So, not fast, not good, and not cheap, when you consider the effort put into a custom, one-of-a-kind system. But, it keeps me in practice coding and designing. And, because it runs on Linux, I can keep the security patches current: many purchased plug-and-play “appliances” have their code burned in at time of manufacture, and may be designed around already obsolete and buggy software. My little system has undergone several major upgrades of the Debian Linux distribution core system (Linux kernel 4.9.35, patched 30 June 2017: latest release is 4.12) and gets regular security patches and bug fixes. That’s even newer than my primary laptop (Kernel 3. 13.0, patched 26 June 2017). Considering all the little Rasperry Pi machines scattered around the house, it may be prudent to work on configuring them for diskless boot, in order to preserve the flash memory chips on-board.
WarmShowers.org is a web-based organization that connects bicycle tourists with hosts to share lodging while on tour. There are no fees, except for voluntary donations from members to keep the web site running, and accommodation provided to guests at no cost. The accommodations offered range from a place to pitch a tent with access to toilet and shower facilities to a furnished guest room or cottage with full meals, laundry service, sag service (transporting bikes, gear, and riders from their route to the accommodation or to/from bicycle repair shops, train or bus stations, or airports), and minor repairs. Guests, in turn, often bring food to share or small presents for the hosts, if convenient to do so. We provide “all the above,” serving an evening meal and breakfast. Occasionally, guests will offer to cook or treat us to dinner out, but we know from experience that a hot shower and warm meal after a long day on tour is most welcome, and a good breakfast starts the next day’s tour off right.
We first became aware of Warm Showers in the early 2000s when we lived in Hamilton, Montana, 80 km south of the headquarters of Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), and on the Transamerica and Lewis and Clark routes. There were several hosts in town and we were still working, so we didn’t sign up then. But, in the fall of 2009, we moved to western Washington, 70 km south of Bremerton, to a small town on the ACA Pacific Coast Route, Seattle Connector for the Washington Parks Route, and the route in the Kirkendall-Spring book “Cycling the Pacific Coast.” We bought a large 1920s Craftsman bungalow near downtown, and found ourselves full-up the first year, with grown children and grandchildren taking up the extra bedrooms while we all waited out the slump in the housing market to sell our former houses. Both of us continued to work at our home-based businesses, in computer consulting and long-arm quilting services.
After the family moved out, and we settled into semi-retirement, we bought a new tandem bicycle in the spring of 2011 and planned to tour again. We had gone on several multi-day tours in the 1980s, but had just taken day rides since, despite planning longer tours. Since we had three extra bedrooms now, we decided to join Warm Showers as hosts, to give us an opportunity for lodging when and if we started touring again, and to become part of the bicycle touring community, meeting other tourists and sharing stories.
Not long after we joined and shortly after we took delivery of our new bicycle, we got our first guest, Todd, who was also new to Warm Showers. The experience was perfectly natural for both of us, and we never looked back: in the six years since, we have hosted more than 160 guests, stayed with five Warm Showers hosts while on our own tours, and have so far met with one other host in a town a day’s ride away, and kept touch with her and others through social media.
Over the years, our guest list has included five small children under the age of five, and two dogs. We’ve also had two adult mother-daughter teams and one father-son team. Our guests have ranged in age from 8 months to early 70s, but most are in the 25-45 age range.
In the early years, we would sometimes ride out with our guests in the morning, up to 20 or 25 km. Sarah, below, on her second tour and first solo tour, was a bit apprehensive about cycling the back roads, but continued on another 20 days. We’ve kept in touch: she has had some amazing adventures in Patagonia and across the country, and now works as a tour guide for ACA.
Located a day’s ride from Seattle and three to five days ride from Vancouver, we found that a lot of our guests were in a “shakedown” stage of their tours: mechanical problems tend to show up within a few days of starting out. We also noted that, if guests arrived on a Surly, Salsa, Kona, or other brand specifically designed and built for long-distance loaded touring, we would send them off in the morning with no more than topping off tires and water bottles. The bike-shop road bikes, overloaded or without front racks, would get loaded onto the car bike rack and sagged off to the nearest bike shop, 30 km away in Olympia. Bike shops normally have a minimum shop fee and a two-to-three-week turn-around time, but I was able to make a deal with a neighborhood shop to get tourist’s bikes in first thing in the morning so they were on their way by noon. Most we rerouted with maps from the bike shop back to their intended route.
While we advertise a maximum of four guests (we have two furnished guest rooms with queen beds), we rarely turn away “drop-in” guests who call the same day. The group above called from a few blocks away on a rainy evening after we had already set dinner for two guests who had arrived earlier. We ordered pizza delivery while setting up sleeping space in the living room and craft studio for the extras. We’ve also set up an air mattress in the upstairs craft studio when we’ve had three or more guests who didn’t want to share a bed.
Sometimes, we get guests going both directions: the foursome above had two headed for Seattle after riding around the Olympic Peninsula, the other two coming from Vancouver, headed for California.
In this case, the couple with the baby found their friend (with the dog) was traveling the same direction, but by a different route, and arranged to meet at our house. We met her on the road while returning home that day and led her to our house before her friends arrived.
On our own tour, we didn’t plan on using Warm Showers for the last half, as we had shipped our camping gear home earlier, but Scot spotted us in a grocery store parking lot and brought us home, giving up his own bedroom to sleep on the sofa.
The only time we cancelled on guest reservations: I failed a treadmill test and woke up with a 20-cm incision down my chest and tubes hanging out. And a spot on my leg where they had borrowed one of those good bicycling veins to bypass a clogged artery in my heart. That also put us on the “unavailable” list for the rest of the summer.
We’ve had a number of Warm Showers members who have made contact and gotten information, or who have miscalculated weather, distance, or other factors that caused them to cancel or undershoot or overshoot us. Some have shifted dates after first contact. It’s always good to update hosts with projected arrival times, delays, etc.
Several years ago, Eric ran into late-season wet, cold weather, leaving him stranded “in the middle of nowhere” wet, cold, and in the dark. We got a call at 7:30 in the evening, after he had tried to contact many other hosts near his location. We made a 60-km run to rescue him. He had been touring continuously for over a year and his rain gear was worn out, not that it would have done much good in the cold November rain. He has since ridden the GDMBR (Great Divide Mountain Bike Race) and rode the first 1000 km of the Transamerica race. We’ve since upgraded our sag vehicle from a small SUV with a tandem rack on top to a cargo van.
We keep a small collection of toys our grandsons outgrew, to entertain our younger guests. Toddlers take readily to touring, as long as the parents juggle nap time and play time into their riding schedules. Older children do well on tandems, triples, and pedal trailers.
We usually cook, but some guests like to have a home-cooked meal of their own, and treat us. We’ve collected a few good recipes from guests. We convinced this couple to stay and extra day and continue by public transit on Monday during a period of cold and wet weather, so they took over the cooking chores after a day out downtown. We live within walking distance of a movie theater, supermarket, several restaurants and coffee shops, and the public library, giving guests an opportunity to explore a bit off the bike.
Some of our guests have overextended or had mechanical problems, arriving courtesy of passers-by who sagged them to our house. Sometimes—and we have first-hand experience ourselves, on tour—those “tour angels” spot trouble before the riders realize they could use help. We do now offer sag service, having acquired a van for our own rail-trail touring plans, but there are areas of poor cell service in our area, so calling for pickup is not always an option. We have hosted guests from a dozen different countries: some have purchased SIM cards to use their phones in the U.S., but some don’t, relying on WiFi for data connections.
Our father-son team, above, and a mother-daughter team, below. The mother, below, turned out to be friends with long-time friends of ours who live in her home town. Over the years, we’ve hosted cyclists who know each other, or who have stayed as guests at hosts who have been our guests. We’ve read tales of guests meeting up with other guests farther down the coast and riding together or staying at the same other hosts. It’s a small community, considering.
Over the years, we’ve met so many people from many countries, of all ages, and different work backgrounds, but the thing we have in common is that we all crazy in the same way–we just have to get on our bicycles and pedal off over the horizon now and then. Being hosts has kept us active in cycling: since opening our doors to Warm Showers guests in our late 60s, we’ve made three tours of a week or more, and many day trips, often on trails across the country. Since joining Warm Showers, we’ve logged more than 5000 km, despite nearly a year off to recover from heart surgery.
As we get older, hosting becomes a bit of a burden, especially during the busy season, when we get one to four guests a night for several days running. This year, we decided to book time for ourselves to train and prepare for our own outings, limiting hosting to a few short periods during the season. For a couple of years, we were the only hosts in our town, so we were reluctant to turn away guests, but now there are three in town and a couple of others not far away.
Our hosting facilities:
Of course, meals are prepared in the kitchen and served in the dining room, photos of both shown earlier with guests. Evening conversation moves to the living room, where there is a gas fireplace for chilly evenings and mornings. The covered porch, patio, and lower deck are also available for conversation or privacy in warm weather. We offer high-speed Internet (cable) with WiFi, and have a small older laptop with a guest account for use if needed. We often print out Google maps and cue sheets for custom routes, and have supplied GPS track files or Google map links via email or message.
We have a floor pump with Presta and Schrader fittings for use by guests, and the usual tools for minor repairs, including degreaser and shop rags. In addition to limited sag service with our own vehicles, Mason County Transit buses run Monday through Saturday from downtown Shelton, with bike racks and service to Olympia, Bremerton, and Brinnon, with connections to Grays Harbor County (Montesano & Aberdeen) and Jefferson County (Port Townsend) transit services as well as Kitsap County transit, the Washington State Ferries to Seattle, and the Olympia Intercity Transit with connection to Amtrak. Roll-on bicycle service is available on Amtrak at the Olympia-Lacey terminal with service to Seattle, Portland, and Eugene.
Over the years, in addition to delivering bikes to the bike shop in the city, we’ve also made runs to the nearby hardware store for missing or stripped stainless steel metric screws, safety-wired a homemade trailer hitch, supplied a spare tire from our stash, and delivered articles left, either in person or by parcel service. We’ve answered queries from travelers who didn’t stay with us, including route advice, and where to leave your car when starting/ending a tour nearby (try a self-storage yard). Not surprisingly, we’ve had reciprocal treatment when we travel–hosts picking up most of our gear for the last few miles, sag lifts from strangers met on the road, a lift to a bike shop for supplies, awesome meals, and close-up encounters feeding apples to a captive elk herd. Being part of the Warm Showers community enriches our lives and is a means of paying forward all the kindnesses done for us over the years, cycling or not.
Last, but not least, being a part of Warm Showers brings us closer to the bicycle touring community and makes it more likely for us to reach out to tourists we see that could use a hand. A couple of weeks ago, we were at a nearby (20 km) bakery on a rainy day when an older bicycle tourist came in to dry out and warm up, intending to wait out the rain, even if it meant bivouacking behind the bakery. We struck up a conversation, soon recognizing him as a legend among the world trekking and bicycle touring folks, as well as in his home country, Australia, for his cycling exploits and trekking with camels around Australia. The rain subsided somewhat, later that day, and Klaus took us up on our invite to spend the night, even though he wasn’t a Warm Showers member. Normally, we’d ask tourists we meet this way to join (that’s how we recruit), but Klaus has been nomadic for 23 years and, at 69, doesn’t plan to settle down anytime soon. He also prefers to camp wherever the day ends, but was grateful for a chance to dry his gear and sleep out of the rain. And, we were glad to have met him, hear his stories first hand, and to have a chance to ride with a legend, if only a short way to send him off on the next leg of his life-long adventure.
Once again, our Warm Showers hosting season will be in multiple parts, due to our own touring plans. Despite the cold and rainy spring, we had a surprising number of early tourists headed for warmer climes.
Madhuri, from Vancouver, and Michelle, from southern California, arrived in mid-March, traveling light and staying at Warm Showers and motels, as most campgrounds were not open yet. They made the trip from Vancouver to San Ysidro (Mexican border) in 36 days, very impressive, considering the wet and cold weather.
Tim and Ashleigh, from Australia, had trekked all around the world over the past two years, but were on their first bicycle tour, starting in late March in Vancouver and arriving via Vancouver Island and U.S. 101. The unfamiliar bike, wet weather, and heavy traffic on narrow shoulders didn’t suit Ashleigh very well, prompting her to bus from Quilcene to Shelton, while Tim rode from Brinnon.
Sunday dawned with heavy cold rain, so we convinced them to stay over, which they did, taking the bus to Olympia on Monday and taking trails to the Amtrak station to travel to Portland to reconsider their schedule and itinerary.
We had gone on travel in April, so didn’t get any more guests until May, when the weather improved a little. Lexi, from Montana and now Utah, and Mary, from Boston, had met a few years ago on a Bike & Build crew and decided to ride the Pacific Coast Route this year. Perusing our book of past guests, they discovered that we had hosted two other members of their Bike ‘n Build crew shortly after their session ended in Seattle in 2013.
Shortly after Lexi and Mary left, Ingrid arrived from Vancouver on a tour of the Pacific Coast before moving back to her native Switzerland. We had to leave early the next morning, so left Ingrid to pack up in a more leisurely manner. We like to photograph guests in full touring kit (bike, panniers, other equipment), but when we leave before they do, we get indoor photos.
Sisters Zoë and Hortense, originally from France, but having studied and worked in Canada and Belgium, traveling together down the Pacific Coast. The second week in May was one of our busiest, with five guests successive nights. With such a pipeline of riders extending down the coast, it was inevitable they should meet. Zoë and Hortense met up with Mary and Lexi the last few days of their tour, ending up at the same host the same night in southern California.
Chris arrived the next weekend, after we passed up a few travelers to recover from colds. Chris has been on a series of 2000-mile tour segments covering all 50 states, interviewing people he meets for a book, titled “Conversations with US.” Unlike most travelers, he came from the south, having ridden as far east as Crater Lake, Portland and Astoria. He was finishing this stage of his continental tour in Seattle and taking a short break before finishing his research in Alaska and Hawaii. Unfortunately, he didn’t make his Kickstarter goal for the book project, but we hope he gets a second chance.
Robin and Noëmie, also from France, arrived mid-week. They were interested in an expanded Pacific Coast experience, and wanted to travel through the mountains to the Columbia Gorge and Portland. Their schedule seemed to allow enough time to do that, so we helped them plot a route between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens and sent them off to REI in Olympia for paper maps and a better water purifying system.
“Ryan” (Byungchul) and “Kelly,” from South Korea, are riding the Pacific Coast route both ends to the middle: they started in San Diego, but found the prevailing winds against them, so took the train from San Francisco to Seattle to head back to San Francisco. Their first day got a bit long, with riding from Ballard to Coleman Dock and then Bremerton to Shelton via WA Highway 3, a stressful ordeal. As they approached Oakland Bay and the most dangerous section of Hwy 3, a couple from Hartstine Island gave them a lift into town so they arrived before dark.
We helped them plan out a more bicycle-friendly route south, with choices of inland or coastal routes. In the end, they decided to head for Portland, with Eugene as a probable destination via the Willamette Valley, rather than the sometimes intimidating and hilly coast route. Ryan has ridden Los Angeles to New York, some years ago, but Kelly is a novice rider, and is still struggling with hills and traffic, despite having completed over 1000 km of their tour. As I sometimes do, I broke out my old Specialized Hard Rock (“Rocky”) to lead them out to Arcadia and WA 3 to get them started toward Olympia and Millersylvania State Park.
We’d expected a fellow weaver and bicycle tourist in early June, but otherwise, we’ve temporarily disconnected from Warm Showers to give us time to train for this summer’s planned bicycling activities, now that good weather is here and most of the tourists would rather camp anyway. When Lindy finally arrived, having extended her tour up British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, down Vancouver Island, and through the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands, we had a good visit talking “shop” about weaving and comparing Warm Showers hosting notes.
I rode out with her to the edge of town to send her on her way to the Pacific Coast route, where she intends to use the Pacific County transit to get across the 6.7 km Megler-Astoria bridge and to bypass the Big Sur detour by train. More and more, our avocation is evolving as touring with bicycle rather than touring by bicycle as it becomes easier to incorporate public transit into our bicycle travel plans. So it goes. We’re planning another summer like 2015, when we traveled by auto to family events and rode our bicycle on trails along the way.
As the resident computer “guru emeritus” in our family, I often get questions from family members about computers, particularly computer security. I’m not a Windows expert by any means, though I was briefly a Windows NT sysadmin in the mid 1990s and the Unix and GNU/Linux systems for which I was responsible had to coexist with, but independent from, Windows Server Active Directory domains throughout the first decade of this century. As the latest hacker disaster to befall the Windows world sweeps across the planet, I got this request from a cousin:
I was wondering whether you had any advice for us Microsoft PC users and the cyber attack which they predict is rolling our way. We don’t do online banking or bill-paying. We do have a lot of pictures and documents. Most of the pictures I have on a flash drive. Do you think they will only hit the institutions? Sounds like Europe was not prepared and was operating on an old system. Hopefully our country has a “heads up” to protect our government institutions, airports and banks.
Our travels through the fictional fractured former United States continue, hence the geographic references that may be unfamiliar to those readers who believe the Federation propaganda that the Republic still stands intact. Our travels in this chapter take place in the countries of Greater California, Jefferson, and Cascadia, which extend up the Pacific coast from north of San Diego to Prince Rupert and east to the Sierras and Cascades in California, Jefferson, and the Oregon and Washington districts of Cascadia, and the Rockies in the Columbian District. Free White Idaho extends from the Cascades to the Rockies south of the 49th Parallel. Jefferson extends from north of Sonoma County, Gr. Cal., to the southern reach of the Willamette Valley.
[all photos by Judy unless otherwise noted]
Our trip became more normal with our return to the independent republics on the West Coast of North America, where Federation loyalist influence is much less, though still significant in the news. Leaving Bakersfield, we head north through familiar place names: streets and highways named after popular country-western music artists of the mid-twentieth Century: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and others. After our drive across the Mojave, the north-bound routes seem frantic and busy. We soon turn off the old Highway 99 onto farm roads through the San Joaquin Valley, meandering between CA 99 and I-5, sometimes through potholed and muddy tracks indistinguishable from the cattle feedlots that line them, as seen above.
After a brief run up I-5, we turn off toward Coalinga, and over the mountains toward the coast, turning north up a verdant and quiet valley, joining US 101 and its heavy traffic for a run through Silicon Valley into San Francisco, where we will spend a few days site-seeing before continuing toward home.
Judy hadn’t spent time in downtown San Francisco before. I had spent a 3-day pass from the U.S. Army there, 51 years ago in 1966, riding the cable cars, dining at Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. A return trip in 1983 was spent entirely at the Moscone Center in a computer conference devoted to the doomed 8-bit personal computer operating system CP/M from Digital Research, which was supplanted by the 16-bit Microsoft knock-off MS-DOS within a few months. We stayed a block from the China Gate and a couple blocks from Union Square this time, within walking distance of shopping and restaurants.
As we often do when visiting a large city, we bought a two-day bus tour package, and set off on a rainy morning. The upper open deck on the buses was awash in the downpour, so we imagined the sights the guides described as we peered through the fogged-over and rain-smeared windows. We changed buses at Fisherman’s Wharf, with a quick look around, then off to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we had a wet and blustery layover before catching the Sausalito bus. We stopped briefly on the north end of the bridge, shrouded in mist before descending into the city by the bay for a 20-minute layover before returning over the bridge once more for another wet wait for the next bus.
The next destination was Golden Gate Park and the Haight-Ashbury district, which, again, we glimpsed through the perforated sunscreens and film of rain on the bus windows. After heading back downtown around City Hall, we disembarked at Union Square for lunch, then caught the alternate bus route back to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we toured on foot, catching the last bus back to Union Square. On this route, the rain had stopped long enough to permit riding on the open deck, so we did get good views of Chinatown and the financial district on this tour.
The next morning, we sat through the customary sales pitch at the condo office to get part of our parking fee validated. We thought $40 a day was outrageous, but we noted that other nearby hotels charged upwards of $60 per day. While waiting for the tour bus, we noted that most of the guests at that hotel used Uber for ground transportation. Our hotel brochure warned against bringing a car into the city, but, being on tour, we didn’t have much choice.
A late start took us on a repeat of yesterday’s route, without the side trip across the bridge. We had planned on taking in some of the gardens at the Golden Gate Park, but the heavy rain continued, so we declined to disembark. Once again, we were confined to the limited view from the lower compartment in the bus, but had better seats, so we were able to see some of the attractions we missed the day before. Back at Union Square, we marched off to the Mall, where we had lunch at the bistro in the Nordstrom department store, in solidarity with the Cascadia-based chain with which the Federation had started a trade war the day before, after the store had dropped the royal family’s clothing line. Word from our contacts in Free White Idaho indicate that a major department store chain based in the Ozark District has taken up the slack and is enjoying exports of the royal line to the FWI as well as throughout the Federation.
The next morning, we headed north in sunshine, making sure to drive through some of the areas we had toured, but not seen, from the bus. We had intended to head east to visit with an old friend, but the bad weather had made the roads unreliable. Indeed, by the end of the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people living between us and them were being evacuated as the flood waters overflowed the largest reservoir to the east and threatened to breach the dam due to erosion on the spillways. So, we headed across the bridge through Sausalito once more, finally outrunning the city traffic north of Santa Rosa as we crossed over into the Republic of Jefferson.
We spent the night in Eureka, then headed inland at Crescent City to Rogue River for lunch with my cousin and her husband before continuing north over the mountains into our home territory of Cascadia, arriving in Eugene along the Willamette River for the next night. We headed north on old Highway 99 in the morning in dense fog, which lifted near Junction City. We took the west branch of 99 through Corvallis and McMinnville, then winding back roads to Hillsboro and Scappoose, then up Highway 30 to Rainier, where we crossed the Columbia and then the Cowlitz to continue home on I-5.
So ended the first road tour of 2017, covering about 8000 km in three weeks. We plan a trip to Victoria in June and an extended tour to Minnesota and Eastern Canada in September. We may venture into the FWI sometime this summer if the borders stay open, as we still have family and close friends in the Mission and Bitterroot valleys. We took Maximillian, our hybrid crossover vehicle, on this trip because we needed extra seating, and it was easy on fuel without the bicycle on top, burning about 6 liters per 100 km when we stuck to the lower-speed roads. For the rest of the trips, we plan to drive the White Knight, which burns about 14 liters per 100 km, but we can camp in it and take our bicycle, and it blends in better when traveling in the interior republics. We’ve been careful in this divided age not to display any political insignia, which may in itself raise suspicion in some districts, where patriotic displays of the majority’s ideological symbols are common and expected. The environmental statement the hybrid vehicle makes may attract unwanted attention in those districts by itself, so the older, nondescript work vehicle may be the best choice, even if it isn’t the most efficient.