On a roll
MS patient pedals from Pacific to Atlantic to raise money, awareness
ALUMNI | “What we’re doing here doesn’t seem so extraordinary,” Travis White, AS71, wrote in a June 19 blog entry. “It’s a basic American road trip.”
Of sorts. “Basic” may be a bit of a misnomer.
To be fair, White knows a thing or two about road trips. The first he made at 17, borrowing the family car and driving from Washington, D.C., to Yosemite National Park, to Tijuana, Mexico, and back. He says it was a rite of passage—a final hurrah—before heading off to UD as an undergraduate history major.
His latest began on the 19th of June, in Astoria, Ore. On two wheels. It was a bike ride across the country—at age 61, three years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—to raise money for research on the disease.
The 50-day trip took White along miles of abandoned Idaho highway and up the 9,658-foot Togwotee mountain pass on the continental divide in Wyoming, where he blogged, “If water can make it from here to the Atlantic, I bet we can too.”
He rode along Minnesota’s lakes and through Amish farmland in Wisconsin, visited the bologna capitol of the world in Yale, Mich., and posed in front of Niagara Falls. From the heavily forested hills of upstate New York, he traveled south to the “very pretty, very green, very quirky” towns of Vermont, before finally crossing into New Hampshire.
In the end, every inch of his 3,721-mile journey was for a good cause.
With an initial goal of raising $10 per mile, White ended up contributing more than $31,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. “I believe we’re very close not only to alleviating MS, but to eliminating it,” he says.
Diagnosed at 58, White has Relapsing/Remitting MS, a condition where remission lasts for long periods of time but always with the possibility of relapse, during which time new symptoms can appear and old ones can resurface.
“My symptoms are mild. It feels like my right hand, right foot and the right side of my head have gone to sleep,” he says. “I haven’t lost any function, but I have lost sensation.”
His goal now is to avoid a relapse, and his doctors have advised three things to lower his risk: Reduce stress, avoid infection, and stay in good physical condition.
“So I’ve retired, I wash my hands a lot, and I exercise regularly,” he explains. “Indeed, part of the reason I bicycled across America was to give myself a challenge that would help keep me in good shape.”
He rode across the country with 30 other adults in a trip organized by America by Bicycle, a company that specializes in long-distance rides. A marketing and public relations expert, he blogged his entire experience at www.travisbikesamerica.com, describing the scenery; documenting daily statistics on speed, incline and distance; and sharing anecdotes about his trip and his fellow riders.
“A braver bunch I’ve never met,” he wrote. “As I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve become ever more amazed at the obstacles and challenges that they’ve overcome. I’m just proud to be one of the gang. So, if you ever think that you could not possibly do a cross-country bike ride, well, you’ve got another think coming.”
Article by Artika Rangan, AS05