When the orange cones start coming out on our roads and foreign license plates appear in bulk, I know Season 2 has arrived in the Flathead. I call it “Contour” (construction/tourism). In the past, I felt dread when Contour arrived. But now I welcome the season, even with its associated delays and congestion. I have established a set of guidelines I choose to live by during Contour in an attempt at maintaining sanity:
1) Always have an alternate route to daily destinations that limits your use of West Reserve, Idaho, Highway 93, or Lasalle.
2) The sun is up earlier in the day, so leave for work 10 minutes earlier than usual to account for increased traffic.
3) Tourists make mistakes. Especially when driving. They often have no idea where they are going, they mispronounce roads and destinations, and they ask for directions at inconvenient times. Give them some grace, even when their disruption of your day is untimely. They drop millions of dollars every year into our valley; the least we can do is provide directions.
4) When a tourist walks in the front door of Moose’s, don’t laugh out loud or point. Smile and chuckle quietly to yourself. When a tourist expects to be served at the table by the Moose’s beloved staff, kindly inform them they will die of starvation before anyone comes to the table to take their order.
5) Adjust your expectation of wait times at favorite restaurants. Better yet, buy a half a beef or pig from a local butcher, sign up to be a member of a local CSA (to get your fresh veggies and fruits), and cook for yourself during Contour. Support your favorite restaurants during the shoulder seasons when the tourists are gone and the owners need ongoing revenue.
6) Smile when tourists don obviously new waders, fishing vests, cowboy hats and those terrible pointy-toed cowboy boots. They are trying to fit in, and remember, it’s only temporary. When they return to the big city, those items — purchased locally and to the benefit of local retailers — will end up on eBay, where we can buy them back at half price (everything except the pointy-toed boots).
7) Slow down in construction zones. The men and women working 16-hour days to get the road work done are our neighbors, family and friends. Do your part to keep them safe, and give them a wave of thanks as you pass by.
Finally, say the Serenity Prayer when you need it, bask in the sun while we have it, and be grateful that we live in the best part of the greatest state in the Union. I hope you get through Contour season seamlessly; I’ll see you on the other side.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.