The ballad of Happy's Inn
We were sad to leave Idaho, but I was very excited for the next few stops on our trip. I went on a road trip through Montana with my Dad years ago, and it instantly became one of my favorite places in the entire world. I couldn't wait to get back, and it certainly didn't disappoint! We had some of the best times of the entire trip.
We saw plenty of amazingly beautiful places on this trip, but one of the major highlights that we'll never forget is Happy's Inn — and I'm not even sure where to start with this story.
In our initial travel itinerary, we planned to stay at Logan State Park for about a week before making our way north to Glacier National Park. These long stints mean we have to have service for work...
Getting to Logan has to be what the first settlers felt like coming across the country (minus the modern truck and trailer...). It was a whole lot of NOTHING. Just tons of woods, mountains, and empty two-lane roads. Similar to our experience in Idaho, we slowly lost service until there was nothing left. It didn't look great for our weekly work yet again.
Pulling into the campground, we were awestruck by the beauty of Montana. Our campground sat back in the woods near a lake surrounded by mountains. I couldn't help but get the drone out after we finished setting up camp.
There's really no place like Montana. "Majestic" is the only word to describe it.
We spent some time walking around the park, enjoying the landscape and lake. It was cool and shady back in the woods. And because we were in the middle of nowhere (almost... You'll see), we had quite a few visitors to the campsite.
But also because we were in the middle of nowhere, we had absolutely no service for work. Since our stay at Logan was a rather long stint, we couldn't take that much time off. In search of internet, we headed to the check-in booth to ask the attendant where to find wifi or service. This is her quote:
"You can either turn right out of the park and drive 50 miles or turn left and go five miles to Happy's Inn."
We would prefer to work from the comfort of our trailer, but given the choice between 50 miles and five miles, that sounded like a no-brainer. But to make sure this Happy's Inn place was suitable for work, we decided to scout the area first.
Now, Happy's Inn's claim to fame is that it's the only bar with a star on all official highway maps. Why, you ask? Because it's the only thing in town! Happy's Inn is the bar, grocery, bakery, gas station, laundromat, and hotel. It's literally the "town" center, which gives it a designation on the map. Just look:
Since the town population was just over 100 residents, we were a bit hesitant about what to expect. But just walking through the front doors, we quickly realized how nice it was. It might have been just a little local watering hole, but it was well-decorated and everyone was super friendly.
I asked the guy running the register about their policy about bums stealing wifi for full workdays. He said he didn't care as long as we weren't holding up tables if they got busy. That sounded fair to me, so we were satisfied with our work location for the week. But just to get a bit more acquainted with our new office, we decided to grab a beer at the bar.
I'll tell the whole story, but the short of it is we ended up leaving at 1:30am after starting a bonfire outside, hanging out with the staff, and eventually closing the place down.
Now for the long of it:
While we were sitting at the bar, one of the locals came in, sat down at the other side of the bar, and ordered himself a beer. He was talking to the bartender and loudly said, "Did you see there's a truck out there with North Carolina plates?" Naturally, I looked up. He caught my glance and asked if it was ours. We said it was, and he immediately came over, sat next to us, and asked us about our trip.
We swapped a few stories, and apparently he owned a plot of land nearby and invites campers to stay there when they're in town. He was also in charge of all the port-a-pots in Kalispell (the city with service 50 miles the other direction).
Everyone in the bar was so friendly. We even got to talking to the bartender, who started calling us by name. She also said she regularly sees moose in the lakes north of town, which Rose was super excited for. It has been her goal to see a moose for at least as long as I've known her.
At this point, we might have had two "sodas" each. It wasn't ridiculous. As we were finishing our second beer, a younger guy came in and sat down a few stools away. He was very quiet, and just sat sipping his beer. He was taking advantage of the town laundromat (which was just a single washing machine in the next room) and was waiting for his clothes to finish.
Rose got up to use the bathroom, and I saw he had lots of interesting tattoos on his arm in the style of Sailor Jerry — which is usually reserved for Navy. Since everyone else had been so friendly, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and complimented his tattoos. His quiet demeanor instantly vanished, and he started telling me all sorts of stories about his time in the Navy and what each tattoo meant.
These stories went on for hours, and each one was more interesting than the last! After leaving the Navy, he started working for the Parks Service and was doing work in Glacier National Park. We said we were headed there in the week, and he gave us a secret entrance to the park that didn't require admission. We were all ears!
Of course, throughout this time, we were getting more and more rounds of beer. Once I finished one, I put the can on the edge of the bar to make it easy for the bartender to pick up. Then I'd turn back to our Navy friend to listen to the next story, and when I turned back around, there'd be a full beer! The bartender was sneaky with the refills... And I wasn't even ordering them!
We were having such a good time that we wanted to go buy some merch from the store to commemorate our visit. Unfortunately, they were out of the t-shirts that Rose liked, but being in such a nice place, one of the off-duty staff members (who was having a drink at the table behind us) offered to sell the one she was wearing. She said she just finished a batch of carrot cake for the bakery (on the other side of the bar), which is Rose's favorite. Unfortunately, everything on the bakery side was closed for the night, so Rose didn't get to have any... yet.
This went on for some time. The longer the conversations went, the more people who joined in. The bartender was telling stories, the locals were telling stories, we were telling stories. At some point, people started ordering food for the entire bar. Pizzas were being passed around to every table. You'd just grab a slice and pass it on.
There were no more tables and individuals; the entire barroom was engaged in the same conversation. We were all friends. It was something we've never experienced before, and it was so much fun!
As it got dark, the staff of Happy's Inn went outside and started a bonfire in the fire pit outside. We had the music blaring, and everyone was sitting around the fire talking. It was a bunch of locals, the staff, and two travelers from North Carolina, sitting in the Montana wilderness having a great time.
One of our favorite compliments ever came that night. One of the staff members came up to us and said they haven't had that much fun for a long time. They said we breathed new life into the place that night. And we didn't even know we did it!
Before we knew it, it was 1:30am. The poor Navy guy, who was just there to do his laundry, had to wake up early for work the next morning. (We hope he made it) I'm not sure how many drinks we had over the course of the night. However, I do know the can design on my Busch Lights did change a couple times... Rose might have had to drive the five miles back to the campground, but I don't think we've ever had that much fun in our travels. How's that for a simple "scouting trip" for some wifi!?
The next morning, we begrudgingly got up, packed our work gear, and six hours after we left the night before, we were back at Happy's Inn. I wouldn't say I was feeling the greatest... so we grabbed some breakfast on the restaurant side of the bar. The waitress remembered us from the night before and even brought Rose a slice of fresh carrot cake, on the house. We couldn't get over how nice everyone was! And the biscuits and gravy were amazing, too!
As we were working, some of the locals filtered back in throughout their daily routines, and many of them remembered us. The guy we first started talking to the night before came back in and said, "Wow, you guys weren't kidding about having to work," before grabbing a beer "to go" and leaving for his work day — oh, rural Montana...
Unfortunately, as fun as it was, Happy's Inn didn't turn out to be the ideal workplace. We were afraid we would have gone back every night we were there, and there wasn't much to do in the campground. We used the wifi to book another campground up in Kalispell, Montana, which had service and was closer to Glacier National Park.
That afternoon, we packed up camp and headed the 50 miles north to Kalispell. Wouldn't you know it, on our way out of town, we actually spotted a moose and her calf in the lake north of town, just like the bartender said.
While we didn't get to stay as long as we wanted, I feel like we packed as much fun as anyone possibly can have into one night during our stay at Logan State Park and Happy's Inn. We'll never forget our time there and hope to be able to make it back someday.
And thus ends The Ballad of Happy's Inn.
Where the hell's Happy's Inn? Who the hell cares?
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He likes pizza.