Exile on Main Street

For the past eight years, the Agricoli have travelled to Montana in pursuit of relaxation and trout. Introduced to the concept by my in-laws, who have spent the last 20 summers doing the same, the annual rite has taught us to love the Big Sky country, fly-fishing, and the camaraderie that is a part of each.

Each year, we have stayed at the same small resort that is a collection of (very) rustic cabins, a summer home to less than a dozen RVs (most of whom stay in the same spot year after year), and the site of a small cafe that serves breakfast and lunch.

Nothing much to see, but very, very special. Hard by the western bank of the Gallatin River, I can be fishing in less than five minutes, and have a reasonable chance of catching a nice Rainbow or Brown trout. Rarely do we travel more than one mile to find and catch nice fish.

And, if the urge to stand in the stream abates for a short while, there is plenty of conversation to be had, chores to be done that help the owner maintain his property, and coffee to consume in the cafe. Ray, Darlene, Bill, Ray Ray, Smokey, Shirley, John, Bobbie, Fred, Joyce, Scott and Nicole…these are the people we have come to know over eight years. Friends from all corners of the US, varied in background and economic circumstance, all friends that get to spend the summer with each other.

So it was on the seventh day of our ten day visit that I emerged from the cozy confines of the cafe, fortified for a day of fishing by too many cups of coffee and a breakfast fit for a lumberjack instead of a plumpish city slicker. Moving to my cabin to don my fishing gear, I was interrupted by Joyce, the manager. Could she ask a big favor of me? Of course……I stood ready to handle whatever chore or task she might throw my way. Well, you see, she said, I made a mistake in the reservations, and some people need to stay in your cabin tonight…..maybe you could spend the night with your in-laws in their RV, or you are welcome to stay in my spare bedroom, just for tonight, please?

Just then my wife arrived, taking a break from her fantasy vacation as a waitress in the cafe. We could only look at each other and agree to the request. Thanks so much, and I’d appreciate if you could get your gear out of the cabin soon so that we can get it ready for the folks that are arriving this afternoon. Moving into our cabin, our home in Montana, so to speak, we began to pack. What could we do? Sorry, sweetie, but there is no way I am sleeping in the RV….there ain’t enough room for me, you, them, and Pepe (the dog), not to mention all of the late night activity that we all seem to have to deal with these days. Well, I sure as hell am not sleeping in that spare bedroom….have you seen it? And she has two dogs that bark all the time.

And so it was that we decided to hie away to Bozeman, and seek out a hotel room for the night. On the quiet drive into town (about 25 miles), we realized that, in all of our travels to Montana, we had never spent a night away from the campground. We love Bozeman, but it has always been the place we went, not the place we stayed.

Our temporary home was to be the Best Western, on Main Street.

Not a bad spot, to be sure, and close to all of the hot spots; The HomePage, Plonk, The Bozeman Angler, and all the rest of the things that attract us to the town several times during our vacations.

But, suddenly, we were cut off from the sounds of the river, closed into a room that only served to remind us of the absence of the space of Montana, removed from the pleasure of sudden encounters with our summer friends. We could have been in any hotel room in any city. Bars, stores, coffee shops, all with a different spin than what we know in our hometown, but not different enough to remind us in each glance, or hear, or smell that we were in Montana, on the Gallatin River.

Exile on Main Street……..

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