During a bicycle tour, the act of locating a place to spend the night becomes a refined art form. There is nothing worse than expending most of your energy riding all day long and not be able to rest immediately. More often than not, though, this is what happens. The type of lodging you seek depends largely on what kind of tour you are on and where you are. Obviously, if you are on a credit card tour, you will plan to stay in towns or cities; almost all of which have some kind of hotel.
Being on an unsupported camping tour will allow many more lodging choices and opportunities for adventure. Camping in the western U.S. is relatively easy because of the high concentration of state and national parks and forests. Many parks now have first come, first served hiker/ biker sites that, even when full, weary travelers cannot be turned away from. When passing through national forests, camping is usually allowed anywhere at certain distances from trails and water sources.
Although your options for more natural camp settings are fewer in the midwestern and eastern U.S., good spots can be found with a little work and the help of friendly locals. To truly experience the town or area you have chosen to spend the night in, you must meet some of the people there. Try this for meeting people and ultimately finding a place to stay: just park the bike in the town square or in front of the super market. In no time people will be interested in you, ask the usual questions, and most will offer at least their lawn to camp on (This really works! Check out this story). Once at their home, many will insist that you stay in a spare room or even Junior's room!
Small towns in the midwest may be the most interesting and friendly places to stay. Many farmers will let you stay on their farms, and churches are usually very friendly places that hate to turn people away. A larger city may have a hostel or a member of the Touring Cyclist Hospitality Directory. Members are provided a list of cyclist-friendly people who may put you up for a night.
We all have those times when we tire of the human race and don't really want to socialize (except maybe those crazy solo touristas). Well, there are things you can do. If you do not mind asphalt and power generators and you are in need of a shower, many towns have RV parks. Also, many small towns have parks with ramadas (covered picnic areas) that are excellent for evading those midnight rain storms.
If all else fails, and it will occasionally, you can go door to door
pleading your case, it usually doesn't take that long to find a person
willing to put you up for the night. Sometimes random spots make themselves
available, and if you feel comfortable, go for it (see culvert picture
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