I awake in a hotel room in Jackson Hole surrounded by western themes and the comforting sound of the girl I am in love with brushing her teeth.
I consider us lucky to be so used to this motel room dance routine.
This in before 3:00 out by 11:00 reality that has left us both slightly sleep deprived and a little more than attached at the hip.
I could pile a thousand cliches on this, I could fill the sheets with love words and descriptions of her hair. I could die content having never told you what it felt like to watch her step out of a door, to feel her walk into a room, to find her eyes in the sea.
I could talk for days about the insanity and the ways in which time stood still.
But I will montage all of this for you, for the sake of time and for the privacy that can only be truly served by memory….
PART 1: THE MONTAGE
We pulled a repeat, we longed for the aquarium and to eat everything we smelled in Pike’s Place only a day before.
Hand holding near a Ferris Wheel? check!
Antiquing near the ocean? check!
Small fist fight based on love? check!
Coffee! darkness! mountains!
We slept at the Econolodge in Spokane where the lights don’t turn on and the keys don’t work. My beautiful love was cursing like a sailor and I was playing the role of southern damsel with a bone to pick. As far as I could tell, Spokane was built by the steam engine. The Northern Pacific Railroad brought loads of Europeans to this area and enabled a trading post to turn into the second largest city in Washington State.
That morning we woke up and had breakfast in a presidential Railroad Car from the early 1900s which had been turned into a diner some 40 years ago.
Oddly enough, the only other time I have ever traveled through this region of the United States I was riding in a private sleeper car on the Northern Pacific Railroad.
I had made a small teenage fortune by sweating on television and had decided to use the money on an adventure, something that couldn’t be sold or washed away.
I bought a whole months worth of Amtrak tickets and embarked on a solo train journey that would help shape my heart and mind for years to come.
Thus, eating eggs in a disabled historical train on my first tour with this absurdly beautiful girl at my side rang my keen sense of nostalgia like a church bell.
The entire trip seems to be cut of this cloth.
Its as though the door to some new world is standing before me, and to cross the threshold I must first revisit every dear memory and talk to every ghost. I must retrace the steps that brought my body here.
I must find the clues I left along the way and remember where I came from.
It is not subtle.
PART 2: BE BEAR AWARE
At the northern mouth of Yellowstone is a town called Livingston, and in this town there is a Hotel called The Livingston Inn.
The Innkeeper answered the night bell in a bathrobe, his white hair comically jutting out in all directions.
“Hullo thur! Welcome! Welcome!”
Before giving me my room key he supplied me with a small stack of postcards which feature witty things like an elk with only one antler which reads “is that your final antler?”.
He introduces me to the fully grown tame grizzly bear who helped them break in the hotel.
“That’s Erin, he’s a 900 pound Grizzly”
“I can see that”
The photo has Erin rolling around in one of the rooms.
“I’m going into the park tomorrow, first time Ive ever been”
The Innkeeper excitedly pulled out a map of Yellowstone and proceeded to scribble all over it with a ballpoint pen
“Watch for eagles in the field, watch for buffalo on the road, Elk horns can grow as much as two inches a day, see?”
He pointed to a photo above me.
He explained that his wife shot all of the pictures in the office as well as the Images on the postcards.
The Innkeeper proudly described all sorts of strange details about the flora and fauna that I will find the next day and points his fingers at various pictures hanging on the kitschy walls.
I tried to thank him and escape but he followed me to the door and sent me away with a DVD photo slideshow and a CD of his wife and him singing Johnny and June songs.
Each road trip I take features its own patron saint of the road.
Past saints have included, Bruce, Bob, Townes, Elliott, Tom, The Winchesters, Archangel Michael and of course Elvis.
Usually I pick the saint before hitting the road but it turns out that this trip had decided upon its patron saints without much input on my part.
Johnny and June have been following me.
On the drive out I hear a radio program that talks about the intricacy of “ring of fire”
How June wrote it originally about her unrequited love with a married man.
How Johnny had a dream where he heard it played by mariachis, which led to him recording it with June and Mother Maybelle singing backup.
How their marriage and death is possibly the greatest love story in musical history.
Now, everywhere I go the ring of fire follows.
An old pickup truck rolls by playing Walk The Line as I type.
I pull into a hotel, turn on the TV and instantly am watching a Biography on the man in black.
We sing Jackson together while crossing The Snake River.
Everywhere I go, the ring of fire follows.
In fact the very next morning we crossed into the yellowstone caldera (a literal ring of fire)…the supervolcano that might explode and kill us all.
PART 3: YELLOWSTONE WAS AS FOLLOWS
GIFT SHOP! GIFT SHOP! GIFT SHOP!
OH….yeah…whoops there is a park here.
Holy….FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU(buffalo)UUUUU(buffalo)UUUUUUUUUU(smouldering sulfer spring)UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU(epic mountain)UUUUUUUUUUUUU(pretzel in the old faithful lodge)UUUUUU(smooching in the wilderness)UUUUUUUU(aspen tree)UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU(chipmunk)UUUUUUUUU(raven)UUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!
And then the park dumps you into the Tetons.
And then The Tetons dump you into Jackson Hole.
And then beauty affects your like water off a ducks back.
I am in shock from this still.
I stood in a field being blown around by the wind only a stones throw from a Bison.
Hours later I was watching drunk frat boys fall down in the ski basin.
And now a day after that I am here in my ever shifting motel homestead, eyes half open, staring at my smouldering company in the midst of her morning washroom routine.
Today we Leave Jackson and tomorrow she leaves on an airplane.
I am going to miss every little detail, the smell of each individual beauty product, every bite of road crud, and every cigarette smoked out of the screaming window.