Missoula

I jogged across the street and stood on the corner of Thatuna Street and Colorado Street, watching down Thatuna waiting to see her car come around the corner, assuming she’d be coming this way.  I waited, and I waited.  She had texted me that she was on her way about 15 minutes before.  She should have been there by now, being that Pullman is a mere three miles in width.

Finally, I pulled out my phone and gave her a call.

She answered, “Where are you?”

“Waiting for you on Thatuna!  Where are you?”

“In the parking lot!” She laughed.

You know what they say about assumptions.

Nonetheless, I jogged back across the street, found her car, gave her a kiss, and we were off.

We were leaving Washington’s Palouse, headed to Missoula, Montana to visit Amber’s family. We decided to take a different route over the mountains than the usual trip up Highway 95 that connected with Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Instead, we headed out through Potlatch, on Highway 6, up through St. Maries, catching a glimpse of north Idaho’s gorgeous St. Joe River, and connected with Highway 3.  According to our GPS, if we stayed on Highway 3 we would connect with Interstate 90 around Canyon, Idaho, not far from Kellogg.

So we switched off our GPS since it seemed like it would be a straight-forward trip, which turned out to be a mistake.  About halfway to Interstate 90 we ended up merging onto Highway 97 without even realizing it (looking on Google maps I found the place where we took the wrong “Y”, the signage was a little lacking…), and took a very slow and winding, albeit gorgeous, drive along the east side of Harrison Slough and Coeur d’Alene Lake, eventually connecting with Interstate 90 after tacking an extra half hour onto our drive.

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We stopped in downtown Wallace, Idaho for dinner at the 1313 Club and suffered through an incredibly awkward dinner at the bar as a very brash young woman with a voice that quite possibly could have carried for miles talked nearly non-stop to either the woman sitting next to her, the bartender, other locals that entered the bar, or, and this was the worst, was when she yelled over top of us to her father that was sitting across the restaurant.  And we also learned a good history of her sorority days in college and how her house, “Just wasn’t the same anymore!”

We finished our food quickly and got the hell out of there, and decided to stop in at Wallace Brewing Company to check it out before we got back on the road. We ended up walking in to a book reading being done by Dr. Heather Branstetter, author of the book Selling Sex in the Silver Valley – A Business Doing Pleasure.  We only caught the last 15 minutes of her reading, but it was fascinating to learn a little bit about the infamous and once-popular brothels of the Wallace and greater Silver Valley area.  The people were very friendly here, including Dr. Branstetter, and we made sure to grab her card before we left and we hit the road once again.

A few hours later we made it to Missoula, and after saying hello to Amber’s family, we quickly located the guest bedroom and, exhausted after our drive, knocked out for the night.

The next morning we woke up, had a breakfast cooked by Amber and her younger brother Aiden, and we were off with Amber’s family to the University of Montana, where her parents Jeremy and Rayna are professors as well as researchers.

Amber and I had been brimming with excitement ever since we’d heard who would, coincidentally, be in Missoula at UM the same weekend as our visit.  We would be attending a political rally, the first one I’d been to in my life.  Montana is currently in the midst of an at-large congressional race after Trump tapped Ryan Zinke, who had held the congressional office, to a position in his presidential administration.

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We had at least ten people ask to take pictures of us in our matching Bernie t-shirts that read “Hindsight is 2020”. Like Amber said to me afterward, we definitely won “cutest couple” award for the rally…

The race is currently between Greg Gianforte, a Republican whose campaign aligns very tightly with the Trump administration’s agenda, and Rob Quist, the candidate the rally was being held for, a progressive Democrat whose campaign aligns closely with the views of progressive Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Bernie would be there clear from Vermont to stump for Rob Quist, as many across the country currently see this special election as having potentially national implications, given the background of each candidate and what they represent, and that it’s one of the first large-scale state elections of its kind since the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election.

Last year I caucused for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries against the eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  I first heard of Bernie Sanders about two years ago sometime in 2015 when campaigns began kicking off for the 2016 election.

He instantly drew me in with his message of class warfare, and the fact that the rich continue to get richer, the poor get poorer, and the country’s middle class continues to shrink.  The fact that he refused super PAC’s, didn’t operate massive fundraisers, and the average donations to his campaigns averaged around $25 resonated with me. Bernie is not bought out by big donors, in fact, he refused to work with the type of big money donors who want to buy political agendas.

Not that fairly big-name Bernie donors and supporters don’t exist, such as Ben and Jerry Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream), they just simply believe in him and his message, and understand that his agenda is not a socialist war against private enterprise in America, rather a marriage between capitalism and socialism to create a little more balance and better lives for everyone in the country, not just the rich.

He used grassroots organizing, hitting the road and talking with people face-to-face, and in the process, he began a political revolution.  More than anything, he’s a normal person with humble beginnings whom I, and millions of other Americans, can identify with.  He’s like me, my family, and my friends, and he fights for everyday-Americans, not just the ultra-rich, and I admire him for that.

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Bernie Sanders has become a personal hero of mine, and a role model, and I believe he will go down as one of the great social justice warriors of our time.

The people in attendance for the rally were nothing but friendly and positive.  It was an enlightening experience to be around so many positive people that all had the same desire: a better life for everyone in our country, regardless of where you came from or your political or socioeconomic status.  While there was frustration expressed due to current things happening in our country, there was a lot of love in the air that day at UM.

The rally was a great experience, and organized well.  Rob Quist, a long-time musician himself as part of the Mission Mountain Wood Band, has two very musically gifted children who sang and played guitar and banjo as part of a five-person band to get the rally kicked off.

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Several people spoke before Rob Quist made his speech, and after he was finished, Bernie took the stage to close things out.  It was an incredible speech.  He spoke of the billions of dollars in tax cuts coming to families such as the Walton’s, Koch Brothers, as well as the Trump family if the AHCA is destroyed instead of fixed, and the millions of people who will lose access to imperative medicines, doctors and specialists if their coverage is dropped. He spoke about everything from income inequality, to women’s rights, to low wages and foreign policy.  It was an inspiring speech, and one that will resonate with me my whole life.

After the speech, Rob and Bernie came down and shook the hands of people along the front row, and Amber and I both got the opportunity to shake hands with Rob and Bernie, and I even got Bernie to autograph my copy of his book Our Revolution.

It was an incredible experience, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to shake his hand, and hear him speak in person.

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Later that afternoon, still amped up from the rally, Amber, her parents, their not-so-small puppy Luna, and myself went on a gorgeous hike up Mount Sentinel, situated right behind the University of Montana overlooking the city of Missoula, up past the famous white “M” that the side of the mountain wears, and to Sentinel’s summit.

The view of the Mission and Lolo mountain ranges that surround the valley Missoula lies in was astonishing, particularly from the vantage point Mount Sentinel offers.  It was a warm day in the mid-60’s, and snow still capped the taller mountains in the distance while we hiked the mountain comfortably in t-shirts.

Rain showers were scattered around in the distance, but no rain fell on us.  We even saw two deer up close and personal near the trail and were able to get a few pictures before they took off into the trees.  To see more pictures from the trip, check out the Adventure Gallery.

After our hike, famished, we headed to dinner at the Thomas Meagher Bar in downtown Missoula and enjoyed drinks and dinner.  My Meagher Mac and Cheese was quite possibly the best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever eaten, and although I could have split it into two meals, killing the whole thing was totally worth it (although my digestion system would probably disagree).  I highly recommend it to anyone passing through Missoula.

Sunday we said our goodbyes and headed home toward Pullman, albeit on a different route than the one we had taken on our way into town on Friday.  We left from southwest Missoula and traveled into the Lolo Mountain range.  After some time we crossed into Idaho and fairly quickly came to the top of Lolo Pass, and the views from here were breathtaking.  Sky-high mountains surrounded us as we made our descent from the summit, many of them wearing white caps of snow on the clear, warm, sunny day.

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Eventually we met up with the Lochsa River, stopping to take pictures along the river at one point.  The Lochsa is a beautiful high mountain river, and the high spring-time water levels made the rapids more severe, taking sharp cuts and turns.  The heavy runoff and subsequent high water levels from the winter’s heavy snowfall will make for beautiful beaches later this summer.

When we eventually came to Lowell, Idaho we stopped again to take pictures where the Lochsa and Selway Rivers converge into the Clearwater River.  We would follow the Clearwater River the rest of the way into Lewiston, Idaho, where we stopped one more time at the top of the Lewiston Grade to snap a few pictures on the clear, sunny day.

Taking this route home took a little longer than shooting up Interstate 90 and hitting the 80 MPH speed zones in Montana, but it was a gorgeous drive, and certainly worth the extra time it took.  It was a blast of a weekend, and in the process I realized how much more fun things are when I’m taking trips and doing activities such as hiking when I’m with the woman I love.  So I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you, Amber, for being you.  I love you, and I look forward to countless more adventures in the future.

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