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I love the serendipitous moments that often end up defining a travel experience. I was lucky enough to have one earlier this week after finishing a long day of flying from New York to Sacramento to Los Angeles, and then finally, to Salt Lake City.

I was tired. But it was the last day of summer, and the weather was fine, and I needed to find some food — so I went for a walk through downtown.

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For me, having an overnight in Salt Lake City is in some ways like coming back home. Jim and I lived there for a little over a year, just over a year ago. This is where we first began our city hikes, or at least coined the term, as we explored every nook and cranny the city had to offer for hours on end. Like many mid sized cities, Salt Lake has an excellent and affordable food scene. And I knew exactly where I wanted to grab a bite to eat — the taco stand on 400 W in front of The Gateway.

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Dinner was delicious, and exactly what I wanted.

It would have been a perfectly satisfying end to my evening, but something in the summer air kept me wide awake and in the mood to rediscover. So after eating, I began an evening stroll — through The Gateway, along South Temple, and the fragrant gardens at Temple Square. It was a lovely balmy evening and the flowers’ heady aromas were intoxicating.

While lingering in the gardens, I suddenly remembered that Jim wanted to know how the construction of the new high rise and Eccles Theater were coming along. So I left Temple Square and headed down Main Street.

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As I neared the Walker Tower, I heard trumpets echoing up from the south against the buildings.

The sounds intrigued me and drew me onward. What could it possibly be? It sounded live. I rounded a corner and was hit hard — dah dant da — with the full sound of boogie-woogie big band jazz.

People milled around food trucks on the periphery of an outdoor amphitheater abuzz with activity. Energetic chatters lounged on lawn chairs while a cluster of dancers cut a rug on a make-shift dance floor at the base of the stage. We were surrounded by the twinkling lights of downtown and the twilight starts above, but it still somehow felt cozy and casual. The music connected us all.

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I took a seat on a stair step on the sidelines to soak up the spontaneous turn my night had taken. As I basked in the beat of a jazzed-up Pharrell cover, a hand extended in my direction. I looked up confused for just a moment before realizing I was being invited to dance.

My first instinct was to politely decline — I had no idea who this person was and I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to keep up. But then I thought, this is exactly the moment of the night, and I need to be open to it.

So I smiled and accepted. Next thing I knew I was being twirled, dipped, and even sometimes tossed on the dance floor. It was a blast!

Near the end of the night, The Wasatch Jazz Project slowed it down with the classic George Gershwin tune, Summertime. I sat this one out, and reflected on this most recent stroke of serendipity my travels had given me. It was the perfect end to the last day of summer.

Here’s a clip from Summertime. Enjoy.

—  Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

2 comments

  1. Hi Laura,
    I just discovered your article about my band, the Wasatch Jazz Project!!! What a great article and glad you had fun. The next time you are in SLC to hear us, come back stage and meet the band! Hope others will head down to the Gallivan this summer to hear us. Thanks again for your great article. Carol Steffens, Founder, Leader, Artistic Director. WJP Big Band

    1. Thanks so much Carol! Sounds awesome. I’ll try to get more SLC overnights this summer, and will definitely reach out if I’m coming your way. Your band was fantastic!

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