Cyclists Hosting Cyclists

Bike Tour accross New Hampshire

Touring accross New Hampshire

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.

Warm Showers hosts Don & Barbara with Lauren Cook & her cycling partner

With our incredible Warm Showers hosts, Don and Barbara

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.

New Hampshire Farmhouse where Backroads Trip Leader Lauren Cook stayed

Their 1788 hilltop farmhouse

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.

Don and Barbara share a meal with Warm Showers cyclists

Don and Barbara opening up their home to us

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!

Don and Barbara Carey on the porch of their New Hampshire home

Don and Barbara Carey relax on their front porch

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!

11 Responses

  1. Rachel Hugens

    We love hosting cyclists through warmshowers.org! If Backroads have trips planned through or near Boise Idaho…look us up
    Racpat

  2. Raditya

    Yeah, that’s right. Not always from WarmShowers.org, but also from Facebook too. I’ve ever hosted several times, cyclists from Hungary, German, and Spain. If you come by to Indonesia, don’t forget to contact me. 🙂 I’ll be happy to have new friends.

  3. Lauren Cook Lauren Cook

    From Indonesia to Idaho! Thank you, Raditya and Rachel, for your happy comments and offers of hospitality.

    • Thomas Pike

      Lauren, the Missouri government is considering funding a second rails to trails, cross state biking trail called the Rock Island Trail. This one will be south of the Missouri River and will parallel the Katy Trail for about 144 miles. It would connect with the Katy in Windsor, MO. If completed, one could ride a loop in central Missouri along the Missouri River for almost 400 miles without cars.

      As a proud Missourian, I choked back tears of pride reading your column/ blog about the Katy Trail.

      Missouri state government is inviting public comment about the proposed Rock Island Trail. Could I impose upon you to comment ? Thanks

  4. Tracy Regan Tracy Regan

    Great article Lauren! I have been hosting cyclists in my home in Durango, Colorado for 4 years through Warmshowers and have stayed as a guest in San Francisco and Sonoma. I’ve found that staying with a local dramatically enhances your trip – you have an expert at your fingertips! Hosting is equally as rewarding – you meet so many incredible people and make new connections. In fact, I discovered Backroads hosting a leader last summer, which inspired me to apply and this year will be my first season! Go Warmshowers!

  5. McKynlee

    What an amazing experience!! I had never heard about Warm Showers before, thanks for sharing, Lauren!

  6. Lauren Cook Lauren Cook

    Tracy, welcome to the team! That is such a fantastic story. I can’t wait to meet you on this side of the world of cycling hospitality!

  7. Austin Render Austin Render

    Whether hosting or being hosted, Warm Showers is an incredible resource for cyclists (and non-cyclist, too) to connect and share stories while creating memories. I too have had fantastic luck with Warm Showers while touring in the States. I remember one elderly woman in Maine who admittedly was not a cyclist, but she loved baking cookies and sharing them with weary travelers! What a wonderful way to spread some cheer! It sounds like you had a truly fantastic experience with some truly inspirational folks, which is what the Warm Showers community is all about. Thanks for sharing, Lauren.

    • Lauren Cook Lauren Cook

      Thanks, Austin, for sharing one of your many amazing cyclo-travel stories. It’s incredible how great a fresh baked cookie tastes after a long day on the road. It’s those small gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness that stand out whenever I look back on my travels. Such experiences make me love my job at Backroads. As leaders we get to personalize the small details of a trip–the perfectly placed mid-ride snack from a local pie shop, an icy beer at the end of the ride, an inspirational chalk board quote–and then being able to watch how much that small gesture meant to a rider.

  8. Melissa

    Hi, Lauren. I really enjoyed reading about your experience with Warm Showers and this incredible couple who hosted you and your friend. I was not familiar with this community and it sounds incredible. I have taken only 1 bike trip with Backroads through Nova Scotia in 2012 and it fulfilled a long-time dream and personal goal of mine. I look forward to planning my next Backroads trip. In the meantime, I will continue reading these wonderful and inspirational cycling stories here at BackBeat. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Jessie

    Miss Lauren Cookie,
    This is so beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye. I think we all strive and desire to continue learning and growing as human beings, and often when years pass on, we see tired people with little motivation left. This couple is proof that it is possible to live life and learn always. What a great story!

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