Friday, March 19, 2010
A Wild Ride to Defy Parkinson's Disease
Above: Parkie-with-a-purpose Doug Bahniuk plans to ride his bike from Anchorage to Fairbanks this summer
The problem that most of us who have Parkinson's disease share is an inability to initiate voluntary motion. That's where Doug Bahniuk, an Ohio engineer who was diagnosed with Pd over 5 years ago differs. Doug has such initiative where motion is concerned that he has crossed the State of Oregon three times by bicycle. Doug now plans to ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks, in spite of, and because of Parkinson's Disease.
Following is an email interview that Doug and I recently undertook, me with an earnest curiosity, Doug with a carefree insouciance.
Pete (earnestly) So Doug, tell us about your summer plans...
Doug (with Devil-may-care panache) My plan is to prove to the world and myself that Parkinson's Disease won't stop me from meeting life's challenges head on by riding my bike solo from Anchorage to Fairbanks. While I'm at it, maybe I'll tackle another life's goal -- to rule the world.
To do so, I'm going to first fly from Cleveland, Ohio to Anchorage. From Anchorage I'll ride my bicycle to Wasilla where I will confer with a certain world leader about my plan. From Wasilla, I'll ride to Willow Creek, gathering support along the way. By the time I reach McKinley, I expect a substantial following of hungry bears, if not people. I'll continue to McKinley Park, recruiting followers in the wilderness all along the way. By the time I get to Nenana, I'll be riding either a ground-swell of support, or still be on my bicycle. When I reach Fairbanks, crowds will welcome me as their new leader and sweep me into office, or under the rug. After that I'll ride a victory train back to Anchorage, basking in the glow from my minions. That's the plan, anyway, well at least the part about riding my bike.
Pete Do you have much bike trekking experience?
Doug I've ridden across Oregon three times (Portland to the coast, down the coast, cross country to Crater Lake. From there to Boise Idaho.) After the third time I rode from Boise to Denver. Two years ago I rode from Denver to St. Louis, and flew from St. Louis to Cleveland (I rode from St Louis to Cleveland in 1975.) Then I rode from Cleveland to Boston. All the rides were solo.
Pete Why Alaska?
Doug Alaska is a beautiful state. The ride should be very challenging, because there's not much between Anchorage and Fairbanks. I'll have to be very self-sufficient. And how many people with Parkinson's have pulled this off? I'm the first that I know of.
Pete Why solo?
Doug Well who's going to be crazy enough to go with me? Seriously, I enjoy riding by myself. I don't have to worry about anyone other than myself. I stop when and where I want and I ride at my own speed. And I enjoy my own company. I enjoy the freedom, being self-sufficient and the fact that people are impressed when I tell them I did it alone.
Pete What are your greatest concerns about the trip?
Doug Trucks and cars. I've been hit six times, with injuries ranging from bruises to a broken hip. I've been blown off my bike by truckers seeing how close they can get. Yes, I worry about the wildlife. I mean, a woman just got killed by wolves in Alaska, so who wouldn't worry? And you always hear stories about bears attacking campers. But it's the vehicles that pose the greatest danger.
Pete How long have you been diagnosed with PD?
Doug Somewhere between five and seven years. I purposely try to forget how long. Long enough to have real problems with coordination, stiffness, balance, and trembling. But I can deal with these things. They just make the ride interesting.
Pete What have you learned about PD and exercise?
When I ride, I feel free. I feel normal. I have fun. I can keep up with most guys my age (57) that don't have PD. I'm not sure there is a long term benefit of riding or not, but while I'm riding, I feel good. And that's good enough for me.
You can find out more about Doug, his plans, and how you can support Doug and his quest to inspire patients with Parkinson’s Disease and raise money for research by going to Doug's blog