All You Need Is LovePosted: July 8, 2013
A safe haven means a great deal to a weary traveler. Warmth when it’s cold or a bit of shade and a cool breeze when the sun is relentless. Or it can just be a place to lay your head and close your eyes dreaming of the path ahead. Warmshowers as it is known, is a worldwide community of bicycle-friendly people who recognize both the need to provide shelter to cyclists passing through and the opportunity to meet people, sometimes from the far reaches of our planet. It’s a reciprocal arrangement whereby everyone who joins the group is willing to consider being a host if a request is made. Contact is usually via email and if it’s convenient for both host and traveler, a tentative date is set. Unlike driving a car, exact pinpointing of an arrival date can be difficult so timeframes are usually flexible. On their profile website page each “member” writes something about themselves and their cycling experience or maybe WHY they’d like to be a host. They also list what they’re willing to provide to their guests, where they’re located, phone numbers and any local info. This last item can be critical and can save the cyclist a great deal of time and effort when entering a new region.
Our experience as Warmshowers hosts has been rewarding and typically inspiring. We’ve met people both traveling the world or just making their initial test ride from a town nearby. As our fair city Quesnel is on the main north-south highway in British Columbia, we’ve met cyclists making the incredible journey from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. And of course, we’ve been very fortunate to stay with other hosts on our cycling tours. Over the years, our rides have been gradually expanding with larger circle routes or as with our Ride for True Health – one way tours. On this tour, we’ve arranged to stay with ten Warmshowers hosts on our route. We’re posting this early in the tour because our stays so far have been quite remarkable. The first was the “Bacon Bike Hostel” east of Coville, WA. It’s located on the Adventure Cycling Association’s Northern Tier route. I thought of all the people that had come this way before us who committed to making the trek, the US equivalent of cycling across Canada. They each had their own vision of the hostel as they made the challenging climb through the beautiful rolling farmland east of town. On a very hot afternoon I was reminded of something I read in National Geographic: “Tenacity is easier when you have no choice.” Once we arrived we could see Shelley and Barry Bacon have built an exceptional facility for cyclists. It took over twelve years of planning and consultation with the local and state authorities but their dream finally became a reality. It is a hostel in the true sense with clearly stated expectations of the guests and house ‘rules’. It’s a small price to pay for a place that has it all. Bed, bathroom, shower, kitchen (the fridge has ice in it!) and even food supplies if you’re short. One of the key requirements for guests is to sign the guestbook and put your name and hometown on a tag and pin it to a world map. When we stand back and look at the map it’s an affirmation that we’re not alone on the backroads and byways. Some of the cards left by previous guests, often riding for a cause like us, tell the story: Cycling for Unity – cycling for water.com – “a bike ride around the US uniting in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Amazon”; Munduan Barrena Bizikletaz – Cycling Around the World – Lorenzo Rojo.
Barry and Shelley are not only Warmshowers hosts, they’re committed humanitarians who have spent many years helping less fortunate people in Africa. In 2012 they were active with development projects in countries like Rwanda and Kenya. These projects include water, education, agriculture and medicine.
Our second stay is with Paula Lund and her exuberant family. What a great feeling it is to be welcomed into their house. Paula has three boys, all very active and living life. We have decided to stay two nights and our only chores are to pick the raspberries and to cook the dinner. Happy to do that! Our tent is pitched in the small orchard behind the house – we had a very deep sleep last night. Our companion for the day is Ollie their German Shepherd. Another lovely member of this great family. We’re off to Sandpoint later this morning to get to know the city and it’s locals a little more.
It seems the essence of Warmshowers.org is to extend friendship to others from around the world and to support the growing awareness of cycling as a viable, healthy, planet-friendly means of long distance travel. On this tour we know we’ll visit many places and sometimes it’s nice to know there is a place to lay your head at the end of the day.