It’s been nearly two weeks since Ethan Hyde returned from a two-month road trip across America — by bicycle.
The Forsyth County resident and recent University of Georgia graduate spent most of his summer pedaling across the country in the Push America Journey of Hope.
Hyde traveled 3,645 miles on the annual cross-country cycling event that raises awareness for the message of Push America, an organization for people with disabilities founded by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Resting up in his Cumming home, Hyde said he thought his focus on the trip would be pushing through the miles of bicycling, since he’d never been a cyclist before deciding to take the journey.
But the physical demands became secondary.
As he traveled along the southern route from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington D.C., Hyde began to see the bicycle as his temporary disability.
“For 60 days, it gets old,” he said. “The bicycle is our disability. It’s something we can’t leave behind each and every day.
“When the whole trip is said and done, we can leave that bicycle if we want to … but they can’t.”
That realization made the repetitive pedaling less important in his mind and he pushed on to each of the destinations.
The fraternity brothers made stops throughout the way, known as “friendship visits,” to meet with those who have physical or mental challenges the average person doesn’t face.
His most memorable stop was in a Louisiana Shriner’s Hospital, where he met a young woman not much older than himself who left an inspirational impression.
The 24-year-old was in a wheelchair due to having muscular dystrophy, but she worked to strengthen her brain instead of her body.
Hyde also met with parents of children with disabilities, which had an unexpected impact.
As a child, Hyde had seen his grandfather in a wheelchair achieve so much despite his physical disability.
He hadn’t given as much thought to the challenges of those who helped his grandfather with what his body wouldn’t.
“The kids have disabilities and have such a struggle to go through, but it’s also the families who have to take care of them,” he said. “That’s what hit me the most.”
When his parents dropped him off for the summer journey, a Push America official said he would return a different person.
Hyde’s father, Michael, said his son has since talked often about the people he met along the way and can see the impact the journey has left.
However, he’s always seen “that concern and compassion for people” in his 22-year-old boy.
Michael Hyde said he’s impressed with the fraternity’s philanthropic mission, and proud of his son.
“Seeing his smiling face coming around the Capitol in Washington, it was a great feeling,” he said. “When you can accomplish something like this and be determined to do this, you definitely have room to be a leader somewhere.”
The younger Hyde has been invited to possibly lead a team across the country in next summer’s Push America.
For now, he plans to start his career, hopefully at the Gold Dome in Atlanta where he interned in the spring. And he’s still bicycling for fun.