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or "If a guy rode by on his bike ..."
by Chris Wilbeck

August 8, 2010

If a guy rode by on his bike, what would you think?

Of course, it depends on where you live.  But, let's say you live in Iowa.  If you live in a large city like Des Moines, you'd probably think, "There's a guy riding his bike," and then not think any more about it.  If you live in a smaller town, you may think, "Oh, there's a guy riding his bike.  He's not from here. Wonder where he's from?"  But, if you live in the country like we do - on a gravel road where only a few cars or tractors pass by a day - you'd probably think, "Hey, there's a guy RIDING HIS BIKE.  He's not from here.  Wonder where he's from and WHAT HE'S DOING?"  Then, if you're like us, you'd holler, "Hey. Come back!"

That is exactly what happened to us last Friday night.  We were having our neighbors - Allan & Carol Sieck and Roger & Colleen Norgren and their son Zach - over for a rather spontaneous party to celebrate Allan's birthday.  Not the usual porch party for us that night.  We decided to have a mini pool party.  We set up a table topped with a Mexican blanket by The Pool Bin.  Plugged in big fans to simulate a beach breeze (and chase away mosquitoes).  We plugged in the old boom box to play mambo tunes.  We set up the mandatory margarita blender.  A few folks wore Hawaiian shirts.  Then, as the guys gathered around the umbrella table, Carol, Colleen and I went back to the house to get the appetizers.

On our way there, we saw a young man riding by on his bike.  Not a regular bike.  A LONG bike with BIG bags on the back.  And, we said, "Hey look. There's a guy riding his bike.  Wonder what he's doing."  Then we yelled, "Hi," as he passed by.  Then Colleen yelled, "Hey, come back."  We didn't really know if he would come back or not.  Actually, we didn't expect him to come back.  But, he turned around and came back. 

Jesse Steiner said he turned back around because he heard some yelling and thought maybe it had something to do with the lemonade stand on our front porch.  (That stand is actually Jacob and cousin Maya's "Walnut Smelling Stand," but we'll tell you more about that later.)  We said our "Hello's."  Told him we were big supporters of bike riders and that Camp Coyote caters to folks like him.  Then we asked what he was doing on our road - in the middle of nowhere. 

Jesse told us he was riding by because he was making his way back north after finding out first-hand that the road over the Dawson bridge was closed.  He was coming from Ames and was trying to get to a camping spot near Yale.  He was on a bike trip from Montreal to Argentina ...

Now, you can imagine our surprise!  Of course, we asked him a million questions. He answered all our questions very kindly and patiently, even though he's surely been asked the same questions everywhere he goes.

A few answers:  He's 24 years old and has a master's degree in electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester NY.   He worked for a while in California, but decided that he was not quite ready to be in a cubicle every day.  He told us that basically it's not about biking.  It's not about going to Argentina.  He doesn't even know anyone in Argentina.  It's about doing what he feels like doing - everyday.  He has a general plan, but that plan can be changed according to his whims.  He's not really looking for "answers," though he admits that he's not sure of all the reasons why he may be doing it.  While in Iowa, he biked on RAGBRAI and has been in several Iowa newspapers.  He was on his way to Omaha.

I won't go into any more details about Jesse's story, because that is Jesse's story.  He shares his thoughts and chronicles his journey on his website, "The Transcontinentalist" at  

I will tell you that we enjoyed his company, fed him dinner, and offered him The Bunkhouse for the night.  The next day, we fed him breakfast, swapped contact info and he was on his way.

We plan to follow follow Jesse's tale of his journey as he makes his way to Argentina. 

And Jesse, if you get a whim and happen to read this story, we wish you a safe, wonderful experience that will bring you peace and joy.  And, as my McDermott Irish family would say, "May the road rise up to meet you.  May the wind always be at your back ..."  Until we meet again.  Your new friends, The Wilbecks in Rippey Iowa.

Jesse and his custom bike loaded with everything he needs for the long trip.

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His miles at the beginning of the day on 8/6/10:  2,987.
Changing his miles to reflect the day's ride:  3,035.

The pool party group sitting at the umbrella table near The Pool Bin.
(left to right) Allan, Carol, Jesse, Jacob, Colleen, Kevin.

Jesse with Jacob. 
Jacob is holding his lego creation, "Bob 3000" in honor of Allan's (Jacob and Allan's grandkids call him "Bob") birthday and unknowningly honoring Jesse's passing of his 3000 mile mark that day.

The line for the Walnut Smelling Stand.  The price was reduced that night from $2 to 25 cents to smell a walnut.
(left to right) Jesse, Jacob, Zach, Colleen, Carol, Roger, Allan.

Smelling unripened Iowa walnuts.  Jesse asked, "Is this an Iowa thing?"  We laughed and answered, "No.  Just an idea Jacob and cousin Maya came up with after gathering a bag full of walnuts."

In front of The Bunkhouse where he spent the night.

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Heading north.  On his way to Omaha ... or wherever he decides to stop next.

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For more information, call Chris Wilbeck at 515-229-6988.