Dad-and-daughter road trip covers 1,300 miles by motorcycle
By Don Nelson
When the big doors opened at the Pybus Market in Wenatchee and the orange motorcycle and sidecar rolled in, Don Reddington was ready for his long ride to be over.
“I’m home,” a grinning Reddington exulted as he climbed from the sidecar with the help of the motorcycle’s driver — his daughter Donni — to affectionate applause and emotional greetings from a crowd of family, friends and other well-wishers at the July 12 event.
Don and Donni Reddington were finishing the “Ride4Alzheimers,” an eight-day, 1,300-mile tour of the state by motorcycle as part of Don’s ongoing campaign to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and how everyone affected can best cope with it.
Don wasn’t quite home. Reddington and his wife, Ginger, live near Twisp now, but Wenatchee was the Reddington family home for many years, and so a natural place to end the promotional tour.
The first thing many of the Wenatchee greeters noticed was that the motorcycle and sidecar the Reddingtons arrived in were not the same ones they left Twisp in on July 4, the official first day of the statewide tour.
Donni’s motorcycle had mechanical troubles on the first day of the trip, and the Reddingtons and support vehicles only made it as far as Ross Dam on the North Cascades Highway before the bike gave out. After some quick phone calls, friends in Cashmere — Don and Lejoy Burleson — offered a similar rig for the Reddingtons to use, and the entire entourage backtracked through the Methow Valley to get the backup bike. Despite the delay and rerouting, they made it to the first stop on the tour — in Bellingham — only a few minutes late.
The “Ride4Alzheimers” adventure also took the Reddingtons to Seattle, Olympia, Yakima and Spokane before the Pybus Center event. Each stop featured a free rally for people with dementia, their loved ones, and all who support a dementia-friendly community. The rallies, hosted by local partner organizations, included food, music, speakers and resources for support and education.
Reddington was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, and has been an outspoken proponent of acknowledging and living with the disease. He wrote a series of well-received articles, “Living With Alzheimer’s,” that appeared over several months in the Methow Valley News. Later, the articles were combined with other stories and photography in the special magazine, Living With Alzheimer’s: the Reddington Project, which was produced by the Methow Valley News with the assistance of community donations that helped cover costs. The Reddingtons distributed copies of the magazine at their stops along the way.
Marigrace Becker, the University of Washington Memory and Brain Wellness Center’s program manager for community education, provided logistical support along the way for the Ride4Alzheimer’s tour. Other friends and family pitched in to help before and during the ride, Donni said.
“Don and Donni are making a powerful statement that we all need to hear,” Becker said before the trip. “For too long, we’ve let fear and shame define the dementia experience. It’s time to come together as a community and ensure that everybody has a chance to stay connected and engaged.”
Big risk, big reward
“I’m so happy we actually completed it,” Donni Reddington said this week. “It was a big risk. At any moment it could have failed. But it came off exactly as I envisioned it.”
Becker’s presence was essential to completing the ride, Donni said. “Without her [Becker’s] help and support, it would have been difficult,” Reddington said.
Despite the to-be-expected bouts of forgetfulness, Donni said that “Dad was awesome” during the ride. “He really did well,” she said. “Overall, he really enjoyed it.”
Father and daughter were able to chat continuously by way of helmet headsets when on the road, which was a big help in keeping Don engaged, Donni said.
And, she added, “he really got into leaning in on the corners.”
The Reddingtons tried to avoid freeways when they could. In Seattle, they stayed at the Edgewater Hotel on Elliott Bay, where Don and Ginger had stayed many years before. Don remembered that, Donni said.
Each stop on the ride “had a different flavor,” Donni said, and the crowds generally increased as the trip progressed. The travelers struck up dozens of spontaneous conversations along the way, Donni said, and “almost everyone had some experience with dementia.”
The Reddingtons also picked up a following of other motorcyclists along the way, many of whom accompanied them on the final leg of the trip to Wenatchee. “They were fun people,” Donni said. “It was cool to see their support.” Many of the motorcyclists were also Viet Nam veterans, as is Don Reddington, which provided common ground for getting to know each other, Donni said.
The Reddingtons posed for iconic landmark photos along the way, including the steps of the state Capitol in Olympia — where they were warned that their motorcycle was illegally parked. But after explaining their mission, they didn’t get a citation.
Donni, an accomplished professional photographer who lives in Mazama with her fiancé, Corbin Massey, said she intends to produce a documentary from footage she shot during the trip. A community screening will be scheduled sometime later this year, she said.
Donni said she was grateful for the experience, especially because of the inevitable progressive toll that her father’s disease will take.
“I really had fun with my dad,” she said. “We really bonded.”
“It’s so important to raise awareness [of Alzheimer’s],” she said. “The more we talk about it, the easier it will be to cope.”
Donations are still welcome; Alzheimer’s magazine available
Donni Reddington created a gofundme.com account — www.gofundme.com/ride4alzheimers — to help support the motorcycle trip with her father. Donations can still be made at the site. Money raised on the site was used for gas, food and lodging.
Copies of “Living With Alzheimer’s: The Reddington Project” are available for free at the Methow Valley News office on the TwispWorks campus. Copies can also be ordered for mailing. There is a $5 handling fee, plus the cost of postage. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (509) 997-7011 for more information.