After finishing a Backroads' trip, do you crave more hours in the saddle? More time on your bike? More adventures?! One of my favorite ways to spend time cycling in between leading Backroads' trips is on "bike tour." What is this? It's when you head out on your bike for overnight adventures. A "tour" may be one night or three years, but no matter the length, all tours are rewarding. If you've been on a Backroads trip, you know that there's nothing quite like pedaling yourself from one place to sleep to the next. There's a sense of accomplishment that comes with touring--and for me, there is no better way to travel.
If you're one of us go-getters who feels inspired to embark on a tour, then you may be wondering how you design such an adventure and where do you stay. There are many ways to plan where you rest your head at night. You can pack light and go from hotel to hotel, what bike tourists call "credit card touring." You can go a bit more weighted down and pack all your camping gear onto your bike. Or you can do something a little more adventurous and a bit lighter, and stay with other friendly cyclists along the way.
There is an amazing network, Warm Showers, that brings touring cyclists together. You create a profile and can host cyclists while you're at home and they'll host you while you're out adventuring.
One of the best aspects of cycling is the sense of community in the cycling culture. On every Backroads' trip you feel it. A bunch of folks who all have at least one thing in common--a love of the outdoors, a desire to stay healthy, a yearning to see the world a little differently--come together. And by the end of the week, after pedaling over many hills, enjoying beautiful dinners and covering so much ground, they create life-long friendships. The network of cyclists on Warm Showers brings together the same type of folks who are on their own pedal-powered vacations.
On my cross-country tour in 2012, I camped most of the time, but in every city I stayed with hosts from Warm Showers. I had hosted many traveling cyclists before my trip, so it was lovely to see the other side of this hospitality. Like those who come on our Backroads trips, the people who host and are hosted are probably the best slice of humanity on the planet (in my humble opinion).
These people open their homes, share stories and meals, and help like-minded adventurers along their way.
My favorite Warm Showers experience was near Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It was one of those weeks on the bike where every part of me was tired after a long hard week of cycling. My cycling partner and I needed a bit of respite. So we decided to see if anyone nearby was a Warm Showers host. Within a few touches of the iPhone we found a few local hosts and the best profile description I think I will ever come across.
Here's what we read: Donald and Barbara Carey. Active, vegetarian 83 year-olds in a 1788 hilltop farmhouse. Lived for 14 years in India and West Africa. Have bicycled in Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Togo, Benin, Danube, also C2C 1984. Members NE 4000-footers club. Erie Canal at Medicare pace Sept. 2009, South Carolina coast, spring, 2012.
Let's just say we wanted to meet these two. A phone call later, they invited us to stay the following evening. We arrived to a full kitchen. Don was entirely interested in our gear. Barbara was teaching her great-nephew how to make jam. Their grandson had just come home from work. Their son peeked his head in and out of the kitchen. The old farmhouse walls were covered in art from all over the planet. Don, a retired physician, and Barbara, an intrepid traveler, had raised their family all over the globe. In doing so, they collected art from all their wanderings.
We walked into a bustling, multi-generational, worldly home, so full of life and love. Don and Barbara proceeded to share their stories and world with us. They wanted to hear stories from the road and we wanted to hear about cycling in Zimbabwe. It was a beautiful exchange. They convinced us to stay a few extra nights, and by the time we left, I felt entirely overwhelmed by their kindness and their passion for life.
I think of them often. In their mid-eighties, surrounded by family, and still maintaining an active adventurous life. Don, then 84, woke up and ran four miles each morning. The two of them were planning a cycling trip down the Danube in the fall. I can only hope I have a life as full, active and adventurous as they have. Perhaps it's their cultural curiosity, active pursuits, love of family and incredible sense of hospitality that keeps them energized--they're doing something right! Whatever it is, I want it!
I would have never known Barb and Don had I not been a Warm Showers host or beneficiary. And I think that my experience at their beloved farmhouse will have me hosting cyclists for a long, long time. If you have any questions about becoming a Warm Showers member or about my experience with the network, please comment below. Happy two-wheeled adventures!