After driving about 12 hours from central Wisconsin to western North Dakota, I figured that Dickinson would be a good spot to stop for the night. On the map, it looked like a sizable community, one sure to have plenty of hotels and motels. Which was true, but… they were all booked up with out-of-towners working the Bakken oil fields. Turns out that spare rooms just aren’t available Monday through Thursday.

“Which way are you headed?” asked the front desk clerk at Hampton Inn. “West,” I said. “Well,” she said, “the next town with available rooms is Billings, which is 350 miles from here.”

Really? WTF?

OK, so what do I do now, I pondered as I tried to find something, anything with my iPhone while also chatting with the desk clerk. “Are there any parks nearby?” I asked thinking that maybe I could try to sleep on the crib mattress I was transporting in the back seat.

“You’re welcome to sleep in your car here in our parking lot,” she said, but since the car was full of stuff, including the crib mattress, that didn’t seem like a good option.

“Maybe you guys could bunk together,” she said to a couple guys sitting in the lobby behind me. I didn’t pay much attention to her suggestion as I was still madly punching away at my iPhone.

“Here, you can have my room,” said one of the guys, slapping down his room key on the front desk. “Scott has two beds in his room, so I’ll stay in there. My room has one bed, and you can get some sleep there.”

“Hey, man, that’s incredibly generous. And I’ll be happy to pay the bill.”

“Don’t worry about it. Thank Baker Hughes, that’s who we work for.”

So, thank you, Baker Hughes, and thank you Scott and Johnny, two rig workers up from Mississippi and Texas working the Bakken. Your good nature and generosity still make me smile. That king-size bed in a Hampton suite was a whole lot better than a crib mattress in a dark park.

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).