Jack Kerouac did it by hitchhiking. Che Guevara did it on a motorcycle. But Romanian native and Ocean Cycles of Bethany Beach mechanic Simon Istvan is traveling cross-country on his bicycle.
With an expiring work visa and a depleted budget, Istvan is literally racing against time in an attempt to fulfill a long anticipated dream — to see the United States of America.
“He worked all summer for a chance to travel,” explained Ocean Cycles store manager Garrett Gooding. “One day I jokingly said, ‘You should just bike across the country.’”
It turns out Istvan doesn’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to such matters. He flew to Los Angeles after saving up enough money for the flight and arranged for his bike to be shipped to San Francisco. After a short bus trip north, he used his summer mechanic’s skills to assemble the bike right out of the box and took off pedaling.
From San Francisco, Istvan set off for Yosemite, lugging his food and camping gear on his bike with him. Waking up in his U.S. Army sleeping bag to discover some deer looking for the food in his bags, he encountered his first major obstacle: rain and snow. Luckily, a kind stranger picked him up in an RV and he was able to escape the unfavorable weather.
Next it was off to Death Valley, Calif., where Istvan nearly lost his tent to the wind. After chasing it around with his headlamp for light, he was luckily able to catch up to it and get some rest.
Passing Mono Lake’s Tufa Towers, Red Rock Canyon, Nev., and the Hoover Dam, he then headed to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. He described the experience in a Facebook post: “Grand Canyon. You have to be there to feel that feeling. I can’t describe.”
The road began to get rough again in Arizona, however, as Istvan battled the harsh dessert atmosphere on his way to “the Four Corners.”
In a Sept. 27 Facebook post, Istvan described his Arizona experience.
“I’m sick of Arizona... Endless roads with dust storms, and incredibly strong wind. Snakes, spiders, scorpions. I can’t find a place to stay at night. In the morning I woke up with a ton of dust and sand in my tent, in my ears and nose. Spiders, scorpions in my shoe... I really miss California.
“Tuba City was the worst place where I was in the U.S. — strange scary people, dirt and dust everywhere. I was attacked by a bunch of dogs, and I slept in terrifying campground. Cayenta and the other cities are the same. Now I start to understand why the west is ‘wild west.”
This week, Istvan was cycling through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Averaging about 85 miles per day, he is hoping to arrive back in Bethany Beach on Oct. 27 or 28.
After spending the summer working with Istvan in the shop, Gooding said he is convinced that he will have no problem completing his journey. “He’s a self-starter. He’s a very smart guy,” he explained. “I think persistence is probably Simon’s best attribute.”
Next summer, Ocean Cycles hopes to have Istvan back under contract, and he’s already expressed his interest to come back and do this trip over again — this time from east to west.
You can follow Istvan’s journey by joining the Facebook event “Cycling across America.”