Missoula and Portland have for years enjoyed a number of similar quirks. Both boast a long history of Bigfoot sightings, a proximity to storied lake monsters and a fondness for craft beer. Portland borrowed its famed “Keep Portland Weird” slogan from Austin years before we borrowed it from them. Apparently, both subscribe to the notion that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, too.
With the announcement that Missoula will play host to its first Bare As You Dare naked bike ride this August, it seems that the Portlandification of our fair city has officially gone from gradual to uninhibited. Some may balk at the notion that we’re just one unicycling, bagpiping Darth Vader away from the title of Portland-East. But maybe it’s time to hop on a banana seat and steer into the proverbial skid.
Missoula already has a head start in many respects. Local boutiques are crammed with apparel featuring images of elk and antelope and the 406 area code—way cooler brands than any lame bird. While Treasure State Donuts may not host weddings like the infamous Voodoo Doughnut, their maple bacon bar is now an established part of weekend fishing trips up Rock Creek. Missoula’s food cart craze is growing, and the city even has a brew bike.
Still, Missoula could do more. It’s puzzling that, here on the floor of Glacial Lake Missoula, Missoula hasn’t come up with an answer to Portland’s annual Sand in the City—a sandcastle competition involving the trucking-in and removal of nearly 140 tons of sand. Superhero pub crawls are all the rage in the City of Roses, yet here the best Batman outfits only emerge on Halloween. And with such a vibrant acting community, how has Missoula not given rise to something akin to Trek in the Park, that wacky five-year run of “Star Trek” episode reenactments in Portland parks?
Perhaps Missoula needs more bug-encrusted ice cream, more hubcap-sized city parks, more pirate festivals and vegan strip clubs. An annual citywide zombie walk wouldn’t seem out of place here given the ever-increasing reputation of Zombie Tools, which is now supplying props for Guillermo del Toro’s new television series “The Strain.” But whatever weirdness Missoula chooses to affectionately co-opt in the future should come with the same localized flair that all those past Portland-esque additions have. So if anyone around town is mulling over ways to maintain some modesty during next month’s Bare As You Dare, here’s a Missoula-style suggestion: Put an elk on it.