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Willy Fuller rides his bike to combat Parkinson's

posted Sep 18, 2014, 5:44 PM by Dianne James
Willie Fuller can’t tell you how many miles he has logged on a bicycle since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 12 years ago.

But every mile – whether it was a 440-mile trek on the Natchez Trace, the numerous round-trip rides from Opelika to Auburn or 45 minutes on his back porch exercise bike – inspires many who also live with the disease, along with those fortunate to know him.

“I rode last year just about every day,” said Fuller, who retired as an Alabama Department of Transportation project engineer said. “Exercise is the most important thing to me because it keeps you limber.”

Fuller’s love of bicycling has helped him live with Parkinson’s. He said he hasn’t had to increase his medicine dosage in 12 years.

“I do have bad days. If it gets cold, or if I see a good shoot em’ up movie, I shake read bad. But I just keep on keeping on,” he said.

Fuller is the face of the “Johnny Ray Century”, an annual bike ride that raises money to benefit the Davis Finnery Foundation for Parkinson’s. The 11th annual ride takes place Sept. 27 in Opelika. The ride begins at Trinity United Methodist Church and costs $35, which includes lunch and a t-shirt.

At one time, the “Johnny Ray Century”, which traveled from Opelika to LaFayette and then Roanoke, was one of the most famous rail lines in the region. While most people no longer travel by rail, the spirit of the Johnny Ray Century lives on for a good cause. The East Alabama Cycling Club sponsors the event.

“We have been working with the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's for three years now and previously with Parkinson Association of Alabama and the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, increasing our donations each year,” Angele Lakwete, EACC secretary and Century coordinator, stated in an email. “Our charity receives every penny we take in minus expenses. Last year we donated $6,682, up from $5,500 in 2012.”

There will be four rides ranging from 20 to 105 miles. They include: the Cusseta Commuter (20 miles); the Twin Silos Shuttle (34 miles); LaFayette Short Line (63 miles); and the Johnny Ray Century (105 miles).

The event is a USAC-sanctioned, non-competitive event. Registration opens at 7 a.m. with the ride beginning at 8 a.m. Riders who take part in the statewide Alabama Backroads Century Series will participate along with Fort Benning’s Wounded Warriors and the Opelika Police Department.

“Most of our riders come from within the state but we also attract riders from Georgia, Florida, and occasionally Tennessee and Mississippi,” Lakwete said. “Local businesses have generously donated for the 11 years the club has held the ride and continue to do so.”

There will also be prizes and a post-ride meal available to participants. For more information, or