Day 1: Palm Springs to some point 91 miles into the CA desert.
The first day of my four day ride is dedicated to my Dad and everyone else who has had the terrible experience of Alzheimer's disease. I had a great start to the ride as a group of the previous day’s riders saw me off from the Palm Springs hotel. Quite a scenic ride, skirting just north of Joshua tree National Park, by 29 palms, then into the desert, no houses, very few cars, very quiet and starkly beautiful. The only detraction was the 110 degree heat and some nasty hot headwinds. Water bottles warmed up to very hot tea temp in about 10 minutes, my fingers felt like they were burning from the reflected heat from the pavement, which is possibly why no one lives there…perhaps not the best day to ride 90+ miles. As exhausting and hot as this day was, I kept thinking (as much as it is possible to think in the heat) that anyone suffering from AD would trade places in an instant. Certainly I could make it through 90 miles if they can make it through one day with AD. I had a great support crew (Melanie and Evan) and had cold water, caring people and good company whenever i needed it, and at the end of the day, a drive back to 29 Palms with a nice dinner and cold hotel room.
Day 2: Middle of the CA desert to Parker, AZ (70 something miles)
The second day is dedicated to my Mom and everyone else who has served as the primary caretaker for someone with AD. The second day we drove back to where we stopped the previous evening, and started off in slightly cooler morning temps. Another long, hot day, some wicked cross winds along a two lane road without any shoulder and a fair number of trucks heading toward Parker/Lake Havasu. Certainly gave Melanie (my car escort) and I a fair number of grey hairs. But again i kept thinking that any primary caretaker would trade places with me in a heartbeat, at least there was an end to the skinny highway (a beautiful end at the Colorado river which was a gorgeous, clear turqouise), another good dinner, a cool hotel room and the hope for a cooler day tomorrow.
Day 3: Parker, AZ to WIckenburg, AZ (80 something miles)
Today is semi-selfishly dedicated to all the Alzheimer's researchers who have dedicated their lives to trying to find an answer to this awful disease. A treat in the morning cloud cover: no wind and relatively cool temps. Actually drove out to Bouse, AZ to start riding there. We paid for the dirty trick; strong wind picked up from the south east, which of course was directly where we were heading, so what I was hoping was finally going to be an easy day started out as a struggle. We rode past a Hollywood movie set in the middle of nowhere, apparently filming Fast and Furious 5. They were just cleaning up the site, apparently a train wreck, and were loading 5 or 6 very expensive sports cars onto a trailer. I was struck by the thought that the single trailer could fund several Alzheimer’s disease research labs for many years, but instead was just a scene in a movie. By afternoon, the wind and us both changed directions, so it was a relatively pleasant afternoon, even with the sun. Went by a flea market of sorts that came up out of seemingly nowhere and disappeared quickly into nothing—we all wondered if it was a mirage. Last 10 miles was a wonderful downhill coast into Wickenburg which is really a pretty quaint town. The cooler day overall was a very welcome and needed change.
Day 4: Wickenburg, AZ to Phoenix, AZ
Our last day, relatively short, and dedicated to everyone who has helped contribute to Alzheimer research. The ride out of Wickenburg was cloudy, cool (by previous standards), beautiful, downhill with big shoulders. This is what bike touring should be like! It was a bit of a shock to hit the outskirts of Phoenix, (appropriately called Surprise), back to malls, gas stations, road construction. But it was good to be done and heading home for a good rest. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this effort, but especially thanks to Mel and Evan for making what could have been an unbearably hot long four days into an almost too short very fun tour. Good luck to Matt who will have a long, long climb tomorrow!
-Michael Sierks, Ph.D.
Dr. Sierks is a Full Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at Arizona State University in Tempe. Dr. Sierks became interested in Alzheimer’s after his father and aunt were diagnosed with the disease. His research focuses on developing better tools to help study the complexities involved in protein misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.