Bob Quick is on a magnanimous journey of the heart, despite the one that ails inside of him.
The 55-year-old cross-country cyclist stopped in Wauseon last week to promote “Bob Quick’s Journey: The Ride For Autism.” The 130-day, 3,578-mile quest is his way of honoring local police and fire departments nationwide for their life-saving abilities and raising awareness of the medical disorder, a cause inspired by his autistic grandson.
Quick met briefly with both Wauseon police and fire personnel before returning to the road. He shook hands, offered embraces, and insisted they sign his customized bicycle. Twice over the last 12 years he was brought back from near death experiences by law enforcement and emergency services, and now spends his days paying it forward.
“These guys never get any recognition…These guys are your local hometown heroes,” Quick said. “If it wasn’t for the fire department and the police department I wouldn’t be alive today. Both times, they were there.”
The Roy, Utah resident suffers from hereditary coronary artery disease, and is the oldest surviving male in his family. The illness first reared its head in September of 2004, when Quick had a massive heart attack. He was dead for over three minutes before paramedics revived him.
“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
He received four heart stints at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, and was told by doctors his days operating a lawn care company were over. “They said, ‘You’ll never be able to do the things you did,’” he recalled.
Later, Quick suffered another attack, and was again resuscitated by police and emergency services.
Unable to maintain his business, he sold it in 2006 and earned a degree in Food Science from Weber State University in Utah. He took a job as a food designer, but was terminated after a few years because of his condition.
“Due to the heart problems, nobody would employ me,” he said. “People like me that want to work, and want to try to do something, they’ll shut you down. I’m a liability.”
In 2013, with a total of 16 heart stints already implanted, Quick underwent a procedure to have a pacemaker installed. He suffered a mild stroke while on the operating table, which resulted in slight paralysis and and memory loss.
He recovered from both, but his chronic heart problems left him jobless and receiving Social Security disability checks. He decided in 2012 that he wanted to cycle cross-country and thank those in the services that twice saved his life. He was inspired by a teacher who biked from Virginia to California when Quick was in high school.
“My first doctor thought I was insane,” he said, chuckling. “My cardio doctor told me, ‘Let’s get up off the couch and let’s do it.’ He said, ‘You can either get run over by the bus, you can ride the bus or you can drive the bus.’ I chose to drive the bus.”
His inaugural trip began Sept. 1, 2013, in San Diego, Calif., and ended 91 days later in St. Augustine, Fla. Along the route, Quick also raised awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists injured soldiers upon their return home.
His current journey began at Cannon Beach, Ore., on June 8, and will wrap up at the Coast Guard station on Fire Island in Long Island, N.Y., in mid-October. Sponsored by several Utah businesses, Quick tries to travel about 50 miles daily on his customized Frame Bike, but sometimes his sickened heart won’t allow that.
“There’s some days we may only get 20 (miles) because my heart hurts so bad,” he said. “The next day you’re useless. The heart hurts and you cannot function.”
When his condition incapacitates him on the road, Quick doses himself with nitroglycerin spray and rests up before continuing. To avoid further problems, he takes three prescribed medications daily.
And while he understands the risks to his health involved with long-distance cycling, he refuses to worry.
“There’s two things in life we have to do: pay taxes and die,” he said. “I have a good relationship with my heavenly father. I’m not worried about that at all. Not one bit.”
He is cautious, however, and travels with medical support. On this trip, it’s his 32-year-old daughter Jillian, who is close to being certified as an emergency medical technician. Of her two children, the oldest is autistic.
All money raised during this ride’s charitable campaign will be used to purchase iPads for autistic children.
Quick’s daughter said her father’s mission is an awesome experience.
“He does this so people can see the softer side of (police and fire personnel), instead of seeing just what people perceive them to be,” Jillian said. “Just because we’re in a world of hate doesn’t mean that they need it too, because they’re out there trying to save us. People don’t understand what the daily life of a police officer or a fire department goes through.”
Quick considers them local heroes.
“These are guys that go out there everyday, they put that bulletproof vest on, and they do their very best to protect our community. We haven’t met a fire department or police department that hasn’t been nice to us, ever,” he said.
Between the 2013 journey and the current ride, he estimates he’s visited 150 police and fire departments. He said he’ll continue his mission every couple of years until his health finally sidelines him.
“Thank your local police and fire departments. Give them a thumbs up,” he said. “Stop by and get to know these guys. Say thank you.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 410-335-2010.