WarmShowers: The Best Thing About Cross-Country Bike Rides
Jul 02, 2011 09:34AM
● By Lauressa Nelson
Dave and Marti on beach in St. Augustine, FL, at end of the tour
Dave and Marti Fine have toured the Oregon coast, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, the Lake Michigan area, the route from Montreal to Quebec City, the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina—all by bicycle.
“We are not new to cyclo-touring,” comments Dave. “Our past trips were seven to 10 days long in the summertime and were ‘credit-card’ tours. We each carried one bag and a change of clothes and paid for accommodations along the way,” he explains.
The couple recently returned from what they describe as their most exciting bicycle trip so far: a fully loaded, 3,185-mile cross-country tour, chronicled at CrazyGuyOnABike.com/doc/myfinecycle. It took them 70 days, averaging more than 50 miles of riding per day. The couple departed from Los Angeles, cycled down the coast to San Diego, and then pedaled through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, following the southern tier route mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association.
“The biking was incredible and challenging, and the scenery was amazing,” recounts Marti. “When we evaluate what most impressed us, however, it was the people we met along the way.” In addition to their fellow cyclo-tourists, the Fines really appreciated the hosts they met through the WarmShowers Community, an online organization whose worldwide members open their homes to touring bicyclists.
“As enjoyable as our previous tours were, we now know the one thing they were missing: WarmShowers hosts,” explains Dave. “Because most are cyclists, they could really appreciate the ups and downs of our adventure,” he adds, noting that 25 of their 70 days were spent with WarmShowers hosts.
Cyclists locate hosts online at WarmShowers.org and contact them via email or phone to check availability of accommodations. Though not obligated to accept a guest, hosts who do are expected to provide, at minimum, a free place to sleep; this can range from a spare bedroom to a backyard tent space. Asking guests to pay for the hospitality violates the organization’s guidelines.
The Fines encountered accommodations ranging from floor space for their sleeping bags to a small, private cabin, stocked with beer in the refrigerator. “At least four of our stays included actual, or the equivalent of, bed-and-breakfast accommodations,” Dave notes. “In one case, a host actually built a guesthouse because she receives so many WarmShower guests and enjoys their visits!”
“In our experience, the host almost always provided supper, breakfast, laundry facilities, route or locale information and incredible friendship and conversation,” he adds. “When we could, we liked to cook for our hosts.”
Hosts include couples, families and singles of varying ages and backgrounds. “During our conversations, we learned about their interests, professions, families and views on current events,” recalls Marti. “The joy of bicycling was the one common interest that we always shared.” She says their hosts included attorneys, a retired military serviceperson, a border patrol officer, a teacher at a prison and a retiree. “All of them were engaging and opened our eyes to their world and experiences.”
The Fines concur that they’d like to see Wisconsin take another step forward in building its bicycling community by leading the country in WarmShowers hosting locations for touring cyclists. “When we encourage fellow cyclists to join WarmShowers, especially for the purpose of hosting, the question of personal safety inevitably comes up,” Dave observes. He notes that members can choose to list only their home town and state/country, exchanging phone numbers or addresses with potential guests after reading their online profile and connecting and feeling comfortable with them. The website’s Personal Security section includes helpful, common-sense advice.
For more information, visit WarmShowers.org.