A New York man is cycling to each and every U.S. State capital over the course of a year, then detailing his awe-struck wonder for the beauty of our great nation on social media.
Bob Barnes, a former Uber driver from Syracuse, NY, wanted to get out of his bubble and experience the majesty of all 50 states and their signature cities. Barnes’ story has resonated with many Americans who feel suffocated by the constant misery and divisiveness proliferated by online media. Having recently visited his 26th city, Oklahoma City, Barnes heaped sincere praise onto the middle-America capital, calling it a “sparkling” landmark.
Barnes’ time in his latest city began with a helping hand. Last Saturday, after setting up his tent between the interstate and the off-ramp, Barnes laid down to rest. Soon, however, a couple of people approached the tent, asking if anyone was inside. Barnes initially thought it was the police.
“I poke[d] my head out and there were these two kids,” he said. “They must have been 15 years old. They brought me three bags of food as well as blankets. Their mother drove by, saw me down there, went home, got them and came back.
“That seems to be the spirit [on this journey], the giving spirit. Everybody is kind of willing to help you [in America], even if you don’t ask for it.”
Barnes’ realizations are seemingly similar everywhere he goes, yet seem contradictory to many Americans’ opinion of their own country. Barnes said he’s realized that the U.S. is “very consistent and we’re all the same.”
“It’s not what you perceive online and on TV,” he said. “I’m starting to feel proud again. It’s not that I really wasn’t [proud], it’s just that [I now realize] you can expect the same type of thing everywhere you go.”
How does a man cycling across all 50 U.S. states feel about Oklahoma?
Barnes also said he thinks most people in this country experience similar upbringings, even though everyone’s story is slightly different.
“People come up to you in every state in the country, and we’re all the same. And that’s what I’m finding, for real. It’s incredible being out here.”
And as for Oklahoma City? Barnes said the capital city of Oklahoma is clean and beautiful. He even got a chance to tour the capital building as local legislators began their latest lawmaking session. “I poked around, got to see all the activity and all the security and all the goings on,” Barnes said in an interview.
The traveling tourist has also learned a thing or two about American weather on his journey. Barnes said he expected much warmer weather in Oklahoma, and was surprised by the winter air. Apparently, northerners believe the South, or any states on similar latitudes, stays warm year-round.
“I was a little bit surprised that Oklahoma has winter,” Barnes said. “Because if you look at Oklahoma, we’re just as far south as South Carolina. So I just thought south was south. But no — we got a nice storm. And the snow’s still on the ground, so Oklahoma does get winter.“
So perhaps Barnes’ expedition across America will educate as much as inspire. Regardless of original intent, it seems that this journey will illustrate our commonalities as Americans, instead of lamenting our differences. Now slightly more than halfway done with the expedition, Barnes’s story is picking up steam, and hopefully signaling a new standard of community that we, here, at Outsider believe in wholeheartedly, as well.