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What a stroke survivor hopes to accomplish by bicycling from Maine to Florida

“If I stopped riding, I might rust,” Patricia McNeal said.

PORTLAND, Maine — Who leaves Portland in June to go to Key West? And who does it by riding a bicycle?

Patricia McNeal does, and as some might expect, there’s a story that goes with her. About a decade ago when she was in her early fifties, she suffered a stroke. It left her, she said, “knowing what it meant to be helpless.”

Strokes ran in her family. She lost her father, mother, and sister to them, and after she had recovered substantially from her own scare, she took up bicycling.

Her first epic trip was a ride from Florida to California. She followed up with one from Seattle to southern California. 

“They make me feel alive,” McNeal said of the journeys. “If I stopped riding, or if I just stopped moving, I might rust.”

A wife, grandmother, and resident of Florida, McNeal hoped to raise awareness of strokes through her latest ride and bring attention to her nonprofit called Heels on Wheelz

She is a free spirit, unconcerned about what people might think of her, and untroubled by the challenges that may arise on the road.

She acknowledged that when she pedaled from Florida to California, she didn’t even know how to change a tire on her bike. Then, she added with a laugh, “I still don’t.”

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