So far on this trip, Todd has arranged almost all the accommodations, including our rental in Missoula. Two places along the way I particularly liked were motels, one in Buffalo, Wyoming, and one in Montana south of I-90.

The first, the Z-Bar Motel, graces Highway 16 in Buffalo, Wyoming, on the way to Yellowstone.old-timey motels, road motels, Beth Partin's photos Todd found it on the Internet, on Trip Advisor, I believe. Here’s the office, which faces the highway and is right across from the new criminal justice center. The center was still under construction, hence the orange cones in the first picture. I couldn’t decide whether having a criminal justice center across the street from a motel was a plus or a minus for the motel.

When we arrived, the office was closed; the landlady had put the key in an envelope and taped it to the door. Todd met her later, after she had returned from her errand, but I never did. road motels, old-timey motelsOur “room” was a tiny, stand-alone cabin among other cabins arranged around a lawn. Z Bar Motel, road motels, Wyoming motels, Buffalo motelsWe were able to park between it and the next cabin. There was about a foot between the end of our bed and the bathroom, which had a nice shower. Here the door to the bathroom looks like the gateway to hell because of the limitations of my BlackBerry.Beth Partin's photosWe had a hard time finding room for our gargantuan suitcases in this room. At one point mine was blocking the door to the room, causing a fire hazard.

We discovered the second motel, the Riverside in Ennis, Montana, on our way from Yellowstone to Missoula. Riverside Motel, Ennis, Montana, old-time motels, road motelsI had been looking for hotels in Butte, Montana, and both the reviews on Trip Advisor and the prices were scary. By the time we reached Ennis, on Highway 359 south of I-90, we were ready to quit driving for the night. We spotted two motels along the highway, and the Riverside looked significantly better than its competition.

We went into the riverside and met one of its proprietors, John (his wife is the other; they split their time between Montana and Florida). He gave us a deal on the fanciest room in the hotel, the one reserved for groups of anglers. It had a metal rocker out front and two queen beds and a kitchenette and a very nice bathroom. Ennis, Montana, road motels, Beth Partin's photosJust as soon as he had offered us a great price, another man drove up and wanted a room, but John told him he had just given it to us. That was nice of him, considering that, as he said, people in Ennis have “four months to make it or break it” for the year.

One reason the Riverside looked so good, we learned from John, is its recent paint job. Several foreign exchange students, all female, spent time at the Riverside this year, and he taught them to paint and had them help him put a new coat on the buildings. If you look carefully at this photo, you’ll notice the side of the triplex is white.Riverside Motel John and the students weren’t able to finish all the buildings, but almost all the ones I saw had been repainted a light green.

At the beginning of this trip, Todd and I stayed at the Waconda Motel along Highway 24 in Kansas. Both these motels were quite a bit nicer, but they’re all the same kind of place: drive-in motels with smaller rooms than most people are used to these days. All three had WiFi, though, and two of the three had free breakfasts. The character of these motels makes up for the small rooms and occasional lack of amenities. They’re definitely worth seeking out.


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  1. Todd Bradley July 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Note: When Beth refers to the metal rocker on the porch in Ennis, Montana, she does not mean that Geezer Butler was staying at our motel.