Royalton family hosts cyclists overnight with fellowship, food and a comfy bed
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
After a hot, sweaty day on the bike trail, few things are so satisfying as a warm shower, a hot meal and a comfortable bed. Ron and Monica Makela of Royalton host bikers needing those things through a website called www.warmshowers.org.
Warm Showers calls itself a “community for touring cyclists and hosts” — a worldwide hospitality exchange. Prospective hosts sign up through the site and bikers out on the road or trail search for possible accommodations along their planned route.
The site shows an interactive map and other tools to let travelers find hosts. Travelers send a private message to potential hosts through the site.Hosts may offer hospitality consisting of a couch, a room, or a place to camp. There are currently more than 19,000 active hosts worldwide.
“We signed up about three years ago,” Ron said. “There has been an increase in the number of bikers we host because of word of mouth on the trail and on blogs.”
Travelers can also leave feedback online.
Another explanation for the increase is a change that the Adventure Cycling Association made to its “Northern Tier” route.
“They made a change to the northern tier by sending people around Williston and Minot, N.D. They route people right through Bowlus and Royalton,” said Ron.
From Royalton, that route takes people through Little Rock, Morrill, Ramey and Foreston to Milaca.
Most weeks from late June into August bring a message from at least one cyclist or group. Recently, the Makelas were asked if they could host a young woman who later changed her route and did not stay. Later that week they hosted Bob Arledge and his wife, Nan Col, who were heading home to Maine from Vancouver, British Columbia.
The following Monday, three young women from the east coast stayed. They had heard about the Makelas from the couple who had just left. That Friday, a couple from Tennessee and a friend of theirs from Washington stopped during their trip east.
“You have an idea about who’s coming to your house,” Monica said. “The website shows who to expect.”
“The people we’ve had have been fun to visit with,” Ron said. “We all share stories and conversation.”
“They are all from varying backgrounds, from girls fresh out of college to a retired oncologist and a retired engineer and college professor,” said Monica.
Both Ron and Monica have experience biking, but Ron has done a cross-country trek not unlike the trips that bring cyclists to their door.
In summer 2012, he and Pastor Dave Sperstad of Little Falls biked from New Orleans to Little Falls.
“We stayed at a number of Warm Showers places,” Ron said. “They all were very accommodating. Most of the people prepared meals for us, and we sat around and talked for a while.
When the Makelas host, they prepare a meal for their guests and offer the use of their clothes washer and dryer. The number of beds available depends on how many of their children are home at the time.
“It’s been a good experience,” Ron said.
“People considering whether or not to host cyclists can ask themselves how they would want to be received when they get off the bike trail,” Monica said. “We try to be welcoming, make them feel at home and relaxed. Provide whatever you’re able; cyclists are most grateful.”
“It’s a pay-it-forward kind of thing,” said Ron. “I never realized how grateful people are until I started biking and staying with people.”
A new member at warm showers asked about leaving money for a host and other members told him no, when he gets the chance to host he should do it, Ron said.
“There are so many good people out there willing to help and lend a hand and not expect anything from it,” said Monica.
In a recent issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine, a place in Dalbo, Minn. was featured with his “cyclists only” bunkhouse.
“He’s become the next stop on the route after Bowlus and Royalton,” Ron said. “Because he’s going to get more people, we’re going to get more people.”
“Going on a long bike ride doesn’t mean using motels or tenting all the time,” Monica said. “We want people to feel like they’re just sitting down to the table at home.”
For more information, visit www.warmshowers.org.