Sunday – 2000 Miles in Half a Day
Caleb had mentioned going up to Montana in August to see family and when my dad suggested I meet him for a road trip I decided that it was time to travel and I would visit Caleb’s sister and her family while he stayed in San Diego to work and finish a sleep study. It’s been six months since I traveled last but there’s only so much I can stow in a backpack and I always seem to bring more than I need.
My first flight has me leaving the house at 4am so that I can spend six hours at the Denver airport looking at Native figurines and get hit in the head with a flying piece of ceramic souvenir, eating a piece of a plastic-tasting sandwich from the USO with the swimming at the Olympics on TV, and walking the length of the A-terminal before escaping the physical and audial damage of others with a spot by a window to read.
Landing in Missoula was like flying into San Francisco, both cities that I’ve driven through many times, but both disorienting to arrive in via airplane. I was told Jessi, my sister-in-law, would be there to pick me up at 6pm but I was unaware of where she was and got lucky that a stranger took pity on me (neither of us seeing a bus) and decided to drop me off while spending more time with the friend she was there to take home.
The front gate is open, the dogs are loud, the chickens are friendly, the garden is bountiful, and the backyard relaxing. This is where Jessi and I will eat dinner from Bridge Pizza (where she ordered everything but pie) while the girls play and Jake unloads the car of bikes and snacks from their trip to the scenic rail to trail, Hiawatha, that starts only a hundred miles drive from the city to the border with Idaho.
Jessi gets the girls set up with their favorite cartoon, Adventure Time, so we can talk and play with kittens and show the dogs attention too. She has two of all the indoor creatures to include a pair of rats and gerbils. Bedtime is late and I’m ok with that as all I have to do is rollover on the couch, close my eyes, and keep my feet warm with Rufus, the deaf dog, for most of the night.
Monday – Biking in Caleb’s Motherland
Jake runs to the store for peanut butter and coffee (two very important food groups) and stirs me up a jar with a power tool. I grab a kid’s backpack to hold paperwork and leave before the pot is brewed in hopes of getting the car title and my new driver’s license taken care of today.
I’ll ride Jessi’s bike, that Jake de-mudded for me, along the Clark Fork River to the MVD 40 minutes early only to be turned away because they’re booked with appointments today. Down the street, AAA doesn’t bother looking at my paperwork before doing the same, so I ride to the courthouse, past flowers and deer, and wait two hours to leave with license plates in hand.
I go back to the MVD and AAA for the same message, “Better luck tomorrow.” I’ll ride back to the house for another sandwich and talk with Caleb on speaker as I pedal to the post office to mail the plates to him. I spend the afternoon walking up and down streets in the neighborhood to give my butt a break from the bike seat and fill my lungs and eyes with smoke from forest fires burning in the distance.
Jessi gets home and orders dinner, sesame chicken and sushi, that will be home before we return from our evening hike to an overlook on the 3.5 mile Barmeyer Loop in the Mount Dean Stone Preserve. The TV gets turned off by 11pm so I don’t have to build another fort over the screen when I can’t find the remote or power button.
Tuesday – Walk In, Fly Out
I’m in luck this morning as Jessi lets me borrow her car and the MVD is taking walk-ins but you have to show up before the first appointment person and I’m third in that line. Ninety minutes, seven documents, an eye exam, and signature later I’ll have a new license being mailed to me in a couple weeks.
Jessi and I walk to Drum Coffee for caffeine and cookies for lunch. I refill my cup with coffee Jake made before going to work. I’ll get in an afternoon walk and get more sweaty before the mandatory Missoula meal at Staggering Ox, though mine will be had on the plane I’ll take to Denver with a shorter layover on my way to Phoenix.
I sat next to a mom, who left her kids at home, and is traveling to compete in a jiu-jitsu tournament. We talk about ourselves, the in-flight magazine, and work on a crossword puzzle. The plane lands at 10pm and I’m greeted with hugs and smiles that I’ve missed from dear old Dad and his lovely wife Caroline.