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  • Sat July 22 2006
  • Posted Jul 22, 2006
Megan Timothy pedaled up to the Journal on Friday, asking to see a reporter. Clad in biking gear, with a bike parked outside, I naturally asked, "So, you ready for RAGBRAI?" "No," she said with a laugh. "I'm going the other way." Timothy's trail makes RAGBRAI look like a walk (or ride) in the park. The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, a 444-mile trek that starts in Sergeant Bluff on Sunday is small potatoes for this cyclist who left her home in California on Feb. 28 and has been biking ever since. To date, she's ridden at least 8,000 miles, spending many nights in her tent. Pretty adventurous for a 64-year-old former Playboy Bunny. Timothy likes the adventure. She likes telling her story, hoping it inspires people to challenge themselves. To live. To laugh again. "I biked from California to Washington, D.C., and then came back west again," she said. "I'll go north out of Sioux City and make my way northwest. I hope to reach home by Thanksgiving, because I'm supposed to cook the Thanksgiving meal for me and my friends." Timothy speaks to newspapers, small groups and families along the way. She shares details of her health struggles and conquests, all detailed in a book she wrote, "Let Me Die Laughing." The autobiography, published by Crone House Publishing and available through Amazon.com, chronicles her coming to America from Rhodesia as a 21-year-old. She found work at one of the first Playboy Clubs in California. No, she was never IN the magazine. I asked. "As a 21-year-old immigrant with no family here, I started at the bottom and that was with Playboy," she said with a smile. "I went to Bunny school for six weeks and was taught that men ruled the world." She was also taught how to whip out a lighter from her tail and light cigarettes for men attending the club. Shortly into her stint as a Bunny, she lit a man's mustache on fire. She doused the flame by dumping water over his head. "I was told I didn't have the Bunny image and they let me go," she said. Timothy went into acting, getting bit roles in a few TV shows and a movie. She toured for U.S. troops in Vietnam, performing with "The Jack Denton Show." She also hiked through the Grand Canyon and rafted down the Colorado River. In time, she bought a small hotel and became a chef. Years ago she was featured in "Chocolatier" magazine. Her life changed dramatically when her brain all but shut down Sept. 2, 2003. "I suffered an AVM, which stands for arterial venous malformation," she said. It's a hidden congenital defect that triggers bleeding in the brain similar to a stroke. "It robbed me of my speaking, reading and writing abilities," she said. Timothy was hospitalized for a time and then taken to what she calls a "California institution" where health-care professionals didn't forecast her return to normal life. "One doctor said I was toast," she said. She maintained she wasn't. Still isn't. "I couldn't communicate, but I could feel," she said. "There's a huge emotional side to any recovery. That's where healing starts." Two friends helped get Timothy on the path to recovery. A speech therapist put her on the path to expression again, although she still struggles with command. She also struggles with numbers. "I think I've ridden 8,000 miles," she said. "But I'm on my second odometer and I'm terrible with numbers." She's not short on energy, enthusiasm or compassion. And those qualities allowed her to pen "Let Me Die Laughing" before hitting the road on this unique promotional tour. It's also one of self discovery. Along the way, she's staying in places like Onawa, Laurel and Yankton. She's speaking to anyone who might listen. Especially those who've had brain trauma in their families. "I want people to know that if you're 64 and part of your brain is falling out of your head, you can still get it together and have a good life," she said. "You might not have the same life, but you can still have a good life." With that, this non-RAGBRAI rider headed out the door. She asked for directions to North Sioux City and stopped me when I gave her three possible routes. "I just want one route," she said. "One number or one street; that's all I'll remember." She laughed at herself and reminded me of something she'd said several times during our chat. "You must laugh," she said. "That is the answer."

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