Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Fantastical Journey

I arrived in Bozeman, Montana late last night (around 10:30 Mountain Time, which for me was actually 1230) and checked in for my shuttle. The airport had a recognizably "western" smell, with wood and smoke scents pervading the air (also a little bit of must, i think), but despite the comforting nature of the building, i felt a bit alone (my travel buddies wouldn’t arrive until the following evening—tonight). After swiping my credit card, the woman gave me my receipt and said I'd be on the 130. At the time, my ears still hadn't popped from the flight, probably resulting from the fact that i seem to have something of a chronic sinus problem, and my head felt ready to explode. I was in a shitty mood, my head hurt badly, and I had an awful nicotine craving. So, interpreting her statement in the context of my miserable mood, I waited for my bags at the luggage carousel under the impression that i would need to occupy myself with some sort of activity for the next three hours.

Turns out, after i got my luggage and began to dig a foxhole of sorts, something occurred to me that usually does in these sorts of situations but i never act on it. Admittedly, i would rather endure the pain and hardship of an awful travel situation than appear to be an ignorant tourist. I find it hard to understand, but i chalk it up to a certain matter of pride. I have an awful phobia of appearing to be “out of my element,” but at the same time I acknowledge how pathetic this outlook actually is. Something didn't seem right, so i decided to go back to the shuttle desk to inquire about this excessive waiting period. I asked about the 130 departure time that i thought she had mentioned and, oddly enough, in the process it occurred to me that perhaps the shuttle number was 130. I corrected myself in the middle of my sentence and i was right. I grabbed my ski bag and suitcase, and made for the exit feeling slightly foolish but also relieved and happy that my journey was not to be plagued by the traveling pitfalls that usually befall me.

So i boarded the shuttle. I threw my stuff in the back of the bus and grabbed a comfortable seat. I was accompanied by a handful of other travelers—three who were about high school age and two older guys. The driver was a middle aged man by the name of Mike. He sported an impressive pony tail, and spoke in a warm western accent. Once everyone was aboard, he gave us a short rundown about the travel time and then suggested the prospect, given the small size of the travel group, of stopping to get some snacks and, as is allowed by Montana law under the auspices of a "commercial driver," a couple beers for the ride. I responded with a contented "sounds good," and my travel companions nodded.

I bought two Budweisers and sat back to absorb the experience. It was dark, much darker than it is out east given the lack of light pollution. Every time I travel out west, or into the remote areas of Vermont, I am struck by the darkness—it reminds you of how much space we actually live in. We passed a number of peculiar, to the northeastern eye, gas station/casino/bar/convenience stores in the greater Bozeman area, and soon made it out into the wilderness. The journey took us out along a straight, narrow road, lined with small cabins and shady looking motels. As I began to feel the euphoric effects of my beer (alcohol educators always maintain that alcohol’s most desirable effects are to be achieved in the range of 1-2 drinks), I looked out on my surroundings and concluded, in a sort of ineffable way, “this is great.” The shuttle driver expounded on some of the area’s history, and I sat back and immersed myself in the experience. These are some things I saw on the way:


And this:


And also this:

And then, finally and most importantly, this:

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