Apollo native bikes across U.S. to raise funds for autism awareness, first responders
Bob Quick is thousands of miles away from his home in Roy, Utah — and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Quick, 55, is an Apollo-area native and has pedaled for three months across America on “Bertha,” his customized bicycle that weighs 200 pounds.
“I named my bike after Bertha Path in Colorado — a hill that always kicks my butt,” he said.
Bertha is yellow, sturdy and features deluxe tires and an attached trailer carrying supplies such as a tent and rain gear for when the weather turns sour.
Quick has two goals for this 3,569-mile ride that started June 8 from Cannon Beach, Ore.: Raise funds for autism awareness to buy iPads for autistic children and to thank first responders, who risk their lives daily.
“These firefighters in our hometowns — these guys are our heroes,” he said. “If I can get one message across to the public, it would be to thank these guys.”
Accompanied by his daughter, Jillian Quick, 32, who rides a purple bike nicknamed “Joker,” their journey is set to finish on Fire Island, just outside New York City. There, they will donate Quick's bike to the New York City Fire Department.
They estimate cycling about 15 more days, averaging about 250 miles per week and taking off Sundays.
Jillian has two sons. Her oldest, Bruce Eilander, 6, has autism.
This is Bob Quick's second trip across the United States, and Jillian's first. She joined her dad July 25 in Casper, Wyo.
His 2013 trip took 91 days, following a south route that provided unexpected animal encounters.
“I was riding through (Texas) in the dark, and I saw rattlesnakes ... a six-foot rattler curled and struck my tire,” Quick said. “It hit my back tire, and in the morning, I saw his fangs lodged in the tire.”
Quick is quick to tell people that his life has been filled with hardship.
He was born in 1961 to a single mother. He was raised by his grandparents, then an aunt and uncle. Quick attended Kiski Area High School before going to a state home for boys.
He has since reconnected with his birth mother and wants to “put it all out there” he said.
He moved out West in 1979. He lived a drug- and alcohol-fueled lifestyle and had a massive heart attack in 2004 and another in 2013.
He said he was clinically dead both times and twice had a near-death experience.
“I saw the white light and everything,” Quick said. “I saw Jesus Christ, and he told me I had work to do. I was always religious but, after that, my faith strengthened.
“The day I died was the day I started living,” said Quick, who has advanced coronary artery disease.
Quick credits his survival to the prompt actions of a firefighter named Troy Easton from Roy, Utah.
“He did his job,” Quick said. “He did CPR and used a defibrillator on me. I still keep in touch with him, and he rode 500-plus miles with me on the first leg of this trip.”
Quick has endured 23 heart procedures, a stroke, the implanting of a pacemaker/defibrillator and 16 stents.
He said he never touched drugs or alcohol after his first heart attack and frequently speaks at drug rehabilitation centers.
“I believe I am here to help others,” Quick said. “I don't think God would have brought me back if he didn't have something for me to do.”
A-K Valley visit
“It's emotional; it takes you back,” said Quick, who last visited the Alle-Kiski Valley in 2012.
“I am having a blast. The people in Pennsylvania are so friendly. Polish, German and Italian — I love the diversity here and was blessed to grow up here.”
The Quicks rode into Freeport on Monday, visiting relatives and stopping at the Freeport Volunteer Fire Department.
On Tuesday, they biked 12 miles to the Allegheny Township No. 1 VFD to thank members. Many signed Bertha. Quick insists on having the local “heroes” autograph his bike and bags.
A meal at G & G restaurant in Vandergrift was a must for Quick. “It's my favorite restaurant here,” he said.
“We never frequent chain restaurants on the road,” he said. “We support local businesses.”
Quick's niece provided overnight lodging in Vandergrift and, by 5 a.m. Tuesday, they were traveling east toward Gettysburg.
The Quicks will fly home to Utah.
He's planning his next trip.
“I am going to Europe next year, and I want to ride the Tour de France route.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.