It's The Journey That Counts
By Bobby Rickard
Adventure rider Bobby Rickard traveled from the Arkansas Ozarks (left) down to the Delta in order to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, talking to people he met along the way (right).
In January 2014, I was struggling with depression due to my father’s death from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He had lived with my family for his last three years, a situation that, along with his passing, had taken a toll. I had been a cyclist earlier in life, and decided to get back on the bike to help elevate my mood. Over the summers of 2014 and 2015, I crisscrossed the state of Arkansas and parts of the Midwest on my bike as a means of recovery—and to raise awareness of the 54,000 Arkansans living with Alzheimer’s as well as the 175,000 people caring for them.
My summer riding journeys quickly became something of an expected tradition, with family and friends eager to know what I had planned next. At the end of last year’s ride, I set a goal for this summer to ride the entire border of Arkansas in 10 days. As with past rides, I would stop along the way to meet people wherever I found them—gas stations, restaurants or along the roadside—to share information and resources about Alzheimer’s.
In mid-June, I pedaled away from Gravette and rode east across the Ozarks through places such as Beaver, Batavia and Summit, then rode north from Mountain Home to Bakersfield, Missouri, to avoid riding on U.S. Highway 62. Lunch at the Old Time Cafe in Bakersfield was big enough for two people and made for a nice break from the heat. Continuing east from Bakersfield, I went through Thayer and Myrtle on my way back into Arkansas, setting a course southeast to Pocahontas and the Arkansas Delta. The relentless hills of the Ozarks were behind me, but the heat remained oppressive.
The Delta provided a nice change of scenery as I rode from Pocahontas past rows of corn through Peach Orchard and Knobel. During a quick stop at a grocery store in Knobel, I talked with a wonderful lady whose sister had died from Alzheimer’s a few months earlier. From Knobel, I rode on to Rector and met up with my friend and fellow cyclist Sterling Catterton. Sterling and I had lunch together, then I rode on through Red Onion to Manila and Victoria before stopping in Proctor. At this point, I was a few days behind, and while I knew what to expect from the heat, I wasn’t prepared for the multitudes of flying insects which descended upon me in plague-like fashion. I was forced to stop numerous times to get all the insects out of my helmet.
As I neared the Mississippi River, my saddle sores had saddle sores and the blisters on my feet had slowed my pace considerably. The days I had planned for my ride were coming to an end, and it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to complete the entire ride. So rather than riding further south, I doubled back northeast toward Jonesboro and my wife’s family.
From Proctor I rode to Parkin, where I met a man named John walking along U.S. Highway 70. He told me he was 72 years old, had no family and had grown tired of sitting in front of the TV waiting to die. He had sold his belongings, except for those he carried on his back, and was walking to see his brother in Montana. I gave him a bottle of Gatorade and we talked for about 15 minutes. As I pedaled off he gave me a watercolor he had painted in exchange for the Gatorade. Riding on, I passed through Coldwater, Birdeye and skirted Crowley’s Ridge into Harrisburg before ending my ride in Jonesboro.
After six days of riding—four in the Ozarks and two in the Delta—my journey had come to an end. While I didn’t reach my goal of riding the state border, I made many contacts to raise Alzheimer’s awareness. In spite of the hills and the heat, I realized riding to help others in their battles with Alzheimer’s disease was more cathartic than riding away from the impact Alzheimer’s and depression had on my life. It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.
Bobby Rickard will be making a second attempt to ride the Arkansas border for Alzheimer’s awareness this fall.
For more information on Alzheimer’s awareness, visit alz.org or call 800-272-3900.