"I'm a survivor. … Imagine waking up at 4:20 in the morning looking up at the ceiling. I tried to make a sound, only garbled noises coming from my mouth; I tried to move my body, and my body doesn't respond — I was totally helpless."
Those are the words of a remarkable Florida grandmother, Patricia McNeal, who literally didn't take having a stroke lying down — a week later, she went for a 30-mile bike ride.
"I wasn’t going to let my disability prevent me from getting on a bike ride," she recalled. "I decided to start Heels On Wheelz (heelsonwheelzinc.com) to show people with disabilities that just because you have a disability, doesn't mean you have to give up."
And she certainly hasn't. Her desire to raise stroke awareness and promote women's fitness inspired her first cross-country bike tour, from her home town, Panama City, Florida, to Los Angeles. This year, she's biking 4,000 miles from Seattle to Key West, Florida, to raise money to rebuild Panama City, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018 (fundly.com/hometown-help).
And, while on her latest adventure, she stopped in Astoria the weekend before Halloween. A movie buff, she visited famous local filming locations, such as the John Jacob Astor Elementary School, the old county jail and the Goonies House, took in the Astoria Column and dropped in at Bikes & Beyond. After a short visit, she was back on her bike again, and on her way.
You can follow Patti's adventures on her Facebook page (fb.me/heelzonwheelz), where she posted the following on Oct. 30: "What this mission means to me, as a stroke survivor and a passionate cyclist … I hope I can encourage more women to ride, and be a game changer."
"You don’t have to be perfect, to be a perfect cyclist," she added, "you just have to Pedal Forward."