I woke up that morning with a renewed happiness. I was going to see my girl after being months on the road without seeing a familiar face. I was actually getting butterflies about seeing her, like a first date or something.
Liz was kind enough to drive to the airport and pick up Ashley with me. Prior to this, I was going to pick Ashley up on bicycle. I didn’t know how it was going to work, but it would have had to work.
I whipped out the bike board and wrote Doherty on it. I wanted to make sure I had the right person and that she had the right person. She might not recognize me with my facial hair and buzz cut. And my huge legs and scrawny upper body. And really brown arms.
I saw her a hundred feet away wandering around. She turned around and started walking towards me. She saw the sign and started laughing. Butterflies were taking over my stomach. The song from Pretty Woman started playing over the airport speakers, and Ashley literally slowed down her walk, her hair defying gravity as it whooshed back and forth. She and everyone else at the airport were in slo-mo. Was this happening? No. None of that happened, but I wish it did.
I was happy. Very happy. It’s hard to describe seeing someone close to you after being in unfamiliar places by yourself for such a long time. You suddenly feel grounded. But I had grown as a person, and the Ryan prior to March 17th was a different person from the Ryan that stood before her. Would we get along? How would the week turn out? Would she have fun with the new Ryan? I was anxious to find out. A huge positive energy flowed all around me once she was in my presence.
a piece of my experience
I was really looking forward to showing Ashley what this trip meant to me. I wanted her to experience the things I was experiencing. For the week, that would mean: exploring towns, cycling, camping, couchsurfing, and meeting new people. Before she came out, we had disagreements on what to do. I didn’t want to stay in a hotel and be cooped up from experiences. Hotels usually result in vegetating and watching a stupid amount of TV in an over-air-conditioned room. Screw that noise.
We came to an agreement, and she would be open to these experiences. And I told her I’d make sure she’d have a great time.
Liz told us that we should hike up to the ‘M’ that overlooks the University of Montana and the entire city. Liz also kindly let Ashley use her cruiser bike. Awesome! I wouldn’t have to worry about getting us to a bike shop in town and finding her a bike.
We cycled down to UM Mountain, a 3 mile ride. At first, I was really worried about Ashley being on a bike. She hadn’t been on a bicycle since she was like 8. I stayed behind her and to the left on the edge of the bike lane, forcing cars to slow down and pass us with ease. Or they could have just hit me and not given a shit. But all the drivers in Missoula are very kind and give lots of space. There were a ton of cyclists in this city, and bikes lane were on nearly every street.
We made it down to the university without any problems. I was proud of Ashley. No complaints. No bitching. Now we had a big hike up to the M, which was incredibly steep. Tons of people were out there hiking.
We took our time hiking up, chatting and laughing. We finally got to the top and partied our asses off. It was a pretty incredible view of the city.
Ashley sunbathed on the ‘M’.
And we celebrated by doing handstands. I couldn’t have her come on this trip and not be a part of the handstand motif.
We hiked back down and hopped back on the bikes. This would be a 3 mile ride uphill back to Liz’s house. I was anxious to see how Ashley would take it. She took it…and well. She only stopped once. I was the positive cheerleader behind her. It probably got really annoying constantly hearing these phrases:
I’m proud of you!
You’re almost there.
You’re doing great.
You’re doing awesome.
I just wanted her to stay positive and not get burned out on cycling the very first day. She ended up doing great and making it back in one piece. I cooked up some quesadillas and brownies.
Yo Liz and Ashley…you got BROWNED!
lolo hot springs
Ashley and I had been planning on visiting a place called Lolo Hot Springs before she came out. I had looked on the map and questioned whether she’d be able to cycle that far. It was 40 miles from Liz’s house, and all she had was a single-speed cruiser bike. Ashley didn’t have padded shorts, but I gave her mine and they ‘kind of’ fit. The plan was to cycle to Lolo, camp for two nights, and enjoy the hot springs and amenities there. It really looked like a nice place. The website bragged about their beautiful, secluded tent sites and wonderful, clean facilities. The restaurant was great dining, and the hot springs were not to be rivaled. Sounded great. Off we went.
The ride out of town was downhill and flat. I was worried about the ride up to the town of Lolo, which was 15 miles from Liz’s house. Parts of the highway had guard rails and incredibly small shoulders…not the place for a new cyclist. There were also parts of it that had a pretty decent grade of 5-6%. Ashley conquered it, and I was proud of her. To celebrate, we stopped at a McDonald’s to eat lunch.
ugly, mean, fat lady
I sat down at a table while Ashley ordered food. Just next to my table sat a woman with two kids and her old parents. I began crunching into my apple, and her son turned around and said, “Mom, he’s eating an apple. Why?” The kid was confused I was eating a piece of fruit? He probably didn’t know what an apple was by the looks of the mother. She probably fed them chicken nuggets and french fries every day.
I shrugged it off. It’s just a kid. The mom said under her breath but clearly audible to me, “I don’t understand why people bring food into McDonald’s. It’s a restaurant. That’s annoying. Just get freaking food at the register and eat.” She said a few more things that I could not hear.
What the hell? You bitch. I wanted to grab her head and throw it in the milkshake machine, dunking it later in a huge mound of ketchup. We’re ordering food you asshole. Last time I checked, there wasn’t an ‘Apple and Fries #5′ combo. I guess I should have checked with her before bringing in the apple. Clearly she was McDonald’s Security and fast-food ambassador.
I was grinding my teeth in anger. Ashley sat back down at the table, and I asked, “Do you want a banana? An apple? A bagel with peanut butter?” I wasn’t going to confront this lady and make it an awkward meal for the both of us. I’d just piss her off by eating more food at McDonald’s. Ashley didn’t know what was going on and continued to eat.
Here is this lady in all her ugly glory:
I wanted to take my revenge Chaucer-style by writing about her. Yes, you got away with being a bitch. But I have struck you down with my blog.
I happily ate a big burger.
rain and rain and rain and rain
Ashley and I had about 27 miles before we got to the hot springs. Quite a ride. The ride to Lolo had been pretty mild. We’d be going uphill for the rest of the ride. With full stomachs, we rode off in high spirits.
It didnt take long for the rain to dump on us. I couldn’t believe it. This huge storm system came out of nowhere and took a huge, watery crap on us. Ashley persisted.
I was actually in a worse mood than she was. She was manning up against the cold, wet rain better than I. We stopped and threw on rain gear.
The last 10 miles were pretty hard on Ashley. Our stops became more frequent, and Ashley was losing steam. I kept telling her I was proud of her and she was doing great, but she told me to “shutup”. Pretty funny, looking back. Positive guy getting shut down. There would be no cheerleading according to Ashley.
Turning the corner, Lolo Hot Springs came into view. Ashley’s mood was instantly elevated, and she became a chatterbox. I was happy she was happy. We had overcome a struggle together, and I felt like our relationship had strengthened from that struggle.
We pulled into the registration area. I didn’t like the looks of this place, and it wasn’t what I saw on the website. The website offered beautiful pictures. This was not a beautiful picture.
The bear-proof dumpsters were overflowing with trash. They weren’t very bear-proof when they’re like that, Lolo Hot Springs. The tent site area was flooded and muddy. Secluded? My ass. They were all out in an open grass field. The rest of the place was jam-packed with RVs. Really? I couldn’t believe it. I checked out the facilities. Not well kept. This was officially bullshit. But we didn’t have much of an option.
We walked in to pay for a tent site. There went $20. I wanted a tipi site due to the rain, but the owner let me know that they weren’t doing tipis this year. Uh, that’s not what your website said. I wanted to scream, “LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!” This was the remains of a tipi site.
The owner was kind enough to let us know that they have a water contamination notice. He wouldn’t have told me if I didn’t ask about the water condition. The state evidently had slammed them with a warning about their water. It was polluted and contaminated with God knows what. He reassured me its fine to drink. Ashley looked in their car. They had bottled water. Man, fuck this guy. I was really pissed off about our situation. I was mostly disappointed because I wanted Ashley to have a good time.
I set up camp, and we walked over to the restaurant.
$9 microwave dinners
We walked up the steps of the restaurant and saw this. Great. A pair of dirty BVD’s. I bet this place has great food. Really clean and scrumptious. What the hell were a pair of dirty men’s underwear doing there? More importantly, why hadn’t anyone picked them up?
We asked for a menu. Cool. Really shitty food for $9. They couldn’t cook meals because of the water situation. How about a notice on your website, you liars? Your website was total bullshit. I hope that people google this place and find this post. To those people that do, do not go to this place. It sucks hard. A few people stopped by the restaurant to see what was up. They walked in and had a “what the hell” look on their faces after seeing the menu. Pretty funny.
Surrendering to the shittiness of the menu, I ordered a chicken sandwich and fries. Ashley ordered a microwaveable cheese pizza. We got canned cokes too. That was the best part of the meal, actually.
We walked over to the hot springs after eating our wonderful meal. We were informed that it was nudie nite at the hot springs. We shrugged it off. This might be interesting. It was.
We saddled up in our bathing suits for an interesting night. We went outside to the pool to mentally prepare. There were a ton of naked old people in the indoors hot springs. Oh man. I kept telling myself to keep my eyes focused on the walls and to go to a happy place. Be cool, Ryan. Don’t freak out. We were as prepared as we could possibly get.
We walked into the hot springs. BAM. A flood of small, unkept weeners engaged my eyes in a vicious stare down. The weeners won. There were old women nude in there too, but it was the weeners that beat me down. I wanted to laugh hysterically but not in the humorous fashion. This night had turned into some huge mind fuck. Was I was in a romantic comedy? Should I talk with an English accent like Hugh Grant for now on?
We made our way down into the hot springs. I was mentally out of it. Stupid me slipped on the last step and plunged into the hot water. This brought all the attention to me. No! Pretend I’m not here. I wanted to go underwater and hide. Then I thought about it. All of this water was flowing against the uncovered balls and weeners of these old men. A patch of water caught some light, and what I saw almost made me projectile vomit into the old people’s faces. Huge amounts of dead skin were floating by my chest, probably getting caught in my chest hair. Great. I’d go to bed in my sleeping bag knowing I was covered in ball skin. Ashley laughed about it.
We sat in the water. I looked into Ashley’s eyes and tried not to look away. We were surrounded, like wildebeests surrounded by a pack of lions. There was nowhere to sit on the edges of the hot springs without being next to someone. Here we were, the only clothed people in the hot springs in the very center. I could feel the eyes burning holes into me. These people wanted to see my peepee.
creepy hairy guy
Throughout the nite, there was this one other fat hairy guy in a bathing suit at the hot springs staring at people. He stared at me, and he stared at Ashley. You know those eye contact wars you sometimes have with people? This guy would not go down. He was not human. He would just stare a hole right through you. It was bad. If this guy had a theme song, it was Cropwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me”.
I couldn’t take it. I had to escape this guy. We went out to the pool for a while, but it was pouring rain and very cold. I wasn’t looking forward to the tent. We had laid out our clothes on a table, and I’m sure the sleeping bag was wet too. We came back in after a while, hoping he was gone. He was still there but staring at other people. “Quick, get in the water before he burns a hole into my pelvis region with his eyes!” I thought.
It was getting close to closing time, and all the old folks made their exit. We stayed behind for a while. Suddenly, the lights flicked on and off. The lady at the desk was trying to pressure us to leave. We had 45 minutes left. We prepared to leave anyways. Ashley overheard the lady talking on the phone. She was getting booty-called and wanted to get the hell out of dodge. This lady was huge too. I didn’t want to think about it.
cold with no pillow
Sleeping in a one-man tent with two people was going to be a challenge. I let Ashley use the sleeping bag and my pillow. All my clothes were wet, so I had nothing to cover my body. It was also going to dip down into the lower 40s. I wanted Ashley to get a full nite’s rest because it was a huge day for her. I figured I’d just suffer through it.
The nite was a long one for me. I was sleeping on a mat with nothing on my body and nothing under my head. I often woke up shivering my ass off. I could feel the water seeping through the tent. It continued to pour, and pour hard it did.
After a long nite, I woke up to a terrible headache and bloodshot eyes. All the blood went into my head because of the slope of the ground and having no pillow. I felt like shit run over. I stumbled to the bathroom with poor vision. Everything was blurry. What was wrong with me? Was I drugged by the hot springs? Did I accidentally drink the contaminated water?
Ashley slowly got up, but she seemed well-rested and good to go. I begrudgingly packed up. We ate plain bagels and fruit. Ashley never complained about the food and happily ate it. She understood my hunger now. She commented that she was hungry all day yesterday and that she couldn’t stop eating.
It started to pour. Shit. No. I had sent Liz an email the prior nite asking if it was OK to come back to her place. I didn’t want to give anymore money to this place. I had dropped $60 in one day here. That was enough for me. Ashley offered to buy us food at the restaurant. I didn’t want her giving them any money too. I was ready to get back to Missoula. 40 miles stared us back in the face. In the rain.
We cycled about 7 miles before pulling over to the side of the road, seemingly defeated by the weather. Ashley wanted to hitchhike. She wanted to hitchhike so bad, in fact, that she asked me if we could hitchhike with a semi-trailer going the opposite way. I laughed and stuck out my thumb at the first pickup truck that passed us. I doubted we’d get a ride having two bikes and all.
The truck hit their brakes and turned around. “Shit! Come on!” I yelled to Ashley. We cycled down to meet them. They were a cyclist couple from Bozeman, MT. Mary and Kent were their names. Ashley was pumped. I was pumped. They said they’d be able to drop us off in Missoula too, and they didn’t mind driving to Liz’s neighborhood.
Ashley had questioned hitchhiking prior to this trip, but an hour of cycling in the rain quickly changed her mind. She realized that hitchhiking was not the fear-laden shit you see all the time in scary movies. I hear this quite a lot, and people need to get out of their bubbles. That mentality shuts you out from meeting great people. Hitching leads to great stories too. Yes, there are freakshows out there. There are sharks in the water too, but you still see people swimming in the ocean. Mary and Kent were great people, and we had great conversation with them.
the coolest rancher ever
We came back to Liz’s house to find her husband Warren there. He’s runs their family ranch of 40,000 acres in Chinook, MT. I immediately felt comfortable around him. He had a really warm and fun personality, always laughing and joking. Upon hearing our horror story, Liz and Warren offered to make us some late afternoon lunch. We were showered with their hospitality upon arrival.
They told us they were going to see the movie Hangover later that night and wanted us to come along. Absolutely. I really enjoyed their company. After the movie, they even bought us dinner at a local diner. Man, I was really taken aback by the day’s turn of events. We were showered in hospitality.
being happy little tourists
The next day, Ashley told me she still wanted to see more of the town. Warren said we could use his truck, but Ashley opted to cycle around town. Whoah. Ashley was awesome. I was super happy she was welcoming the experience with an open mind.
We hopped back on the bikes and made our way into town.
A couple happy and in love with their college shirts. Annoying, matching shirt couple.
We spent much of the day walking around town. Afterward, we grabbed some ice cream.
I was not looking forward to seeing her leave my company the next day. I really had a good time. Maybe some of the best times of the trip. She held me in her arms.
It made me happier, so I gave her a ride on my back in the air.
Later that evening, we got back to the house and ate dinner with the whole crew: Warren, Liz, Jordon, Genise, and Maura. We stayed up late again talking about Michael Jackson, Jon and Kate, and library science.