Food and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Ben Banner '05

Ben Banner was at a crossroads.

He'd completed a contract in the defense industry, was between jobs, and had moved to Austin, Texas. Finally, he took to the road, crossing the country on his motorcycle. He chronicled the trip in his blog, theroad2014.

Ben Banner '05Banner had already survived two trips to Afghanistan in defense, a career he was drawn to after 9/11. The cross-country trip presented a different challenge: he lost use of his left hand after prolonged working the bike’s clutch. “When I got to San Diego, my cousin took me out for sushi, and I could not operate my left hand.”

He overcame the pain to complete the trip from Austin to California to Maine and back, using his words and his Nikon Coolpix P-100 to paint a portrait of his country.

Banner’s biggest surprise was economic depression in the South and Southwest. There were actual ghost towns and towns whose streets had boarded-up storefronts. “After I left Austin, the whole Southwest was dead.”

With a photographer’s eye, he captured everything from ghost towns in the Southwest to the South’s famous live oaks to a Georgia bank built in the style of Jefferson’s Monticello.

Banner, a foodie, also ate his way across the country, providing mouth-watering descriptions, photos and directions on his blog. He sampled Big John’s Burgers, munched on alligator, and grilled frog legs in Louisiana. Of “Mike’s Famous Duck Sandwich,” a Charleston, South Carolina treat touted as the “Best Sandwich in America,” he remarked diplomatically: “very good.” He typically “ate local” and loved it.

After getting an unusual taste of America, Banner returned to working in defense in greater Washington, D.C. He credits Saint Anselm with sharpening his writing, a skill he put to good use on his blog and now again professionally. He still enjoys motorcycling—“And I like food,” he says.