Duo biking coast to coast for ALS research

Two Encinitas residents will dip their rear bike wheels into the Pacific Ocean on May 8, the start of what they both called a "big adventure for two old guys."

Kevin McCauley and Jim Quigley, both 60, are pedaling coast to coast — 3,415 miles — to fundraise for the Team Godfather Charitable Foundation, which funds research for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).

In 2012, McCauley’s friend, Mike Ramirez of Encinitas, passed away from ALS. Ramirez, known to many as "the godfather" for his leadership qualities, helped create the foundation before dying in hopes of one day finding a cure for ALS.

McCauley said in addition to raising money, he hopes to set an example for his grandkids.

"It’s proof that two old codgers can do something," he said with a slight laugh.

McCauley also came up with the idea for Bike 4 Mike, an annual fundraiser for the foundation held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He got involved with the foundation after learning more about ALS, which causes the progressive deterioration of nerve cells, resulting in the loss of control over voluntary muscles.

Some 5,600 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year, and following a diagnosis, most patients live three to five years.

"Once I learned what a horrific disease it is, I was absolutely dumbfounded," McCauley said. "I couldn’t fathom it; it’s literally a death sentence."

Quigley is a retired physician whose family practice was in Encinitas. Although he didn’t know Ramirez, Quigley said Ramirez’s story inspired him to do something.

Not long after being diagnosed in September of 2009, Ramirez directed his energy toward raising funds and awareness for ALS.

"Just his courage in fighting the disease head on is inspiring," Quigley said.

There’s another reason Quigley is going. His wife, Denise, has cervical dystonia, a neurological brain disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions in the neck. It’s not fatal, but a regular struggle for her.

"Neurological disorders are related," Quigley said. "So if we find a cure for ALS, it’s possible a cure for this neck condition will follow.”

McCauley was a patient of Quigley’s, and they became fast friends due to shared interests in hiking and biking. Both dreamed of riding cross-country. The realization that they could do so while benefiting a great cause led them to take the plunge.

"This is a bucket-list thing, and at this point in our lives, we probably won’t get the chance to do this again," McCauley said.

They’ll ride about 85 miles each day to reach the Atlantic Ocean by June 24. Along the way, they’ll post updates on their trip blogs, www.jqsbigadventure.com and www.wheresmacnow.com.

"The people we’ll meet — the scenery we’ll see — it’s exciting," Quigley said.

Both men frequently bike, though neither has ridden anywhere near this far in such a short span. To prepare, they’ve been cycling progressively longer distances in recent months, including in the desert heat.

Their journey will start in Manhattan Beach and end up in Revere Beach, Mass. — coincidentally not far from ALS Therapy Development Institute, which the foundation helps support.

They’re riding with Cross Road Cycling Ventures, a 25-person touring group. Some in the group are cycling for fun, while others are biking for various charities.

Quigley and McCauley are self-funding their jaunt, so every penny they raise will go to the foundation. To donate, visit www.teamgodfather.org (donations to the 501(c) 3 foundation are tax deductible).

Their goal is to bring in at least $40,000.

"If we can stir up interest in the local community, hopefully they’ll contribute to this Encinitas cause, which will benefit others around the world," Quigley said.

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