When people asked where we would be staying during our US tour we didn’t really know. We assumed campsites and a few bike friendly lodgings. As it turned out the East coast of the US, from NYC to VA, had very little camping and no bike specific lodging. As a result we were forced to seek alternative options. These came in the surprisingly abundant Couch Surfing and Warm Showers hosts. For those who haven’t heard of these sites, let alone indulged in what they had to offer, let me explain…
In very simple terms Couch Surfing is a community of hosts and guests. Hosts have room on their couch for guests to crash a night or two (or 8 weeks in one case!) and guest are in need of a bed. How much does it cost? £0! That is because not everyone is out to exploit their fellow man and doing something nice for someone in need is in itself a huge reward! This defiantly raised a few eyebrows with our friends and families, but there was honestly no reason to be worried. Most people are great and if in doubt check out the persons reviews beforehand. It is up to you as a guest if you want to also become a host, but the philosophy of playing it forward is encouraged. The feeling we got from a lot of people on the site was that most people seemed quite up for a party, which is great but not always what you want at the end of a long day in the saddle. In the end we stayed with only 2 Couch Surfing hosts and despite both being amazing, there is a better option for cycle tours.
This better option comes in the shape of Warm Showers! This site follows the same philosophy and idea as Couch Surfing, but is aimed squarely at the cycle tourer 🙂 Most, but not all hosts are themselves cycle tourers and wish to pass on their own incredible experiences of hospitality to other like minded people. The main benefits of this included, great stories, lots of good food, knowing you are shattered and want to go to bed, always having a couple of cold beers in the fridge, able to help fix your bike or point you in the direction of someone who can, expect you will be late and don’t mind if you are, tend to be very liberal and are probably the friendliest, hospitable, caring and giving group of people you will ever have the privileged and good fortune to meeting.
After being guests at a huge number of Warm Showers over the summer we were both very excited about the opportunity to repay the favour and host our first guest now back in Portsmouth.
After a few weeks we got our first request from Adam and Adam, a couple of recent grads from Brighton, who after a summer of saving had cycled 3000 miles from Brighton, through France, over the Pyrenees, on through Spain and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, before heading back to Bilbao northern Spain to catch a ferry to Portsmouth to stay with us!
We had a great evening eating, drinking and sharing touring stories into the wee hours and in the morning rode with them out of the city and on to the South Coast Cycle Route which would take them all the way home to Brighton. It was great to be on the hosting side and we look forward to having more guests stay in the future!
|Adam & Adam on the final stretch home|
I would encourage anyone going on a cycle tour to sign up to Warm Showers in advance of their trip and not be worried about spending the night at a strangers house, after all strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet 😉