I received an email on Friday from someone called Kate, a travelling cyclist who was planning on making Reading a stopover en route from London to Oxford. She’d found my contact details on WarmShowers, the social network for cyclists looking for and offering accommodation. I used the site to a certain extent when I cycled to Italy along the Eurovelo 5 in 2010 but not really since. I didn’t immediately email Kate back saying ‘yes’ as I mulled over the pitfalls of letting a stranger into your house, even for one night. Then I reflected upon how I myself had benefitted from the kindness of others so I emailed back and told her that I would be delighted to have her stay. She timed her arrival well as I was just in the process of watching the coverage of the results of the French Presidential Election; if she had arrived at precisely 7pm she may have had to wait outside for a few minutes as I took in the celebrations and commiserations of the French on TV. About ten past seven was perfect.
As with most touring cyclists, she had an interesting tale to tell. An American, originally from Chicago, but more lately of the University of Texas where she studied creative writing, she has been in Europe for a few months, arriving first in Seville with a friend before finding her way to work on a cheese farm in Corsica. Cheese is her thing; and not just any cheese. She specialises, or rather wants to specialise when she returns to the USA, in the production of goats’ cheese. I have to say I’m pretty partial to the stuff myself although I’m not quite at the fanatical stage of wanting to buy a herd of goats and start farming them in New Mexico or Colorado. She hasn’t yet made up her mind as to which of those two states will benefit from her talents but she seems to have the determination to make her dream a reality and good luck to her.
She left this morning for Oxford where she will stay overnight with some more contacts from WarmShowers before heading west to Wales and Coed Hills Rural Artspace where she will volunteer on a far. She wasn’t quite sure whether it will involve goats or not. Her plans after Wales involve a trip to Ireland before returning to the continental mainland. She aims to be back in America by the start of September & certainly deserves the accolade of having her website listed in my ‘2012 Touring Cyclists’ hall of fame over there on the right. She’s also spurred me into action regarding accommodation for summer 2013 and my proposed trip along the Eurovelo 8 from Athens to Cadiz, Spain. WarmShowers, as I mentioned above, was of use along the Eurovelo 5 although I think it was only Alain in Boulogne (he of the ballroom dancing fame – read the book) who had used it to find me. He stayed here in Reading in June 2010 before the arrangement was reciprocated back in France towards the end of July. Other contacts came to me through people visiting this very website & CouchSurfing, the other, more generalist website used for finding accommodation in people’s houses while on your holidays. First thing I need to do is to get onto WarmShowers & CouchSurfing and update my profile. I’ll then sit back and watch the offers pour in. Perhaps.