Warmshowers beat chilly receptions

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Warmshowers.org is an online networking resource where touring cyclists may seek and contact willing hosts. All members maintain a profile, and in theory, hosts go on tour and touring cyclists become hosts when their tour is complete. It’s better than sleeping under a bridge!

First, there’s almost nothing to be worried about; there are better ways to be a terrorist or serial muderer. I’ve used warmshowers to contact hosts in France, Mexico, Canada and in cities across the US. Hosts have all been great, most often offering food and stories of their own. They may select which services they can provide, including: bed, shower, laundry, yardspace, food, use of kitchen, etc. None are required, and a few hosts are willing to meet for coffee and a chat; usually novices looking for touring secrets. Asking a cycle-tourist about the nuances of touring could result in a lengthy, multi-day conversation. Beware.

A network of like-minded young people on bikes? Not exactly; hosts are all ages, with a slight bias toward older couples with lots of touring experience. Those seeking hosts are biased towards the post-college crowd on their first of second trip. These are just guesses, but older people have houses, while younger people have legs and big eyes for the world.

Footloose, I have gotten in the habit of not planning ahead. I forget that sleeping in town is compliicated. Did you know that most cities have “ordinances that prohibit camping in city limits”? I’ve heard that a few too many times. Some towns, cities even, designate camping areas. Hmmm, ordinances that allow, rather than prohibit? Sounds like a nice way to be; is anyone tired of saying no all the time?

Warmshowers provides a solution, especially in the larger cities that are already dealing with the “homeless problem”.

I rolled into Bozeman, all three of my contacts unavailable or out of town. A big city full of nice people and bikes– there’s gotta be a way, I thought. Warmshowers alerted me to a twenty-something with “a couch and beer in the fridge”. Seems like the kind of guy I could call out of the blue. No phone number listed; I send a quick e-mail, then spot the following words on his WS profile, “…or stop by”. I plug the address into Google Maps, and 2.1 miles later I’m speaking with Orion, in his managed, tangle of a garden. The original WS contact no longer lives there, but cyclists and “couchsurfers” have stayed here before, and a piece of grass would be mine for the night. Momentarily, the city seems to be full of inviting retreats, rather than defensive personal castles. Sharing is nice.

Get on warmshowers! I am, and many who read here are as well, but my parents aren’t and lots of people who know touring cyclists could, and should be. It doesn’t take super-sized quads to offer yardspace, a bed, or stories. I will have toured 10 of 12 months this year, which limits my hosting capabilities. Do it for me, take a load off my shoulders– host a cyclist.

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