Sunday, June 25, 2006

Woman chases 'miracle' recovery with 741-mile bike ride

Becky and Gary Murphy, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Woman chases 'miracle' recovery with 741-mile bike ride

Colorado pair travel on tricycles for family visit


June 19, 2006

The journey from Greeley, Colo., to Johnston on a three-wheeled bike has been more than the sheer effort of pedaling 741 miles for Becky Murphy. The trek for Becky and husband, Gary, has been a celebration.

"There were a few times in Iowa I questioned whether I could finish this trip," said Becky, as she sat in her cousin's Johnston home. "I'm very proud of us."

The home of Adele and Ken Mikesell was the journey's destination for Becky, 53, and Gary, 54. Becky is a first cousin to Adele.

The experience is especially sweet for the Colorado couple because just four years ago Becky was in a wheelchair, the results of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a neurological disease that affects the sympathetic nervous system.

After being in a wheelchair for nearly seven years — and completely bedridden for part of that time with the disease — Becky's condition began to spontaneously go into remission. As part of her therapy, her husband bought recumbent tricycles, which have two wheels in the front, one in the back, and which place the rider in a near-reclining position.

What began as the couple riding for rehabilitation near their home area of Lakewood, Colo., ended up a passion. Then, after Gary retired from his job with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development a few months ago, they decided they wanted to combine bike riding with traveling.

They chose Johnston as a destination because there were relatives they wanted to visit.

"We wanted an adventure," Becky said. "We had never done anything really adventurous. After being in a wheelchair for so long, it felt good to do something so challenging and be able to say, 'I did this.' So for us, this is a kind of celebration."

Gary and Becky both said they figure their three adult children thought they would never actually begin the trip. Then, when the couple did leave on the bike trip, their kids figured they would call from somewhere on the road for a rescue.

Other than losing a tent in a storm, one driver annoyed with them for riding on the pavement and one mean dog that decided to bite Becky at the beginning of the trip, the ride was quite smooth and enjoyable, the couple said.

"People were so nice and friendly," Becky said.

The couple met restaurant owners who paid for some meals, people who helped them get a cycle spoke fixed and hotels that only charged them half-price for a room.

"I think the tricycles have something to do with that," Gary said. "They are subjects of conversations and questions."

Becky said riding a recumbent cycle is like taking a reclining chair on a bike ride. "Other than having tired muscles at the end of the ride, you really don't notice you've been riding," she said.

Her muscles were particularly tired after riding three days up and down the hills along Iowa Highway 44.

"We had no idea Iowa was as hilly as it is," Becky said. "When you visit the state and drive the interstates you don't see that."

Another surprise in Iowa was how many miles they had to cover between towns.

"In Nebraska that would be only 10 or 12 miles, but in Iowa we would go as far as 29 to 30 miles between towns," Gary said.

But, Becky persevered and the couple pulled into Adele's driveway on June 13.

"We went 741.8 miles exactly," said Becky, as she rolled her eyes and smiled. Although they didn't take many photos along the way, Becky took notes each day of the trip and plans to write an account of their journey.

Their plan is to return to Colorado by car.

Adele has been especially pleased to see her cousin active again. "Before, when she visited she brought her motorized wheelchair and all kinds of equipment she needed," Adele said. "Now it's completely different. It's a complete miracle."

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