Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stop Staring at Us!: Memorial Day Weekend Part 2

Okey dokey, back for round 2 of the big weekend...

Okay, so who has heard of the Cracker Barrel? Anyone? There must be some people because apparently it’s extremely popular at highway turn-offs and airport hotels all over the country. Alyson, upon arriving, gave me a hug and told me that she had seen a Cracker Barrel off Exit 101 and that we would be going as soon as possible. What? Cracker Barrel? Having no idea what this place was, I just assumed I must have been somewhere similar in my life since a restaurant with a name like Cracker Barrel has to have a location SOMEWHERE in Eastern Oregon (I was thinking similar to the Round Up in Condon. Kelda, Amy, Alyson, Paige, Lauren – you all know exactly what I’m talking about)… Ooohhhhh, but I was so wrong. The next morning we get up and Alyson is immediately dressed and ready to go get to the good old CB. We drive up and the first thing I notice is the rocking chairs and oversized checkers sets that cover the front porch. I laugh, Alyson says its normal here, and we go inside. No one would call the inside of this place normal. I was in no way prepared for the visual assault the Cracker Barrel would wage on my corneas. It was like everything corny, cheesy, tacky, sugary and most of all AMERICAN was stuffed into one tiny little room. Ceramic American flag lamp anyone? Frog on a swing? “Nostalgic” candy? All available for purchase. And, don’t forget your country rocker. How I’ve missed out on the ridiculous that is this restaurant/country store for 27 years is beyond me, but the pancakes were quite good.

So after breakfast I have the absolutely brilliant idea to hike the “M.” The “M,” for those of you who don’t know, is located above the University on the west face of Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908, when Forestry Club members forged a zigzag trail up the mountain and students carried up stones to shape the symbol of the University of Montana. From the first time I ever visited Paige in Missoula, I’ve heard about how hiking the “M” is a rite of passage for people who live here. But anyone who knows me knows if I’m on vacation there is no working out. Please.

In 1912, a wooden letter replaced the one made of stone. When the wooden "M" was blown off the mountain (ha – isn’t that a funny mental picture?) in 1915, it was replaced with a more permanent, larger stone "M." That structure remained until 1968, when it was replaced with the concrete "M" that’s there today. I asked a local if they flew in the concrete, but no. It was hauled up slowly in buckets (seriously can’t even imagine this).

So since I am no longer on vacation and now call Missoula my home, I decided it was time to make the trek. And to take Alyson with me. The trail is less than a mile long but you have to climb a steep, zigzag path with 11 switchbacks and you gain 620 feet in elevation. As you get higher, the view expands to include all of Missoula, the valley, the Clark Fork River and distant mountains. After about 10 minutes I was done and felt really lucky to have Wyatt with me to help pull me up the hill. Making it even worse were the dozens of people RUNNING up the hill. Whatever – we made it and it was so great! It felt like a really big accomplishment and now I was beginning to feel like a true Missoulian. Jackson and Wyatt frolicked all along the switchbacks and had a great time.

So the day moves on, we take a nap, and go to dinner at Scotty’s Table, which is my favorite restaurant in Missoula. From there, we headed to Sean Kelley’s and met up with my friend Dave. This is where it starts to get awkward. Alyson, who I love DEARLY, came into Montana thinking (as I’m sure I did when I first started visiting) that she would be more attractive than most of the Montanan women. So we sit down at Sean Kelley’s with Dave and Alyson keeps commenting on this table of old men who she says is staring at her. After about 10 minutes of this, I look over and catch the eye of one of them and he says hi and I say hi. To get what I assume to be the inevitable over with, I say, “would you please stop staring at my friend?” and he says, “who do you think I’m staring at?” and I point at Alyson. Then he says, “Ummm… no, I’m staring at the girl back by the window.” OH MY GOD THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN. Yep, one big old slap to everyone’s ego later, we’re off the next bar. Where it happened again. Alyson, apparently undeterred by the smack down we received at Sean Kelley’s, thought a group of younger men were staring at her and said something to them, to which they replied, “We’re watching Nascar on the TV behind you.” Just so everyone knows – Alyson and I have since had a good chuckle about this and she said there was no way I couldn’t write about it on the blog. All in all, a quality evening.

After breakfast and some shopping Monday morning, we decide to take in a little more nature and head to Blue Mountain, near where my friend Dawson grew up and his parents still live. I had a lovely dinner with Bill and Lynda Brown a few weekends ago on their beautiful property and have been wanting to explore more of Blue Mountain ever since. So we found a trail where the dogs could be off-leash and headed out. We hiked to the top of the hill, stared at the beautiful view, played with the dogs and drank champagne. Yes, in the middle of the day. It was a holiday...
Now Alyson is gone and it’s back to work and life for me. Oh! And Jackson ate bee yesterday and his face was all swollen. Sorry, no photos. Paige and Justin come home next Thursday and the weather is taking a sunny turn, so I really have nothing to complain about… except I miss everyone! Obviously you can tell that people who come to visit get the royal treatment so get on a plane and come see me!


Alyson said...

Best weekend ever! Can't wait to come back and accuse more men of staring at me :)

Dawson said...

Best post so far... though I would argue that "stressfull" or "bizzare" is a more appropriate description of dinner with my parents.