One of the benefits of a job that requires flexible scheduling is, sometimes… flexible scheduling. I’d worked close to 40 hours by the end of the day Thursday, which meant I’d have a very short Friday. Which, in my opinion, means, treat it like a three day weekend and steal some fun.
Josh and I bounced ideas around for a few nights after Alden was in bed. Maybe float a river we’d never floated? The Big Hole sounded like a perfect trip… not super-far to drive, maybe late enough in the season that the fishing crowd would be lessened and yet still enough water for the canoe?
Then, we started turning our attention a bit further east. A relative of Josh’s is spending the summer near Lewistown– maybe go take him out to dinner, and float somewhere out that way. The Judith? The Gates of the Mountains? So many places started looking appealing. I googled while Josh Gazeteered. Fish-Wildlife-Parks. BLM. Forest Service. State Parks. (Man, they need to get all the different recreation/campground websites coordinated up, I tell you.)
Then, Thursday night, we tried to really dial it in– and realized, any which way we sliced it, the plans we were concocting would require upwards on 10 hours in the car over the course of the weekend.
That doesn’t sound as crazy to a Montanan as it does to most people, I think. I’ve spent 8 hours in a car MANY times for a gig, or for recreation-chasing. But… with a trip to New England on the horizon (full days of plane travel on either end, and always a bit more “car time” than we’re used to while we’re there) we wanted to keep it simple and close to home… and get some chores done during the weekend to boot.
So, Plan C went into effect– Josh went up the Bitterroot early Friday, to set up camp, Alden and I headed down mid-afternoon after filling the cooler. We drove a bit south of the campground, the floated back to camp. Saturday after coffee and eggs Josh took down the tent and packed gear (while I read my book and drank more coffee) and then set off downstream, where we met him a few hours later. The river was great for kids at the take-out… a long gentle gravel shelf, no deeper than my knees, then a sandy section with a bit of a current, perfect for Alden to practice relaxing into the flow, wearing his life vest of course, and swimming downstream.
We were home in time for a nap, and to make a plan to meet friends at the Missoula Outdoor Cinema, which takes place summer Saturdays at sundown, just a block from our house. Films are projected onto a big screen on the side of a school building, and everyone piles onto quilts and camp chairs. It’s a fun event and we almost never go, because it’s really late (sunset in June around here is, like, 10:30.) Also, because of that, the films aren’t always kid films. In fact, they mostly aren’t. (They pick GREAT films, though — Raising Arizona, Little Miss Sunshine, Say Anything, Moonrise Kingdom…. just not usually Kids movies.)
This weekend’s film was “Up.” Which I was prepared to hate but I totally didn’t. It was a really sweet, funny, unusual story, and I really liked it. Alden found it a BIT scary at parts, but not too bad. He stayed awake for the whole thing, perhaps fueled by the massive bag of caramel corn Josh made.
The Sunday plan: Chores. I am always shocked at the list of chores we come up with, without even trying. And I’m talking, in this instance, house MAINTENANCE chores– not actual improvement. Josh, all morning, was emphasizing what time we thought we’d be done (2:30), so we could hit the river. I, on the other hand, kept noticing more and more pieces of Choreness to do. At about 2:30, he hit The Point At Which We Said We would Be Done, and I wasn’t. When he asked me what else needed to happen, we had a Clash of the Concepts moment, in which I rattled off twelve things that need to happen before we leave town, whereas, he expected The One Thing that would Allow Me to Call It Good.
One of my former bandmates posted this on facebook on Sunday afternoon:
We played a wedding down in Corvallis, MT last night. They offered to pay us extra if we’d play an extra hour. It was a lot of fun, and it’s good to know that we have enough material to cover a five and a half hour gig.
I read it with a strange bittersweet feeling. I could picture the scene so well. The pretty girls in summer dresses, the bride and groom showing off some dance moves, the open bar, the buffet line, the glorious Bitterroot Valley on a hazy July night, the drive home, yakking with tipsy bandmates as the hippie in the band once again played the DD. I bet it was a total blast. I am so thankful for all the years and all the late Montana nights of that kind of fun.
And I thought about the weekend we’d had, us three, and I felt, right there mixed with the bittersweet, truly wistful feeling I have for the band, I felt a breath of gratitude, a realization that I am certainly not in any way deprived of fun.
On Sunday afternoon, I conceded a bunch of items. Josh hustled to help complete the pared-down list. And by 3:30, we were loaded up again and off for a weekend-ending float on a new favorite stretch, with a delightful eddy-swimming spot midway. There was a strong headwind and we paddled together continuously.