Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Fallon combines learning with cross-country bicycle trip

 

John Verser

Paul Fallon has spent the past two months on his cycling trip across the country. He stopped in Kimball last week to ask, "How will we live tomorrow?"

What connects a Russian Orthodox priest, a police department in Wisconsin and an organic farmer? The answer - Paul Fallon.

Fallon, a 60-year old Massachusetts resident, has been riding across the country on his bicycle for just over two months as part of a year-long journey. What makes his trip different than the standard cross-country cycling trip, however, is the time he spends talking to a wide range of individuals in order to learn about the country and its future. Fallon blogs about his trip and writes longer profiles online as well. He spent a day in Kimball last week, before departing for Cheyenne to talk with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

"It's been really, really great fun," he said. "I just wanted to experience the country in a more visceral way. And both riding the bicycle and having this vehicle to talk to people, they kind of feed off of each other. People are awesome in this country, and you just do not hear that."

The idea for the trip came after he cycled from Denver to Massachusetts after a family reunion one summer.

"I just loved it. It was so much fun," he said.

Fallon, a retired architect, wanted to go on another long ride, but wanted it to be more than just a cycling trip. After brainstorming with friends, the idea to visit with people throughout the country and ask them a question came to fruition.

"I just had this notion that talking to people and being on a bike would work together," he said. "It's just been terrific."

On his journey through the 48 contiguous states, Fallon has been asking those who he interviews, "How will we live tomorrow?"

"I can ask a 4 year old, I can ask a 90 year old," Fallon said. "...It's very open. I just allow people to interpret as they want."

The answers vary greatly, he said.

"Some talk about 24 hours, some 100 years. Some relocating to other planets," he said.

Fallon said younger people have been more likely to talk about what they plan to do in the next 24 hours.

"My objective is to talk to a huge cross-section of people," he added. "I've talked to McDonald's execs, I've talked to organic farmers, I've talked to immigrant groups, I've talked to police departments. I come into a town, something strikes my interest."

Fallon tries to arrange longer interviews in advance. Nebraska was the 16th state on his year-long journey, and Wyoming became the 17th state the day he left Kimball. From there, he planned to travel to Colorado this week for his family reunion, before striking out on his trip again.

"My personal interest came from the fact that we are a nation of individuals," Fallon said. "We're all the misfits that came from all the other parts of the world, and then we came west. (Last Monday) I crossed over part of the Oregon Trail, so I've really been thinking a lot about the people who traveled west and continued to expand.

"It's our individualism that makes us so remarkable, and it's our individualism that is the biggest challenge to how we are going to live in a global economy, a global society. I think it's such an interesting time for this country, and that's why my trip is in this country."

Fallon said his trip coincides with such an interesting time in history.

"I think this is a really, really exciting time in this country as we try to understand the essence of what is uniquely American and find our way in the bigger world," he said. "That's my quest. I haven't answered the question, I don't have to answer the question until this project is done."

 

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