Motorcyclist to ride hands-free across Michigan for Parkinson's research
Phil Comar watched his father, Robert, struggle for years with Parkinson’s disease. Now, in his father’s memory, Comar will ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle nonstop and “hands free” from the Mackinac Bridge to the Ohio border Oct. 10 to raise money for Parkinson’s research.
“He was one of the longest-running patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s,”?Comar said. “Dad decided early on to fight the disease and stay active. He never quit, right up to the end.”
Comar, 61, has a goal of raising $3,000 for his ride. After doing research, Comar chose the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research as the recipient of the funds. Donations can be made and more information found at www.teamfox.org/2010/phil.
He is making the ride as a member of Team Fox. The goal is to help the foundation fund research to find better treatment and a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
“I’m doing this because it is such a good cause and I found that 85 cents out of every dollar (donated to the foundation) goes to research,”?Comar said.
Robert Comar died in 2008 from the chronic, degenerative, neurological disorder. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, symptoms typically progress from mild tremors to complete physical incapacitation.
There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. Current treatments mask symptoms but do not alter or slow the disease progression.
“It was hard watching him sometimes,”?Phil Comar said. “I wanted to take over what he was doing and finish it for him. But that would have gone against his will.”
Robert, who co-owned C&D?Rental for many years with his wife, Phyllis, was a car buff, according to his son. It was a struggle watching him try to hold wrenches steady while he worked on an engine.
“I learned patience through this. After a while he would finally tell me to take over and I’d finish it,”?Comar said. “But he still fought (the disease) every step of the way.”
As for the no-hands ride, Comar, who has been riding motor bikes and motorcycles almost 50 years, said the steering is done with legs and by leaning to allow the wheels to turn. An extra gas tank has been added to the back of his bike that will allow him to make the 300-mile trip without stopping.
He has been practicing the skill for about 20 years. The latest came a couple of weeks ago when Comar rode to his brother’s birthday in Midland. Coming back, he rode a couple of segments no-handed, including the rather tricky section where U.S. 23 and M-14 intersect north of Ann Arbor.
“That’s got four lanes and a big curve,” he said. “But everything clicked. The bike was running perfectly and the road cooperated. I rode all the way to Dundee.”
Comar handled it with relative ease and remains confident he will be able to make the entire Mackinac-to-Ohio trip without using his hands.
“This is not new for me. I teach motorcycle (riding) for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation,” he said. “This just takes (riding) to another level.”
Comar plans to ride up to the Big Mac bridge on Oct. 9, no-handed at times. He will spend the night recuperating from that ride and head south in the morning. Comar said he does not have a set itinerary and will arrive when he arrives.
The trip will include I-75 and link with U.S. 23 near Flint. From Flint, Comar will ride south to the Ohio state line.
More than 5 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s, according to the Team Fox website. In the United States, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone.
Find out more about Phil Comarr's ride at www.teamfox.org/2010/phil