PORT ANGELES, Wash. – A man who gained international attention when he rode his wheelchair from Port Angeles to Portland in 2016 is preparing for a 13-day journey that will take him through the heat of eastern Washington and across the North Cascades.
Ian Mackay, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since a bike accident about 10 years ago, plans to ride his wheelchair from Coeur d’Alene to his home in Agnew, Washington, to highlight the need for wheelchair-accessible trails in Washington.
“Infrastructure in general is designed around the vehicle rather than the person,” he said. “There are so many alternative ways of transportation and so many places we lack the infrastructure for that to be possible.”
Another reason for the ride is to inspire “all these brothers and sisters of mine in chairs that are stuck inside watching TV all day,” said the quadriplegic. “I think there’s a lot more that they can do than they realize and anything I can do to demonstrate that and advocate that, I really want to do.”
Mackay will make the trip with three cyclists at his side and with his mother, who he called “super mom,” driving his van.
The team will start in Coeur d’Alene on Sunday, Aug. 12 and make its way toward Spokane before heading toward the Grand Coulee Dam.
They’ll then head north through the Colville Reservation to Okanogan before heading west on state Highway 20, which they will follow until they reach Marblemount.
Then they’ll go to Edmonds where they will catch a ferry to Kingston and begin making their way back to Agnew.
If everything goes as planned, Mackay hopes to have a welcoming party at his home in Agnew with family and friends Aug. 24.
Mackay’s journey will be a bit more difficult than last time, he said. Many of the days call for 40-mile rides – the farthest he has ever gone – and he’ll be battling heat and elevation climbs through the mountains.
He said he complained about the heat on his last journey, but he expects it to be even hotter this time.
Since his accident, Mackay’s body has been unable to regulate its temperature through shivering or sweating, meaning he’ll need to find a way to stay cool as he passes through eastern Washington.
“Trying to find ways to manage that without me overheating is difficult,” he said.
Mackay plans to crank up the AC when he’s staying in hotels, have water sprayed on him as he’s riding and is considering using an ice vest – which he can’t feel – to keep cool.
Then when he makes his way to the Cascades he’ll be presented with another challenge. He’ll be bringing with him an extra battery and an extra chair to help him make his way over the mountains. He knows from experience the steep incline quickly drains his battery.
Mackay said he has attempted Ride the Hurricane – an annual bike ride up to Hurricane Ridge – and has always come about half a mile short.
“Over the 13 days, it’s 25,000 feet of elevation gain,” he said about the trip he is planning. “It’s a lot, especially for a little power chair to manage.”
During Mackay’s journey last year, his team made an effort to stop at a local brewery at the end of each day, something he hopes to do as much as possible during this trip.
He said on some days that will be difficult because of just how rural many of the areas are. He said he has someone on his team who will travel to get the team beer, when possible.
During his welcoming party when he gets home he plans to serve cold beer from the kegerator he has built in to his counter.
“It makes it nice for me and the crew to have that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” he said. “It’s a silly thing and we chuckle about the craft beer aspect, but we need something more than spending miles in the sun.”