By Ariana de Leña
On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, while bundled tourists and busloads of high school students patiently waited to take their picture in front of the Jefferson Memorial, 22-year-old Ryan Bowen rolled into Washington D.C. with bicycle posse in tow. Looking at Ryan and his crew of wheel-equipped, smiling faces, you would never guess that he had been on that very bike for the previous 47 days. In fact, Ryan had been on that bike since Los Angeles, where his long pilgrimage across the country began.
On December 2, 2008, Ryan departed Los Angeles from Occidental College, his (and Barack Obama’s) Alma Mater. Since then, he has been pedaling across the southern United States trying to avoid mountains and cold weather, taking a sharp left somewhere in Florida. While friends and fellow cyclists joined Ryan along the way, much of the trip was done solo, camping out in his tent or spending the night in the homes of supporters. While the ride was most literally about cycling, on his website Ryan blogged about the symbolic importance of the ride. Despite the pitfalls and bodily anguish of biking across this expansive nation, he encountered many forms of hope, kindness, generosity (and once even the hard side of a jeep! Ouch).
Ryan was met in D.C. by an enthused Senator Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) who offered him the inaugural ticket his legs well-deserved. Blumenauer, who came on bike, espoused the benefits of cycling, both for your body and for the environment, praising Ryan for his courage and innovation. Trekking from West Coast to East, Ryan proved that “Change You Can Believe In” can start with something as simple as two legs and a bike.