Coupeville man rides network of international cyclists

Pat Rodden pedals along the Rhododendron Trail in Coupeville on a recent sunny day. The Coupeville man used the Warm Showers network of hospitality exchange on some of his bicycling journeys.

Pat Rodden didn’t have to fall on his head to decide to take his passion for cycling to the next level.

But he did.

Rodden, a life-long cycling enthusiast, fell from the rafters of his Clinton home in 2009 and was hospitalized for nearly eight months. During that time, he said, he had to undergo four surgeries and was briefly comatose.

Doctors said he wouldn’t survive and if he did, he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Rodden said.

“I’ve stunned people so much,” said Rodden, who has almost completely recovered from his injuries.

Today, Rodden is grateful for his capabilities and is using a quickly growing international non-profit called “Warm Showers” to turn his passion for cycling into a life quest. Warm Showers is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists.

Those who sign up must be willing to host touring cyclists from time to time — or eventually — in exchange for access to the same service themselves. Rodden’s Coupeville home is one of 14 that are available on Whidbey Island through Warm Showers.

He heard about the organization around a year ago from a fellow cyclist on a ride in Freeland.

Rodden’s hospitalization left him on a limited income without a vehicle, so the Warm Showers program allows him to see parts of the country and the world on a budget. He also opened his home up immediately to other cyclists and says the move has enriched his life.

“I was just astounded by the people you meet,” Rodden said. “These people are totally intriguing.”

Rodden said he’s hosted cyclists from San Diego, Phoenix, Belgium, France, Canada, China and Syria. In most cases, the people who stay with him immediately offer him a place to stay if he happens through their towns, Rodden said.

A Belgian visitor left him with a pound of Belgian chocolate with a note reading: “Thanks for sharing this beautiful place with the world!”

Peter and Shahla Nygaard of Canada also left a note on their departure.

“Your openness and generosity have strengthened our faith in humanity,” they wrote. “Your story is remarkable and inspiring.”

“You get it right back, it’s just incredible,” Rodden said.

Membership grew 57 percent internationally over 2014, a “phenomenal pace,” according to the Warm Showers 2014 Annual Report available online. Warm Showers reports a total of 55,743 members at year-end, with 23,220 of those in North America.

Founded in 1993, the organization began simply with a list of participants which was later placed online and then put into the database and map available today. The Warmshowers.org Foundation was created in recent years to improve its sustainability, and later became a non-profit group with a board of directors, according to the organization’s website.

Rodden plans to stay with Warm Showers participants a good bit this summer as he completes both the Seattle to Spokane Cannonball route and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Rodden said that while getting room and board on the cheap is an amazing resource, he most values the sense of community and camaraderie that exists between cyclists of all nationalities.

“They socially have the same interests and there’s a similarity from person to person even if they are from a completely different place in the world,” Rodden said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

For more information visit warmshowers.org