Last year during my 80+ days of riding down the Atlantic coast from Halifax, Nova Scotia and Key West, Florida, I spent close to $5,000 on lodging, averaging a little more than $60 per night. My stays were pretty much divided between campgrounds and mom and pop/”budget” motels, but nowhere was cheap. When a Motel 6 is, at $85 a night plus another $5-10 in tax, the least expensive thing going in an area where there are no campgrounds available, what can you do? I paid these prices because I had been lulled into a false sense of security during my long rides in the 1990s- “Hiker-Biker” campsites in California State Parks were only six bucks and you could find clean older motels that were still around $25. No more.
This year Gary Schmidt and I are trying to take advantage of our being members of Warmshowers, an online group of cyclists who are willing, at no cost, to provide camping space in a yard or sometimes a couch or a spare bed to other traveling riders, along with the use of a bathroom and sometimes other facilities as well. The group’s website is here: https://www.warmshowers.org/ [link].
The way Warmshowers works is, after you sign up, you have access to a map and some search tools showing various hosts’ locations in the area you are looking for an overnight stay in. Here’s what the area around my hometown of Wasilla, Alaska looks like.
Clicking on the icon with the “2” in it in Wasilla brings my name up.
Clicking on my name brings up my host page. Here’s the top part of it.
Each member posts availability, contact and other basic information along with a couple of paragraphs about her or himself. At the bottom of the page there is a description of what the host is willing to offer, along with feedback from past guests.
I hosted twice this summer, once to a fascinating young man from Mainland China who was cycling all over North America and a second time to a couple from England and Sweden who were cycling from Alaska to Argentina. Each time was a great experience and left me feeling really good about making a contribution to the cycle touring community.
So Gary and I are reaching out to Warmshowers hosts up and down the length of the Mississippi River hoping to make arrangements for as many overnight stays as we can. This will reduce the lodging expenses of our ride but, more important, it will let us connect with local people along the way. The people I met last year at campgrounds, in stores, while dining, and some who just stopped me as I was riding to chat for a couple of minutes were a huge part of what made that trip so great. I’m very much hoping that this will happen again this year. Our requests to prospective hosts are going out by this weekend and we have our fingers crossed that there will be a good response.
If you are reading this and you are not a Warmshowers host and would be interested in having Gary and me spend an overnight along our route during our ride, please let us know, either in a comment on this post or to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve already got a list of possible hosts from comments left on facebook posts and in other places. In any event we hope to see you along the way, even if only to wave as we ride by.
Here’s a list of dates we are look for lodging on and the location along the route.
8/29 or 8/30 – Aitkin, MN
8/30 or 8/31 – Brainerd, MN
9/3 or 9/4 – South St. Paul, MN
9/4 or 9/5 – Red Wing, MN
9/5 or 9/6 – Fountain City, WI
9/6 or 9/7 – La Crosse, WI
9/7 or 9/8 – Prairie du Chien, WI
9/8 and 9/9 – Cassville, WI
9/10 or 9/11 – Dubuque, IA
9/11 or 9/12 – Thomson, IL
9/12 or 9/13 – Davenport, IA
9/13 or 9/14 – Keithsburg, IL
9/14 and 9/15 – Nauvoo, IL
9/16 or 9/17 – Quincy, IL
9/17 or 9/18 – vicinity Ted Shanks Conservation Area, MO
9/18 or 9/19 – Hardin, IL
9/19 or 9/20 – Alton, IL
9/20 or 9/21 – Arnold, MO
9/21 or 9/22 – St. Genevieve, MO
9/22 or 9/23 – St. Mary, MO/Kaskaskia, IL
9/23 or 9/24 – Grand Tower, IL
9/24 or 9/25 – Cape Girardeau, MO
9/25 or 9/26 – Columbus, KY
9/26 or 9/27 – New Madrid, MO
9/27 or 9/28 – Caruthersville, MO
9/28 or 9/29 – Osceola, AR
10/1 or 10/2 – Tunica, MS
10/2 or 10/3 – Clarksdale, MS
10/3 or 10/4 – Scott, MS
10/4 or 10/5 – Mayersville, MS
10/5 or 10/6 – Eagle Bend, MS
10/6 or 10/7 – Port Gibson, MS
10/7 and 10/8 – Natchez, MS
10/9 or 10/10 – vicinity Old River Lock Campground, LA
10/10 or 10/11 – New Roads, LA
10/11 or 10/12 – Baton Rouge, LA
10/12 or 10/13 – Central, LA
10/13 and 10/14 – Harahan/New Orleans, LA
10/15 – Phoenix, LA
10/16 – Venice, LA
It would be great to hear from you!