March 30, 2017 - Guest blogger Richard Cavin shares his experiences with Warm Showers.
A few years ago, as I became more interested in cycling and touring, I started reading bicycle touring journals on crazyguyonabike. Crazyguyonabike is a tremendous resource about cycling and touring in general. It really is awesome! In some of the journals, the touring cyclists mentioned staying with Warm Showers hosts during their tour. The more I read, the more I became interested.
What is Warm Showers?
“The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. All members agree to host others either now or in the future, but for some members hosting may be in years or even decades in their future.”
In a nutshell, that is Warm Showers. So I signed up on the Warm Showers website in 2012 and created a profile to see what would happen. Since I live only four miles from the U.S./Mexico border in far South Texas, I did not expect too much of a response. Some people that live on the main bike travel routes end up with weekly requests from touring cyclists.
Simply put, Warm Showers is similar to couch surfing in concept, but with cycle touring in mind.
So why in the world would I open up my property and home to total strangers and potential free loaders? From my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. The cyclists are awesome, interesting, and just great people!
And here are some of my fondest memories of cyclists I have hosted so far, although I do not have a story of all the cyclists.
My first request to host came that first month in November 2012. It was from a young man from Canada who had just finished his degree and wanted to tour into Mexico before he entered the job market. Stephen was a bit nervous about touring into Mexico, as most cyclists are once they reach my place. We shared some great stories about cycling, education, and life in general. Stephen stayed a couple of days and ventured on into Mexico, completing his tour as planned. I reached out to him several months later to see if everything went as planned and he said it turned out great and he was back home in Canada.
My next guest turned out to be a young man from South Korea who was on his third year of a planned worldwide tour. I received an email from Sungwon at 9:00PM indicating he needed a place to stay. He was at a local McDonald’s a few miles from my home. I emailed him back and said he could stay, and I would pick him up since I lived in a very remote area and it would be difficult for him to find my place after dark.
What a nice young man and very interesting story. Sungwon had already traveled through South Korea, India, Thailand, China (twice), Austrailia, Canada, and the United States. He always has a smile on his face. I keep track of Sungown via Facebook and his blogs. He has since finished his tour of all of the Americas, North, Central and South, and all of Europe and is now in Europe again … still touring into his seventh year! As I write this article, I will never forget the stories we shared and how impressed I was by this well-educated, young man from South Korea.
About a year later another young man from South Korea requested to stay with me. Jisan had been following Sungwon’s tour and knew that he was a guest at my place. Jisan was also like Sungwon in that he was tall, at about 6 foot two inches, well educated, and always had a smile on his face. Jisan was able to stay with me several days and really enjoyed the local culture of where I live and work. I also keep track of Jisan via the Internet and he is still touring and currently in Thailand. Another nice young man and well educated in the field of computer science and computer programming. The pictures he takes are often stunning with the digital DLSR camera he carries.
Probably my most interesting hosting opportunity was a group of 22 cyclists on an annual cycling pilgrimage from Austin, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico. This group, known as Bikes Across Borders, assembles bikes from spare parts and rides them from Austin to Monterrey. Once in Mexico, they donate the bikes to local kids and find a way home or continue on another journey. Wow!
I hosted this group and was able to ride with them the next day on their trip to Brownsville, Texas — what an interesting group of people, young and old. Some had never toured before while others were veterans. Some of the riders were from Texas and other parts of the USA, but there were also riders from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, and Spain. They purchased food at a local grocery store and proceeded to cook a large meal in my kitchen, and it was great. Most of the cyclists camped in my large yard, but some slept indoors. Prior to their visit, I outlined the house rules and they gladly complied.
I even had a cyclist, Raphael from Switzerland, ride to the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Mexico City on a single speed bike … he got first place in the world!
Only two cyclists have come to stay with me after entering the USA from Mexico. Matteo was from Italy and Louis a retired engineer from the Netherlands (above in yellow). Since Louis and I are both engineers and about the same age, we got along great and he was a guest for a full week. Louis started at Patagonia and ended in Canada. It was his fifth long tour in different parts of the world.
One of my most recent hosting opportunities was a retired couple (see below) from Canada who had already been touring for nine months and were on their way to the tip of South America ... Patagonia. It’s interesting how many of the cyclist’s ultimate goal is Patagonia, but now that I have seen pictures … wow! I would add a visit there to my bucket list. After staying with me almost a week, they crossed into Mexico and were on their way further south. We got along great, shared many stories, and also had the chance to ride bikes together. They are now in Panama getting ready to board a boat to Colombia on their journey south.
I have so many other stories to tell about hosting cyclists: touring cyclists from the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Germany, France, New Zealand, England, Australia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Mexico, and the Netherlands have stayed with me. So how else would I have been able to meet so many interesting people from other parts of the world without being a Warm Showers host?
Only once did I feel uncomfortable with a guest and I asked him to move on and only stay one night. The world is full of interesting, generally wonderful people and hosting has been my way to meet some of those people.
More info about Warm Showers can be found on their website. Sign up! You might be surprised at the people you’ll meet, even if you just provide them a place to camp overnight.
Come visit me if you’re riding in South Texas. I’d love to be your host. We can share stories, ride some bikes, and even camp out if you’d like.
If you’d like to discuss cycling or have comments or suggestions on this post, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Cavin of Harlingen, Texas is a technology professional who lives and works in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and is also an avid cyclist. He started cycling at the age of 57 and has ridden his bicycles over 40,000 miles in his five plus years of cycling. He is the South Texas Regional Brevet Administrator (RUSA). Learn more at rgvrandos.org and facebook.com/groups/rgvcyclingfriends/
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