Local student sees country from two wheels
The summer of 2012 will be one Jameson Lowery will never forget.
"It was probably the best summer of my life," said Lowery, an Upper Arlington resident and member of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Lowery traveled by bike from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., this summer as part of Push America's Journey of Hope.
Push America, an outreach program of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, raises money and awareness for people with disabilities.
A Miami University student, Lowery was one of about 90 fraternity members from across the country to participate in this year's Journey of Hope.
Lowery raised $9,681 prior to beginning the two-month trek.
"It was everything I thought it would be and more," he said. "Doing something like this kind of changes your perspective of the world and of life."
In most of the cities they visited, the Journey of Hope cyclists made "friendship visits" to people with disabilities.
The cyclists would engage in a variety of activities with their hosts, including playing sports or participating in dance parties, Lowery said. The riders also would go out in the community to educate the public about the issues faced by those with disabilities.
One of the most memorable visits to a disability center was in Chicago, Lowery said, where he and the other cyclists taught participants at the center how to ride a bicycle.
"Some of these were people in their 30s and 40s who had never (ridden) a bicycle before," he said. "It was so cool to see how excited they were. Sometimes they were nervous at first, then they were so happy when they rode on their own.
"Their excitement is something I'll never forget," Lowery said.
As he reflects on his summer's journey, experiences like that "can make me tear up," he said.
"People tend to look at people with disabilities as being 'different,' " Lowery said. "I think we should start to look at how similar we are to each other. People share more similarities than differences."
Time and again, he said, he was inspired by the courage and character of people with physical or mental disabilities "doing everyday activities that you and I take for granted," he said.
Lowery already has seen much of the country through trips with his family, including visits to all 50 state capitals.
"Seeing things from a bicycle is much different than from a car window or on a plane," he said. "You absorb the environment you're riding through. You really feel a part of things."
The experience of cycling through the snow-packed peaks of Colorado "was breathtaking," Lowery said. "If you really want to see this country, bicycling is the way to go."