It’s no secret that road cycling and mountain biking are popular sports in this area. From the mountainous forest trails to the intense climbs and epic descents on winding back roads, cycling here provides a sense of adventure, freedom, and escape. Even so, one resident in particular has taken the passion for cycling to the extreme. Ridgefield native Ben Grannis is riding his bicycle 10,000 miles across the country and back, but his motivation is not merely a love of cycling, competitive drive, or a Guinness World Book Record. His goal is to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, and Grannis is far from distracted. His “Eyes Up Ride’’ is taking him on a focused journey across the country and deep into his soul.
Grannis’s education and life experience helped him develop keen self-awareness and a clear understanding of his values. He wanted a path with a purpose and a worthwhile goal, but the typical road to a corporate job or graduate school wasn’t for him. In early 2021, after graduating from college and working for several years as a tour leader and coordinator at Overland; an organization that creates adventure experiences for kids including hiking, biking, and kayaking, Grannis was ready for a new direction. It’s no surprise that this industrious Eagle Scout devised a plan to offer his services, while also finding a way
to feed his passion for nature and
The Cause: Distracted Driving
In 2013, Merrit Levitan was struck and killed by a distracted driver while on a summer cycling trip in Arkansas with the Overland youth camp. She was 18 years old. It is estimated that the driver who killed Levitan was distracted for only 4 seconds. On average, distraction from a text can last up to 27 seconds (source: AAA). The Levitan family honored their daughter by launching the student-led TextLess Live More campaign. The organization, now nationwide, educates people about distracted driving, and more importantly – the dangers of distracted living.
At Overland, Grannis learned about TextLess Live More. “I am raising money for this incredible organization to promote a life without the distractions and noise that fill our lives entirely,” says Grannis. His “Eyes Up Ride” is teaching him about the risks of being out on the road, the importance of self-awareness, and focus.
“As cyclists, we ride on the defensive,” says Alice Powers, a member of the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club based in Fairfield County. As a 20-year veteran of the road, Powers is always on the lookout. “When I am on a ride, I work hard to stay focused,” she says.
When asked why she risks cycling on the winding and sometimes treacherous roads in Fairfield County, Powers doesn’t hesitate: “When I ride my bike, I feel like a kid! It gives me a sense of adventure and freedom. I’ve been riding seriously for over 20 years and can really feel the change in the drivers,” she says. “Distraction, bad driving, and driving too fast is the new normal. It just gets worse and worse.”
The challenge of attending to one task at a time, staying focused, and resisting the pull of social media and technology is becoming a major health concern. The danger of distracted driving is just a part of the problem. The social and emotional impacts of distracted thinking are ruining relationships and affecting learning and productivity.
The Journey So Far
After pedaling out of Hyannis, MA, on August 21, 2021, Grannis developed a knee problem. By the time he reached Washington State, he was no longer able to ride.Following consultations with physicians, physical therapists, and other athletes, Grannis decided that the best solution was “intentional rest.” The knee is a complicated mechanism, and it’s likely a small change in the height of his pedals while riding with his heavy equipment was where the trouble began.
Allowing himself time to heal has been “super hard,” says Grannis. Taking pain medication or just ‘pushing through’ to reach the end goal didn’t seem like the
“There are times when you need to intervene with surgery or medication to fix an injury, but for many health issues you can gain a lot by just knowing what works for you and what doesn’t,” he says. Adjusting his timeline because of the injury has been difficult, but he knows this is what he needs.
During his break, Grannis was at Overland, speaking with youth groups about “finding your path.” Once he regains confidence in his knee, he’ll hit the road again. “It’s interesting to have that relationship change with your body,” he says, asking “can it actually keep doing what I put it through already?”
Somehow, it’s easy to imagine that Grannis’s apprehension of getting back on the bike will be overcome by his focus on
To support “Eyes Up Ride,” TextLess Live More, or learn more about Ben Grannis, visit www.eyesupride.com. •