When circling the globe by bicycle, a friendly face and warm shower at the end of the day are sights for sore eyes and legs.
Touring cyclists John and Kate Suscovich should know. They spent two days in the Friendly City last week hosted by John and Sandy Warnick. The young couple who had lived in New York City before embarking on their global tour found the Wheeling hosts through WarmShowers.org, a reciprocal hosting site for touring cyclists.
WarmShowers.org is "the granddaddy of them all," John Warnick said, when it comes to hospitality sites. It is a global network with nearly 11,000 hosts.
Photo by Betsy Bethel
John Warnick of Wheeling is flanked in his driveway by cycling house guests Kate and John Suscovich, who are traveling around the world studying sustainable farming and microbreweries while raising money for FarmAid. The couple hooked up with the Warnicks through WarmShowers.org, a reciprocal hospitality website for touring cyclists.
It's a what-goes-around-comes-around experience, with a positive spin, said the Warnicks and the Suscoviches.
Warnick has been on the giving and receiving end. While on a 1,000-mile bike trek to raise money for Free Wheelchair Mission over the winter, Warnick stayed with eight hosts he found through WarmShowers. Now, the Suscoviches are his third cycling guests, the first of which were a couple of schoolteachers from Orlando he and Sandy hosted last summer. The second was a couple from Nashville cycling to Pennsylvania, towing their dog in a trailer.
John and Kate Suscovich will be on the receiving end of the WarmShowers experience for the next two years as they cycle their way across four continents, stopping to tour and work on organic farms and microbreweries along the way. They also are raising money for FarmAid - their goal is to raise $1 for every mile they ride over the next two years, for a total of $24,000.
"We're visiting organic and sustainable farms and craft breweries. We'll stop and work a farm for two to three days, take pictures, ask questions and share our experiences on our website (www.foodcyclist.com)," said John Suscovich, a former freelance food photogrpaher and lighting technician for "The Howard Stern Show" at HowardStern.com.
"Where WarmShowers comes in is basically connecting the dots across the country (and world). The WarmShowers hosts fill the gaps" between farms and friends, said Kate Suscovich, a teacher.
John, 26, and Kate, 25, are using the trip to educate themselves on sustainable living so they can one day operate their own farm. They also are researching where that farm might be located - "it won't be in New York City," John Suscovich said.
"I'm telling you, Wheeling is looking pretty good," Kate Suscovich said. The Warnicks served as ambassadors for the Friendly City over the two days the Suscoviches stayed with them. The Suscoviches arrived at the Warnicks' home in Whitmar Hills II on July 5, where John and Sandy put them up in a finished basement suite specifically designed for WarmShowers cyclists. John Warnick took them to an Ohio Valley Runners and Walkers Club meeting that night, followed by a visit to Wheeling's best-known watering hole, Ye Olde Alpha. The next day, the Warnicks treated the couple to Coleman's Fish Market.
"While in town, John introduced us to just about everyone he knew," John Suscovich wrote in his July 11 blog entry, titled "I've Got That Wheeling Feeling." "We had the pleasure of speaking with the Runners Walkers Club of which John is a member. Some of them stuck around after the meeting for a photo.
"While at the meeting, Kate and I met Harry (Foose), another local Wheelinger ... Wheelingin... Wheelingonion. As we all enjoyed a beer at The Alpha, the local watering hole, Harry invited us over for dinner while John had to work one of the nights we were there. He kindly offered up an extra vehicle he had available so we weren't riding our bikes through the steep West Virginia hills to his house. It just so happened this extra vehicle was a turbo-charged Mini-Cooper convertible!"
He included in the blog several pictures from their visit as well as several paragraphs about Free Wheelchair Mission, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sturdy yet inexpensive wheelchairs for the impoverished disabled in developing nations.
When discussing their visit, the Suscoviches agreed Wheeling was remarkable.
"There's an openness here. You don't get this everywhere. You really don't," Kate Suscovich said.
"It's very welcoming. You'll be riding down the street and people will be waving hi to you," her husband said. He added it's a big change from New York City, where "if you say hello to someone on the street, they spit on you."
After leaving Wheeling, the Suscoviches stayed on a sustainable farm called Blue Rock Station in Philo, Ohio, near Zanesville. Their route - which John spent two years researching - will take them through the Midwest to Colorado and on to Seattle before heading south to Los Angeles. From there, they will board a boat or plane - he isn't sure which yet -to New Zealand, followed by Australia, then on to Indonesia and southeast Asia. He is still working on how they will traverse the Middle East before crossing Europe and heading back to the United States.
To follow the Suscoviches or donate to FarmAid through them, visit www.foodcyclist.com. They also are on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about WarmShowers, visit www.warmshowers.org.