There are easier ways to take a message across America. But few turn heads like Abe McDonald does as he pedals a high-wheeler Penny Farthing bicycle across the country promoting AIDS awareness.
McDonald, seeking refuge from Saturday night's storm in a Tooele County truck stop, said he is en route from San Francisco to Washington D.C. on his turn-of-the-century cycle with a message he hopes to deliver to the president."It doesn't matter if a person has AIDS or an ingrown toenail . . . , everyone has the same high value," he said.
McDonald left San Francisco April 5 on his "Big Wheel Bike Ride Across America" and hopes to arrive in the nation's capital on his 47th birthday, Aug. 22.
Covering an average of 60 miles a day on a single-geared bicycle with a 4-foot diameter front wheel is difficult. So is leaving his wife and two kids back home in Nine Mile Falls, Wash., for five months.
But McDonald said he felt a strong calling to make his journey not only to promote awareness of the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome but also to raise money for AIDS research and education.
"I'm just a concerned citizen," the biker said. "I've always enjoyed helping others."
Once in Washington, McDonald said he will meet with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, a champion of AIDS awareness, and, schedule permitting, President Reagan and members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Meanwhile, McDonald plans to bike through Salt Lake City Sunday morning and head east up Parleys Canyon on I-80, stopping along the way to explain his endeavor to the curious and deliver his position on AIDS.
"What I'm finding out is that people don't understand what AIDS is," he said, adding that lawmakers can throw money at the problem, but officials must also capture the public's attention to correct common misconceptions about the disease.
Capturing the public's attention is perhaps where McDonald makes his entrance. The thin but energetic cyclist likens the impact his arrival sometimes makes to that experienced by a mule hit with a board.
"Sometimes you've just got to get the old mule's attention," he said.
Those interested in supporting McDonald's crusade can contact the Spokane AIDS Network, West 1801 Broadway St., Suite 201, Nine Mile Falls, Wash. 99201.