For The Longest Day in 2021, Lee Kranz of Newcastle, Wash. rode his e-bike along the Palouse to Cascades Trail in honor of his father, who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.
“I retired in June and wanted to do something to honor my dad,” said Lee. “I love riding my e-bike. When I found out about the Palouse to Cascades (PTC) rail trail that goes from Rattlesnake Lake to Tekoa, Wash., I decided to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association by getting donations from family and friends. I started riding from my house in Newcastle at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 8 and ended my ride in Tekoa at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11. I rode a total of about 310 miles.”
Lee’s father, Charlie Kranz, was a well-known and well-loved retail businessman in Sunnyside, Wash. Lee remembers him as a devout Christian and family man with a strong work ethic. “He was an amazing example of selfless giving and loved all people unconditionally,” Lee said. “I guess it was his example of selfless giving that put the idea in my head to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Lee said his dad began showing symptoms of dementia in his mid-60s. “For example, he would place an order for some products to sell in the store and then forget that he had done it, which caused big problems with the budget. Sometimes he would go on walks and get lost and the police would bring him home.”
Charlie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 1980s. Lee’s mother, Dorothy, was her husband’s primary caregiver for over a decade. “My mom took care of him until the day he died. She had some help, of course, but she did the bulk of the work. It was extremely hard to watch and the idea that there was nothing we could do to help him was almost unbearable. After raising nine kids, my parents deserved to have a long and enjoyable retirement, but that didn’t happen because of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lee.
Lee’s e-bike journey
As Lee set out on his ride, he reflected on his journey and the history of the trail.
“While riding on the PTC, I tried to imagine what it was like to be an engineer on the train’s locomotive. Back when there were railroad tracks, it went all the way from Seattle to Chicago. What a rush it must have been to be on the locomotive and see everything from that vantage point,” he said. “I doubt that they ever imagined that the railroad bed would become a ‘rail-trail’ and that someone would be riding an e-bike on it to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.”
In total, Lee raised over $4,200 for the Association with the help of his family, friends and people he met on his ride. “I met so many amazing people along my journey. People would ask me where I was going, and I’d tell them I was riding to Tekoa to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. On more than one occasion they would hand me cash and ask me to donate it. It was just an awesome experience. There were many challenges, but there were also so many rewards that my faith in humanity was completely restored,” he said.
“It felt great to be doing something so worthwhile and have the backing of so many family and friends,” Lee said. “I know that there are many very smart and dedicated folks working to come up with ways to eliminate dementia, so hopefully there will be a cure or at least effective ways to reduce the severity of the disease in the near future. Alzheimer’s does not discriminate. We’re all in this together and we must not stop until we find a cure. I’m already thinking about other ways to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association because it’s such a worthy cause.”
The Longest Day® is the day with the most light — but we don’t have to wait until then to outshine the darkness of Alzheimer’s. On Dec. 21, the winter solstice, light and display a luminary or candle in your window to honor someone you love who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s. Share your story and a photo on social media using #TheLongestDay and #ENDALZ. And if you haven’t already, sign up now for The Longest Day and receive a free insulated mug! Go to alz.org/thelongest day.