Nazdak is the name of Isaiah Maynard’s Trek 520 steel frame touring bike.
“I named it that because it’s a play on words for the stock market,” the recent high school graduate said this week, sitting on a bench in William Barry Owen Park in Vineyard Haven as summer clouds scudded by overhead.
But 18-year-old Isaiah isn’t interested in business trusts or buy-ins; rather he is interested in homophones. “This whole system of doing things the traditional way, like the traditional way to make money, I wasn’t doing that. So I wanted to name it something different but related, like a homophone,” he said.
The name fits. Not much of what he does is traditional.
Unlike most of his classmates, including his twin sister Willoe, Isaiah didn’t apply to college or map out the next four years of his life. He doesn’t drive a car, although he and Willoe used to share Dave, a 1994 blue Volvo 850 station wagon. When he was a young boy and his parents were trying to teach him to ride a bike, they swapped the small blue bicycle with training wheels for one without them, and instead of being proud to ride a two-wheeler, he was devastated.
“I remember that day in the parking lot. It was really frustrating because I liked training wheels. It was fun to ride around with them on it,” he said.
Fast forward to today, Isaiah has come a long way from training wheels — 3,661 miles to be exact.
Over the course of the past year, while friends discussed college essays, future dorm rooms and possible majors to declare, Isaiah settled on a different post-graduate project: A 50-day cycling expedition, where he would set out to raise $10,000 for the USANA True Health Foundation, an organization he said provides necessities to people in need.
The idea to bike across America alone was inspired in part by his parents. His father, Hudson Maynard of Vineyard Haven, biked across the country at the age of 18. His mother, Jessica Klein, who lives in Port Townsend, Wash., has also done this.
“It made sense to do this now and I really hadn’t done anything like it. It was my first overnight bike ride ever. I had never even ridden over 40 miles in a day before this, so it was a pretty steep learning curve,” he said.
Isaiah started his journey two days after graduation on June 11 from the regional high school, when he flew from Boston to his mother’s house. A few weeks prior, he had shipped his bike out west. Then on June 16, he hugged his mother goodbye and took off. He took three water bottles, clothing, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a tent. When the bike felt heavy from carrying everything around, he shipped stuff home along the way (like his jeans and Kindle).
He ate a lot of fruit and quinoa and went out to dinner with strangers he met along the way.
He also took some sentimental items, like a Buddhist ganesh his mother gave him, and a dreamcatcher he has had since he was four, which he set up inside his tent every night before going to sleep.
The most meaningful (and useful) item he brought was a bike lock his father gave him. “It’s the same lock he took on his first cross country bike ride when he was 18,” he said.
His route took him from Washington to Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and, finally, Massachusetts. He returned home on August 6 . “It’s so weird saying it because I don’t feel like I’ve been to all these places,” he said.
But he has. “And I learned a lot on my trip,” he said. During his ride he wrote a daily blog (followmeacrossamerica.org). He also realized that maybe college was in his future.
“Before my trip you couldn’t pay me to go to college,” he said. “And I haven’t done a one-eighty, but I’ve been thinking about it.” He’s not sure what he would study, but he discovered he loves writing and is interested in learning about nutrition.
So far, through his blog, Isaiah has raised $3,000 for the USANA True Health Foundation. “I still have another $7,000 to raise, but I’m hopeful,” he said.
On August 19 at 7 p.m., Isaiah will give a presentation on his trip at the YMCA teen center. Nazdak will be there too.