Bill Ludwick, his bike, and the open road are merging for 450 miles to raise awareness for two diseases that he has watched his sister and son fight — multiple sclerosis and narcolepsy.
Ludwick, a Titusville native, has watched as his dearest family members have fought diseases that have no cure. His sister has multiple sclerosis, and his son, who was a District 1 collegiate swimmer, has narcolepsy and cataplexy.
On Sept. 9, Ludwick will hit the road, cycling 450 miles across state Route 6, starting at the Pennsylvania/New Jersey state border. The trip, for him, will be a way to challenge himself, along with raising awareness to the cure-less medical hardships.
“For many years, my bikes have been a part of my life,” Ludwick writes on his website, i-ride4.com, which will be used to document his ride, along with a way for people to donate. “A few years ago, on a particularly hard ride, I found myself thinking about the hardships that some of [my family members] have endured; specifically my sister, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), and my son, who has narcolepsy/cataplexy.”
About five years ago, Ludwick recalls, he was on a particularly hard bike ride.
“During that ride, I realized the pain and suffering I was experiencing was just a moment in time and would soon pass,” he wrote. “I also knew I was in complete control; I could slow down, or even stop at any time. Unfortunately, that is not the case for anyone with MS or narcolepsy.”
Since that ride, Ludwick brewed up a plan to raise awareness.
The idea that originated in his head five years ago wasn’t feasible at that point in time. Ludwick said there were a “few obstacles” that were hindering it. But, “Now, it seems like a good time,” he told The Herald in an interview while he was home with his wife, Theresa, during Titusville’s Oil Festival.
The trip across the state is going to hold many challenges for Ludwick, the first one being that this is “by far” his longest full trip.
Another challenge will be careening his near-45 pounds of equipment, which he needs in order to eat and sleep.
Along “one of America’s most scenic drives,” according to National Geographic, Ludwick will face 25,000 feet of climbing elevation. And a slew of other unknown variables sure to find him along his trip.
He knows the trip will have its challenges, and he is embracing every one, knowing that his trials bare no resemblance to those of his sister and son.
“What does he go through?” Ludwick questioned of his son’s fight with the neurological sleep/wake disorder. “What does my sister go through?”
For Ludwick, the trip acts as a metaphor for what his family members endure.
“My inspiration comes from my son’s and my sister’s resilience and determination in facing a life-altering challenges that their current incurable neurological disorders represent,” he said.
His son’s struggle, narcolepsy, affects 1-in-2,000 people, which averages about 200,000 Americans. And, in his son’s case, because he has both narcolepsy and cataplexy, it affects his brain cells that produce and controls the sleep/wake cycle.
His sister, who was diagnosed with MS in 1993, fights the unpredictable, often disabling, diseases of her central nervous system, which disrupts the flow of information to the brain, and the flow of information between the brain and the body.
With this ride, which he hopes to complete in six days, Ludwick will be trying to raise his goal of $10,000, which will be fully donated to two organizations — Wake Up Narcolepsy and the National MS Society.
The shortest day of Ludwick’s charity ride will be 56 miles, which will lead him off of the historic Route 6, and back to his boyhood home, Titusville.
“For me,” Ludwick said, “I haven’t lived here (Titusville) in 30 years, and for any of these diseases, it’s all about family and community.”
His training is nearing an end, and he will take off to do his part in raising awareness soon.
“I’m excited and scared, all at the same time,” he said.
After all, life’s all about the ride.
Lohr can be reached via email, at email@example.com.