There is no doubt about it. Warm Showers made the trip. We both agree whole heartedly that our 2-month cycling trip through Maine, the Canadian Maritimes and New Hampshire would not have been as enriching and heart warming without the hospitality of our hosts.
Warm Showers is an association of long distance cyclists who participate in a free lodging exchange. By joining, cyclists agree to host other traveling cyclists in their home or yard, and in return have access to a world-wide network of host homes. Finding a Warm Showers host is as easy as pulling up an app on a smartphone. It uses GPS and Google Maps to find your location, and shows you all hosts in close proximity. By tapping an icon, you can send a message to the host requesting accommodations. As a host, you can choose the level of hospitality that suits you – camping space, beds, food, laundry facilities and kitchen use are some of the options.
Hosting is rewarding in itself. We have met fascinating people traveling through Duluth on bicycle, with a wide range of itineraries and length of trip. And after the wealth of hospitality extended to us on our trips, we are eager to continue to repay that generosity.
All the people that opened their homes to us were so welcoming and made us feel right at home. They not only provided us with hot showers and comfy beds, but let us give our hand laundered clothes a thorough wash in their laundries. And we were so well fed! Other cyclists totally understand the insatiable hunger and need for calories generated by long distance cycling – even if we didn’t quite recognize it ourselves. We ate many a gourmet meal and feasted on local delicacies. Equally enjoyable was the opportunity to use the kitchen and do a little home cooking ourselves for a change.
Because the network is comprised entirely of cyclists, by definition we always had a great deal in common with our hosts. And we knew in advance that they would have values similar to our own. Conversation was easy as we shared cycling experiences. We were wowed by the extensive travels our hosts had completed, and inspired by their destinations and cycling philosophies. As relative neophytes to long distance cycling, we always learned useful tips from our hosts. They were also the best source on local cycling. We avoided bad routes, enjoyed the best scenery and got the scoop on good eateries all through their sound advice.
But the biggest benefit of all was the local knowledge we gained. Had we merely cycled through on our own, we would have missed out on learning about the local history, customs and culture. The in-depth personal perspectives they shared with us were the gem stones of our trip. From understanding the background of the Acadians to getting the inside scoop on developing national geological parks, we found it all fascinating. We watched one host’s lobster boat arrive at the wharf, followed his catch from there to our dinner table and learned about the lobster industry. Our extensive tour through Old Quebec was led and narrated by new local cycling friends. Some hosts drove us to see local sights – places that were not on our direct route, and otherwise would have missed.
We knew that staying in Warm Showers homes would be useful, but in no way did we foresee just how it would shape our travels and enrich the memories of our trip. To all our wonderful hosts – who now feel like good friends – we owe a debt of thanks. And we sincerely hope that they cross our threshold in Duluth one day.