The old story about the bird that left the cage and went to a fantastical meadow that was filled with melody, super cheap beer, and a popcorn-eating black lab bartender came to life in a tiny road stop town in Montana.
The birds were 6 campers from Canada with one purpose; escape the high prices of oil-soaked Alberta and taste freedom; the freedom found in Kip’s Bar in St Mary Montana.
The liquid form of this freedom was known as “Beer 30” at Kip’s and was served by dog named Russell (he preferred being tipped with popcorn). Beer 30 came with its own original soundtrack from the open air stage in the back area of the bar and a nice mix of camping tourists and locals with short-shorts and beer holders tied around their necks.
At first glance Kip’s seemed like a cardboard shack on the side of the highway that could blow away if a 20 km/h wind came up. From the smell of the dilapidated bathroom you’d assume that it once housed chickens that specialized in burning hair. The red spot on the working urinal may or may not have been dried blood but who’s worried about a little blood on the top of a urinal? Nobody drinking Beer 30 was. The women’s washroom had an open floor concept that caused some awkward exchanges. Especially when I walked in to check it out.
$1 was the price for one of these Beer 30 cans. A far cry from the ridiculously priced $2 Pabst’s that we started the night with. Beer 30 was perfectly priced for a rousing beer pong tournament at the (of course) beer pong table at the side of the room with no roof. Competition got heated as the local band played twangy originals in the background. Our chants and hollers rose to the point that a girl came over and told us we were louder than the band.
We felt bad and quieted down. Just kidding. We laughed and chanted. We took pictures with the locals and dumped popcorn on each other’s faces. This was what freedom looked like. What budget? What inhibitions?
We hit our pillows at the campsite feeling satisfied. A satisfaction that only a place like Kip’s can give.
The next morning we drove by the spot and there was nothing there! Did we dream the previous night? We went to the store to see if we could find Beer 30. Nothing. Just regular brand names. Where had Russell and the rest of the locals gone? How did so many friendly, somewhat strange, people appear one night and not exist the next morning?
Although perplexed, we were thankful for what may have happened and assumed a gust of wind blew up in the night. All we could do was to roll on through to the next adventure.