PORTLAND — For weeks, it was just a man and his bicycle.
Oh, and there was lots of wind in Wyoming.
“You get off the bike and it is done for another day,” Dean Bingham said July 21. “You feel like you accomplished something, because you did.”
Bingham, 71, who owns Dean’s Sweets on Fore Street with his wife, Kristin Thalheimer Bingham, had just finished a bike ride that began Memorial Day in California and ended July 20 at the boat launch at East End Beach.
He also rode his bike to the store to be interviewed, after a ride to Yarmouth for coffee with friends.
That was a pleasure ride, but Bingham also peddles for a purpose, having raised about $75,000 to fight multiple sclerosis over 26 years. On Aug. 12-13, he and Kristin will ride 175 miles in the annual Bike MS: Great Maine Getaway.
His fight against MS, a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system and affect vision, muscle control, and balance among other body functions, has a personal connection.
“I started doing it 26 years ago because my father lived in a nursing home in Deer Isle and his roommate, Charlie, had MS for 30 years at that point. He was quadriplegic,” Bingham said.
It was Charlie who kept his father engaged and active, Bingham said, even as his own mobility was limited.
“I felt like Charlie kept my father alive a few more years than he would have lived otherwise,” Bingham said.
MS can start with fatigue, pain, tingling or numbness. It can be diagnosed after an episode of symptoms that last at least 24 hours and an MRI showing lesions on the brain. From there, MS may strike in relapses called exacerbations that are followed by remission, or can take a more progressive course.
The specific antigen that attacks myelin, the substance that protects nerve endings, has yet to be identified, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. No cure is known, but MS can be treated with a variety of medications and therapies.
Bingham’s cross-country ride started in Santa Monica, California, and meandered a bit as Bingham visited Colorado via Utah and Wyoming to skirt mountain passes that still had snow. He sometimes used interstate highways because they were built over older roads.
“I thought I was riding pretty light and I still had 20 pounds of stuff,” he said. “If you are going to break down, you are probably not going to have what you really need, but I really only had one flat.”
Bingham said the weather was good until it turned rainy near Rochester, New York.
“You can’t just stop, you have places to get to,” he said about pressing on, whatever the weather.
Kristin joined Bingham on the final leg of his ride. The couple rode 175 miles from Woodstock, Vermont, including a stretch on the Mountain Division Trail outside Portland.
“It pushed my limits to ride every day for 100 miles,” Kristin said.
Bingham made his first cross-country ride when he was 55, and has not ruled out doing it again.
“A couple of people, including Kristen, have asked if I would do it again when I was 80,” he said. “I would not preclude the idea entirely, but talk to me in eight years.”
Dean Bingham’s cross-country bike ride ended July 20 when he and wife Kristin Thalheimer Bingham arrived at East End Beach in Portland, after riding the final 175 miles together.
Dean Bingham finds time for a selfie in Delta, Utah, during his cross-country bike ride to raise money to fight MS.