Before riding nearly 3,000 miles across the country with his fraternity brothers to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease research, Drake Riley, a Western Kentucky University junior from Bowling Green, didn’t know much about the disease.
But meeting people suffering from Alzheimer’s during stops on the trip opened his eyes to how terrible the disease is.
“When I first signed up for the trip, I did it because I wanted to ride across the country,” Riley said. “Now that I’ve gotten to meet these people (with Alzheimer’s), I think it’s great to do it because of the cause.”
On Friday, he and 10 Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers finished their nearly two-month long Bike4Alz journey, arriving at their final destination of Washington, D.C.
The ride began May 24 in Oceanside, Calif., with 12 participants, but one of the bikers, Taylor Ruby, was injured in Missouri and couldn’t complete the trip. The group used FaceTime to stay in touch with Ruby as they rode into the nation’s capitol, taking in some of the city’s iconic sites on their bikes.
“We were all looking for the Washington Monument,” Riley said. “It’s kind of like the sign of where we’re going to.”
Riding into Washington on Friday was a special way to end the trip for Drew Tingle, a WKU junior from Franklin.
“You’ve been on your bike riding so many places and got to end it riding next to some of the biggest monuments our nation has to offer,” he said.
While in Washington, the group stopped by the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol, where they talked about their trip with a representative from the office of Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green. They also met with staff from the BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports research and provides public education to eradicate brain and eye diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Bike4Alz raised about $78,000 for the foundation and is continuing to raise money while in Washington. Donations can be made online at www.bike4alz.org. Seeing the foundation staff’s enthusiasm impressed Robert Lucas, a WKU senior from Mount Washington.
“That was really special, and it just felt good to know that an organization at the national level really cares about us,” he said.
Riley said it is hard to believe the trip is over.
“It kind of feels like we’re taking a rest day and we’ll be back on the road,” he said.
For Tingle, the biggest takeaway from the journey is seeing firsthand the struggles of people with Alzheimer’s and their families. Meeting them motivated him on the ride.
“It made it easier to get up in the morning because you knew who you were riding for,” he said.