Last week, Ben Grannis ’17 arrived at Kenyon College from Connecticut — on a bike. What’s more, he isn’t slowing down until he reaches the Pacific Ocean. Grannis majored in economics and concentrated in environmental studies at Kenyon. Now, he has set out on an epic 10,000-mile, cross-country biking tour, keeping his eyes up and raising funds and awareness to end distracted driving.
When he started planning his trip in January, Grannis only had three destinations in mind. “One was Niagara Falls because I’ve never been there. Two was [Kenyon]. And three was where my sister lives in Portland, Oregon,” he said.
The route quickly grew from there. Through a patchwork of routes from the Adventure Cycling Association, country roads and bike trails, his trip expanded to include rides down the Pacific Coast and across the Southern United States. Grannis’ current tour totals approximately 10,000 miles and he hopes to complete it in about six months, meaning he will average around 70 miles per day. Still, Grannis is open to more evolutions to his trip. “No matter which route I chose, it was gonna be new and awesome,” he said.
Grannis was inspired by his father’s cross-country cycling trip in 1977. “I was just thinking, ‘this is a great opportunity to do this ride that my dad did that I’ve wanted to do,’” he said. As he thought about the trip, he expanded his goal, seeking a “greater purpose” behind the journey. Before embarking on this ride, Grannis had worked at Overland, an organization that runs summer trips worldwide for kids and teens. After an Overland student was killed by a distracted driver, the organization started the nonprofit charity TextLess Live More. Grannis saw an opportunity to integrate the charity into his ride. “I thought this would be great to be able to do my ride and also have something to work towards fundraising and raising awareness,”he said.
Now with the ride and its challenges underway, Grannis explained that the purpose of ensuring safer roads grounds him. “I try to stay centered on why I’m doing it… but there’s definitely ups and downs,” he said. A network of Grannis’ friends and family, along with other cyclists on the Warm Showers app, have been hosting him on his trip, though, finding accomodations remains challenging. Technology has not only helped him find lodging, but has also helped him overcome some expected loneliness on his solo trip. “Because I have my phone, I feel really connected to people that I care about,” he said.
But Grannis still has a long journey ahead with many more ups and downs in store. As he rides on, he reminds Kenyon students to resist distractions and appreciate the road ahead. “If you’re driving, don’t look at your phone. Just be present, because the time at Kenyon is so fleeting. Being extra present will go a long way, because you’re not going to be in this awesome of a space together forever,” he said.
To learn more about Grannis and his trip, you can visit his website or follow him on Instagram @eyesupride.