Pa. man motorcycling to Alaska for child illness
SCHWENKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Though the trip won't be easy, Ted Danforth hopes his 12,000-mile, solo motorcycle ride to Alaska will make life a little easier for the 300,000 children in the U.S. diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
Danforth, who is no stranger to adventure, is hoping to raise $25,000 for arthritis research while getting the chance to travel the country and see the state of Alaska for the first time. While his family has been affected by arthritis ("I've been sworn to secrecy as to who it is," Danforth said in a recent interview), he said he is lucky no one he is related to has been afflicted with juvenile arthritis, commonly referred to as JA.
Juvenile arthritis is a blanket term referring to different chronic autoimmune and inflammatory illnesses afflicting children age 16 or younger, according to the Arthritis Foundation, which is handling the donations for Danforth's ride.
Children with JA experience pain and inflammation in their joints, intestinal tract, skin, and even their eyes could be affected, according to the Arthritis Foundation. There is currently no known cause for most types of juvenile arthritis. Some children may experience symptoms for a few years or the rest of their life.
"I can't help think about what it would be like to be a parent and see your child go through this — each day bringing new challenges to all of those activities that we take for granted," said Danforth, a father of 25 years, in a press release.
If there is one thing Danforth doesn't do is take life for granted. The former owner of Hidden River Outfitters operates HRO Adventures Inc. and previously kayaked the waters around Maine. He has also ridden on a motorcycle through Patagonia, but this upcoming ride, which will start on June 10, won't be a "rich man's trip," like that one, said Danforth.
He's expecting the solo ride to take him 21 days or more and he plans to cover between 800 and 1,000 miles a day for the first few days on his BMW dual-sport 1200 cc motorcycle.
"The first six or seven days, I'll just be trying to get there" (to Alaska), he said. If he's up to it, he'll even ride all the way back. He plans to camp for most of the trip but may take advantage of several offers he's received from other motorcycle riders, outdoorsmen and those who support his cause of raising money for arthritis research.
The most interesting accommodations offer he has received so far has been from a brothel museum, which was active in the Gold Rush days.
But he'll be camping "about half the time. The disadvantage to camping is you have to pack and unpack," which is time consuming and can be unpleasant if the weather turns ugly.
The problems Danforth expects to face on his trip will likely present themselves along desolate stretches of highway in the northernmost state as he rides 500 miles on a dirt road to Prudhoe Bay, his final destination. He's done "everything I could do" to plan for contingencies such as mechanical problems with his bike and bad weather, even practicing changing the tires on his motorcycle.
The tires will only last 6,000 to 8,000 miles, so Danforth knows he will have to change them at least once on his trip, which is why he made sure to ship an extra set north in preparation. "The roads are so rough it's not unusual to get a flat" in the north, he said.
"It's not fun if it falls over," Danforth said of dealing with the 650-pound motorcycle, especially since he may not see anyone for days on his trip.
"Though if there's a problem, it's not going to be the motorcycle, it's going to be the rider," he said jokingly.
Or a possible lack of gas. Once he reaches Alaska, it could be more than 200 miles between gas stations. Luckily he accounted for that since his bike, when full, can travel 350 miles.
But his biggest concern isn't anything to do with his own abilities or the travel. "My biggest concern is kind of silly, but my biggest concern is Grizzly bears. I do not like bears," he said.
Confidence and spirit boosts should be plenty on his journey, despite the obstacles, as he carries the signatures of arthritis stricken children on his bike. Danforth recently visited Camp Victory, a camp for children with chronic health problems in Millville, Pa., which offers a special camp for kids suffering from Juvenile Arthritis. Around 125 children signed his bike as a symbol of those Danforth aims to help with his fundraising ride, and those signatures will remind him that despite the troubles he may find himself in on the road, "they will be small compared to those faced every day by the 50 million adults and 300,000 kids affected by arthritis."