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Grandfather’s long journey by bike brings him through Orleans County

Photo by Tom Rivers: Ken Smith is pictured in Albion on Friday evening on day 47 of a cross country bike trip to raise funds for his grandson. Smith is shown outside Dollinger’s Motel, where he stayed for the night. He has raised $10,000 for his grandson who suffers from a neurological disorder and needs 24-hour care.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 September 2018 at 12:14 pm

Ken Smith is raising money for his grandson’s long-term care

Photos by Tom Rivers: Ken Smith is pictured with his grandson, Jakob.

ALBION – A grandfather who has been riding his bike across the country, with a detour through Canada, made his way through Orleans County on Friday and Saturday.

Ken Smith, 70, is raising money to establish a trust fund for the long-term care of his grandson, Jakob, who suffers from a neurological disorder.

Jakob, 16, has already defied doctors’ expectations. Soon after he was born he began having six to eight seizures a day. Doctors doubted he would survive to age 2.

“They said he would never walk or talk,” Mr. Smith said Friday evening during an interview at Tim Hortons in Albion.

His grandson doesn’t need a wheelchair. He doesn’t speak but he communicates and attends a public school.

“He is very outgoing,” his grandfather said.

Mr. Smith is a retired president from Amway. The Canada native lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has wanted to ride his bike across the country, and raising money for Jakob’s long-term care provided the motivation to do it.

Smith today is on his 50th day of riding. He is well past Syracuse, heading east along the towpath. He made it to Albion late Friday to cap his 47th day. On Friday he passed 3,000 miles of riding since he started in Seaside, Oregon on July 24. (Smith took seven days off in early September to be home with his wife for their anniversary.)

Ken Smith is pictured on the morning of Sept. 11 with firefighters in London, Ontario, the hometown of his grandson, Jakob. Smith’s son is a professional firefighter for the department. Smith has been welcomed by many fire departments on his trip.

Smith has set a $100,000 goal for his grandson’s care, and has topped $10,000. The fundraising and media attention has picked up as he has gone farther on the journey.

Smith said there were doubters early on. The first three weeks on his bike, he had to ride in 100-degree heat through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. He has passed through the Cascade and Rocky mountains.

The towpath with its flat terrain and protection from road traffic is a welcome change, Smith said.

“This  is so much safer,” he said about the towpath along the Erie Canal. “The road system in America is not very cycle friendly.”

He had two very close calls with cars on the trip. Sometimes there isn’t a paved shoulders on the road, and he has had to dodge dead animals, broken glass, wood fragments and metal car parts.

Now he’s one state away from finishing in Massachusetts. He expects to reach the City of Revere and touch the Atlantic Ocean in late September.

“It’s a test but I’m going to do it regardless of the conditions because I have motivation,” Smith said.

He typically travels about 60 miles a day. Sometimes he pitched a tent and camps. Sometimes he will stay in a motel room, a fire hall or with a firefighter’s family.

He raised more than $10,000 through a GoFundMe page. Many other people have handed him $5, $10 and $20 bills when they see him on the road.

“People have even pulled over and offered me water,” he said. “It has been very touching. There are a lot of good people in America. There really is.”

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