Missoula, MT, WE heart U.

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I really enjoyed my Circle, MT friends. They were my first taste of Montana hospitality and witty attitude. They welcomed me into their vast state and set my mind at ease about the pretty lonely stretch ahead to Missoula. By departure time I felt comfortable that while Montana drivers might speed by you at 90 mph, they don’t have ill intentions. The speed limit is 75 mph on the two lane by ways. Since farmland makes up most of the state, route options are limited-highway or byway. However, this makes navigation easy, I rode into the state on US 2W, cut down to Circle on 13s, and picked up 200W for the next 700 miles.

Eastern Montana is dry, with rolling hills that reminded me of one big yellow Putt-Putt Course. Smoky cloudsHave you ever read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? (spoiler) I had a couple of good laughs to myself wondering if Slartibartfast or other Magratheans created Eastern Montana for Earth golfing. I guess I just outed myself as a sci-fi geek. Anyhow, past Lewistown, MT the hills began a steeper incline, eventually transforming into 6,000+ elevation.

Stopping in Great Falls was less than ideal, but I had to–you just don’t drive at night in Montana. The sun was beginning it’s descent, was burning my retinas and making it hard to watch for deer-which come out in droves at dusk. The next town was 65 miles ahead but I decided to experience Roger’s Pass by full daylight.

The next morning, I ate my waffle across from an elderly, though sprite-like lady, and we talked about the trip. Hotel FairyOn my way out, she ran after me and graciously insisted on paying for the hotel room. It really was a series of events that led me to this particular motel. First, I felt hesitant about the initial motel suggested to me, and I went for a cup of coffee to think about my plans. There I met some fellow bikers and gave them postcards. Turns out one was the manager for a motel and she sent me over to get a good deal at the Super 8. What a lovely synchronicity!

Roger’s Pass was gorgeous, over 6,000 feet in elevation. Rockie Mountain TopsIt was exhilarating to see the mountains and trees, along with an inviting river that ran parallel to the road. Keep in mind that I had not seen forests since a little patch in southern Oklahoma, two weeks prior. Audrey was exceptionally determined to maintain her speed. The seldom used GPS clocked her bottom speed at 43. It was very exciting to be crossing the Continental Divide and I stopped for a picture of the Rockies. A rancher pulled up and told me his family story, that his parents homesteaded the land and it’s now worth about 30 million-although priceless to him-he won’t sell it. It was a very romanticized cowboy story. He took the picture of me in the Rockies and pointed out in the distance where David Letterman owns a ranch.

As I came closer to Missoula, the wind picked up and the roads were curvier; handling was difficult, especially with logging trucks blowing past me. WelcomingIt was so great to finally arrive, although I was shaky from the ride, so I stopped for a bit before locating Scooterville, MT. Fortunately, it was right around the corner. I pulled in, unannounced, and was delighted to see posters welcoming me. A potluck had been planned with the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, but the random stator failure delayed my arrival. Fortunately, the center would be holding its annual Peace Party that Sunday, so I decided to stay through for it and meet those wonderful people.

Nancy, Gary and Yetta all greeted me warmly at the shop. Immediately I knew these were cool people, and Philip had told me before that I would adore them. It’s true, I do. They recently took over as the proprietors of the shop and I can tell its gonna go far. Nancy seems to know everyone in town and it was nice to walk around with her, Yetta and Izzy-Yetta’s friend. Yetta and IzzyThe ladies took me over to the Thursday music festival and we grabbed some yummy Thai food. The girls ran off and I quite enjoyed my conversation with Nancy. I have a bit of a crush on her family-they were so friendly and entertaining. We sat on the hill to eat dinner, watched the setting sun and then strolled around town. Evening DowntownIt was so nice to be in a big town, the biggest since 1,000 miles back in Fargo, ND. But I could tell that Missoula was the gateway to the West Coast, with its open, progressive, laid back attitude. The town had an abundance of good architecture, alternative transpo, eats, coffee shops and bars. Things were looking easier after thousands of miles through ultra conservative America.

Nancy and Gary offered up a place in their house, but I was waiting on my friend Daphne, who would arrive at dawn. I checked into the motel and met some crazy chap who had ragged his scooter 35,000 miles through all types of terrain, swamps included.

I heard from Daphne when she landed in Seattle. Ready to GoHere is the back story on her: We have a mutual friend who I worked with in upstate New York, at the Omega Institute. Jess passed on the news about my trip and Daphne contacted me. She offered to help out in any way I needed and jumped in with gusto. She has written letters for me, contacted press, created and moderates a facebook group, donated money, maintains switchboard duties, and incessantly promotes P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER. A great friendship has come about from it. Before her daughter’s school year started, she decided to fly out and be a P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER rider. The breakdown in Circle threw a monkeywrench into the Seattle plans, so she actually had to rent a car and drive 550 miles. I warned her to be mindful of all the deer out on the roads and went to sleep excited to have a friend visit.

The rest of the blog contains both our perspectives. We thought it would be neat to write about the visit together.

(Daphne) (Alix)
It occurred to me early Friday morning during my drive from Seattle to Missoula to meet up with Alix that I was operating under some double standards in terms of Switchboard operation: Alix is usually good about not leaving me in the lurch wondering about her safety-particularly when she’s driving in the dark, or under otherwise compromising conditions. Yet, here I was on an unfamiliar road, awake more than 24 hours, with a phone that didn’t work-partly because I was in canyons without reception but also because I left Seattle without a car charger on half a charge which didn’t last.

About 150 miles west of Missoula, I pulled over for a nap after going through a reduced speed zone (from 75mph down to 45) which completely stole the second wind I got just before Spokane. 100_2229The sun was hot and high by the time I woke up, since the dead cell phone battery left me without an alarm. I did not know which time zone the clock in the car was registering, but I knew I was sorely behind schedule and that Alix was possibly awake by now, waiting to hear from me. I couldn’t get a cell phone signal on my way out of the canyon, but I did encounter an opportunity to reach out.

Wayne was obviously depending on the kindness of strangers to get him further down the road and although I’d never dared to pick up a hitchhiker before, I felt that the situation was a safe bet. 100_2233 He looked just like Utah Phillips to me and that was an adventure I could hardly pass up. Utah Phillips has held a special place in my heart since 2005. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to have dinner with Utah and his wife and sister and a small group of friends at a local Somali restaurant when the Robert Shetterly exhibit “Americans Who Tell the Truth” opened at my school. It turns out that Wayne was heading to Butte Montana and that taking him along to Missoula would bring him within two hours of his destination, plus give me some company to keep me awake for the rest of the drive. It was around 9am PST and I was now operating on about 2 hours of sleep since 6am EST the day before (30hours). Neither of us had been to Montana before so we were both able to experience the majestic bald mountains in each others’ company. Wayne kept a good tempo to the drive with his conversation and alertness to road signs and that made him an important member of my pit crew. We exchanged email addresses, MySpace info, cell phone numbers and posed for a picture before I left him at a gas station just inside Missoula at a spot he felt would give him good exposure for his next ride.

By the way, it turns out that Wayne was going to grow medicinal marijuana, right? Ya, but I thought you didn’t want to talk about it here. Whatever, it adds even more character to him. He’s doing it for someone’s health, after all.

I had forgotten the room number, but luckily remembered the directions to the hotel where Alix was waiting. I drove in and found Audrey carefully nestled under the outside staircase. After asking the only two people in the parking lot if they knew where the bike’s owner was staying, Alix opened a nearby door and stepped out. I charged her with a surge of energy that comes from flying more than 3,000 miles and driving back 500 on little sleep and pure anticipation. I was just waking up actually, but the last text I received from Daphne was pretty shady. So, I felt a big relief that she finally made it. I think I actually called Alix on my last 90 seconds of battery power and we spoke. I had time to say: “Hey Alix, it’s me-I took a rest, I’m running late, I have a rider, I’m 1oo miles away.” and Alix replied, “You picked up a hitchiker?” and I said “Yeah, his name’s Wayne, I’m gonna bring him to Missoula.” Alix had just enough time to say “WHAT?!!?” before I lost the battery for good– another grand execution of my switchboard-operation double standard. Well, I’ve hitched on the West Coast before-people do it pretty frequently out there and in Hawaii, without problems. I WAS surprised you picked him up-but I shouldn’t have been.

My first day in Missoula started with a long awaited ride on back of Audrey to Scooterville, MT where I met Nancy and Gary. 100_2244Nancy had invited us on a ride around Missoula and we went to see if she was still up for it. I felt instantly home at Scooterville and wandered comfortably around the corner lot where it was located, into an aroma therapy shop next door where I made easy conversation with the owner. She agreed to distribute Alix’s postcards and stickers and said she would come leave her definition on the website soon.

After a trip to Good Foods for a long overdue meal and a quick jaunt to the the festival park, we hit up Liquid Planet for a shot of espresso However, before we could get on the bike, we were stopped by Kerri–a friendly face and beautiful conversation outside of Liquid Planet. How she stopped us, I don’t know; she had been talking on her cell phone at an outside table, but she looked at Alix like she knew her (and I figured she did) and a conversation started out of nowhere. Black Kettle BreweryMany minutes later, it ended with a picture and hugs all around. We then headed out to meet up with Nancy at the Black Kettle, a local brewery. The place closes every night at 9, because the brew is so potent they don’t want patrons drinking it into the late hours…

This was my first experience talking about P.E.A.C.E. Scooter and not being the only one in the room to know all about it. IMG_2017It was a great experience and one we would repeat throughout the weekend.That earlier conversation with Kerri was illustrative of Alix’s ability to turn strangers into friends everywhere she went. I could never tell if someone knew her from before or was meeting her for the first time; the smiles and the banter were always easy and comfortable. She made it easy for me to talk up the P.E.A.C.E. tour to strangers too. Yes, you inspired me to reach out to more people. Er, put me on the spot, but whatever. This trip is ultimately an art project to generate dialog about peace and our future-I chose a scooter to do the route-and you helped me immerse myself back into the original intention. I had been a little hesitant to walk up and tell people all about myself. That’s why it was nice to work as a team.

Chatting up an epic ride like this is much easier when you can point out the rider and the bike and say, “See that woman? She’s from Virginia…she rode here on that moped scooter. IMG_2020She’s making a Peace sign on the map-she started in D.C last month…” Peoples’ eyes just get huge in disbelief and then it’s fairly easy to elaborate on what possesses someone to leave their job, home, and dog for the entire summer and talk to people about what Peace means to them. Oh, and a steady supply of postcards under the seat is very helpful too. Whatever, Daphne, you should get a scooter and complete the trip with me. You are a natural at talking to strangers- you made me feel shy in comparison. I’d totally love to join you, but that’s just nonsense about you being shy. It’s not a moped, dammit. Yes, but it’s easier to get someone to understand when you say that. It’s not a moped, dammit! Or a Vespa!

In the bar, people our age were very interested in her ride.Get 'em Coleen IMG_2032I expect to hear from Jamie, TJ, Tim, and Colleen anyday on the Wall of Beliefs. These guys were a great crowd of rabble rousers. Colleen was a brewer and thumbwrestler extraordinaire. The night ended at Charlie B’s-the bar with a lot of soul…Charlie B’s also has a poster inside that says “On the corner of space and time.” And it’s not on a corner, by the way. They also hang up photos of their barflys, a pretty cool idea. IMG_2030Outside, we found Mother Trucker’s snack truck pulled up in the parking lot. I picked up a falafal and an interesting conversation with a couple of gents from Minnesota who were in town for the weekend. IMG_2031They found Nancy’s bike decorations to be especially eye catching and took interest in Alix’s trip…Oh yea, they were wasted-but really nice. I’ve come to realize that in most towns, its a rule of thumb, food trucks=heavy drinking. I quite enjoyed our ladies’ night out with Nancy. We had an alchemy going at my suggestion. Shot of whiskey, shot of Emergen-C powder, shot of espresso, shot of whiskey.

Ooh..I almost forgot about the alchemy…a genius idea! I might refer to it as the “46th hour ALixer”. When I went to bed at 3 am that night, I had been up for 48 hours straight with 2 hours of sleep in between. This is a pretty good explanation for why the days in Missoula have managed to merge in my memory.

The next morning, we stopped in to say hi to the Scooterville crew and make tentative plans for the night. IMG_2001We left Audrey behind. We headed into the heart of Missoula in search of espresso and found it at the Butterfly Herbs Cafe-where Nancy had once worked. Back in college she pulled a stint there at the counter. It’s a great locally owned place, vegan/veggie options and high octane espresso. There we struck up conversation with Joe, or Joel who had great contributions to make about peace and a $20 contribution to P.E.A.C.E Scooter.

After lunch we went back to grab Audrey. Nancy and Gary had agreed to give me a new, working rack since my original had snapped at a crucial joint, making it less sturdy to hold the shad case. IMG_2062The rack installation was an interesting endeavor. The day had already been long and hot-a nap was most definitely in order. When we returned to Scooterville we found Audrey pulled into the shade, but otherwise untouched-and we realized that Gary’s day had also been long.
Since the store had to be closed up and the rack still needed to be mounted, I (in my infinite genius) told Gary that Alix and I could put it together if he’d just get us the tools.
There were probably several ways this plan could have gone down…and we tried almost all of them! However, 2 hours later, using Alix’s original suggestion to mount the rack onto the bike and THEN mount the hardcase, the Alix-Gary team realized a most joyous victory. That’s because we are Leo’s. Royal and gifted with tools. IMG_20653 people, One shad, too long…..I like how Nancy quietly watched this excruciating process with a look of humor on her face.

The long awaited nap was calling…the Super 7 motel seemed to be answering. However, the individual at the front desk seemed oblivious to that call. When we asked for a discounted room and explained the Peace Ride, she looked at us like we had just recited the Martian alphabet (no offense to Martians). Okay. What about internet? Affirmative; we were told the room had internet. Perfect, before the day was over, we would definitely want to do some work.

We made a quick run out to get espresso (I’m on an espresso tour as well-I like to sample shops in hopes of opening my own one day) and a gallon of water before settling into room number 109 (#108 was a storage room-we should have recognized this as a sign and taken it more seriously) The room was dingy and smelled strongly of carpet cleaning chemicals. A short time later, our rested selves checked out the internet. Nada. Complaints to the front desk resulted in very rude responses and offers to make adjustments which were withdrawn as soon as we accepted. In the long run, we ended up with a credit for all but $10 and gratitude that we would not be spending the night at the Not-Too-Super7. Oh my god, if you ever visit Missoula, don’t stay there, stay at the Bel-Aire or City Motel. They are cheap and clean and the internet, as promised, works! The people at the front desk were miserable jerks who kept changing their mind about how to handle our situation. The only reason we hadn’t taken up Nancy and Gary’s offer is we felt it could be overwhelming to have two guests, when they originally expected just one. Nonetheless, we checked out of the Super-Lame 7 and called our surrogate family; making arrangements to show up after grabbing some food.
Somehow, the interaction with those clerks totally flipped the script. manateeEverywhere we went seemed like the Twilight Zone. Yes that was so strange, two bizarre hours-unlike the rest of our time there. Did you notice how time in Missoula seems to go REALLY SLOWLY? It’s awesome, I felt like I always had more time on my side. A joke that kept on giving was regarding the noise that a manatee makes. Manatees, you may recall, are sea cows; large, gentle creatures which swim off the coast and move so slowly that they are endangered by jet skis and speed boats which often collide with their mammoth bodies. Just thinking of the noise these creatures emit makes me laugh, as I have no real idea about it. I mean, they live underwater–doesn’t that fall into the “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it…” category?

Anyway. I digress. In a desperate attempt to turn the Super Lame 7(good one, Al) and Missoula Twilight Zone around, we posed the question to two ladies who were dining outside the Pita Pit with us. The first to respond answered in the following manner, “What sound does a manatee make? BEFORE or AFTER it eats its prey?” A valid question, though I wasn’t sure manatee are predators exactly. After some discussion, it was revealed that our friend had actually confused PRAYING MANTIS with MANATEE…This did not exactly turn the Twilight Zone right side up, but it got us on a good laughing track in order to see the pure humor in it all and go back to Nancy and Gary’s with an appreciation for the parts of Missoula which embraced and understood us.

It was nice to visit someone’s home. IMG_2101I find myself missing the character of my own house and my dog. Campgrounds and motels are starting to blend together. Really nice of them to open the doors for not just one guest, but two. Gary took us to our room and we all chatted about how our nights out went down. He had just ridden his scooter out about 15 miles each way to see a friend’s band. He commented on the distance I am going, after experiencing the wind on his ride. No doubt, wind can change my ride time drastically. There was a HUGE music collection-they both share my taste-so I started burning CD’s. I stayed away from the SHELVES of records-in my best interest. IMG_2086I could spend hours holding them and looking at the artwork and lyrics. I feel asleep at the computer, woke up to see Daphne still at hers. This irritated me, because she seems to be a fully functioning insomniac-whereas I require about 5 hours a night minimum to be polite. The next morning we wanted to do some sightseeing after breakfast, so we headed out right away. We didn’t want to jack their food supply and we knew it was going to be a busy day. Daphne was leaving later that day and the Jeanette Rankin Peace Party was in the afternoon.
We headed over to Good Foods-the BEST health food place I have ever been. Our local health food store in my hometown is teeny; perhaps the size of just the bulk food section in Good Foods; there’s definitely no eat-in cafe or bulk soap and cleaners….BULK HOMMUS and BULK FALAFAL MIX…OH MY. I was in heaven…and just the trip to Good Foods might have sold me on a plot of land in Missoula (I’m easy to please.) We managed a couple of really yummy salads at the well stocked salad bar…one of the salads was a delicious part of an unforgettable brunch assembled by the one and only Alix Bryan a.k.a. P.E.A.C.E Scooter. I purchased some bulk granola, procured a house bowl and scored some free soy milk from the cafe. Really miss my granola mornings. On the road, I’m finding the ins and outs of keeping the home comforts. After brunch we decided to hike up to the “M” on the mountain. IMG_2083On the way, we asked a father and daughter who were biking how to get to the big “M.” The father told us were the trailhead was and the daughter yelled back, “we are going to McDonalds.” We were both headed to the big M’s-but ours was healthier. Once there, however, we realized the rocky path didn’t compliment my flip flops. So we snapped a picture as though we had climbed it and decided to ride around sight seeing before the Peace Party. IMG_2089Missoula has a lot of community. It’s big enough to offer a lot of great culture and small enough for everyone to be super friendly. And then there’s the rich scenery, fishing, boating and hiking from the forests that surround it. It’s also in a valley, so the “bowl” effect makes it warm enough to scoot year round. All this makes it a pretty tempting choice as a potential hometown. And Nancy said my daughter would go to college here one day…IMG_2081After a quick run in to the house, grabbing stuff and the rental car, we went to the Peace Party. I couldn’t stay long, but wanted to check it out before my drive to Seattle. Alix was listed as a guest and they let me in for free also.
This was their big fundraiser for the year’s activities. The Rankin Peace Center is fantastic. Jeanette Rankin was the first woman elected to the House of Reps in 1916, before all women even had the right to vote. Even more interesting, she was one of the 50 votes against WW1, and suffrage groups began canceling her speech engagements. Basically, the press vilified her and she was not re-elected. I suggest learning more about her, she is one of my heroines. In 1940, she served another term in Congress and voted against WW2. Her life story is a damn good impetus to name a Peace Center after her.

Alix parked her scoot inside next to a table and began setting up a booth about P.E.A.C.E Scooter. 100_2247I was running around the crowd collecting donations in exchange for stickers. Yes, that would be when the director approached me and reminded me it was their annual fund raiser and that I shouldn’t solicit donations. OOPS! She had every right, of course, and was nice enough about it. I guess it could have been an awkward moment, but Alix handled it well. Sure, I told her while they require a certain budget to maintain their big programs, even $3 helps me out-it gets me 130 miles down the road on my Peace ride. It was agreed that no sign would be put up soliciting, but that I could accept offers. I want to thank the generous people of Missoula for helping me raise $160. And I don’t feel as though there was ever a conflict of interest, as most people donated to me at the end of the night, after the auction was over. I also handed out a lot of postcards-and I look forward to hearing back from the peacemakers!
IMG_2113
A P.E.A.C.E, SCOOTER: A Patriot’s Exhibition Advancing Community and Environmentalism, on a Scooter › Edit — WordPressIMG_2123

Time to motor the 550 miles back to Seattle in my “cage.” I didn’t see the end of the Party, but Alix says I missed a lot of dancing and jubilant antics. I rode off into the sun after exchanging numbers with Nancy and Yetta and saying goodbye to Audrey and Alix. 2.5 days and 2 nights later, and I was due for a whirlwind flight back to the East Coast to send my daughter off for her first day at school. Little Miss Sunshine! The drive back was uneventful, no hippies to pickup and keep me company. But plenty of time to process the wonderful people in Alix’s life and the goal she has-to promote peace. I enjoyed that she doesn’t push her beliefs on people-she just wants to know what they think and stimulate more thought. Hey, I have a lot to learn…

Missoula was a really enchanting part of my journey. I know I’ve got a friend for life in Daphne and her presence on board for this trip is immeasurable. P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER isn’t just a joyride around the country, there’s a lot of time that goes into it. It was nice to have a guest star on the trip and a “partner in peace.” By day at least, Alix, partner in crime at night. Ha! My hosts were amazing and I hope to see them again. Much love to everyone!
*****I know its a long post, but I was there for 4.5 days, longer than most towns I visit! From now on, my goal is to keep updates more current, so you can really take the ride real time with me. This might mean shorter entries, but I will keep ’em coming. The road ahead is about 3-4 weeks. I hope to have some company at the finish line, so if you are nearby Crawford, TX, drop me a line so we can discuss. Maybe a rally????? My ETA will become clearer shortly. I have a lot of friends on the West Coast and its just so great here that I will probably dawdle down the coast. I already have a crush on Portland and Seattle, too, was seductively fun!

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