We're singing—no, screaming—the iconic Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody" into a pair of microphones inside a crowded Bend bar featuring cheap beer, pool and, well, karaoke. There are four of us now, down from a high of seven earlier in the evening. Outsiders might think they're looking at a bunch of longtime friends partying away the latest in an endless string of nights on the town.
The truth? I just met these people.
Three Days Earlier
Frankie Maduzia's gleefully bouncing around Bend's new Bunk+Brew Hostel, practically jogging from one room to the next, super excited to show his latest visitor the perks of clean, safe, ultra-low-cost lodging in Central Oregon's glamour city.
And why not?
Limited hotel/motel space here makes the hostel idea seem like such an amazing business venture, I'm surprised "Shark Tank's" Mark Cuban doesn't roll out of a bunk bed wearing $5,000 pajamas. Maduzia, the hostel's co-owner, walks me through the seven bedrooms and two baths inside this charming and historic house barely a three-minute walk east of downtown. Some rooms have multiple beds for the full hostel experience. Others, at a slightly higher cost per night, have just one.
Not aware that Bend even has a hostel? Well, it hasn't been here long. The physical house, however, known as the Lucas House—Bend's first brick building—has stood on this spot since 1909. But it's only been functioning as a haven for budget travelers since mid-December. How budget? Prices, depending on the season and type of room (dorm style or private), generally run between $27 and $74 a night.
"You come to Bend, you rock climb, you ski, you do the outdoor activity all day," says Maduzia, a Portland transplant, describing the inspiration for starting the hostel. "Then you drink beer all night. You just need a place to put your head down and a warm shower in the morning. I think $120 was the cheapest [accommodation] I could find. And you're only sleeping for like five hours."
I make plans to check in for a trial run on Sunday.
(Just thinking aloud)
Did I just carve out plans to spend the night with several strangers and shared bathrooms?
It's J.'s birthday. J. Charles Griggs, Maduzia's business partner and the hostel's other co-owner, celebrates by, what else, handing me my room key and a beer. And just like that, it's cocktail hour! We're all sitting in one of the common rooms downstairs when talk turns to how this whole thing got started. Seems both men had visions of getting into the hosteling business while living in Portland. A mutual friend brought them together and they soon decided that Bend provided the perfect setting for their budding project.
"You want to spend your money on the adventure, not on the sleep," says Griggs. "You don't come to Bend to watch TV in your motel room. We wanted to build something that was affordable, close to downtown and had a sense of community—where travelers can meet each other and share travel stories over local brew."
(8pm: Local Brew)
I'm about 30 forkfuls into a plate of Smoked Chicken Macaroni & Cheese, inside one of Bend's most popular dining/drinking spots, surrounded by my new friends including Frankie and J. and four other hostel guests. Hours go by. We wind up at the karaoke bar and don't return to the house until well past midnight. I'm fortunate enough to snare a private room, meaning just one bed. The bathroom's just a few steps down the hall. Both rooms are spotless, as is the rest of the house.
Down to the kitchen for a quick breakfast and soon I'm on my way home, with the opening lines to "Bohemian Rhapsody" still echoing in my head. "Is this the real life/Is this just fantasy?"
Hostel life's what you make of it, but there's plenty of room for both.
Bunk+Brew Historic Lucas House
42 NW Hawthorne Ave., Bend