Joe Williams of Durango is continuing to defy the odds. Williams is 70 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010.
On Saturday, however, Williams completed his 12th Iron Horse Bicycle Classic citizens tour ride from Durango to Silverton.
“This is a really big day for me,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be able to do what I do.”
Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination. Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. The main cause of the disease is a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that is responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. Williams said people with Parkinson’s stay sharp in the brain, but their brains have trouble relaying messages to their bodies. There is no cure.
To help him make the trek to Silverton, he rode on a Specialized Vado pedal-assist bike.
The hardest part of the race, he said, are the Coal Bank and Molas mountain passes.
“The toughest part of the race is being psyched out by two 10,000-foot peaks,” he said.
Williams' motivation, however, was to help other people in his situation who are unable to ride.
Williams’ team, Go Joe Go, had about 40 members participate in the IHBC, and he said they raised $7,500 for the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Overall, he said the ride raised over $30,000 for the foundation. The Davis Phinney Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds research into Parkinson’s and works to improve the quality of life for those with the disease. IHBC has partnered with the foundation since 2014.
“I feel I’m doing something worthwhile for the community by doing this ride,” he said. “There’s a sense of belonging to a community. By riding, I’m able to do something for someone else who can’t ride … A lot of us can’t get out.”
Williams’ son, Peter, rode in the IHBC this year for the first time.
Williams also said he plans on doing next year’s ride to Silverton as well.
“I look forward to this race and riding for charity,” he said.