By the time Chris Register graduated from law school in 2009, he had grown wary of politicians’ rhetoric and media’s focus on polarizing, divisive issues across the nation.

He bought a bike, loaded it with gear, left his home in Washington, D.C., and without much knowledge or experience with bicycle touring, began pedaling in search of commonalities across the country in October 2010.

“I really didn’t see much of a voice trying to explore what we had in common, what links us together, what are the values that we share,” he said. “There is just so much conflict and I just don’t see it that much on the streets. I don’t see that Americans are at each other’s throats.”

Passion for the project

Wearing a bright yellow shirt and brown shorts, set up with a computer, phone and papers spread across a table at Red Wing’s Caribou Coffee amidst the sounds of highway construction Thursday morning, Register couldn’t pinpoint where the passion for this project originated.

He said he wants to know the truth about what this country is made of, what the country has given to people, what it’s taken, and whether its citizens are doing enough to live up to its standards.

“The ideal is something to strive toward and you don’t have to beat up the country, or beat up yourself, or beat up your neighbor for not being there yet,” Register said. “I think people realize that things happen and what they see on the news isn’t always indicative of what every day Americans think and feel and experience. And that’s the kind of thing I’m looking into.”

Register said he hasn’t nailed down a thesis from his travels and he’s not sure he will. He was hesitant to describe what he wants the message to be beyond the realization of common threads, stringing together people from all across the country.

“I don’t want to tell anyone what they should get out of it, necessarily,” he said. “I want folks to look across the aisle, as it were, and see the other side, the other person as a human being.”

So far, he said, people have been receptive to his inquiries and are interested in the same commonalities for which he is searching.

Register said he tries to remain positive and these trips have reinforced his positivity.

“What’s been surprising and refreshing is the candor with which folks have spoken to me,” he said, adding that aspect of his trip has been a transformative experience.

After his first ride – from Charleston, South Carolina, through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and to its conclusion in Birmingham, Alabama – Register got a job offer in Houston. When the job ended three and a half years later, he decided to leave the professional world and continue with his project. He started his Great Lakes tour in Duluth on July 17, with a final destination of Rochester, New York.

Another two years and the travel portion of “Conversations with US” should be complete, he said. He has seven more five-week trips on his 95-pound bike planned to complete his journey. Follow his progress and hear clips from some of his interviews at www.conversationswithus.com.

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