Although they may not realize it, most Vermillion residents know Larry Smith.
They may have eaten the bread he bakes for Mister Smiths Bakery, Caf & Catering, but even more likely they have seen him riding around town on his three-wheel recumbent Catrike. He rides the modified cycle in part to help combat the effects of Parkinsons disease, which he has battled for the past 20 years.
About a year ago, Smith remembers telling his wife, Betty, I would like to do something big before its too late. Lets ride across the United States.
Maybe we should do something a little less ambitious than that, she said.
After finding that to ride east-west across the state would be more than 400 miles, they decided to ride south from Aberdeen to Vermillion.
Their journey will begin the morning of Tuesday, June 21, and will conclude the next Saturday.
During this time, the trip will be chronicled by a group of documentary filmmakers, which includes Smiths niece, Katie Skow.
The film is called Ride with Larry.
We thought how cool it would be to do a film about Parkinsons, and how Larry would be the perfect subject, said Skow, who is one of the films producers.
Test footage of Smith was shot last summer, and has since been edited and posted online.
We found an amazing story with Larry, said co-director/producer Ricardo Villarreal. He has inspired so many people in the community, and at the same time we have found that the community is so supportive of Larry. One thing that is very important that we found how people in South Dakota are so friendly, so helpful, and that also has a huge impact on Larrys health and his life.
After the demo video was finished, a campaign to raise funds for the film began, including interviews on Fox San Diego and articles in the L.A. Times and various cycling magazines.
We ended up exceeding our fundraising goal, Villarreal said. Everyone was covering it, and it became such a successful fundraiser. We had people supporting Larry from Brazil, people that donated money all the way from Singapore, Ireland, Canada, Mexico it was just huge that people were supporting from all these places and saw in Larry someone they could identify with, that they could have some inspiration (from).
The documentarians will interview a number of doctors and family members for the film, but the main thrust of the story is Smiths ride.
We havent even filmed the biggest part of the story, and weve already had people saying, Thank you so much for this. This has been so amazing. Some people have called Larry their hero. Its been a very good response, Villarreal said.
The first leg of the ride will extend from Aberdeen to Webster, followed by treks from Webster to Watertown, Watertown to Brookings, Brookings to Sioux Falls, and Sioux Falls to Beresford/Vermillion, respectively.
Smith and specialists from Sanford Health will speak to Parkinsons groups at each stop along the way. Members of these groups will be able to submit their names to win a Catrike like Smiths, the drawing for which will be held at the final ceremony in Vermillion, which is set to take place from 12-2:30 p.m. in the plaza at the corner of Main and Market.
Its all to promote the benefits of exercise for Parkinsons patients, and just so that people can see the big improvement it has done for Larry, Villarreal said.
Cyclists also are encouraged to sign up online to ride along with Smith, with a portion of the proceeds from their participation going toward the Davis Phinney Foundation.
Smith and his wife have been training for the tour for about a year. Since January, they have attended a spinning class a vigorous style of stationary bicycling at the Wellness Center at the University of South Dakota.
We get on these bicycles and we have a slave-driver as a coach, and he has really gotten us going, Smith said. Im at the height of physical health, which is ironic, because Ive never been so sick in my life as I am right now with Parkinsons. But I feel good.
It was great during the winter, because when the snow was high he could go to spinning class, and thats how they were really able to bump up their training, Skow said.
Smith also rides to and from work each day, as well as other rides throughout the week.
I take it out as often as I can and ride 10, 15, 20 miles, he said.
Smith has been cycling for the past 20 years or so, but said he got more into it in the past six when he found out it helped relieve his Parkinsons.
Theyve found through research that biking does improve the condition of people with Parkinsons, he said. But the trouble was, (with a two-wheel bike) I would occasionally crash. For no apparent reason I would just fall off the bike and pulverize myself on the sidewalk.
Then one of Smiths friends showed him a recumbent Catrike bike. He bought one of his own soon after.
Villarreal said he hopes the finished film will not only help to portray Smiths story, but give viewers a deeper understanding of Parkinsons as a disorder.
Parkinsons is still one of those conditions that people dont really know well, he said. They dont understand it. So, with this film we also are trying to inform people better what Parkinsons is all about.
The whole message, I guess, is regardless of the situation you have, you can live life to the fullest, he said. You can still do a lot with your life. Someone with Parkinsons doesnt necessarily have to be destined to (live in) a wheelchair for the rest of their life.
The film may be completed by early 2012. Even though it isnt finished, the footage that has been made available online already has touched a vast number of people, Skow said.
We got a lot of messages not necessarily from people with Parkinsons, but (who) found inspiration from the story, she said.
I think its more perspirational than inspirational, Smith joked.
Along with Skow and Villarreal, other members of the film crew include co-director/producer Andrew Rubin, producer Matt Rubin and executive producer Stephen Nemeth.
For more information about the film or the ride itself, visit ridewithlarrymovie.com or facebook.com/ridewithlarry.