There are some places you go you can’t forget. Some places that change you a little bit the second your feet hit the soil. You return a different person. It would be impossible not to.
It’s an incredibly hot day in July in Atlanta, and I find myself on a rooftop in downtown. The kind of heat where you can’t hide the fact you are dripping with sweat. A month prior I had gotten a random email from some folks that work for Yellowstone Country Montana. They were hosting a happy hour in ATL. If you know anything about me at all, I will literally drink anywhere. With anyone.
In the modern influencer culture, Yellowstone was looking to boost tourism to the state. What immediately came to my mind was some attractive 20-something Instafamous person, standing on a chair in some Montana restaurant trying to take pictures of their [bison] nachos with their iPhone. In other words, not me. I’ve always said I’m a drunk with an internet connection. Millions of folks read Beer Street Journal a year, but thinking like an “influencer” or even being considered one is a foreign idea.
After traveling across 30 states and four continents on drinking escapades with a camera in my hand, I’ve seen a lot. Picturesque landscapes, long stretches of highways, between the hole in the wall towns and busy skyscraper cities. None of this prepared me for a state in my own country. Montana has been there all along, ready to change me.
So much of running this site has been done alone. In a room. Writing for days. It’s been just me. Pushing forward with this site. Friends got married, started 401K’s, families, buying expensive cars and clothes. Now I’m considered mid-life now, on my second car and have never owned more than two pairs of jeans at the same time.
For most of it’s been me. Some times frustrated, climbing the walls. Finding happiness in the quiet. Drinking alone with delusions of some writing greatness that has never come, for this sometimes ill-placed love of the beer industry. My parents understood it and supported it without question.
Having the opportunity to witness people’s passions in life, where they brew, distill, craft and create and the world around them is what has made this site so rewarding. It’s being submerged in the reality beyond a press release that hits the inbox. Another solo trip was imminent, this time northward. It’s hard to write about anything you haven’t seen. Judging by the pictures, it was going to beautiful, an experience you want to share with someone. As much as I wanted that, what I found, is the gift of being alone. Let’s be real, Yellowstone Country Montana is ridiculous. You are wasting precious minutes of your life not laying eyes on this majesty.
It’s almost fall. (Well, up here at least). The cowboy boots I swear I’ll one day die wearing, hit the ground in Bozeman. The airport has a weird calming sense to it – it looks and feels like a cozy lodge that incidentally has Delta planes in the driveway.
I grab my rental car keys and step out into Big Sky. I have 7 days and 1,000 miles to go. This is adventure at first breath. I’ve never seen a state like this. A place like this. It’s just me and a camera. Alone, the way it’s always been since the site began.
This is Beer Street Journal: Montana, the first in a series of stories from Yellowstone Country. A drinking adventure across a piece of America you need to go see.
It costs you nothing but time. Read along.
All photography: Beer Street Journal