• Wed January 06 2010
  • Posted Jan 6, 2010
Hemet, CA By DIANE A. RHODES Special to The Press-Enterprise "I realized that I needed a goal to keep me riding so I set a high goal -- to ride in the 2010 RAGBRAI (The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa)."
After he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in November 1995, Jim Wetherell plunged into a deep depression that no therapist or medication could combat. While the diagnosis was not a death sentence, it was an end of life as Wetherell knew it. He had to give up his job as a tour bus driver. His relationship with his wife fell apart. So he moved from San Francisco to Hemet. To help with the anxiety caused from the disease, he started riding a recumbent two-wheeled bicycle. He soon switched to a three-wheeled version. "I thought I could deal with some of the stress by pedaling it away," said Wetherell, 66. After a while, one of his biking buddies asked him where his tremor went. That is when he realized that cycling had more benefits that he knew. In 2001 he started a Web site to offer information, support and inspiration to patients and caregivers: "I wanted a name people would remember," he said about choosing the nickname "Parky" as he set out to "take the park out of Parkinson's." "I was told that my site has become an important tool for patient support groups at the Parkinson's Institute (in Sunnyvale)," said Wetherell. "Once, I got a call from a college professor at the University of Wales who said he visits my site every day to get him through the day -- that's when I realized it was making a difference." Writers to his site's guestbook cite the encouragement they receive as a result of seeing all Wetherell has accomplished through cycling -- and all his goals for the future. He maintains a regimen of 20 miles a day, and in 2005 he set his first major goal -- 50,000 miles, which he achieved in May. Since it took him several years to reach that milestone, he had not anticipated how he would react. "I found myself not wanting to ride -- I had lost my incentive," said Wetherell. "After two weeks I realized that I needed a goal to keep me riding so I set a high goal -- to ride in the 2010 RAGBRAI (The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa)." The seven-day ride covers more than 470 miles, and bikers average 68 miles per day. It is touted as the "oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world." This is the 38th year of the race and Wetherell's third trip as part of the Team Pedaling for Parkinson's. "If I don't find some sponsors I may not get there, but the goal gives me purpose and I'm not giving up," he said. Expenses for the July event are about $1,200. For the new year, Wetherell has a new trike with rear suspension. "It helps to absorb the road shock that is normally absorbed by one's body," he said. "My muscles are more rigid due to the Parkinson's disease." Wetherell attached a prescription bottle label to his trike which reads: "Take as directed to strengthen heart, lungs and muscles. Use 3X/week, 20 minutes per dose. For best results, wear spandex." "I'm now on minimal medications and my tremor doesn't bother me," said Wetherell. "I want people to keep a positive attitude, and even though it's difficult at times, don't let the PD control your life." Reach Diane A. Rhodes at 951-763-3461 or

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