I first saw Mike on a weekly organized group ride in 2009, called the Brookside Ride, in Kansas City. The group was moving slowly up a long hill, and I noticed a rider solo rider ahead of me.
The rider seemed focused on the road ahead, but seemed overly careful and cautious, I could tell there was something going on even though his line was true.
Uncertain what his issue was, I chose to ignore him on that first ride together. The second time on the ride I passed him and made some silly comment about the weather. The third time, I saw him after the ride with a group of cyclists who went for food and drink at a local pub. I sat at another table, and later that night the Brookside Ride leader told me, after I inquired about this man's story, that his name was Mike, he had Parkinson’s and that he use to play with the Chicago Symphony, then moved back to KC after he retired and was living in Brookside with a relative.
Mike's story was worth telling. But I did not do anymore group rides that year and did not see him again.
A year later I saw him in the grocery store in Prairie Village and introduced myself. Then, a few months later, he was at a coffee shop in Brookside and we had the first of many long and interesting conversations.
|Getting ready for a downhill ride in the Rocky|
Mountain National Forest
Mike moved from KC to Chicago, and back to KC. He is living with a relative in Brookside. He lived in Chicago for a number of years, going there to study music at Northwestern. He played Trombone and the bass guitar. He studied with the Chicago Symphony and worked at golf course for his career.
“I started commuting to work and for errands in the 1980s; riding my bike for transportation made more sense than using my car.” He said with a serious tone, “By the time I got in my car, dealt with traffic, and parking, I found I could already be inside the store if I had ridden my bicycle.”
I asked him about the Chicago winters.
“I still rode in winter when I could.” He smiled, “I remember one time, when it was snowing heavily, I got on my mountain bike and rode to a restaurant to meet friends for dinner. There I was, fully bundled up, wearing a ski mask, rolling up on my bike. My friends just laughed.”
Mike developed symptoms of Parkinson’s and self diagnosed in 1999. “I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s until 2003” He stated as he looked me square in the eye, not seeking any recognition .
|Mike and I in PV|
“No!” He said with conviction, “I rode more!” He told me he did not want the disease to get the better of him and the more he rode his bike the better he felt.
And ride he did. Eventually, he moved back to Kansas City to live with a relative in Brookside. Bicycling became a life style and a way to keep the disease at bay.
Mike rides with a passion and unassuming peaceful quality. Over that last couple of years the disease has caused him to ride less. But he rolls on, and with the help of physical therapy, massage, chiropractor, and acupuncture, he has been able to continue riding and keep the pain at a manageable level.
“I am not able to get the 15-20 miles a day I was doing the last few years, but I am able to ride.” He said, then he told me about riding down to the Plaza and back from his home the day before we met for the interview, it was 25f degrees. He grinned "Just like anything else in life, I have my good days and bad days."
I asked what adventures he had lately and he excitedly told me he was able to ride the Katy Trail over the last two years.
|Mike staying in a hotel caboose on the Katy|
In 2010 he finished the trail riding from Jefferson City, Missouri to St. Louis. “Last year was harder, there was more pain.” He said solemnly. “I finished though, and made a video.”
Mike is doing well, winter is here, and for someone with Parkinson’s winter is no fun. On our last interview in November, he told me he had been hiking on some mountain bike trails, yes, hiking. He is as active as he can be. Still riding when he feels up to it, no matter what the weather and staying active.
If you are lucky and in Brookside, you may just bump into Mike. Be sure to chat with him.
Mike you are truly and inspiration and I appreciate the opportunity to get to know you. You have a disease that is tough to live with, but your inner fire is stoked and I am excited for your future adventures. I look forward to riding with you soon!
Mikes Katy Trail video: