March 2016 – Cycling and Warmshowers – Really, what is that?
Figure 1 – One of my favorite bridges – Rio Hondo, TX
Fourth Article in a Series I hope to publish:
Touring Cyclists and Warmshowers:
By Richard Cavin
A few years ago as I became more and more interested in cycling and touring I started reading journals on Crazy Guy on a Bike (CGOAB) website at:
The CGOAB website is a tremendous resource about cycling and touring in general. Just awesome!
In some of the journals the touring cyclists mentioned staying with “warmshowers” hosts during their tour. The more I read the more I became interested.
So I signed up on the warmshowers website in November 2012 and created a profile to see what would happen. Since I live only four miles from the USA/Mexico border in far South TX I did not expect too much of a response. Some people that live on one of the main touring bike routes and who are warmshowers hosts end up with requests weekly from touring cyclists.
Warmshowers is similar to coach surfing in concept but with cycle touring in mind.
So why in the world would I open up my property and even home to total strangers and potential free loaders??? Or at least that is what many of my friends said. From my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Here are some of my fondest memories of cyclists I have hosted so far.
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 (figure 2) 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 and completed 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.
Figure 2 – Stephen from Canada
My next guest turned out to be a young man from South Korea who was on year three of a planned worldwide tour. I received an email from Sungwon (figure 3) about 9 PM indicating he needed a place to stay. He was at a local McDonalds 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 travelled 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), All of Europe and is now in the middle east…still touring! 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.
Figure 3 – Sungwon 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 (figure 4) 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 Australia. Another nice young man and well educated in the field of computer science and computer programming. The pictures he takes are often stunning with a digital DLSR camera he carries.
Figure 4 – Jisan from South Korea
Probably my most “interesting” hosting opportunity was a group of 22 cyclists who were on an annual cycling pilgrimage from Austin, TX to Monterrey, MX. The group known as “bikes across borders” (figure 5-6) will once a year assemble bikes from spare parts and ride them from Austin, TX to Monterrey, MX. Once they arrive in Monterrey Mexico they donate the bikes to local kids and find a way home or continue on another journey. Wow, really?? Yes they do. So I hosted this group and was also able to ride with them the next day on their trip to Brownsville, TX. 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 in the group. 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 yard (I live on ten acres) but some slept indoors. Prior to their visit I outlined the house rules and they gladly complied.
Figure 5 – Some of the Bikes Across Borders Group – Breaking “Camp” at my house (note the young girl who was part of the tour)
Figure 6 – Bikes Across Borders Group and some local Cyclists (including me) in Brownsville, TX Linear Park
I even had a cyclist, Raphael (figure 7), from Switzerland ride to the bike messenger world championships in Mexico City on a single speed bike…he got first place in the world!
Figure 7 – Louis (Netherlands) and Raphael (Switzerland) – Raphael won the World Championships in Mexico City, MX
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 (figure 7). 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.
Figure 8 – David, Anna (Canada via Europe) and Elif (Turkey) ….plus Milo the dog in the trailer
My most recent hosting opportunity was a retired couple (figure 9 – doctor and ecologist) from Canada who had already been touring for nine months and on their way to the tip of South America…Patagonia. It’s interesting how many of the cyclists ultimate goal is Patagonia, but now that I have seen pictures…I would just say wow! Add a visit there to my bucket list. After staying with me almost a week they crossed into Mexico just last week and are on their way further south. We got along great and shared many stories and also had the chance to ride bikes together.
Figure 9 – Deb and Lothar from Canada
I have so many other stories to tell about hosting cyclists………. Touring cyclists from the USA, Canada, South Korea, Turkey, Poland, Germany, France, New Zealand, England, Australia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands have stayed with me. The only foreign country I have been to in that list is Canada. So how else would I have been able to meet so many interesting people from other parts of the world without being a warmshowers host!
So why do I do this? Why would I open my home to total strangers and let them stay sometimes for days while I go to work, etc? Because I never would have been exposed to all those cultures and interesting people otherwise. Only once did I feel uncomfortable with a guest and I asked him to move on and only stay one night…and he was an American. The world is full of interesting, generally wonderful people and hosting has been my way to meet some of those people.
More info about warmshowers can be found on their website.
Figure 10 – I like bridges – this one is East of San Antonio, TX on Hwy 90 – IH 10 Access road
Come visit me if you’re riding in South Texas and 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, have comments on my short article and suggestions send me an email.
Richard Cavin, is a technology professional who lives and works in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) of South Texas and is also an avid cyclist. He started cycling at the age of 57 and has ridden his bicycles over 35,000 miles in his four and a half years of cycling.
The tale of an ordinary citizen, a cyclist…..past, present and future. How cycling has enabled me to meet so many interesting people.
Until next time, Be Safe and Ride On!
South Texas Regional Brevet Administrator (RUSA)