Friday, August 23 – 2692 miles down, 581 to go
Today Doug Bahniuk showed his steel on the road from Bowling Green to Wellington.
Doug was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago at the age of 50. He rides his bike everywhere. Long rides. Hard rides. Two years ago he rode from Prudhoe Bay down to Anchorage on the Haul Road. In short, that’s insanely hard. We first met Doug two years ago at the Copper Triangle. Then this year we re-connected with him at the Copper, and last night he showed up at our presentation in Bowling Green with his wife, Alissa and their daughter Iris. Today he wanted to ride the 80 miles to Wellington, so he showed up at 6:15am at our hotel, ate some breakfast with us, and we got ready to ride with Doug.
We were missing Kathleen on our team, so Doug made a fourth for the paceline. Amy took over driving the sag, and received what was probably way too many hints , suggestions and lessons. We eased out of the Best Western parking lot around 7:00am and headed east into a very misty morning. I was looking forward to the day for acouple of reasons. First, we had Doug riding with us and it’s always an inspiration to have a PD person riding along. Second, I’d re-jobbered our route so that we could take advantage of a bike path I found called the North Coastal Inland Bike Trail that we’d pick up in Fremont. We were all looking for some time off riding the highways.
Doug started in back, which was wise so he could learn our pace and how we worked together. We found out later that he’d never ridden in a paceline. We went with our 5 mile pulls and when it was Doug’s turn, he took off like a shot and left us in the dust. Pretty typical for a person new to pacelines as there’s something that goes off in your head that says, “IT’S MY TURN! I MUST RIDE HARD!”, when all you have to do is just keep riding the same speed. We reeled him in and he settled into our pace and cadence
We were on Highway 6 for awhile, and it was a pretty good road. We stopped at 20 miles and Doug was feeling tired already, which wasn’t a good sign. He told us that he hadn’t ridden 80 miles in at least 8 months. To add some spice, his PD gives him some problems when he’s dismounting his bike, and a month ago he caught his leg while getting off, fell onto a split rail fence and broke 7 ribs. So, you can understand why he wasn’t feeling so hot.
We caught the bike path in Fremont, and it’s an old rail line that they’ve paved, and man is it beautiful. To begin it was like riding down a tunnel of trees and was cool and shady. The path was pristine and every now and then there were benches along the side for people to hang out on. We actually spun at an easy pace and chatted and just enjoyed our respite from the highway. Amy stayed on the highway and we plotted some strategic meeting places in the towns along the route.
Soon we entered the town of Clyde, and rode past a Whirlpool facility that must have been 2 miles long. I’ve never seen such a collection of huge buildings hooked together. We emerged into the downtown area and stopped to meet up with Amy as we needed bottles filled and some food. And as happens, suddenly we bonded with several locals who happened by. First there was Kerry and Bonnie, two women who like to ride and chat on the path. Tom flagged them down and soon they heard about our mission and both vowed to donate as soon as they got home and got on the website. They were very friendly and it was a good time chatting with them.
After talking with Bonnie and Kerry, Tom and Rick whipped up what we might have to call Egg-tastic Sandwiches, that contained hard boiled eggs, pickles, cheese and mustard, all on white bread. Outstanding fare.
We had noticed the abundance of flowers that decorated the downtown area, and there was a couple riding around in a golf cart watering all of them. They drove up to us and the man said, “OK, give us your story“. I went into the DPF spiel and what our mission was, and soon they were talking with us and inspecting the trailer. And then get this – they donated on the spot! Tom made up Hearts of Honor for them and put them on the trailer while they watched.
Their names are Al and Connie Hench, and we also got their story. The downtown merchants have hit some hard times, and one of their ideas to spur some revitalization was to place flowers all over downtown and make it a beautiful place that people wanted to visit. It’s all volunteer, all donated money and flowers, and you should see how fantastic they’ve made that downtown look. What a great gift to their community. And then a guy named John Hutchins happened by and next thing you know, he donated too! He seems like he should be the mayor, and he rides around town on a three wheeled tricylce type thing along with his dog. More people came by as well, and we came to the determination that the residents of Clyde are some of the most friendly in the world. What a great group of people.
But we had miles to make and had to get to Wellington, so we pressed on. We could only enjoy the path for a few miles more because it turned from pavement to ground limestone, and it had rained the night before, so it was muck. So, we returned to the highway, but had good shoulders and made some time. At one stop we had a nice Ohio Highway Patrolwoman stop to see if we were OK. Hmm, there’s something about a woman in uniform with a gun and a web belt.
We made the turn for Norwalk and were surprised at the sound of loudly revving engines. We rode past the Summit Speedway, and it’s a quarter-mile track and they were running all sorts of cars down that strip. There were old Nova’s and new Corvette’s and El Camino’s and all type of car lining up side by side to take on that quarter mile. So we had to stop and watch for awhile. It was great fun, and we saw a Corvette run an 8 second time for a speed of 174 mph. Reluctantly we got back on the bikes and continued on. But another fun interlude.
However Doug was once again having some troubles, and at around 50 miles he wasn’t feeling good at all. We feared we would have to put him in the sag. But our stops revitalized him and he steeled his will and kept getting back on the bike. I had to marvel at the guy. He was basically peddling with his left leg because his right leg hurt so bad, but he kept on trucking down the road. We gave him some Advil at some stops and that eased his pain somewhat.
Took a break for watermelon, and while we were sitting and eating, Doug said in kind of a faraway voice, as if he was giving himself a pep talk: “I’ve always said that riding a bike is about learning to endure pain“. I did a double take. Pain is riding up Trail Ridge Road. Pain is riding 119 miles. Riding on one leg because you have Parkinson’s and continuing onward is beyond pain. That has to be some type of transcendental experience that keeps you going.
See, Doug won’t let his physical win over his mental. He’s has incredible mental strength and will NOT let his affliction stop him. So he got out of his chair, ate some more Advil, and got back on his bike. And get this, he started to get stronger and pulled for about 9 miles at one point, and he was going at a good clip as well. It got hard towards the end, and we made 5 mile stops just to make sure he was doing OK. And he just kept going. We spun easily into Wellington and finished the ride, and Doug had ridden 80 miles for the first time in 8 months.
Wellington didn’t have a hotel that we could stay at, so we loaded the bikes and went 17 miles North to a Ramada in Elyria. We had a 6:00pm diner meeting with Chuck Alexander, the brother of John Alexander, a big DPF supporter. We all met Chuck at a well-known local establishment called Smitty’s (Obama ate there while campaigning in 2010) and he bought us all dinner. Chuck is an interesting guy as he was a priest but decided to get married, and then ran a funeral service for many years, and now he carves headstones. We had a great chat with him and it was nice for John to arrange the meeting. So thanks John!
We ended the night searching aimlessly for ice cream (there was Coldstone next to our hotel in Bowling Green and some of us, like Rick, became addicted). All we could find was a place called Twist and Shake, which is like a Dairy Queen. So, got our ice cream fix and headed back to the hotel.
We have some hard days coming up in Pennsylvania, and we’re 7 days from the end of our sojourn. I know that I’ll feel tired and sluggish during some of the coming days. And when I do, I’ll hear this voice in my head: “Riding the bike is about enduring pain“.
And I’ll endure. Because Doug did.