I was revived in Missoula. But it wasn't necessarily the city that revitalized me. Don't get me wrong, Missoula was awesome. As a matter of fact, it is one of the few cities I visited on this trip that I was seriously consider moving to (the other perhaps being Chicago). Missoula is an oasis in the rugged state of Montana. This great town definitely helped get my spirits back up where they needed to be in order to complete this trip, but it was really my family that came through in the clutch for me while I was in Missoula.
Before my birthday, which occurred just two days prior to my arrival in Missoula, I made a request of my family. I asked if they would get me a hotel room in Missoula so I could have a rest day. In my mind this would be the best gift anyone could have given me. First off, each experience I had had in a hotel or motel on this journey was atrocious. There was the domestic dispute in Battle Creek, MI, the dopers and miscreants in Lacross, KS and finally the drug dealers and harassers in Denver, CO. I desired to have a single positive hotel experience on this trip. Here in Missoula, after camping out every night for nearly three weeks, would be a great place to have a nice hotel stay.
Second, I just needed some no-strings-attached time to myself. What do I mean by that? I mean that I could have certainly found a Warm Showers or Couch Surfing host in Missoula, but that would not have sufficed. When you utilize those networks there is a guest-host arrangement you are entering into. This type of arrangement very often emails the host providing shelter and food to the guest in exchange for company. Don't get me wrong. I am not bad-mouthing anyone that I have stayed with. The hosts who have taken me in on this journey have absolutely enriched the experience. It's just that, at this point in the trip, I had been worn so thin. I really just needed a break. I wished to have space, privacy, and zero obligations.
So my family got me a room at the DoubleTree in Missoula. It was among the best birthday gifts I had ever received in my life. In addition to the room, they arranged an excellent dinner and massage for me. I was spoiled rotten.
The massage was interesting. My masseuse, James, asked me if there were any particular areas he should focus on. I assumed that my hips and legs were out-of-whack, so suggested that he should pay special attention to those areas. It turned out that my shoulders were the most screwed up part of my body. Rather unexpected. The massage was great, helping get my body back to a point where it was, well, functional.
During my two days in Missoula I fell in love with this mountain town. In many ways it was similar to Boulder. It was a college town abutting the mountains with a welcoming river cutting right through the middle of it. At any given moment you would glance at the river to find either jolly college students tubing down it or recreational fishers enjoying a day off. The main difference between Boulder and Missoula was that Missoula didn't have three Whole Foods in it, perhaps indicating a bit more humility on behalf of the populace.
Yeah, Missoula rocked.
To make matters even better, I happened to be there during the River Roots Festival. This was an end-of-summer celebration that filled the town with bluegrass music. On Saturday night I joined Matt and Wally downtown to partake in the festivities. After a stimulating conversation with Wally at the bar, we headed to the main stage for some live music. It was there that I listened to a cover of Bob Dylan's "Rolling Stone" which I experienced in a whole new way:
"How does it feel? To be on your own. To be without home. Like a rolling stone..."
Sunday was a similarly great day. I met up with Matt to jump off of a bridge into the river. It may not have been the safest thing to do, but oh well! We then joined with Wally to hike up to the lookout on Mount Sentinel. From there we got a beautiful sunset view of this mountain-nestled city and the University.
As if this wasn't already an excellent day, I finished it off by taking a hazy cab ride to the final musical performance of the River Roots festival. Who was the headliner? It was Fitz and the Tantrums! I had actually been wanting to see this group perform for a couple of years now. My brother and I first came across the group while on a road trip together. It felt very suiting that I would finally get to see this great band perform on a weekend that was only possible due to the thoughtfulness and care of my brother.
I was a bit tense when I arrived at the outdoor concert venue. I was rolling in late so was concerned that perhaps I had missed part of the headliner's performance. When I found a place in the crowd I was relieved to discover that I had not missed any of Fitz' performance. One of the opening acts was still on stage. Whew! Curious to know about the band I was watching, I turned to three young ladies to my right and said, "Excuse me. Do you know the name of this band?"
The young woman closest to me responded with a bit of an odd look on her face, "This is Fitz and the Tantrums." Her voice inflected a bit when she spoke.
Well, not to be rude, and certainly not to be a music snob, but I knew for a fact that this was not Fitz and the Tantrums. The lead singer of Fitz was a white guy and the supporting vocalist was a young black woman. This group had a white female lead and no other vocals. Unless Fitz and the Tantrums went 3LW and switched out all of the group's members then I was unconvinced that this was Fitz and the Tantrums. I expressed my dissent...gently. "Are you sure? I thought the lead of Fitz was a guy?"
The young lady looked concerned. She didn't have much of a response. Anxiously turning to her friends, they conferred briefly. After their 30 second meeting, the young lady furthest from me spoke up, "This group is Shock Wave." She spoke with a bit more conviction than her friend had.
Ah! Shock Wave! Why not? I thanked the young ladies and got back to listening. This techno-pop band was alright. You could tell that they really catered to a younger demographic. Once the blonde-haired lead singer finished the song, she spoke to the crowd. "Thank you all so much for coming out to support us! We are Phase and we love you all!"
Phase? Phase wasn't exactly Shock Wave and it certainly wasn't Fitz and the Tantrums. I turned to my right, curious to see these young ladies' reactions. What did I see? Nothing. These girls were long gone.
I think the moral of this sub-story is that "I don't know" is sometimes an okay response. Don't try to "fake it 'til you make it." It's really not that huge of a deal.
Anyways, the show was stellar. I realized that going to a musical performance in a college town was a great choice. The excitement and eagerness of college students at a live show really livened things up. Heck, half these kids didn't know what they were listening to, but it sure didn't stop them from screaming their hearts out. College students often exhibit an indiscriminate passion for anything and everything. Boy, do I miss those days.
My wonderful weekend in Missoula had coming to a close and it had rejuvenated me in precisely the way i needed. Though I was 4,000 miles from home, it felt as though my family was right there with me. This brief layover in Missoula is a clear example of the support that my family afforded me on this trip, but their support goes way beyond this weekend. The phone calls, advice, encouragement and love that they've given me have been the wind in my sail over the past five months. It's because of them that I can aspire to achieve so much and have a realistic belief in my ability to do so.