Cross-continental cyclist makes a stop in Iowa City

BY KATE FOWLER | JULY 22, 2010 7:20 AM

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Over the last three years, Jesse Steiner has traveled farther on two wheels than many people travel in a lifetime.

At age 24, the Buffalo, N.Y., native is in the middle of a cross-continental biking trip from Montréal to Argentina.

And since Sunday, he has made a temporary home in Iowa City — a community he said "amazes" him.

He decided he might even stay for RAGBRAI after learning about the statewide bike ride from a local food vendor.

"I had no intention of sticking around," Steiner said. "I expected to make as quick work out of Iowa as possible. From the minute I rolled into Iowa, I was impressed. I thought everything between

Chicago and Denver was going to be this Midwestern wasteland, but I got to the Quad Cities and had a great time."

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Steiner said he is experiencing firsthand the extent of Midwestern hospitality. He has been here for about five days and said he would like to stay a few more nights.

"The farther west I go, friends are fewer and further between," said Steiner, who earned a master's degree in engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology. "However, I also find that the further west I go, the friendlier people get."

On his first night here, he slept in his tent. The next day, a man approached Steiner and offered him a place to stay for two nights.

But that type of hospitality doesn't exist everywhere.

"As a parent, [the trip] kind of makes me nervous — it's a crazy world out there," said father Bill Steiner. "But I also think it's great, and I encourage him … I'd be surprised if he stopped [the trip] early."

Steiner started his trip on May 10 in Montréal, and he has traveled 2,262 miles in 72 days. He bikes anywhere from 20 to 100 miles a day on the days he travels.

His good friend Alex Turnwall, a 24-year old Boston resident, has known Steiner since the third grade. He accompanied Steiner for the first leg of the trip, from Montréal to Chicago.

"It was an awesome experience," Turnwall said. "We spent a lot of time visiting old friends around the country."

Steiner has done two long-distance biking trips before, but nothing of this magnitude. His first lengthly ride was three years ago, when he took a two-week trip though Ireland.

"I started and stopped in Dublin, traveling all through the Republic of Ireland," he said. "It was probably the best two weeks of my life."

His second trip came a year later, when he journeyed down the coast of California.

As for his cross-continental voyage, the next planned stop is Denver, Steiner said, and the mountains will be "tough work."

"I do my planning in the short term," he said. "I've got a direction. My direction is Argentina."

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