Get Adobe Flash player

Hellgate Trading Post AKA Missoula – Gets W in Wi-Fi Column

October 22nd, 2013 · Tags:Cities · Coffee Shops · Wi-Fi

There is something about a college town. There’s the Saturday football craziness, there is the cultural awareness and the arts … and there is an appreciation for whatever is trending. For me, it’s Wi-Fi that is trending, so when I headed to Missoula, Mont. — home of uMont, The University of Montana I expected plenty.

Before the college town became a college town, it was once called Hellgate Trading Post, founded in 1860.  I like what you’ve done with the place, and the new “Missou” suits you.

Driving into town, the college vibe surrounded my truck like a cloud. Several hundred feet up on the mountain to my left was the college logo … with a complementary stadium in its shadow. It was a bright, clear, crisp morning at the end of summer. Things had cooled off slightly, and there was a noticeable breeze. Football weather was just around the corning … I breathed it in, as I drove through the peaceful, quiet neighborhoods. It was beautiful, but to my surprise I didn’t find that many businesses right around the campus, so I broadened the Pingsearch a little further from academia.


Heading west to Reserve Street I found the fertile retail ground … ripe for blogging.


First up, a really interesting building caught my eye and I whipped the Ford into the parking lot of a building that looked like a cafe which someone had added on to … adding a grain silo. I ordered up a sandwich on their home-baked bread and checked out all of the photos of combines harvesting grain … lots of them. “Be still my beating farmboy heart.”


This deli/bakery/coffee cafe is Wheat Montana … and it had a bumper crop of Wi-Fi …


Wheat Montana


(Since that first visit, I have also checked out the first location of Wheat Montana, on I-90 toward Bozeman … and it truly is a cafe/bakery attached to a grain storage facility and a flour mill. But most impressive – the cinamon rolls about as big around as my face … a perfect fit.)



Wheat Montana — Amber waves of Wi-Fi and good things fresh from the family farm to this new favorite hotspot – 6 pings.


Nearby, off Brooks Street, I saw an old friend, so very far from home. It was the old hometown favorite, Hastings. Back home, me and all my farm boy friends — when we weren’t driving combines or tractors — were flipping through what used to be called LPs at Hastings Books & Records … music! Memorizing album names, following the musicians, getting the updates on Led Zeppelin or The Doobie Brothers … The Clash … studying the coolest artwork on the records … looking at the collectable KISS mirrors.




I think Hastings is still based in Amarillo and seems to target small- to mid-sized cities for their superstores. (I interviewed the CEO for the college paper back at Texas Tech in the day, so many years ago, btw …)


Regardless of where they’re from, I liked where they are. The store in Missoula is in the corner of a busy upscale shopping center — busy enough to have great people watching, but off to the side so it wasn’t a hassle. And I liked what they had done to their records stores … specifically the swank little coffee shop with leather comfies and a cozy fireplace. I parked, got heavily frappaccinoed and wrote a blog.



Another W in the Wi-Fi column for the college town … a great hotspot. Hastings, its Hardback Coffee Cafe and its “homeboy advantage” scored a perfect 7 pings.



As the Ping clock counted down, and it was time to drive back to Dillon, Mont., I saw another hotspot just beyond the edge of town. What had been smoldering clouds on the forest floor as I drove into town had become small forest fires on the way out … within striking distance of the highway … my highway.


But most of the traffic drove on as if nothing had happened. Fairly commonplace out here, I reasoned. I pulled off the highway into a nearby subdivision and fired up the Nikon. Then a few others followed suit, but parked on the side of the highway. Officers urged them to move along, before they were in danger. Out of the smoke, I gave it my best shot, trying to capture some action shots of the helicopter hauling buckets of water to quench the flames. Pretty cool … It was a day when wildfires raged throughout the Northern Rockies … It was incredibly fascinating … but of course you can’t watch and not be worried about people in the area.




The next morning, a team of hotshots, or firefighters from Taos, New Mexico were staying at my hotel in Dillon. We salute you.


Know what I sayin?