So it's Saturday night in Missoula, and I am sitting in Liquid Planet
sharing a fine cup of coffee with Marilyn while a young man named Chris Miles plays some classic Jim Croce on his guitar.
We got into town last night and met two virtual friends, Daniel and Jen
. D & J are a great young couple who live here in Missoula, and they were kind enough to host us for dinner, and then let us crash for the night at their place (the shot above shows them cooking breakfast for us the next morning). Before we hit the hay though, we drove on over to The Big Dipper
The Dipper is a really cool ice cream shop in the university district. We visited it last summer with Shane and Jean, and were amazed at how many people hang out at this place - all shapes, sizes, and colors, just chilling on good ice cream and talking to one another. Of course, it hasn't changed much since last year.
No sooner did we start walking through the parking lot than we met two of D & J's friends - Ted and Rosio. Ted's a long time Montanan; Rosio is from Ecuador. It doesn't take long to strike up a conversation in Missoula, and this was no exception. Ted spotted my Cabela's cap and asked if I liked to fish. Um, yeah, although that might be putting it mildly.
Turns out that not only is Ted an avid fly fisherman, but he also owns a piece of real estate down in Bolivia (think giant peacock bass
). He's passionate about conservation, and so he's put together a group of investors to help help protect South American rainforest by wisely developing it - the point is not so much to make money, as to make enough money to keep it from being developed for other uses. Very, very interesting, and I'm looking forward to connecting with him again this Fall.
Missoula is full of people like this - people who see life a little differently, people who care about things like the environment, the community, their city. And I must confess, I like it. There are certainly lots of problems, but there are lots of gospel impulses in this secular city. I am looking forward to living here, to making friends and investing in lives.
Of course not everyone is a tree hugger or an artist. Missoula is a party town too. Just this evening I was walking Jack through Caras Park along the river, smoking my pipe and enjoying the evening sun. A couple of young guys in their twenties hollered at me from their park bench:
"Oh man, what are you smoking?!? That smells good! What a beautiful dog..." So I stopped and chatted for a few minutes. Before I know it, one of them is showing me his pipe, asking if I have a little of mine to share. Fair enough. I offer him some of my Cattleman's Gold.
"So how do you guys like Missoula? I think I'm going to be moving here this Fall."
"Oh man, you're going to love it! Missoula is a drinking town, man!" (He's leaning back, pretending to tip back a bottle).
Yeah, they were a little stoned. But they were nice guys, and they very willing to talk. Turns out one of them has been here six months; his friend, a mere week an a half. So this is Missoula - people who are looking for something more in life, willing to try just about anything to find it. It's beautiful, and it's sad, all at the same time. Already, I find myself loving this place.
One of the things that is going to be hard is housing. We know that we want to be within easy biking distance of the downtown and the campus, and housing prices are through the roof. We can probably afford a 2 to 3 bedroom place - but we need 4 to 5 bedrooms with enough room to throw a party for 60+ friends. Hmm. This is going to be challenging.
We talked with one realtor this morning and we're meeting another tomorrow. And in the meantime, we've been driving all over the city trying to figure out where we want to live, and where we don't. We're also trying to think outside the box - buy something small and add on? buy something dumpy and bulldoze it so we can start over? The cheapest _lot_ we've seen was for $50K. Most of them (the few that there are) are closer to $75K. But most of the 4 bedroom houses are over $300K, and this for something that still needs work. Ouch.
All told, housing is going to be a huge challenge. We'd appreciate your prayers about this. And if you have any creative suggestions, please drop us a line.
Well, time to get a refill of coffee and then head to bed for the night. Nothing like a Saturday night in Missoula...