Standing on the shoulder in the blistering 87 degree sunshine we stared across the busy road at our intended motel. We had already traversed the length of the town and were now in the seedy outskirts. All other lodging options were already well behind us. “I’m not impressed.” Rich’s statement covered both of us.
Long tan prefab buildings lay in rows on a large concrete lot. Each barracks had a wooden deck running its length, serving door after door of rooms. There was no compensating green space in sight, just commercial buildings. Bleak hardly described it.
Seeking shelter under a shade tree, we pulled out our phones to reconnoiter. It was a long way back cycling into the wind before we’d reach another place. Melting in the heat after already covering 54 miles, the idea was not appealing. But was it more unappetizing than staying in this barren shelter? We reread the reviews, and it was clear that this place housed out of town workers. But they had pretty favorable things to say. We figured we had little to lose by asking to see a room.
Three young women in the office greeted us cheerfully and answered our inquiries regarding availability and cost. “We’re pretty busy right now, with all the men in the oil fields,” Rhonda told us. But they did have single and double rooms available. “And the price includes dinner and breakfast. Tonight we’re serving spaghetti and meatballs, with homemade bread, and fresh lemon bars for dessert.” Sweeter words could not have been uttered. We still went to see the room, but Rich noted that was superfluous. “You sold us on the spaghetti!” he told her.
The room was clean and very tidy. With a stove, kitchen sink and full sized refrigerator it was even more than we needed. And the bed looked firm and comfortable. “We also do your laundry for you,” Rhonda added. “Just drop it off in the office and we will return it folded to your room.” We couldn’t wait to hand over our hot and sweaty cycling gear. Perhaps there was something to this oil field retreat. We might have more in common with those guys than we thought. Priorities: food, laundry, shelter and sleep.
Dinner was served from 3:00-8:00pm, but we were advised to get there before the guys returned at 5:30. We expected to be surrounded by workers, but not too surprisingly they all picked up their dinner and retreated to their rooms. Instead, we met Rhonda’s three children. The youngest two were especially intrigued by our cycling, and we traded bicycling stories for dance routines, jr high football talk and two hand drawn pictures of a cat. “You are cool” graced the back, in neat first grade printing. Oh, and the food was as good as the company.
Breakfast ran from 3:00-9:00am, but it was said to be pretty dead by 7:30. No problem! Our only company for munching on cornflakes and a breakfast taco was the cook. She had been there since 2:00am. “I made over a hundred tacos this morning, and they are nearly gone,” she informed us. “Those oil rig guys left hours ago.” Sure enough the parking lot was deserted, and it was as quiet as it had been all night long. With hours like theirs, we didn’t hear any partying going on.
Had we been in a car, we would never have given the place a second look. Traveling by bicycle gives us a whole different perspective. Practicality rules. We try things we might otherwise avoid. We move outside our comfort zone. It usually leads to some neat experiences, like this one. It was fortunate that we didn’t cave in to our initial hasty judgements.