Ben Grannis is an Eagle Scout who is passionate about getting outside in any capacity. This August, he is embarking on a cross-country bike ride, Eyes Up, to benefit TextLess Live More.
My name is Ben Grannis. I am 25 and graduated from KenyonCollege in 2017. Since then, I have spent most of my time, with the exception of a nine-month stint in the corporate world, working for Overland Summers in the Berkshires as both a trip leader and logistics coordinator. I grew up in Ridgefield, CT and have two older sisters, a stunningly beautiful nephew (he’s almost 18 months old, if you’re curious), and two loving parents and a husky that I also call mine – she’s great.
I grew up playing outside, hiking, and camping with my family. I joined Boy Scouts when I started middle school and became a third generation Eagle Scout at 15. The woods have long been my happy place. Each summer, my scout troop takes a weeklong backpacking trip in a National Park out West – we would spend the entire year preparing and training. It was on those trips where I began to understand both the beauty and expanse of the UnitedStates and how freeing it is to leave all forms of communication in a duffle bag in a car at the trailhead for an entire week.
Why am I doing a bike ride fundraiser? This post may not fully answer that question – this is intended to be an introduction, after all. Some context on my relationship with bikes: cycling played an important but largely casual role in my life up until the fall of 2018. I begrudgingly earned cycling merit badge in scouts with heavy encouragement from my dad, who has tons of hours logged in the saddle and biked across the United States in 1977 –thanks, dad. He collected license plates and carried a container of water from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Pacific. These stories never really made sense to me growing up.
In August 2018, one of the directors of Overland at the time, Jonathan Igoe, texted me advice on how to prepare for my move to Williamstown: “you need a road bike and a mountain bike.” Two bikes?? So, I bought a road bike (I sort of had a mountain bike) with no prior experience riding any significant volume. The Overland office has a reputation of housing incredible athletes and I was not ready to ride with the big dogs on arrival.However, I quickly found myself going on bike rides more than other activities and slowly getting stronger.
As I started to ride bikes more than once a week during the warm months, I understood why people spend so much time riding – it’s so fun.The one piece for me that was missing was the feeling I had experienced and loved on my backpacking trips – total isolation and shedding life’s distractions. Cars, bike computers, and photo opportunities were all getting in the way of that mental reprieve. Here comes the bridge between two worlds.
I have gone on just two bike tours in my life, both in the past 12 months, totaling less than 7 days. On these trips I was with some of my closest friends from Williamstown, on rural roads, and experienced the beauty of a simpler life routine. These two tours convinced me that the “backpacking feeling” can actually be (at least somewhat) achieved while on two wheels.
The Eyes Up Ride is not about performing some incredible physical feat in a record setting amount of time. My goal is to raise money for an incredible organization, TextLess Live More, raise awareness of and promote a life without the distractions and noise that fill our lives entirely. TLLM was created after a cyclist, Merritt Levitan, was killed by a distracted driver in broad daylight.
In the fall of 2018, I rode 50 miles with 30+ other people, all supporting TextLess Live More. That ride in 2018 was some of the most fun I have ever had – not just because of the riding. Getting to spend an entire day pedaling with like-minded people all supporting this cause and focusing only on each other and the beauty of the day was surreal. That type of experience is unique and incredibly powerful.
Having lived in Williamstown for the past three years and calling it home for the majority of the pandemic, I have come to appreciate how much more I get out of time spent with friends when my mind is in the moment like it was at the ride in 2018 and on my backpacking trips. At Overland, we coach trip leaders to “be here now” so they can be the best version of their selves for their kiddos. That lesson applies to all parts of life – we are our best selves when we are focused on the moment we’re currently in.
I do not pretend to be nor do I want to come across as a preacher of a life without technology. I like watching funny TikToks as much as anyone else. My goal is to help people gain and strengthen their awareness of the distractions in our lives so they know when to step away and look up from their phones and just bask in the beauty of it all. Life’s most precious moments, have found, come when I am fully present, fully engaged, and fully invested in whatever I am doing at that time.
So, absolutely watch funny TikToks if they bring you joy. EyesUp – focus on the road if you are driving, focus on your friends if you are lucky enough to be physically with them. Come along with me on this adventure!
Learn more about Ben's ride and support his fundraising efforts here.