Off road, Warmshowers, judging a book by its cover

Dear friends and family,

I’m ending my stay of six days in Bucaramanga. I’ve been in recovery mode; eating well, relaxing, stretching and planning. After dealing with the crappy road coming into this city, I was hoping for an alternative. In my second day continuing south from here I would have to ride up about 5000 feet within a ten mile stretch, on a road loaded with trucks. I started to consider alternatives like taxi or bus. 

But, thanks to a little prodding by my wife, I contacted a Warmshowers host that lives in the mountains above Bucaramanga. His name is Diego.

Warmshowers is a worldwide organization that connects bicyclists on the road with bicyclists at their homes. The idea is that you register on their app and then when a bicycle tourer is passing through you offer them at the minimum a warm shower ( hmmm, they only use cold water here, might have to change the name just for Colombia)and a place to pitch their tent. There is not a specific quid pro quo, but the idea is that sometimes you host and sometimes you get hosted. All for free. Often hosts offer more, like a spare room or a meal or two.

Diego welcomed me to this area and gave me an alternative route on unpaved roads to get around the truck infested hill climb. He said it is popular with cyclists and he himself has done it.  There’s still a big climb, but without traffic and over a longer distance SHOULD be manageable.

I liked the idea and decided to look into it on my mapping software. I thought if I could divide it into small, bite sized chunks, that even if there is a lot  of climbing, if I only had a few miles to do per day, I could manage it. Unfortunately there is a longish stretch on the hill climbing day with no hotels. Could be really hard.

What  I don’t  know is what is the condition of the “unpaved” roads. Is Diego a world class mountain bicyclist, which is necessary to pull this off? Can a mere mortal ( or slightly older mortal) achieve this?

All questions I still have in my mind as I prep to depart tomorrow. Lots of “ What ifs “ about the difficulty. And a few “ what ifs “ about my climbing ability, even after this  recovery break. Only one way to find out, so I’ll let you know soon.

In 2019, Liz and I signed up to be hosts on Warmshowers, in anticipation of some long future rides. Our first guest was a woman named Denise,a middle aged woman who was on her first day of her bike tour. We had a spare room and offered that, as well as a meal. At the evening meal Denise explained that she was heading north, far north, to above the Arctic Circle to a town called by its abbreviated name of Tuk. Tuktoyaktuk is the proper name. I knew the name from reading about sailors sailing through the Northwest Passage and stopping there. It’s as far north as a road goes!  

I was wondering if Denise had any idea of the  scale and challenge that might offer her. Frankly, I, in my naïveté was wondering if I should maybe have a talk with her about her ambitions. It seemed VERY ambitious and had me a bit concerned for her safety. 

So, in our dinner discussion I asked if she had ever done anything like this. She informed me that yes ( you judgemental man- she didn’t say that or infer that, but should have) she had done a little bike touring: 

Excerpt from her blog:

In 2015, I decided I needed a new adventure. A big one. Something that would stretch me into someone different. I needed to jump the chasm from old me to new me from limited and small to big and expansive. That jump turned into a bike trip from Bolivia to the very southern tip of Argentina in Tierra del Fuego and then back up the Atlantic coast of Argentina to Uruguay and Buenos Aires. 

I had such a blast during the 2016/2017 ride that I went back in 2018 and rode through the Seven Lakes district of Argentina and the Carretera Austral in Patagonia, Chile a second time with a friend whom I met on the first trip

So yes, she had done a little riding. Shut me right  up!

It taught me a good lesson in judgement. It also taught me a lot about bicycle touring before I’d ever done a long one myself. 

Of course she pulled it off and continues to tour around the world still. See her blog at

In the meantime, stay tuned for the results of my first long off road portion of this trip.

Sending love,


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4 thoughts on “Off road, Warmshowers, judging a book by its cover”

  1. Anxious to see how this road goes. Denise is really an amazing rider. I’m riding my stationary bike everyday, getting in shape, so I can cruise around when I get to the beach. Flat and not too hot. That’s my speed. But I do love biking. I kinda wish I had done more of it in my youth before my feet got bad. Go for it!

  2. Carlos – Love that you are giving Warm Showers a good plug! It’s such a cool community. Gretchen and I used a few in New Zealand on our ride there last year. Denise is so inspiring – I love her posts and her many words of encouragement and self-deprecation. She doesn’t take herself too seriously – which I think is a good strategy for long distance cycle touring. Just take it moment by moment – and enjoy. You got this babe!

  3. So true – unpaved/gravel could mean anything from fine grit graded flat to rutted dolls-head rubble! Add to the list of daily unknowns. So enjoying your musings, Charley. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

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