Wrangling with my sensibilities as I did to peel myself from affable Missoula, the time had come to roll on. In Bozeman, leaving miles of indiscernible hills and 18-wheel rigs in my wake, I park on the main drag and sit for a minute. A co-op, high priced activewear store fronts or three, and one most excellent old-school hotel marquee rising above the brick building tops. Taking my sweatshirt off I slouch, stretch my neck, rub my eyebrows, and think for the first time this trip: man. I have no patience for today.
I had moved eastward in a daze, annoyed at having no excuse for my body to be so tired. I had plugged a coffee shop into the Google map thinking yes, the pot of gold at the end of this here rainbow, but when I got there I took a stroll and scrapped it the endeavor. Loading myself back into the drivers seat I figured okay: Gardiner. End of the road, the northern gateway to Yellowstone. There I’ll sleep. I’ll read my book, I’ll stretch out, write a little, and that coffee will be found.
The porch of the Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe is the perfect seat in town to watch the world putter by. But for the rows of houses on the strip, not a single person on a porch. Not a tune to be heard nor a dog to bark, just the low, gruff sputter of mufflers from the pickups slogging by. Odd, I think, for a sliver of a town of less than four square miles that sees more than 700,000 visitors per year.
But a bit south, right by the long, looping entrance, you see, you’ll find what feels like 500,000 of those people on the last night of September. Among a cacophony of construction and wobbly bodies stumbling and $26 elk lasagna and remnants of old wooden store fronts and an impressive arsenal of glowing bud light signs, you’ll meet some of those 4,000,000 visitors the park sees every year. Ah. I have arrived. But there’s something lonely about the bottom of my pint glass, and I can’t seem shake it. Finding the only space in town I can, I curl up, a dread pillow on top of a tiny camping pillow and drifting off I think: more adventures tomorrow. It will feel so good. But for now, rest.