When Vermillion resident Larry Smith began his five-day cycling trek from Aberdeen to Vermillion on Tuesday, June 21, it did not seem that Mother Nature was on his side.
Day one was nothing but sideways wind, low temperatures. Misery. Awful day, Smith said. But it got better, and the last few days were really nice.
Perhaps the nicest of all was Saturday, the final day of the tour, which found Smith returning to Vermillion with an enthusiastic crowd lining the streets to welcome him, and a presentation that took place at the plaza at the corner of Main and Market.
The event featured speakers, information about Parkinsons and music provided by the Poker Alice Band, among other highlights.
The welcome we got on Saturday was so incredible, Smith said. I just cant believe that happened.
Smith, his wife Betty and a team of friends and supporters rode through eight communities last week in an effort to raise awareness of Parkinsons disease, which Smith has battled for the past two decades.
Ride with Larry, as the tour was called, also will be the name of an upcoming documentary that was filmed along the route.
During Saturdays program, Betty Smith thanked everyone who took part, including route planner Kevin Brady, Harlans Cycling Shop of Sioux Falls, Michelle Maloney, Joe Mojo Reiser, Jones Food Center and each member of Team Larry.
We rode more than 300 miles this week, with Larry at the helm, Betty said. Weve been through a lot together. You all have been incredible, tremendous. Youve come from Hawaii, Washington, New York, California, Iowa and Alaska, and (you) have taken incredible care of Larry and of all of us. I feel as though Ive lived in this little bubble village for a week.
Larry agreed, stating, I just want to say its been a great week, Ive met a lot of great people, made some new friends, bonded with some others.
Everyone did their part, and everyone was very helpful and helped each other out, added Larrys niece Katie Skow, who also is one of the producers of the film. Because of that support, the ride could happen and it turned out to be wonderful.
On Saturday Betty Smith said a special thank-you to Steve Feimer, who first introduced Larry to the type of three-wheel recumbent Catrike he rode along the tour route.
Larry took off and it was like a new world for him a world of freedom, a world of hope and a world of joy just the joy of moving, she said. Larry has trouble walking, he has trouble talking, but he has no trouble riding that Catrike.
At each stop Team Larry made last week, the Smiths spoke to Parkinsons support groups and showed people fighting the disorder how they could benefit from the Catrike as Larry has.
In every place we went, people who had not been moving in years got on a trike, and they were able to cycle, Betty Smith said. All of us on Team Larry had tears streaming down our faces. So, what works for Larry apparently works for a lot of other people. Were very, very excited about that.
Also on-hand Saturday were Simone and Clay Howe, two residents of Durham, CT, where Larry Smith lived before her came to Vermillion. The Howes read a proclamation from that community, which named Saturday, June 28, 2011, as Larry Smith Day.
Former Vermillion mayor Dan Christopherson also read a proclamation, which named Smith an honorary captain in the Vermillion Corps of Discovery.
A portion of the funds raised by cyclists who participated in Ride with Larry will go toward the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinsons.
Alley Ley, victory crew program manager for the foundation, said the groups mission is to help people with Parkinsons live well today.
Its hard to find a better example of that than Larry, she said. Thank you, Larry, for what youre doing to raise awareness about how to live well with Parkinsons.
Betty Smith said raising awareness was the key to the week, and encouraged those who have family members or friends with Parkinsons to get involved.
Spread the word: If you know someone with Parkinsons, get them on a recumbent bike, and you will see what I saw on Larrys face three years ago, just this incredible look of joy and of freedom. That is what its all about, she said.
Production of the film Ride with Larry will conclude toward the end of the summer, after which time post-production will commence. Skow said the filmmakers hope to have a cut of the film prepared by next spring.
For more information about the film or the ride itself, visit ridewithlarrymovie.com or facebook.com/ridewithlarry.