Courtesy of Farmington Chamber of Commerce
Al's Place Bike Hostel
The slender half-stone Farmington jailhouse hasn’t held a prisoner in years.
But during the peak cycling season, a handful of local prisoners regularly clean and do the laundry for the 14 bunks inside. This is the only biker hostel between Farmington and Virginia for cyclists riding the TransAmerica Trail, which curves from Oregon through the Midwest to Virginia.
At the hostel, called the Trans Am Inn or Al’s Place (in honor of Farmington bicycling enthusiast Al Dziewa who died of cancer in 2003), cyclists can park their bikes in the lower level, take a load off in a cozy bunk bed, and enjoy a cup of coffee on the upper level. Now, a kitchen, large table, and computer area offer amenities of civilization some bikers haven’t seen for miles.
“It’s something bikers needed and wanted,” Virginia Baine says. She is known as the Farmington “Bicycle Lady,” and she and friend Emily Vasquez suggested a few years ago that the city refurbish the old jail into a hostel. The city took the women’s advice and raised funds to renovate the building. Pillows, a computer, snacks, and bike-repair tools accommodate travelers.
A bike shop later opened across the street and began selling equipment bikers might not be able to easily find on the trail. The hostel typically opens as soon as weather permits. In 2010 and 2011, the city opened the place in mid-March, but in 2009 it opened on the first of the month to accommodate Tour of Missouri cyclists. The hostel has no established close date yet, but usually chilly weather or snow at the beginning of winter are signs to shut down, so the city can conserve heat and other expenditures.
Cyclists who ride into town can access the building through a key code on the front door. They can call the Farmington police department or City Administrator Greg Beavers at 573-756-1701 to get the access code upon arriving into town. Reservations need not be made, and staying is free, as is access to the shower and kitchen. Donations of $20 are often given for staying.