Traveling with Eve Graves
Giving back to the Silent Sports community is vital. Timing, photography, writing, aide stations, marking courses, putting events on, all in the name of silent sports have been my favorite pastimes for over three decades. Last year, we discovered a newfangled way to contribute that’s even more exhilarating!
After reading an article and learning about the Warm Showers website (www.warmshowers.org) – similar to “couch surfing,” but solely for those on long distance bike journeys – we thought, “Heck, our vacation rental is geared towards those in silent sports, and it is empty at times, why not help?!”
Folks who have put on thousands of miles by bike traversing the country are able to stay at our Urban Silent Sports Retreat for a few days here and there when it is vacant of paying customers. Not only are we getting that warm cozy feeling of giving back, we also get to meet some incredibly interesting individuals in the process!
A Warm Showers guest may travel by bike with his best friend. Eve Graves photo
The majority of those we have encountered thus far have been mid-twenty somethings who have completed “University” and just need to find themselves before starting the rest of their lives.
Parents pedaling with their offspring and one spectacularly interesting couple from South Africa were the only “older riders” we have hosted so far.
Arriving with trailers for gear, pulling a dog in a crate, multiple bags attached to wheels were just some of the creative ways our guests transported their limited gear. Protection from the various elements came in the form of expensive waterproof bags for some and plain old black garbage bags for others.
The common theme all distance cyclists seemed to harmonize on as a prerequisite were disc brakes; other than that all the bikes were drastically distinctive!
Bike shorts were the norm for all the visitors. We were impressed by the variety of footwear people preferred!
Our guest with Keen-like bike shoes as his only foot covering was lucky he was my husband’s size so he could partake in some technical hiking trails and see more of Duluth.
Another showed up with minimal trail shoes in dire need of replacing due to the pedal mark deeply etched into the sole of his shoe! We quickly hauled him up to the running store and helped him out of becoming the barefoot peddler.
Rain protection our biker guests sported ranged from luxurious gortex-style material, to plastic rain ensembles, to even garbage bags. Our Swiss visitors had a rare idea, maintaining they would get just as wet with sweat as rain, and the superfluous bulk of rain gear was excessive.
Miles per day
One constant amongst our Warm Showers visitors is quantity of miles attempted per day. All those who have lodged with us have had the goal of 60-70 miles per day, despite challenges Mother Nature may throw at them.
One of our more unique Canadian riders suffered a flat tire on the way to our vacation rental, which generated some excitement given the busy road it transpired on. This same redheaded Canadian was also forced to waste an additional day lounging around at our rental viewing movies during one of our severe, damaging summer storms.
Unfortunately for him, his route was destroyed during the storm, causing him to remap his journey, which took him through unforeseen construction and other undesirable roads.
Long distance biking and eating healthy? Totally depends! Only one picky eater thus far; the rest were extremely thankful for any nourishment that didn’t resemble the redundant regimes of the preceding thousand miles.
Testing out the beer and pizza at Thirsty Pagan is a must for all of our biker guests as they visit with owner Steve Knauss. We make sure they all make the trek to Third Street Bakery to get a Thunder Cookie from the “Wise Old Hippy” Dan Proctor, too.
Each biker is greeted with fresh fruit and leftovers as a “starter kit” to replenish the thousands of calories burned en route. Typically, we take our callers for provisions and find it interesting when junk food is their main sustenance.
Where are they from and where are they going to?
Canadians have made up the majority of our visitors so far, with a sprinkling of Germans, Swiss, South Africans and some Madisonians. Each nationality brings with it a distinctive type of charm.
Typical journeys seem to be from one end of Canada to the other, dipping down into Duluth, enjoying the big lake view and then heading back up through Sault Ste. Marie.
Only our Swiss cyclists ventured south from Waterloo, Canada. They had a Missouri destination, to reminisce about a previous exchange student experience.
New friendships can bloom while helping out those in traveling need. Eve Graves photo
Who are they?
Most travel in groups, a few venture out alone, some have a canine in tow and all have great stories to share.
A 6-foot, 6-inch-tall Canadian and a hunky German were our most entertaining guests thus far. After meeting in a hostel, their tour began with two others, with whom they parted ways prior to their Duluth experience. Arriving on a brisk, gale-force windy, rainy day, caused the towering, lanky, fearless Canadian and the German to intentionally bike across the incorrect bridge from Wisconsin to avoid putting on additional miles. Guitar strapped erect behind him, Canadian flag atop, police escort across after which they were able to charm their way out of any repercussions.
Coco, the brown adopted pooch, was treated to a cross-country triathlon by her Canadian owner. Beginning on foot, transferring to bike and finishing up with a paddle were how this duo crossed the country.
The trio of Swiss cyclists was by far our most organized, meticulous bunch. To this day, we are still trying to figure out their secret as to how they managed to fold all of our sheets and towels so perfectly that they looked like they were still in the packaging!
When the Rice family – mom, dad and 11-year-old son Matthew – arrived from Canada, we had the privilege of offering them a neat Duluth experience. Being a group with limitless energy, they embraced the opportunity to enjoy a scenic hike with the trails group I coach. Timing was also perfect to experience the final Grandma’s Wednesday night kids race! Mom and dad volunteered dispensing food, while Matthew competed and won his age division!
They all have different purposes for their expeditions. Some are trying to figure out the next step in life, while others want to spend quality time together. Many want the challenge, while others think it would purely be fun to bike instead of driving.
Whatever their reason, we like to give all of them the opportunity to see some of the highlights of the best outdoor city in the Midwest. After enjoying a mile straight uphill jaunt to get to our vacation rental, we attempt to make it the most memorable stopover on their journey.
Connect online with the Warm Showers group at www.warmshowers.org