Thursday, 8 July 2010

Couchsurfing in California

Warmshowers hosts in Nevada

One of the biggest positive surprises of the trip are my experiences with couchsurfing ( and warmshowers ( 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....

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