Saturday, September 2, 2017
We’ve got no particular plans for today, but we continue our habit of being up by 7:00 AM. Ben’s use of the larger air mattress has given him (and by extention us) a more restful sleep.
The campers in the site next to us have brought a young kitten with them. This cat has spent most of its time in the car, meowing its little head off. Sarah notices this, and it makes me sad.
The four of us make our way to the showers, where I notice that not only the showers but the washrooms have curtains rather than doors. I think I like it; it’s easy to keep clean and free of mold.
I’ve changed into a pair of shorts and the T-shirt I bought from Mark earlier in the week. The back of the shirt says “Will Run for Pie”, and I am on a mission to eat pie while wearing that shirt. I refuse to be denied!
I’m in the tent, rolling sleeping bags, when a woman comes by our camp site to see if anyone has lost a bracelet. Turns out, it was mine! I had placed the bracelet Dad gave me for my birthday beside my toiletry bag and promptly forgotten about it. I thank her profusely for returning it to me, and the four of us meet our campsite neighbors with the kitten. The kids don’t seem to care that I can’t see, as I snuggle the little ball of kitten fluff. I think of Wolfie, who’s still growing, and remember Dash, who’s the only kitty I’ve ever had be that small. I’m missing them more fiercely than ever, and as much fun as I’m having, I just want to go home.
We pack up the roof bag for the last time, putting all of our camping gear on the roof and cramming our backpacks in the trunk. Dwight wonders why we haven’t always done this, and I don’t have a good answer for him.
We hit the road back to Bozeman, and hoshi is still holding her own. we definitely need to visit a mechanic when we get back to Edmonton, but the immediate crisis is over.
With Jenny, it’s not going so well. We pull up in front of Cafe M, and she limps slightly as we walk to the door. Sarah notices, too, and makes a concerned comment. I wonder if it’s because her paws are tender from the heat of yesterday, or if it’s something else. Sarah has trained with horses for years and describes where she sees the origin of the limp. Thankfully it’s not her hips, but her hock. I worry about my guide, who wears her big open Labrador heart on her sleeve. For her to show this level of pain breaks my heart.
We enter the cafe, and I immediately smell something lemony. Could this be pie? might I have pie with my breakfast and complete my mission of getting a picture of my eating pie while wearing this awesome shirt?
It’s not pie.
We order breakfast – surprisingly large and savory portions – with our coffee, and chat about what we’d like to do in Bozeman today… and the party we’re going to throw in the hotel room tonight. At one point, I get up to take Jenny outside. her limp is more noticeable the longer we walk. I’m not gone for more than ten minutes, and when I come back inside, ben’s gone (for some reason he never shared with me) to go get more money out of the bank machine. Little matter that I have plenty of cash with me; he HAD to get more, and get charged through the nose by our bank for the privilege. I’m more annoyed than I should be. I’m having so much fun here, but I seriously just want to go home, and home has never felt so close – just within my grasp – and yet so far away. It all boils over into an emotional overreaction that makes me feel like crap.
We finish our coffees and walk down E Main St. We pop into brick buildings, new and old. Dwight buys a nice pair of pants – “with ALL the pockets!” he gushes. At every place we stop, I massage Jenny’s hind leg near her hip. She seems to feel better, and she walks a little smoother each time. Sarah notices, too,and thinks that she – like us – is stiff and sore from so many hours curled up in the car, but will otherwise be fine.
Then we pop into the Montana Gift Corral. We are greeted warmly and offered coffee, and I just know I could spend hours here. I browse around for T-shirts, and find one that’s the softest fabric. It’s black, with a saying I love on the front. I zip into the washroom to try it on, and it fits nicely. I come out to the front, triumphant, and Ben shows me what he’s found.
He’s found a small plaque with a picture of a black Lab that says “Never camp Alone”. My eyes well with tears as the poignancy of this whole week, camping with this beautiful guide, hits me full force.
I’m standing at the counter, paying for my T-shirt, when Ben tells me he’d like to give me a bracelet. It caught Sarah’s eye, and Ben agreed it looks gorgeous. I try it on. I like it a lot, but it fits a little big, and I worry about the clasp staying closed and the bracelet remaining on my wrist. The words don’t come out right; I don’t want Ben and Sarah to think I don’t appreciate it – because I do! – but it doesn’t quite suit me. At a loss, I say only that I worry about it staying on my hand because of its size and my wrist because of the clasp. The bracelet is purchased along with the plaque, and once again, I feel like crap.
We walk up and down East Main Street, as the day heats up and smoke lingers in the air from ever-present wildfires. Ben seems equally as edgy as I feel, because without warning he goes off to be alone for a few minutes and the three of us continue browsing Main Street. When ben meets up with us a few minutes later, we come across a small park, and sit down to wait a few minutes before making our way to a tattoo parlor that opens at noon. We get to that place only to find them closed. Sarah finds another one up the block, and she walks down there as we make our way back to the car. Less than 30 minutes later, we pick up a newly-tattooed Sarah and hit the road for our hotel.
Bozeman, MT – Izaak Walton Inn
Distance: 312 miles (502 km)
Travel Time: 6 hours (including stops)
We’re all weary and exhausted. Bozeman has been just as hot as Billings was yesterday. We just want to get to the hotel, let our hair down, and PARTY!
The miles go by as we fly down the interstates. When we reach Butte, I’m disappointed we have no time to stop. When helena is within spitting distance, I realize I can’t add to the list of state capitals I’ve visited. I muse dreamily about how it would be to travel Montana by bus, from city to city, and the spark of a dream was born.
We stop in a small town near Augusta, where we pay for fuel at a station that feels like it’s entirely made of wood. The floors creak, the washrooms are so small that they might as well be called closets, and the muggy air is blown around by a single fan near the cashier counter. It feels good to stand around and chat, but soon it’s time to hit the road again.
We make it to Browning right on schedule – 5:30. We stop at one grocery store, who doesn’t seem to have anything we’re looking for. We go back to the car and go to another store, where we buy a fried chicken meal from the deli, the best of the meagre chip selection that seems to be prevalent in the States, and enough alcohol for a group twice our size. We come out paying less than $20 a person, and giddily drive the next hour to the Izaak Walton Inn.
We check in just after 6:30 and get our room keys. I ask if the restaurant has pie, and am told they don’t, but the bar downstairs should. I’m giddy; I might JUST get my picture!
It takes us two full trips to carry our backpacks, food, booze, and other supplies the three flights of stairs to our room. It’s huge! There’s a queen bed in each of the two rooms, along with a twin bed and a twin futon. We chill 4 drinks in the sink as we dig into the chicken. ben wants to go take pictures of trains, Dwight and Sarah want to go down to the bar, and I want my pie! The three of us go downstairs as Ben goes to take his pictures.
My hopes for pie are dashed… again.
There is no pie.
But there IS cobbler!
I’ll run for cobbler!
I have already had one drink, plus the chicken, and I’m not feeling well. I think it’s the chicken, so I guzzle a ton of water while picking at my delicious cobbler. I make a comment that the piano in the bar is out of tune, and Dwight and I disagree about whether it sounds harmonious or not. Dwight says he’ll refrain from telling the bartender that I play, for which I thank him profusely.
Eventually, Dwight and Sarah go for a walk outside, leaving Ben and I alone for a few precious moments. We are now relaxed, more relaxed than we’ve been in a while, and we talk openly about this trip – what we wish had been different, our personal highlights, what changed in us. I tell him about my dream – of traveling Montana by bus – alone – and he’s surprised. I think in a way he’s a little hurt, too, or maybe confused is a better word. But the idea has gripped me so strongly that I know it’s something I need to do. The pieces haven’t fallen into place, but I’ve fallen in love with this state and its people, and I have a feeling I will learn even more about myself on this upcoming dream-trip than I have on this awesome adventure we’ve been on for the past week. It’s not logical, it doesn’t make sense even to me, but it’s something I know I just HAVE to do, and I’ll work out the details later.
Sarah and Dwight come back, giddy with alcohol and the night air, and we break into the chips and the drinks and a rousing game of Cards against Humanity. Over the past year, ben’s collected almost all the expantion packs, and the game is spread out over the bench seat. Dwight sits on Ben’s and by Bed, while Ben takes the couch and Sarah and I grab chairs. We keep drinks out of the way of hands and feet, laugh uproariously at the questions and answers, go on rabbit trails, talk more, drink more, eat more chips…
The clock strikes midnight, and we’re suddenly exhausted. Ben and I retired to our bed, while Sarah and Dwight stay up later, chatting. Their voices and laughter soothe me to sleep as our last night in Montana draws to a close.