Long-distance bike riding is becoming a bit of a lost art in this day and age, but for Bob Macak and his brother John, it's been their escape for more than 20 years.
Bob, who was born and raised in Akron and has lived in Cuyahoga Falls for 29 years, owns a small auto repair shop in Akron, but it's bike riding that has become his true passion.
For these two brothers, it all started in 1995 when John noticed 3,000 bicyclists riding past his house. He called his brother Bob and the two did some digging and found out that it was an annual ride called the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (G.O.B.A).
Ever since that day, their thoughts on long-distance bike riding literally switched gears. Two years after John witnessed the G.O.B.A. ride zooming past his house, he decided to jump on board alongside his brother, Bob.
The two brothers took part in their first G.O.B.A ride in 1997, and shortly after that, it became a yearly routine for nearly 10 years. They were preparing for their 10th ride together when John was given some unfortunate news.
In 2006, John found out that he had Parkinson's disease, which is a chronic movement disorder. The disease would keep him from participating in the rides that he and his brother had come to love, but Bob wouldn't let it prevent him from continuing to ride. Instead, he used it as fuel. Bob began to participate in longer rides and started riding more frequently. It was something he knew his brother loved. He said he started riding more than ever because his brother couldn't.
"His disease is progressing and he needs help doing simple tasks," Macak said. "He has some good days but more bad."
About 13 years ago, Bob and his friend, Stan Urycki, took on the challenge of riding from Cuyahoga Falls to Maine and passed with flying colors. It was nearly a 1,000 mile ride, but as of today, a ride of that distance is merely an extensive workout for Bob.
"I have always wanted to complete the ride across our great country and see it at a slower pace," Bob Macak said.
Now, 19 years after his passion was born, Bob has completed a ride from one side of the country to the other to honor his brother. It took him months of training and preparation, but his will to ride for his brother would not be denied.
He brought along some more friends on his most recent venture: Bob Riggs, Lester Crandle and Dan Fickes. His friends wanted to take part in the ride to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research (M.J.F.F.F.P.R.).
"The support we received from family and friends was great," Macak said. "The encouragement on Facebook as well as emails were really motivating."
Bob shipped his van to Seattle where his wife started the trip in a support and gear role. The group of four's trip began on May 24 and it would end about six weeks later.
They stopped at grocery stores and cooked most of their meals, but if there was a restaurant on the route, they would stop for a break and grab a bite to eat. They stayed in hotels for most of the trip and camped out once. Macak said they stopped and explored Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Mont., during the trip.
In what was nearly a six-week adventure, Macak and his wife arrived back home to Cuyahoga Falls on July 2. A distance of more than 5,000 miles wouldn't deter Macak from showing the support and love he has for his brother and riding.
"I now have a greater appreciation for our country and the state of Ohio," Macak said. "I was able to remove an item off of my bucket list."
His mission was complete, but he's far from done riding. He took on the ride of a lifetime for his brother and simply wouldn't be denied. With the help of family, friends and strangers, Macak also helped contribute a large amount of money to the foundation while doing so.
"Complete strangers helped donate to the M.J.F.F.F.P.R. and it was unbelievable," Macak said. "With the help and support of this group we were able to raise over $13,200. It was extremely humbling."
Even after riding more than 5,000 miles, the 60-year-old Macak isn't ready to call it quits. Macak said his body has responded quite well and that he's actually lost over 10 pounds while riding. Macak rode in The Buckeye Breakaway for MS on Aug. 8.
"I plan to explore states that I have not ridden in," Macak said. "But as far as another 41-day bike trip, I have no plans at this time, but never say never."