available to the public. The living room, the music room, the dining room, the kitchen & the jungle room. Then there’s downstairs. The tv room & the pool room. While standing in the pool room, we marveled at an older southern woman who was very serious when she remarked that Elvis had such style and flare and that she would love to do a room in the same fashion. The pool room’s walls and ceiling are covered in over 300 feet of fabric. The look on Devon’s face said it all. I had to bite my cheek to keep myself from laughing out loud. Devon was egging the lady on saying she SHOULD do it and she was in the design business, she’s seen it done before. That lady quipped to her husband that they would be doing this when they got home. I wonder if she really did it?… Once you’re done inside the mansion the tour moves outside to the back yard.

Fabric EVERYWHERE. Even on the roof.
Fabric EVERYWHERE. Even on the roof.

Grammy Award You get to see Elvis’ car port & Vernon’s office in the garage. There’s the smokehouse that Elvis converted into a firing range & then you walk along a path way to the corrals with his horses (one is an off-spring from Elvis’ original horses and the others are all rescues). From there you go to the trophy room, which is exactly what it sounds like. A large building displaying a massive amount of gold records & many more of Elvis’ numerous awards, including his three Grammy awards. Part of the building also houses some of his more famous outfits, like his wedding suit & several movie suits too. Once done there, you walk down another short path to the racket ball court. Built for $300,000 in the 70s when Elvis took up the sport, it houses a pinball machine & other parlour games. Then there’s a lounge area, where Elvis played two songs on the piano the morning he died. Inside the court itself, it’s been converted into more space for even more awards & recognition as well as some of his famous jumpsuits.

Where Elvis played his last two songs ever.
Where Elvis played his last two songs ever.
Walking out of the racket ball court, you get to stop & take more photos of the the horses in the paddock before making the final walk around the grounds, to the meditation garden & Elvis’ final resting place.

The meditation garden is beautiful. The air is tranquil, there with the marble statue of Jesus & the Italian themed marble fountain. This is the part of the tour that everyone seems to take the longest time getting through. Everybody wants a few minutes of quiet reflection with The King. There is a solemn marker in place for his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon. He is actually buried in Tupelo, MS, Elvis’ birth place. Next is the grave of his mother, Gladys, whom he adored. Then his dad, Vernon. Then Elvis himself. Finally, his paternal grandmother Minnie Mae, whom he lovingly referred to as Dodger. After spending some time in the meditation garden, we slowly made our way around the side of the house past the swimming pool & down the driveway toward the front of the house again. Along the way, there are memorials & fan art to view. Once done with the tour, you’re then told to go back to where the shuttle let you off so you can be led into a bonus room in the basement.

Spending some time with the King.
Spending some time with the King.

A tour guide opens the door to the bonus basement room and you’re immediately taken back in time to the late 60s/early 70s. This is a special exhibit designed by Lisa Marie, essentially, her father through her eyes. The dated yellow & white wall paper once adorned the walls of her nursery. Her crib & several other mementos from her birth & childhood are set up around the room along with some of Lisa’s favourite items of her Dad’s. She had his personal office brought down into the room and reassembled, as well as his wardrobe. Normally you wouldn’t have access to these things as they’re from the second floor and very much off limits. Walking around the rest of the mansion, you do get the feeling that a presence is around. You can feel an energy in the air. Looking through each display & room, you can see his taste in decor & style. And while the jumpsuits are beautiful, you also understand that they are costumes (Devon tried in vein to buy me one to walk the dog in, I was not amused). However, walking through the bonus room you feel something different. You’re viewing his wardrobe, things he wore every day. You’re looking at his personal tote that never left his side when traveling. You get to take pictures of his personal books that he took everywhere. This is definitely the most personal room. One could even argue that it’s as close to viewing his bedroom as you can get. I’m glad that they leave this bonus room for last. Shoes

It’s a good note to leave Graceland on.

Walking back out of the room you’re left in the covered carport where there is water, fans & chairs set up for you to wait in while a shuttle comes up to get you. Once on the shuttle, they take a quick tour of the back forty of the property. Explaining along the way the groundskeeping, some of the equipment, the horses, stables, the extra out buildings & a gate that Elvis used to use as a means of leaving the property in a big black panel van so as to go unnoticed.

The shuttle turns around and starts its way back down the long driveway toward the music gate. After crossing Elvis Presley Boulevard, the tour concludes. From there you continue onto six other exhibits on your own speed.

I am still incredibly shocked that Devon didn’t do or say anything to embarrass me or herself too much. I don’t know how she managed to make it through without a peep. One could argue that she even enjoyed herself. Right before we left for Memphis I had a friend, who we will call “Blanche”, dare me to wear a princess tiara made of Duct Tape outside the gates of Graceland… Challenge accepted!!

Come on Jade, smile :)
Come on Jade, smile 🙂

I could continue on with the remainder of awesomeness, but I really feel like I should keep this to myself in the hope that you’ll be intrigued enough to make the trek out to Tennessee and take the tour yourself. Whether you are an Elvis fan or not, Graceland is one of the most fascinating homes in the world. Everybody should see it up close at least once in their life.

Douchepants in Memphis :)  *walking in memphis*
Douchepants in Memphis 🙂
*walking in memphis*

I did… And it was the most amazing day.

So thank ya, Devon. Uh, thankyouverymuch. 😉

– Jade

Memphis Part Uno.

Quick drive through Texas I’ve always wanted to go to Memphis. It’s a hotbed of sights & sounds. The blues were born there & a lot of the major fashions seen in early rock & roll came from Lansky’s on Beale. Everything from zoot suits to the jive cats of the 70’s, they all came from a little shop at the end of Beale. A lot of major events took place in Memphis as well. Most notably the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis on April 4th, 1968. The Lorraine Motel has since been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum. And of course, the home of their most famous citizen, Elvis Presley.

The drive down to Memphis from home went well. We found several really cool places to stay along the way. One of which was Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, OK. Neither of us had been to Oklahoma before, but it’s a beautiful state. One thing stands out in my mind about Oklahoma. They love their highways manicured. I have never seen such clean highways, and it seems as though they mow their lawns every single day. I never saw one unkempt lawn. Impressive to say the least. The bugs are something else in OK. I’ve only seen bugs that big in one other place in New Mexico. Once, when I went to the washroom, I got smacked in the face with a huge locust bug. It shocked me so much to be hit in the face which such a bug. I stood there in the doorway and watched as the locust hopped out the door and into the night. Devon was SO creeped out by the bugs that she refused to use the washroom alone. I don’t blame her. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a really beautiful park. You drive down a tricky, winding road into the park. You’re surrounded by red rock walls and the canyon itself is alive with vivid colours, trees, grass, everything jumps out at you. The park has several walks and hikes to enjoy. The canyon was used as a winter stop over for the plains indians where they’d bunker down and wait out the snow. It was also a landmark and camping area on the California Road. Settlers going west used this sandstone canyon for collection of fresh water and wagon repairs. On the west side of the canyon, along the California Road Trail, you still can see the wagon ruts. People even come down into the canyon to fish in the river. Though Devon & I were off put by the thick green sludge covering the river. Across from the river up on the hill side was a beautiful patch of St. John’s wort. Devon, being a plant nut, was eager to climb up the hill to pick some but the grade on the hill (cliff) was far too steep even for her. *Note to self: remember climbing gear when out on a nature walk.* This park is also pretty rare in that it offers campers the use of showers. Much needed when on the road. I know we appreciated it. After one night we were back on the road to Memphis. We would make it there in one day’s time. Camping just outside OKC

Once we arrived in Memphis, we ended up camping at Graceland RV & Campsite located conveniently on Elvis Presley Boulevard across the street from Graceland itself. The trip down went a little faster than we thought, with us arriving two days early. We enjoyed camping out the first night after a long day in the car. The next day we went into downtown Memphis & checked out Beale Street. The first place we checked out was A. Schwab’s, the oldest establishment there, opened in 1876. With two floors full of oddities & trinkets, I quickly saw why this store has been popular for over a hundred years. Between the first and second floors is a balcony housing the Beale Street Museum. A mercantile shop, this was a fun place indeed. There’s a little bit of everything here. From clothes, to records, to all sorts of knick knacks. A family owned store for 136 years, their motto is “If you can’t find it at A. Schwab, you’re probably better off without it!” The floor boards were amazing. In fact, the whole building was beautiful. I still remember Devon walking out of the bathroom commenting on just how beautiful even the washroom was. The 100 year old wood was in brilliant shape. Beale is quite funky & truly the birth place of the blues. We walked along Beale for a while and checked out the store fronts. There’s a feeling on Beale that’s hard to describe. It feels like you’re surrounded by soul. Walking down Beale we stopped at Church Park on 4th, checked out the statute of W.C. Handy, then walked down to W.C. Handy’s house on 6th. The house is little more than a tiny shack, no bigger than a shed. It’s surprising to know that this is where the blues were born.

Sun StudiosAfter Beale, it was on to Union Avenue where we went looking for Sun Studio. The record store is just as cool as I thought it would be. Sam Phillips brought the best out of local artists here. It was here in 1953 that Elvis came in to record two songs for his mother, “My Happiness” & “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” for $3.25. Sam Phillips assistant Marion Keisker discovered the young King and pushed Phillips to record with him. There was an exciting buzz inside, as if the energy of all the great music created there still lingered. We decided to forego the tour there, but I’m kind of kicking myself now. When you go inside the recording studio itself, you get to stand in the very spot where Elvis changed the face of music. After Sun Studio, it was down to the mighty Mississippi River to check out the size of it all. An incredible sight to behold. The backdrop of several books & movies, made famous by Mark Twain, the Mississippi is massive. Once an important cog in the cotton trade route, the Mississippi was used as stopping points for restocking troops during the Civil War. Remnants of some forts along the shore still exist. I’m glad we stopped to check out the river. It was truly a marvel.

Pulled "Pork" Sandwich After a long day of checking out the city, we found ourselves completely famished. With help from a friend who emailed us directions, we managed to find some vegan food at this cute hole in the wall called Imagine Cafe. Pulling up to the “restaurant”, the place looked more like a private home than an eatery. Once inside, it became clear that we were inside a restaurant. Waiting for our food, the smells coming from the kitchen were insane. I got mac ‘n’ cheese and a buffalo chick’n sandwich and Devon had a pulled “pork” sandwich.With our food in hand, it was back to our site for the evening. We were serenaded by Elvis as we ate dinner poolside. Turning in for the night, I struggled to sleep.

The next day, it would be Graceland.

– Jade

This Buds for you. :)

With Antelope Island quickly fading in our rearview, we were fast on our way to Salt Lake City, Utah and on to one of Devon’s must see spots, Buds. For months & months I’ve had to listen to Devon and our friend Lisa drone on & on about a vegan buffalo sandwich from Buds in SLC. So much so, that I feared the anticipation of this sandwich would be greater than the actual product. Devon drove will excitement while I read the map with fingers crossed that we wouldn’t be disappointed.

The highways in and around Salt Lake City are both massive & intimidating. They are not for the weak of heart. Moving quickly through the mid morning traffic we searched for this eatery. Buds is actually quite small, with no indoor seating. If you didn’t know where it was, you’d never know it was there or exactly what kind of establishment it is. Buds blends in well with the surrounding buildings, inhabiting one of the beautiful refurbished red brick store fronts. The place isn’t hidden but it’s also not advertising itself with a sandwich board on the sidewalk. It seems to be one of those underground, word of mouth vegan eateries, hiding in plain sight amongst the Mormon schools & book stores. Finally, we see it on the corner of a side street & we start looking for parking. Oddly enough, we find a spot not 10 feet down the road & snap it up before anyone else can.

Do I have any on my face?Walking with purpose toward Buds, there’s a familiar glow around Devon… the kind she gets when she’s near red rock, Moab or really awesome vegan food. Struggling to keep up with her, we finally make it to the door. She pulls the door open with the biggest grin across her face. She doesn’t need to look at the menu, she knows exactly what she wants even before we left for this road trip. The lady at the counter is very bubbly, with a polite demeanour. I never know if people can tell if we’re travelling, Canadian or both. She asks us how our morning is going & we both say good. Devon places our order of two buffalo sandwiches to go & I grab a Hansen’s Natural Grape Soda and start our way back outside to wait for our food.

There were a few people enjoying their food in the outdoor seating, but we chose to stand on the sidewalk & wait. I can actually see Devon vibrating with excitement over this sandwich. After a quick check in with home, via email, we were greeted by the same cheerful woman with our food all wrapped up and ready to go. I think it took all the will power in Devon to not jump up & down and do a happy dance when she was handed her sandwich. Deciding it best to go back to our car and eat while sitting on the grass, we made our way back around the corner and plopped down with our substantial sustenance wrapped smartly in tinfoil.Vegan Buffalo Sandwich

Seated side by side, we both sniff the package of awesome held in our hands. The savoury spices permeate our nostrils with such invitation to chomp down that I was surprised we both found the time to unwrap the sandwich first. It looks like a decent sandwich, one which we’ve attempted to replicate at home. Since I’ve never actually tasted this sandwich, each attempt made in our kitchen tasted amazing to me. I watched Devon as she opened her sandwich slowly and inspected its perfection. Taking photos of both the sandwich & her diving into it, I was amused to see her enjoyment when she announced (through food) that it did, in fact, taste the same. Now it was my turn. Taking my first bite, I was met with amazing flavour packed in a crispy baguette. We spent the next few minutes quietly enjoying our sandwiches while trying to figure out what exactly the contents of it were. I can tell you that it contains fresh house made coleslaw mixed with Ranch dressing & Frank’s Red Hot Sauce as a base for its buffalo sauce. After that, your guess is as good as mine.Devon stuffing her face

I can also tell you that it is every bit as awesome as Devon & Lisa swore. Should you find yourself in Salt Lake City, vegan & hungry… look up Buds and enjoy! Even if you’re not vegan, you should still do yourself a kindness and try it.

– Jade