|,800-mile ride against MS starts in Arizona|
KINGMAN – After raising more than $145,000 to fight Multiple Sclerosis through car washes, farmers markets, barbecues, email drives, raffles and auctions, a Canadian fire chief has decided to turn up the heat on his fundraising efforts.
Greg Van Tighem, the head of the fire department in Jasper, Canada, is cycling U.S. 93 from end to end – more than 1,800 miles – in an effort to bring awareness to the disease and raise $93,000.
Van Tighem picked U.S. 93 because, “I don’t think anyone’s done it before.”
It also connects his hometown of Jasper in Alberta, Canada with its sister city, Wickenburg, in the U.S. Each city sits at one end of the highway.
The two cities recently formed a tourism partnership, which Van Tighem is also helping to promote.
He left snowy Jasper and arrived in 86-degree Sun City on April 21. He started his ride in Wickenburg the next day with an escort from the local fire department and rolled into Kingman on April 23.
He quickly found out that U.S. 93 is not the most bicycle-friendly road.
“The wind was brutal,” he said. He fought against a headwind for the first 12 miles of the trip.
Then he found himself dealing with narrow road shoulders and heavy traffic. In some sections the road shoulder was only two inches wide. In other areas, he had to ride through bushes that had grown to the edge of the road.
“On one section of road south of Kingman there was no shoulder for me to ride on. That was scary,” he said. He ended up carrying his bike through the brush to avoid being clipped by passing vehicles.
Van Tighem has been impressed by the willingness of Arizonans to lend him a helping hand by donating to his cause, taking pictures for him and offering food, water, shelter and the occasional lift past some of the bad spots.
“The biggest positive is the people I’ve been meeting,” he said.
They’ve included a power line worker whose wife has MS, a Boston doctor who is working on a cure for MS, and a rancher and his wife who told him stories about rattlesnakes for hours and offered a bed in their RV.
“I planned to camp throughout my whole trip. I haven’t had to camp once. I’ve been offered a place to stay every night.”
His journey is funded by a number of sponsors, including: Freewheel Cycle, which donated his bike for the trip; Wild Mountain clothing; Optic Nerve sunglasses; Westjet Airlines; and Jasper’s tourism board. All of the donations collected on his trip go directly to finding a cure for MS.
Van Tighem is keeping his friends, neighbors and sponsors informed of his trip by blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook and You Tube nearly every day at http://www.endms93.com.
Updating his blog has been a challenge, since he’s using his phone. He accidentally left his laptop on the plane.
“I plan to reunite with it in Las Vegas,” he said.
While in Kingman, Van Tighem visited with the local Rotary Club, the Kingman Fire Department and Patti Green, a local woman who is starting an MS chapter for the Kingman area.
He also stopped to pay his respects to the men killed in the July 5, 1973 Doxol explosion.
“They use video of that as a training tool for firefighters in Canada. It’s something I’ve never forgotten,” he said.
Van Tighem said he started fundraising for MS after his friend Luigi, who has lived with MS for 20 years, told him about a recurring dream.
In the dream, Luigi finds out he can walk again. He wakes up energized and excited, but when he tried to swing his legs off the bed, he can’t.
“I do it because researchers are at the cusp of finding a cure and they need funding to continue,” Van Tighem posted on his blog.
“I do it because MS is a terrible condition, people inflicted with MS start life just like you and me, until they receive the horrible diagnosis.”
To donate to Van Tighem’s campaign, visit http://www.endms93.com.
He prefers that people donate to their local state MS chapter.
That way, the money goes directly to a local cause.
To donate to the Kingman MS chapter call Green at (298) 530-7982 or visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/kingmansuportgroup.