As graduate student Dave Chalk bites into his peanut butter and honey sandwich, he looks like just another poor college student. Chalk holds up the sandwich and doesn’t hide his disdain for it.
“This is peanut butter and honey, this blows,” Chalk said. “This is called, ‘I’m poor and save my money for better adventures.'”
These adventures have taken him all over the world. From driving to Phoenix at midnight to get a Cornish Pasty, to taking a bus from New York City to spend 16 hours in Philadelphia (eating at three steak sandwich shops), to visiting San Francisco just to visit favorite restaurants, Chalk is a self-described “foodie,” and bases all of his travels around restaurants he would like to visit instead of just getting to a place and having McDonald’s every night.
He travels to San Francisco about three times a year, but admits he has never seen the Golden Gate Bridge, unless you count the opening credits of “Full House.”
“I would say the majority of people travel to see landmarks, whereas I travel to eat food,” Chalk said. “You can experience landmarks through a picture, but you can’t experience food through a picture.”
Chalk, who is known to drive three hours just to get a “Gator Burger” in Randolph, likes to eat different types of foods depending on the location he is staying at.
To help with the expense of traveling, Chalk takes part in CouchSurfing. This is a website community that allows travelers to network with others all over the world and sleep on their couch during trips. Chalk, who has been both a CouchSurfer and hosted CouchSurfers at his house, prefers this method because it gives him a more real view of the place he is staying at.
“With CouchSurfing you get to experience the culture through the eyes of a local rather than through a travel book,” he said.
Although Chalk likes to travel, he is limited to the areas he can visit because of his battle with cancer. Chalk was diagnosed at the age of 16 with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone disease that is found in bone or soft tissue. Since that time, Chalk has been in and out of hospitals and cannot travel anywhere more than two weeks because he constantly has doctor’s appointments. Chalk sees the cancer as something that both inhibits, but also facilitates, his travels. He was able to visit Australia, courtesy of Make A Wish Foundation, and Hawaii from a program based out of Texas.
Kelsey Koenen is a classmate of Chalk’s and is getting her master’s degree in mass communications. Koenen describes Chalk as a genuine and sincere person, someone who means what he says and says what he means. She said Chalk is a patient and easy-going person who doesn’t let the small stuff get to him.
“Dave is the poster boy for ‘there is more than meets the eye,'” Koenen said. “You think you can sum him up after a couple hours of knowing him but you can’t. There’s a lot more there.”
Although his battle with cancer is serious, Chalk is usually the life of the party, dancing on couches or giving toasts in front of people that he has just met. While he doesn’t like talking about himself a lot, Chalk is always open to answer questions about his condition and the treatments that he goes through.
Brandon Riggs, a BYU graduate, has known Chalk since they were both freshmen at BYU. Riggs remembers Chalk before they were close friends as the kid that everyone thought was cool and marched to the beat of his own drum.
“I’ve never known anybody that just lived their life in such an unapologetic way and never passed up the opportunity to do something that they really wanted to do, as long as they knew it was the right thing,” Riggs said. “When you go to a party with Dave it’s like the entire reason for the party is lost and then Dave becomes the party.”
One of Riggs’ memories with Chalk occurred when they were living together last year. Riggs had received a “Fry Daddy” deep frier and the two decided to fry everything in the house, including Kit-Kat bars, spam and marshmallow peeps.
In his travels, Chalk also likes to visit baseball stadiums and has the goal to go to every one in America. Chalk has visited 13 stadiums so far and plans on going to two more this summer. Chalk’s favorite baseball team is the San Diego Padres from his hometown but holds Fenway and Wrigley Fields as his favorite baseball parks. But being the true foodie that he is, there will always be a place in Chalk’s heart for the Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City because they serve the best baked beans he said he’s ever tasted.
“Those beans blew my mind,” Chalk said. “My dad and I each got about three or four servings of them. I would go back just for that.”
For more about Dave Chalk and his travels, visit davechalk.blogspot.com.