CAVE CITY – To a random driver, bicyclist Chris Register might just be another obstacle in the road, an inconvenience who is keeping them from getting to work on time.
If only they knew where he has been and where he is going.
Register, 36, pedaled his way to Cave City on Tuesday, traveling along the Dixie Highway. Six days earlier, he was in Memphis, Tennessee, where he began his tour of Appalachia and Bluegrass Country.
He spoke with the Glasgow Daily Times on the front porch of the Cracker Barrel, resting his body in the comfort of a rocking chair.
“There’s something uniquely American about the fact that we love forward movement,” he said. “We love travel. We love missions, journeys. Just the fact that I’m riding a bike a long distance, people think that’s cool.”
In 2009, Register came up with the idea to tour the United States on a bicycle, collecting stories from different people from different parts of the country. His vision was to find similarities, common threads that connect everyone.
“What we hear usually in the media and what politicians usually focus on are what divides us,” he said. “It’s how politicians get elected these days, by saying what they’re not and what they stand against.
“If we’re a country, and we’re a people, and people refer to us that way, we have to have something in common.
“What is it? No one talks about that.”
Register’s first tour was in 2010. He had just graduated law school and wanted to give his project a try. He then got a job in Houston, Texas, where he spent four years working for a small law firm.
Then he made the decision to finish his project, “Conversations with US.” This is the first year he has devoted 100 percent of his time to the project that totals about 17,000 miles.
So far, he has pedaled about 6,000 of them.
Register said he usually travels between 50-60 miles a day.
“It all depends on how you’re touring,” he said. “A lot of people who don’t tour will say, ‘Oh my god, that’s a whole lot.’
“And people who do tour a lot sometimes say, ‘Oh, that’s not too much’
“For me, it is plenty.”
While on tour, Register’s daily routine includes much more than just pedaling. He speaks with reporters, spends at least an hour a day talking with a person he is interviewing, takes photos for his Facebook, Instagram and website, writes content for his Facebook and website, tries to find a place to sleep, tries to find a person to interview a few days ahead of time, not to mention keeping up with maintenance on his bike.
He also has to find time to eat, sleep and stay hydrated.
“If all I was doing was pedaling, then maybe I could pedal more,” he said. “But it’s not about making miles.
“I don’t want to sacrifice spending time with people and talking to them in order to make 10 more miles.”
On his way to Cave City, Register said he spotted a broken pair of sunglasses on the side of the road. He stopped and positioned his bike next to it so he could take a picture of his bike’s reflection in the lens.
“It took 15 minutes to get the right shot that I liked,” he said. “So that’s 15 minutes out of my day.
“Making every day its own success so that tomorrow is a fresh start and I’m not playing catchup, that’s the biggest challenge.”
Register said he occasionally deals with hostile drivers, but that it is a lot more rare than most people would think.
“Most people are afraid for me,” he said. “They think that I’m gonna’ get killed.
“And I might.
“It’s still dangerous.”
From his experience, he said that 90 percent of drivers are very safe, eight or nine percent are safe enough and probably one percent get too close.
“But it’s very rare,” he said. “Unfortunately it only takes one.
“Just missing me by six inches is great, you didn’t kill me, but you still scared the **** out of me.”
While Register said he has yet to find his answer, there are at least a few things Americans have in common.
“We all love our mom. We all love our kids. We all like to eat good food with friends.
“We do have things in common that we may have in common with everyone in the world.”
Once he completes his journey, Register said his end goal is to publish a collection of books sharing the stories of the people that he meets.
“But if I don’t, for whatever reason, it falls through, I don’t think I’ve wasted a minute of my time.”
Follow Register on his journey at www.conversationswithus.com.