23-year-old bikes across America for Parkinson’s awareness

© 2017-Lake Powell Chronicle

Keeping uncle's memory alive

Traveling at 15 miles per hour is just about the perfect speed to see America, said Matt Barbaccia, who has been bicycling across America for the last seven weeks.
Barbaccia, a recent college graduate from Rochester, New York is biking 4,000 miles across America to raise money and awareness for Parkinson Disease. Barbaccia started his journey in Jacksonville, Fla. on Feb. 27 and will finish his trip a couple weeks from now in San Francisco, Calif. He logs 60 to 110 miles per day.
“I’ve never really been a bike enthusiast, but the idea of pedaling across America still really appealed to me,” he said. “But now that I’m doing it I’ve really come to appreciate it.”
Barbaccia was motivated to make his ride across America to raise awareness for Parkinson’s after watching his Uncle Mark’s health deteriorate. His uncle, a musician, was diagnosed with the disease in 2000, and the disease has had a devastating affect on his career and quality of life.
Barbaccia is keeping a blog of his journey, which includes inspirational messages and photos from his trip. His blog and other social media platforms allow his friends and followers to follow his journey through his photos and other posts.
“My blog isn’t just dry information about why people should care about Parkinson’s disease,” he said. “I try to introduce them to the interesting and educational places I’m visiting along the way and let them be a part of the adventure.”
Barbaccia leaves time for spontaneous side trips and detours to places that pique his curiosity along the way.
“My trip was never about speeding through America from point A to point B,” he said. “I make a point to stop at historical spots along the way.”
His visit to Page was one of his unplanned side trips.
“It was actually pretty far out of my way but now that I’ve seen the area I’m really glad I came,” he said.
Prior to this trip, Barbaccia had visited parts of Colorado and California but most of the west is new to him.
“I can’t believe the rocks and the wide open spaces out here,” he said.
Barbaccia is riding a Trek 520, which is specifically built for long-distance touring. The bike is fitted with front and rear panniers, with water storage along the center console. The panniers add a lot of surface area to his back, which causes a lot of drag when he’s biking into the wind.
“It’s like biking into the wind with a sail,” he said.
His favorite part of the journey was biking along the Gulf Coast. The worst part was biking through snowstorms in the Rockies. Being passed by semi trucks only a couple feet away was terrifying the first week of his trip.
“The first week I flinched every time one of them passed me, but I’m used to it now,” he said.
One of the perks of biking 60 to 110 miles every day is that he gets to eat whatever he likes, he said.
“I usually carbo load in the morning, but I still eat healthy throughout the rest of the day,” he said.
Barbaccia has camped on the side of the road a few times but most nights he stays at rest stops, fire stations and crashes on the couches of other bike enthusiasts through a network called warmshowers.com. People who belong to warmshowers.com offer traveling bicyclists a place to stay and usually a meal.
“Then when I’ve finished my journey, I then host other traveling bikers at my place when I get home,” said Barbaccia.
Barbaccia has received a lot of support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“I hope some people have found my journey inspirational,” he said. “I know that I’ve certainly been inspired by the people I’ve met along the way.”
If you want to learn more about Barbaccia’s trip, see photos or donate to his cause you can visit his blog at ride4parkinsons.com.

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