I’ve been asked how much my bike tour cost. Well, I spent a few hours going over things and here’s what I came up with. I’ve spent about $6,288 so far. (I will probably spend another $200 or so on The Mule when it gets back to DC next week. Also, I need to replace one of my pairs of mountain bike shorts.) That works out to about $100 a day. My biggest expense was on lodging, a total of $3,461. Although I didn’t do the calculation my second biggest expense was food. I ate at least two meals a day in restaurants at (a total guess) an average cost of $10 – 15 per meal. Gas station food is expensive and unhealthy. More importantly, chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches get old after about three weeks. I spent about $145 on Adventure Cycling Association maps. And twice that much on bicycle prep, bike parts, and bike accessories.
With regard to lodging, here are some details.
Hotels: I spent 35 nights in hotels, motels, inns, and such. My total expense was $3,169 or an average of $90.54 per night. Of course, the vast majority of these included something resembling breakfast. Most breakfasts had fruit which fits ever so nicely in your handlebar bag.
Camping: I had intended to camp much more but I was in hotels much more than I had hoped. Camping costs a nominal amount. I spent $147 for 15 nights of camping, a cost of $9.80 per night. I am including in this Jim Gregg’s Bike Only Camp in outside Winthrop WA. Jim’s listed on the Adventure Cycling Maps but the contact number is obsolete. I found it on Warmshowers.org. He asks for a $10 donation.
Hostels: I stayed in four hostels. They cost me $145 or an average of $36.25 per night. Sometimes there was breakfast or coffee, sometimes not. If you are an extrovert. hostels can be heaven. You can talk to other bike tourists or travelers from all over the world. If you want to have zipless monkey sex, get a room. Depending on the place, you get free breakfast or can cook your own meals. (Richmond VA is the best. Pittsburgh is new and will soon catch up. Miami at $25 per bed per night is a steal.)
Warmshowers: I stayed with people from Warmshowers.org four times. In two cases, I was fed and in both these cases I did laundry. I am including in this the Honey Pot in Gackle ND. I found this on the Adventure Cycling Maps but it’s also listed on Warmshowers. The same goes for Alice’s Attic near Royalton MN. These were free, although the Honey Pot asks for a $10 donation. (There is also stuff for sale. I bought a book.)
Friends: I stayed with old friends three times for a total of seven nights including the last three nights after the tour was over in Portland. My friends made me feel like visiting royalty.
Pros and Cons.
Hotels are expensive but you get privacy and usually a decent place to sleep. Depending on where you stay you can get a free breakfast and access to laundry. Some of the places I stayed in had complementary bugs, musty A/C units, stale Cheerios, and noise. I asked for an AARP discount and was granted it every time but once. I did not have my card with me. You could ask for the AAA discount if you have no soul. If you really want to save some bucks, don’t ride solo. What I mean is share a hotel room with a fellow traveler. Martin and I never coordinated our motel stays.
Camping works great if you can find a clean, soft, level spot for your tent and it doesn’t rain like a bitch. I once had to clear geese poo from my campsite which is not an experience I want to repeat. I always tie up my bike so it doesn’t fall over in the wind or get knocked over by passers by. And I lock it even if I don’t lock it to anything; the lock makes it unattractive to thieves of opportunity. A good sleeping pad is worth the weight. I prefer a two-person tent so I can bring all my stuff inside. Also, I can sit up and change my shoes. I did not bandit camp (on someone’s property without permission) or camp in wilderness. I am a city boy and I don’t like ticks, bears, cougars, or farmers with shotguns.
Choose your Warmshowers hosts with care. Read their bio and the list of what they have to offer (bed, camping, laundry, food, etc.) on the website. Be prepared to talk. One big reason people host bike tourists is to be entertained by their tales of the road. And, in the bargain, you’ll learn about life in the hosts’ neck of the woods, including gold mining, a local loony’s Noah’s ark, alternatives to your route, and storing cookies in an out of commission oven. It goes without saying that you are a guest in their homes. Act accordingly. If you think a Warmshowers home will not work out for you, offer your apologies and stay somewhere else. I did this twice. As they say in basketball, no harm, no foul.
Friends, especially those who don’t ride their loaded bikes across the country, will be in awe of your deeds. They will treat you like royalty. I know it’s hard, but indulge them. Don’t be a pig; leave at least one beer in the fridge when you leave.
Planning ahead is not a bad idea. I was closed out of several opportunities when I waited until the last minute. Campsites were using a centralized reservation system called Reserve America that would only reserve you a space if you called more than 24 hours in advance.