I went to yellowstone again a couple of days ago, and I took about 325 snaps on two different cameras. I’m pretty happy with the results. I’ll put the best of them up soon enough. There are some good ones, if I do say so myself. Of course, you’ll be able to judge soon, and more objectively than I.

A woman to her daughter, who was trying to rescue a dragonfly foundered in the hot, acidic water: “I bet he’s already laid his eggs.”

You know already that I like bartenders. You know I’m a sucker for a friendly face that will give me beer and all I have to do in return is give them money. Call it a weakness if you want, I’ll accept that. Here in Bozeman, there’s Tori, Kristen, Joe, Pete, Jen, Molly, and, of course, Nicole. Here’s to them. Honest, hard-working and friendly people who have made me feel at home here when I have no home. I raise one to all of them. Keep doing the Lord’s work!

Breakfast at the Town Cafe in Gardiner, the gateway to Yellowstone. Two eggs over easy, hash browns (Tabasco! I’m back in civilization!) and toast. Half a dozen overweight men are sitting around a table, yucking it up. They’re going fishing. As usual. They’re in a jolly mood. Fishing. Beats working, so I’m told.

I didn’t mention one thing about the Crystal Bar. Angry employees eventually cooled, goofy old guys played pool while their wives heckled. Hilarity ensued, while I got the perfect buzz. Ah, the perfect buzz. Not drunk, no, not that. The perfect buzz is a delicate balance, with rational thought on one side, and the fairies on the other, lifting your thoughts on gossamer wings, making them greater than they were before. Colors are a little more true, and jokes are far funnier. It is a beautiful world. The weakness of the perfect buzz is in it’s own creation – it is alcohol that got you there and the idea of having more is just like everything else. Perfect. But there is no maintaining the perfect buzz. You can choose to stop drinking, and soon feel sleepy and enjoy a good night of sleep and wake the next day feeling good and remembering what a nice time you had the night before.

More often, you chase the perfect buzz with another one. After that you’ve crossed a line, and “one more” is not one more. It is simply the next. You remember the perfect buzz and you want it again, but you’ve passed it now and you’re heading the wrong direction. The perfect buzz is as fleeting as it is rare. At the Crystal Bar, I had the perfect buzz and I sat, enjoying it, enjoyed the craziness all around me, reading the profane sign again. Life was good. “Do you want another?” asked Caroline (rhymes with gasoline). “Yes, I do,” I said. “But I’m out of money.” That’s one form of restraint. I wouldn’t have had another anyway. That place was making me tired. I took a walk. Of course, I walked to Montana Ale Works. They take plastic, and beer is cheap until six.

The fishermen drink their coffee, tell their jokes, and discuss where they’re going go go today. My head is fuzzy and my stomach wobbly, but the tea helps, and the hash browns. It’s time to go take some pictures.

10 thoughts on “Snapshots

  1. Not so much about the perfect buzz, as the perfect morning after. This is the Pinon Hills Motel in Arboles, Colorado. Actually, the motel is an extremely minor part of the business, and the proprietor almost seems to take it as an imposition that we want to stay there. The place has ten rooms, but only three are habitable — I get a feeling he’s remodeling the rooms one by one, and each time he rents out a room, he can buy some building supplies for the next one under construction.

    Come morning, however, the motel cafe is a really hopping place. Turns out somebody’s getting married, and a bunch of people are helping to celebrate the nuptials. They’ll be getting together at the church at 10 to work on the decorations, and the wedding will be at 2. I get a feeling that if Pat and I expressed interest, we would get invited — seems like that whole corner of Archuleta County will be there.

    Meanwhile, the cafe serves up the very best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had anywhere. The biscuits are perfect, not too dry, but not too rich, and the gravy just plain defies description. It’s got bits of sausage in it, the way all good gravy should, and it’s all creamy, but it goes beyond my powers of description to tell how very good it was. If some archangel desired biscuits and gravy, these would be the biscuits and gravy that would serve the bill.

    And, yes, there are fishermen, who drink their coffee, tell their jokes, and so forth.

  2. Latest update on the southwest corner of Archuleta County, Colorado: Tried the Chimney Rock Cafe. Good chicken-fried steak, pretty good gravy but not as good as that at the Pinon Hills in Arboles. Tabasco is a standard condiment. If you’re passing through on the main highway and can’t take the extra hour to detour to Arboles, it’s a good stop. But if you can detour to Arboles, it’s worth it.

  3. I’m starting to plan a roue to New Mexico (after the boat-o-rama) that includes several back roads I have not been on. I’ll try to match your recommendations to a map.

    Somehow the route has to include the Owl Bar, but maybe that’s on the way to San Angelo, TX.

    HA! Did you see how I said “plan”? Pff.

  4. Recommended route into Northern New Mexico for anyone who’s really into scenery, especially who has a mifty new digital camera:

    Travel to Albuquerque by whatever means, whether plane, train, or automobile. Once in Albuquerque, do NOT take the interstate. Instead, go north on 4th Street (aka Route 66, original 1927 alignment). Travel through bosques, old-fashioned farmland irrigated by acequias, and downtown Bernalillo, which is now characterized by charming antique shops and loads of atmosphere.

    When you get to US 550 (formerly NM 44), turn left. Cruise up this smooth, modern highway until you get to San Ysidro, and take a right onto NM 4. You now start to enter truly scenic country. You will pass through Jemez Pueblo, and then the town of Jemez Springs. If you have time, stop at the historic Los Ojos Bar, with its historic pressed-tin ceiling — although the one time we managed to get Pat’s dad to visit us in Northern NM, he liked the Los Ojos for the altitide — he got three times the buzz for the same amount of Scotch.

  5. Once you’re through Jemez Springs, continue along the highway, where you will see such landmarks as Hummingbird Music Camp (where the offspring just spent a week), and Soda Dam, a geologic formation caused by mineral hot springs. As you drive further, you will pass through scenic forests and mountain territory, with impressive rock formations, such as Battleship Rock, and the totally take-your-breath-away Valles Caldera, which the federal government has recently purchased for the bargain price of $1 million.

    Eventually, you reach Los Alamos, which, contrary to everything you’ve heard, isn’t radioactive. If you’re into spicy food, stop for lunch at Viola’s restaurant. When she ran a cafeteria at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she earned the nickname “Viola’s Violent Vittles.” When she went into business on her own, she continued the practice of loading lots of green chile into whatever she serves up.

  6. Now that you’ve had a fortifying lunch, head to Espanola, and from Espanola, go north and west on US 84. Make sure that your camera has plenty of film or memory capacity, because you’re going to pass through some awesome scenery. Just past Abiquiu, you get to red and multicolored rocks that equal or surpass those of Sedona, Arizona. You’re going to want to take lots of pictures.

    Then the road winds up a narrow canyon and comes out in a high mountain setting. You get Ponderosa pine trees and alpine meadows, and it’s astonishing how fast you go from desert to mountain. You still get wonderful scenery, especially as you apporach Tierra Amarilla, and you can see the mountains, with the spectacular Brazos Cliffs to the right, while all around you are green, acequia-irrigated fields.

    At this point, if you’re someone we know, you call from Henry’s True Value Hardware, and we tell you how to get to Five O’Clock Somewhere. If you’re not someone we know, you can find lodging nearby at lots of charming places. I can strongly recommend the Tierra Wools Casitas, the Stone House Lodge, the Snamrock Hotel, the Cumbres Suites, and, if you really want luxury, Cardin’s Crossing Bed & Breakfast & Apple Pie.

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