Bayside man plans cross-country bicycle trek

by katy gagnon

He will bike six days a week for about six to nine hours a day. He hopes to travel 85 to 90 miles a day and will burn up to 7,000 calories in the process. On the seventh day of each week, Blais will relax, see a chiropractor, maybe write on his blog and plan the next leg of his trip.The details of the trip, including hotels, bike shops and chiropractors, are mapped out in the study of his Bayside home. A room Blais, 49, and his wife, Joanna, now call “the war room.””I'm not going to do this pretty,” Blais said, adding that he's probably put more planning into the trip than a younger rider might. “I stopped thinking about it as a trip and started thinking about it as legs.”The trip, which will end at the Santa Monica Pier in California on Oct. 12, is an attempt to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's, a disease Blais's father, Bob, died from in 2006. The ride, appropriately titled “Lest We Forget,” is being made in the memory of Bob Blais, a man his son calls “without ceremony,” who would “give you the shirt off his back.”The idea for the trip came to Blais in October. He retired from teaching in 2004 and was using his new free time to pursue things he always wanted to do, including getting in better physical shape.”I think people put off their pleasures. They should really take the time to do them,” Blais said.And so, Blais converted his garage into a home gym and eventually hired a trainer. Within six months of his retirement, Blais hiked the Grand Canyon. And as an extension of this commitment to exercise and pursuit of lifelong desires, Blais decided to bike across the country. He wanted, however, to help someone in the process. So, as he said, he would not “get to the middle of Indiana and want to turn back around.”And it was a day early in November that Blais noticed a display on Alzheimer's – November is national Alzheimer's month – and found his cause.Bob Blais suffered from Alzheimer's for 10 years before succumbing to it. Blais watched his father's memory deteriorate and move backward. Each year he remembered less and less.”Things that tend to deal with the elderly sort of take the back burner,” Blais said, adding that he hopes this trip will shed light on a disease that currently affects more than 5 million Americans.Blais said he and his father shared many similarities: both were teachers who loved their crossword puzzles and coffee. But Blais fears he and his father might share another similarity: Alzheimer's, which can be inherited. He hopes to minimize his risk through diet and exercise.”Lots of the time, people don't want to face something that might happen in their future.”Blais is personally accepting donations made out to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, but donations can also be made online through the AFA's Web site. The AFA is not endorsing Blais's ride, but said it is supportive and thankful for Blais's contribution.”We are very grateful for people like Lon,” said Carol Steinberg, the AFA's executive vice president, adding that Blais will be distributing brochures on Alzheimer's as he makes his way across the country.”When someone makes a donation, it doesn't make me feel prouder,” Blais said. “It makes me feel like someone gets it, that this is important.”To make a donation, visit www.alzfdn.org/contribute/index.shtml. Be sure to indicate that the donation is in honor of Bob Blais. For more information, visit Blais's blog at myspectaqlaryr.livejournal.com.

More from Around New York