Thursday, July 8, 2010

Couchsurfing in California

Warmshowers hosts in Nevada

One of the biggest positive surprises of the trip are my experiences with couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com) and warmshowers (www.warmshowers.org) which is sort of couchsurfing for cyclists only. When I had first heard about couchsurfing I had been very skeptical - I did not want to stay with some random 20 somethings in a shared flat having parties all night long. John had done a lot of couchsurfing and was really enthusiastic about it, so once I arrived in California I started to couchsurf in earnest.

white rabbit doggie doo doo can
My first host in California was Monte in Sacramento. On his profile he called himself "a bureaucrat - but a good one". I just loved that description. (I learned later that he is actually more of a social worker, but anyway...)  I became a bit worried when he sent me directions talking about a "white rabbit doggie doo doo can" in front of his house... What the heck is that? Turned out to be totally innocent, but all you Germans can take a guess now what that could be. Monte mentioned that there is a very convenient train from Sacramento to San Francisco and it did not take him much convincing to stay another day with him to attend a friend's party and take the train instead of cycling there.

Next was a professor for English Literature and Women's Studies in Berkeley. Hey, as an old feminist I just had to see her. She had warned me on the phone that there are some steep hills to manage, but I did not take that very seriously. Big mistake! I had to do an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet in 2 miles to get to her house and arrived totally soaked in sweat. I looked so miserable that a woman in the neighbourhood even offered me a ride up that hill... I ended up in long conversations about the most famous American writer and 5 paperbacks to read on my upcoming flights.

Mountain-wise I had better luck with my next host in Oakland - almost flat riding there. He had done extensive couchsurfing himself on a trip to Europe and knew exactly what couchsurfers need. He even offered my his own bed room and slept on the couch himself. And he took me to a vegetarian Mexican restaurant and a great cake place for the desert where my piece of chocolate cake was so big that even I could not finish it.

From his place it was only a 5 minute bike ride to my next host in Oakland - there were so many interesting hosts in the San Francisco area that I ended up staying with 3 different hosts. Kevin is working as an organiser for the American labour movement. I openly admitted what I had worked as before in my request and he still took me in! I learnt a lot about working conditions and the legal situation in the US there. I had a very interesting, but not the quietest stay there: Kevin is living with his 3 year old very lively daughter and his wife right next to a bus route and freeway and on top of that his mother was visiting as well. We all got along well and even the little daughter talked to me after I had bribed her with some Ben&Jerry's ice cream.

I finished my stay in the US with Dale in Los Angeles. He has retired from Hollywood film industry and is a photographer now. But best of all he is a wonderful cook. He made me barbecued chicken in an original Japanese grill and treated me with the best ice cream I had ever had: Thai ice cream made with basil and lemon grass. Sounds weird, but tastes incredibly good. If I could only make that on a camping stove.... His brother helped me fix my bike and on July 5th Dale drove a very nervous Christine to LAX airport for her flight out of the US.

By the way: I am in Sydney now staying again with a couchsurfing host....

No comments: