Missoula, Montana

Kayakers near downtown Missoula
  • Kayakers near downtown Missoula

“Hey! It’s a red light!” I screamed as Sarah drove into the intersection.

“Sorry, I really can’t drive and talk at the same time,” she said, “I’m on antidepressants.”

At the next light I gestured as I saw the light turn.

“See, I stopped, I saw your finger begin to raise.”

I didn’t know if I was relieved or not.

I really couldn’t complain about my ride. Having cruised into Missoula via Greyhound, I should only feel sympathy for the driver. She was a 60-year-old former divorce attorney who had been working at McDonald’s and as a part-time librarian to make ends meet. I met her in front of the courthouse when I noticed scraggly punk rockers handing out food.

Seeing them Food Not Bombs came to mind. I was right. I grabbed a plate of mediocre fried rice with cabbage. Every time I’ve eaten Food Not Bombs I always thought a Soviet apparatchik could cook better. I noticed Sarah wearing an Industrial Workers of the World shirt. I started a conversation about the union, and after asking her where I could find a pharmacy she offered me a ride.

I ended up in Missoula on a whim. A punk outside of a Portland house show said it was like Portland East. Hearing this and wanting to hop a train to Montana, I thought it was reason enough to go. Sarah told me as she drove that it was “the closest thing to San Francisco here in Montana.”

Arriving here, I could tell it was obviously a college town. “Griz Nation” signs were plastered all around. It felt like a mixture of Pocatello, Idaho – with its Western college town ambiance – and Portland, Oregon, being divided by a river.

I hopped off the bus from Whitefish ready to explore – I had 16 hours before my bus left. I walked about a mile from the station on Broadway to downtown, and entered Charlie’s Bar, intending to eat at the Dinosaur Café located in the back of the bar. I’d read that it served good Cajun/American food. The kitchen was closed on Sunday. I decided to drink.

Charlie’s Bar was dive-filled with beards, beer guts and gray hair. The slim, blond, twenty-something bartender juxtaposed next to the clientele made this bar a weird combo – but so was what was on tap. Charlie’s beer selection is in the high double digits. I ordered some Moose Drool, a balanced brown ale brewed in town, and paid $3.50 for a pint.

After two pints, I cleared out of Charlie’s and walked around town. I noticed a plethora of coffee shops and boutiques, along with a sushi restaurant. I passed by ZooCity Apparel, a screen-printing and clothing company, which proclaimed itself “A Worker-Owned Collective.” According to their website, they print and sell Montana-inspired fashion.

Later in the evening I ended up by the tracks at the Double Front Café. I read online that their fried chicken was tasty. I ordered a plate of fried chicken gizzards and fries for $9.50. I wasn’t impressed with the marinated gizzards – they didn’t have the snap I like from gizzards – but their battered fries and breading were tasty. I think I’d order a plate of chicken instead if I were here again.

After eating, I went to the river. I was looking for a place to pass out. On the east side I spotted a skate park. It was well designed – I wished I’d brought my board. Down from the park a little ways I rolled out my sleeping bag.

I awoke at 6 a.m. and walked back to the bus station.

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