It was as if someone spliced the films The Great Outdoors and Festival Express together.
Barreling up I-15 from Teton Valley‚ Idaho towards Missoula‚ Montana for the Love Your Mother Earth Music Festival‚ dark clouds hung overhead as dime-sized raindrops poured onto any and all who braved the elements that make these Western thunderstorms infamous. The thunder cracked as if God himself decided to whip Mother Earth with his fury.
The landscape was barren‚ as snow was still visible on faraway peaks‚ some reaching 10‚000 or more feet into the sky. Herds of cattle huddled together along the quickly fleeting prairie. Soon‚ the copious high peaks and low valleys of Montana would enter my field of vision.
But‚ the much-needed cups of coffee ("Rocket Fuel" to the lost‚ lonely‚ troubled‚ and terribly in a hurry) had to be found and consumed.
Having not seen any sign of off-ramp services for the last 50 or so miles‚ a sign for the "Spencer Mines Opal Café" was spotted in the distance. The small pickup was immediately yanked towards the exit in ways even the General Motors Co. never knew it could maneuver.
"Welcome to Spencer‚ Idaho -- Opal Capital of America‚" the disheveled wooden placard stated as proudly as any small Western town that clings to any thread of recognition to attract weary tourists and road-raging truckers off the beaten path and into the unknown‚ which those after the experience realize is an unknown place for good reason -- no one wants to know about what transpires in these types of Charles Manson isolated areas.
Drifting down the street (there's only one)‚ faces are seen staring out the window at the unknown vehicle with its questionable driver sporting a shaggy beard and Dead sticker on the bumper. It was obvious I wasn't welcome in this cleanly shaven Mormon outpost (population: 38).
Once in the café‚ the dreary‚ red-faced‚ wrinkled man who seemed to be transporting a silver 1963 Rolls Royce (as seen by the U-Haul and trailer in the parking lot) to destinations unknown immediately eyed me as I sat down on the stool to his left. The dyed-blond waitress who just graduated from high school the week prior filled the coffee cup‚ which eerily resembled a nuclear power plant (you know the kind).
As I finished my meal and proceeded to pay my check‚ Kurt‚ the cook who made my cheeseburger‚ came from behind the grill. He filled his mug full of caffeine refreshment as he questioned those on the other side of his counter. Turns out he was a "catholic from Chicago‚" who‚ though white‚ knew how to take it to his thug counterparts "terrorizing the block" before he found himself in rural eastern Idaho.
"Fuckin' Momos (Mormons)‚" he said sipping the mug‚ shaking his head in disgust as to the ironic prejudice he faces in his new abode amid the God-fearing community.
He wished me well on my travels as I quickly hopped back on the interstate towards my primary objective.
Eventually I-15 turned into 1-90 as the gas gauge neared the "E‚" Frantically‚ I located the nearest gas station‚ which proved to be not only a place of fill-ups‚ but also a strip club‚ casino‚ McDonald's and Subway quick stop as well.
"Hey Linda‚ we have anymore of the those 'Montana' fridge magnets?" the gas attendant (labeled: "Marie") asked her coworker as I impatiently waited for the Roseanne-esque woman in front of me to get her answer. "They're behind the 'Montana' shot glasses."
Finally onto I-90 West‚ the sun was beginning to set on the day‚ and I knew the festivities at Love Your Mother were probably just getting underway.
Coasting into Missoula‚ the last of suns rays filtered into the now dusty windows on my four-cylinder road warrior. My radio dial ignited as I was finally coming into the radius of sound. Exiting the city limits and roaring down Highway 12‚ that signal‚ as well as cell service‚ quickly became nonexistent as the smell of campfire filled my nostrils and the sights of strangers soon to be friends suddenly surrounded me.
After seven hours‚ I was there‚ man.
The air was crisp and the mud fresh as the Hipster Farm hooted and hollered amongst the steep cliffs and dense forest of the Lolo Hot Springs -- 25 miles to the closest town one way‚ 77 miles the other.
We were alone‚ alone as we always wanted to be.
The sounds of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like A Wolf" echoed from the parking lot DJ tent as the usual jingles of "molly" and "hash" flowed between vehicles and around campsites. Music could be seen and vibrations felt from the main stage in the short distance across the bridge from the lot and over the muddy fields in the most pure frolicking intentions one might entertain.
There were drunk people‚ stoned people‚ spent people and even those who thought I was the Second Coming of Christ. Smelly dreadlocks‚ scents of organic deodorant‚ cigarette and campfire smoke. Oh‚ how the first festival of the season always gets me excited.
Dog friendly and doobie-sharing‚ I was alone but amongst friends. I had absolutely no idea who any of the lineup bands where (mostly from Missoula). But‚ then again‚ I really didn't care as I pulled down the tailgate‚ cracked open the first Miller High Life of the day‚ kicked back and let the cool breeze drift up my shorts. Bonfire smoke drifted through the thick woods as hipsters darted across the highway from the campsites to the cowboy saloon directly across the street as security tried to prevent anyone from getting hit by a logging truck.
I found myself debating between the saloon stage‚ the poolside stage‚ the main stage‚ the hot springs‚ the chill tent or the campground drum circles.
MAIN STAGE - Friday‚ 9:30 p.m.