Gayle Fothergill, of Coeur d’Alene, has never attempted a multiday bicycle trek. In two weeks, she’ll start pedaling her first – a cross-country trek from Maine to Seattle, averaging 70 miles a day.
“I like to do things big,” said Fothergill, 61, an occupational therapy assistant. “Why mess with a two- or three-day ride when I can dive right into this?”
Biking from coast to coast has long been her dream, but this 69-day trip also was inspired by a desire to help a cause she cares about a great deal. Fothergill hopes to raise more than $4,000 for multiple sclerosis research as part of Bike the US for MS.
The chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system has afflicted several of her acquaintances over the years, and some have died from it. Fothergill said she has worked with many patients with MS, helping them gain more independence, in the 18 years she has worked at Life Care Center in Coeur d’Alene.
“No two patients are alike,” she said. “The disease affects everyone differently, making their particular needs unique to them. It’s a challenge I love.”
She took 11 weeks off for the task. She’s using 14 days of vacation, and the rest is unpaid. Co-workers raised $506 in a bake sale to support her fundraising goal.
“My work is extremely supportive of this ride and its cause,” she said. “It’s really nice. Many of the residents here at Life Care want to follow the ride, and I’ll be sending pictures and stories to them.”
Bicycle Sales and Service in Coeur d’Alene helped outfit her for the journey and get her bike in top condition. On Thursday, Fothergill shipped her Trek SLX road bike to the starting point in Bar Harbor, Maine. The 4,295-mile trek west will start there May 28 and is set to conclude Aug. 4 in Seattle.
She and fellow riders will stay at campgrounds, state parks, community centers and the occasional motel. Cyclists cover all other expenses, including food and transportation to Maine.
Along the way they will do community service for people with MS. “It can be anything from cleaning their yard to painting fences, putting in a ramp,” Fothergill said. “I’m looking forward to that part.”
She has participated in a local MS bike ride along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes for the past five years. To prepare for this adventure, she has been taking spinning classes and doing weight and endurance training at The Salvation Army Kroc Center, and doing daily rides outside.
Fothergill, a mother and grandmother, said she remembers when she moved to North Idaho 34 years ago “there were two grandmothers who were embarking on a bike ride from Spokane to the East Coast, and I thought someday I would like to do that.”
The time is right, she said.
“It is a challenge I am up for and there is no room for failure – just not acceptable. I am so excited for this.”
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