Engineering graduate’s biking adventure takes the long and winding road to Argentina
Jesse Steiner travels off the beaten path through U.S., Canada and into South America
July 22, 2010
by Michelle Cometa
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For Jesse Steiner, his passion for bicycles, traveling and meeting new people put him on the open road, biking with no particular place to go—except Argentina. Like many of the best open road songs, the RIT alumnus has set out with the intention to enjoy the freedom of traveling with little or no constraints.
“Argentina is about as far away as you can get on a bike, so it seemed like a good direction to go,” says Steiner, who is already on his 73rd day of travel. He began May 10 in Montreal, Canada, traveled southeast through New England, then began his trek into the Midwest, biking more than 2,300 miles thus far.
“I'm looking to enjoy life to the fullest every day,” he says. “I want to make new friends, see new people, and experience new things. For me, I've found that it’s quite easy to do when traveling by bicycle.”
Steiner is a 2009 graduate of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering with a dual bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering. Since he has begun, the Hamburg, N.Y., native has visited big cities and small. He has enjoyed stays with friends he hasn’t seen in a while, friendly families or camped out in local parks.
“My first night out I camped on Lake Champlain and it was absolutely beautiful. The night before last I pitched a tent behind a bathroom in a city park. Usually it's just some out-of-the-way spot where hopefully nobody will mind,” he says.
Preparing for the trip, Steiner purchased a bike and necessary gear, made sure his passport was up-to-date and closed the door on everyday commitments. Beyond the pragmatic logistics, he has relied on previous travel experience to prepare for the unexpected. He invites others to follow along on his adventures.
“I've got a sign on my bike that gives a suggestion of what I'm doing. Today it reads "Argentina or bust!" It has my website address and the number of miles I've traveled so far,” he adds. Reactions to his adventures have ranged from support to surprise. He says some people are inspired, some want to save his soul while others question his sanity.
There are a few ‘must-see’ destinations on Steiner’s itinerary including the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Tenochtitlan, Machu Picchu and the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia. While in Burlington, Vt., early on in his travels, he met a scuba instructor who hails from Honduras. Biking to the Central American country to meet up with his friend will be an opportunity to renew acquaintances and get his scuba certification.
“I also want to volunteer for a couple weeks at a place called Maya Pedal, an organization in Guatemala that, among other things, makes bicycle-powered machines for use in the local economy,” he said.
Regardless of whether he makes it to Argentina, Steiner plans to measure the trip’s success by the people he’s met, the experiences he’s had and the belief that he’s lived life to its fullest.
“Argentina isn't even a destination for me. It's a direction,” he says. “I'll go until either my money or motivation runs out.”
Follow Jesse Steiner’s travels on his blog, The Transcontinentalist.