UPDATE: David completed his bike journey across the country on August 9 - his 60th birthday. Read a day-by-day journal of his adventures on his blog.
Some of the story can be told through numbers: 4,005 miles, 67 days, two wheels, one man pedaling across America at 12 mph on a bike. Sure, David Shuey is a biking fanatic who often rides “centuries” – 100-mile treks – on weekends. Still, it’s an ambitious itinerary, especially for a 59-year-old (David celebrated the end of his ride on his 60th birthday) who has osteoarthritis (OA) and spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. But the greater ambition is his goal of raising $50,000 for arthritis research.
This cross-country quest is in honor of David’s mother, Marcie Shuey, who struggled with arthritis for years. She was his age when her condition began to dramatically worsen. She had a hip replacement, followed by six spinal fusions. “Her hip literally dissolved,” David says. “Her spine started doing the same thing. There’s a misconception that having spinal stenosis and arthritis isn’t serious, and it is.”
Arthritis has been a constant for much of David’s adult life, too. Once an avid runner, he had to stop at the age of 31 because of cartilage damage in both knees. By his early 50s, he had arthritis in his back and neck.
By then, arthritis was already his cause. He had seen what the disease had done to his mother, so he got involved in the Arthritis Foundation. Today, he is in his third year on the national board and is chairman of its fundraising committee.
David plans to start on June 4 in Seattle and travel about 60 miles a day. He’s scheduled to finish the 4,005-mile journey in Cape May, N.J., on Aug. 9 – his 60th birthday. “I did that intentionally,” he says. “A lot of people who are 60 don’t think they can ride a bike across America.”
Biking to Fight Arthritis
David, who lives in West Chester, Pa., says biking has helped keep arthritis from ruling his life. “I have good days and bad days,” he says. “I take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory twice a day. When I don’t take it, I know it immediately. I get pain in my back, neck and knees. But as long as I stay active and take my medication, it’s manageable.”
He is certainly staying active. “The only way to train for a bike ride like this is riding,” says David, so lately he’s been doing a lot of it.
Now David is working to secure corporate sponsors to help him reach his $50,000 goal. He’s also depending on people to make donations. “All I need are 500 friends with a thousand dollars each,” he quips.
Inspired by Family
David has been thinking about doing this trip for three years. Part of the impetus to finally do it was the death of his father – who also lived with OA – in 2008. This disease is a family thing. His younger brother also has arthritis. His mother, who passed away in early 2009 at the age of 83, spent the last 15 years of her life confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home due to arthritis.
The trip may be dedicated to his mother, but it’s also for himself. “It’s the adventure of a lifetime, that’s the way I look at it,” says David. “Some of my friends think I’m nuts, but they also admire that I would do something like this. The thing is, I may have arthritis. But arthritis doesn’t have me.”
David's taking along a lightweight computer so he can post diary entries and photos online. Follow his journey and read reports from the road (and his training and preparations beforehand) on David's blog: Coast to Coast – Bike for Arthritis.