CYCLIST TAKES NEW HEART OUT FOR SPIN ON MICHIGANDER
PHOTO ABOVE: Doug Carnegie enjoys a 26-mile Michigander training ride from Rochester to Romeo and back on the Macomb Orchard Trail on June 20, 2015. PHOTO BY JOHN ZALEWSKI
By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
July 15, 2015
TRAVERSE CITY — Completing the Michigander Bike Tour takes a lot of heart. Doug Carnegie needed a new one.
I met up with Carnegie, a 66-year-old retired machinery salesman from Rochester Hills, at the Topinabee rest stop on the North Central State Trail (NCST) on July 11, the first day of the popular rail trail-based ride’s 2-Day option.
Along with 386 other spirited riders, Carnegie finished the 70-mile weekend trek in Cheboygan on July 12. My fellow 6-Day and 8-Day riders and I pedaled 48 sun-kissed miles along back roads and the Traverse Area Recreational Trail (TART) into Traverse City today.
En route, our 300-member contingent from across the U.S. enjoyed 72-degree temps and open-air views of Torch Lake, Elk Lake and the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay under brilliantly blue Michigan skies.
It was a welcome relief from yesterday’s soggy, hilly, thigh-burning 62-mile “Am I really PAYING to do this?” challenge from Harbor Springs to our tent city in Bellaire, where many riders sought solace at Ruthie’s Dairy Twist and Short’s Brewing Company.
In the interest of being thorough, I sampled the goods at both venues. Their seats didn’t soothe my sore rear end much, but good ice cream and brews tend to make me forget about such minor inconveniences.
Carnegie has suffered three strokes since 1987 and in 2006 was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which turned into hypertrophic myopathy. He rode the 2-Day Michigander in 2012 but “struggled a little more every year, until it became difficult to cross the street.”
Carnegie’s self-described “soul mate” of 15 years, Mary DePouw, even bought the longtime cycling enthusiast an electric bike.
“My kidneys were starting to shut down from lack of blood flow,” Carnegie said. The Vietnam vet finally received a healthy heart in a transplant at the Mayo Clinic last November.
Carnegie and DePouw, a retired blood bank technologist, signed up for the 24th edition of the Michigander six months later.
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for Mary,” Carnegie added. “She double checks all the tests, asks all the proper medical questions, reminds me to follow the doctor’s orders — and stops me from doing things like eating off the floor.”
One of his doctor’s recommendations: “Exercise as much as you can tolerate.”
But Carnegie admitted he didn’t tell his doctor about his plans to ride his white Specialized mountain bike 35 miles to Indian River from Cheboygan and back last Saturday, and another 35 miles to Mackinaw City and back to Cheboygan the next day. His longest ride since his life-saving operation had been 40 miles over two days.
How did Carnegie’s new ticker hold up on the ‘Gander?
“The stroke symptoms persist, but my heart’s fine,” he said.
Carnegie was accompanied on the tour by 10 other members of the Rochester Mills Bike Club, including DePouw.
“How could you not like northern Michigan?” he continued. “The route along Mullett Lake and Lake Huron reminded me of the boat trips I used to take. A year ago I thought it would be impossible to ever do this again. It was glorious to meet new friends and to ride with my bike group again. They were instrumental in my recovery with cards, videos and pictures during my three months of recovery at the Mayo Clinic.”
The Free Press co-founded the Michigander in 1992. It was the nation’s first multi-day bike tour on rail trails — abandoned railroad corridors that have been converted into recreational trails — and is still one of the largest and longest such rides in the U.S.
After overnight stops at Grayling’s Hartwick Pines State Park and Inland Lakes Schools in Indian River, this year’s two-wheeled Up North adventure — 294 miles long for the 6-Day riders, 364 miles for the 8-Day pedalers — will conclude on July 18 back where it all began, at Cheboygan High School.
“Biking is the best exercise I can do,” said Carnegie. “I would love to come back to the Michigander, especially for all of the camaraderie and to be with my friends.”
And to take his healthy new heart out for another exhilarating spin through Pure Michigan.
–For more information about the Michigander, log on to:
–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: email@example.com.
— For more information about becoming an organ donor, log on to http://www.Life-source.org.
AFTERWORD: Doug Carnegie received a moving unsigned letter — handwritten on notebook paper — from his teenaged heart donor’s family after his transplant operation at the Mayo Clinic in November, 2014. An excerpt: “He was a (busybody), never could sit still. You will stay in (our) prayers forever.” Carnegie urges readers to consider checking the organ donor box on their driver’s license renewal forms.