As a parent, there is something profound about providing your children the chance to experience something that was special to you. Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to share with Sloan and Beau a place that played an incredible role in shaping the person I am today. Although it was for only about 36 hours, I was overjoyed to take my kids to the town where my educational, social, and professional development was built and shaped. Hello, Missoula.
Sidney, Sloan, Beau, and I were on the road by 5 a.m. on Saturday morning of Labor Day Weekend 2023. After a ride filled with Jonas Brothers music thanks to DJ Sid, we pulled into Missoula at 9 a.m. and parked at our hotel. From there it was a quick walk across the footbridge and onto the campus of the University of Montana. We had watched a bunch of Monte videos the day before so Sloan and Beau were starstruck when we lined the route of the Griz Walk and saw the famous bear himself leading the procession. Seeing the Spirit Squad and football team up close was also pretty cool. It was then off to the GSA Tailgate before entering Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
On a hot early September day, we watched the Griz host Butler. We had the pleasure of taking in the entire pregame performance followed by some football! Sloan stayed in her seat the entire game despite the sun beating down on us. Her goal was to make Griz Vision and with about two minutes left in the game she accomplished her goal along with the two new friends she had made in the stands. Beau was a little less engaged than Sloan but he sure took an interest in running up and down those Washington-Grizzly Stadium stairs 😂.
After the game I let the kids run on the stadium turf and then we walked through the Adams Center. As we did the latter I showed them the Hall of Champions, a section of the facility that I played a major role in updating during my time with Grizzly Athletics. We snagged posters and then made the short walk back to the hotel.
Okay, football is cool and all, but we all know what trumps watching a storied program host its home opener on a gorgeous day…swimming in the hotel pool! When we got to our hotel room, Sloan and Beau couldn’t get their suits on fast enough as we splashed in the outdoor pool and hot tub for a couple hours.
The swimming helped us work up our appetites and it was off to dinner. We ate at Old Chicago and for some reason, family dinners enjoyed out of town always seem to be more special. After we ate the four of us drove around downtown Missoula a bit before ordering Blizzards at Dairy Queen. We took the ice cream back to the hotel and watched TV before calling it a night.
We started our Sunday at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church for 10 a.m. mass. Our own pastor, Fr. Jeff Lewis, describes the beauty of this Missoula gem by remarking, “It is almost like it dropped upon Montana from Rome herself.” After mass we went to Cracker Barrel for brunch. The Missoula location was the first “Crack Shack” I ever ate at and Sidney misses the Southern chain greatly as there is not a location in Spokane. The food was excellent as usual.
It was now time to play! We headed off to Dragon Hollow, a spectacular and creative playground that was designed according to the suggestions of children. It definitely ranks as one of the top five playgrounds our kids have ever had the pleasure of playing on! We then hit up the adjacent carousel. Called “A Carousel For Missoula,” it was inspired by the Loof Carousel here in Spokane and is one of the fastest carousels in the country.
My daughter then proceeded to impress me. After we were finished in downtown Missoula we headed back to campus where Sloan was adamant that we hike “The M” trail. I was a little skeptical about whether she could do it but after we changed clothes in the University Center and headed to the base of Mt. Sentinel, I knew she was dialed in. Sloan did awesome as we ascended the mountain and made it to the top of The M. What a memorable moment with my little girl!
On that high note, it was time to head back to Spokane. We made a stop at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar and then drove the rest of the way to our home. It was about 8 p.m. by the time we walked inside the house.
There are certain “firsts” that you don’t forget. I believe Sid and I will always remember taking the kids to Missoula for this initial time. I am also convinced that Sloan will always remember the trip as well, especially the adrenaline of seeing herself up on Griz Vision and the accomplishment of hiking The M. What a perfect Montana getaway it was. Don’t Blink.