Shelton resident rides cross-country to reach goal

Shelton resident Neil Mandel is no stranger to challenging himself, whether it’s to run a marathon in every state (he’s at 40), climb the world’s highest seven summits (he’s climbed three so far) or complete a solo cross-country bicycle ride.

Mandel, 58, recently returned from his 40-day cycling journey of more than 3,700 miles from Newport, Ore., to Montauk, N.Y. The successful trip was the completion of a goal the Milford veterinarian put on hold a couple of times.

“It started back in 1972 when I was going to ride cross-country,” Mandel said. “I rode from New York to Davenport, Iowa, and at that point, I just didn’t have the motivation to keep going.

“Then in 1985 I flew out to Seattle with the intention of riding back to the East Coast but I only got as far as the same spot in Iowa.”

This time, he had the motivation to complete the coast-to-coast trip, armed with only a few items like a tent, snacks, some tools and spare parts.

He flew to Oregon to start the trip.

“I did the ceremonial dipping of the bike wheels in the Pacific Ocean and then headed east,” he said.

He rode about 93 miles a day, keeping a steady pace from about 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with one or two brief stops during the day. He slept mostly in motels along the route.

“I met a lot of nice people,” he said. “One of the reasons I like to stop is to go into some local restaurant where I invariably start talking to people and they are usually very interested in what I’m doing and very friendly.”

The only time he was stopped in his tracks was because it started snowing outside a national park.

“It was right near a visitor center there so I hung out there for about two hours and eventually it passed,” he said.

While he saw plenty of sights along his journey, including Mt. Rushmore and Hell’s Half Acre in Idaho, his favorite was the Tetons.

“I’d never seen them before but heard a lot,” he said. “It was beyond spectacular.”

Mandel expected he would need more rest during the trip, but he only took one day off.

“It feels good reaching your goals and I like having goals,” he said. “This is a trip I’ve wanted to do since I was 18 years old — the desire never went away and to finally complete it is a good feeling.”

It just so happened the day he arrived at his starting point in Oregon, there was a marathon. He said he was frustrated he didn’t know in advance, since Oregon is one of the states he still needs to do to complete his marathon goal. But he won’t be giving up any time soon.

While his accomplishments may seem intimidating to some, he tells people all the time to just take the first step and not to doubt themselves.

“I tell people that if you have a goal, even if you don’t succeed at least you gave it a shot,” he said.