It seems like a long time ago that I had breakfast in a long sunny room at the Oxford Suites in Spokane Valley (if you’re ever passing that way, I can recommend it). All the diners had gray hair, or would, if they weren’t bald. On the far end of the room, Good Morning Something was on the TV. On the other end, the part that transforms into a bar for evening happy hour, creepy music was playing when I sat down with my eggs and English muffin. The creepy music soon gave way to John Wayne’s unmistakable monotone. No one, except the staff (and me) even seemed to have a mask with them. It was 39 degrees outside, and a brisk breeze waggled the leaves on the trees outside the window.
I was wrong. As they slowly exited, the other diners pulled masks out of their pockets. I have to be careful of coastal arrogance, I told myself. As a New Yorker, I come by it naturally.
Tonight, I’m sitting in a rather dismal, but clean, room in Bozeman, Montana. I have wiped down many surfaces with Clorox disinfecting wipes, as I did last night. While I was wrong this morning about people’s relationship to their masks, Montana is another story. With the exception of a few perfunctory signs about keeping your distance, it is as if there is no virus, no reason to mask. I am definitely the only person wearing one, both here at the hotel and at the rest stops.
Today was a day of staggering beauty, with the landscape constantly changing around me, transforming from green and gold mountains to flat open expanses that undulated endlessly toward the horizon. I don’t know if I’m more tired from the six-plus hours of driving or from the intensity of the experience. As the roads opened up more and more, with fewer and fewer vehicles on them, I became braver about pulling over to the side to try to capture the breathtaking beauty in front of me.
At one of the rest stops today, near Butte, I felt cracked open by the magnificence of what I was seeing. I called the same friend who called me yesterday. “I am in awe,” I said to her and, just as I did yesterday, started crying. But these were different tears, though they came from just as deep a place. It was like my soul was being held and enlivened by the dynamic ever-changing sky and land, and I ached with thankfulness for the privilege of having this experience, so grateful my body and brain and finances are still able to do it.
Then, I got back into the car, put in the address of my hotel and realized that I had an hour and a half left of driving. What is the expression? After the ecstasy, the laundry? After the sublime crack my heart open moment, pull the brain particles out of the ether and focus on driving roads on which the speed limit is 80 MPH (I didn’t go that fast; too much to see, plenty of room for people to go around me as I poked along at 70 or 75).
I got to Bozeman just as it was getting dark and made myself a meal of tuna from a pouch, the remains of the spinach from a bag I got at Trader Joe’s a few days before I left, and half a red pepper, also from the TJ’s shopping trip
I could use a few more supplies. Is there a TJs in Montana, I asked Google. While I learned that there are currently 465 TJs locations in this country, eight states don’t have them. Among these are my destinations for the next three days: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota. I somehow suspect I won’t find a Whole Foods either. Yesterday, I started thinking about grilled cheese and tomato, something I haven’t had for years. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day.