Agnew’s internationally acclaimed advocate for wheelchair-accessible trails and roadways will embark Sunday on his third long-distance ride since 2016 — this time traversing California’s Redwood Coast.
Nearly four years since he attracted international attention for riding his power wheelchair 300 miles over 10 days from Port Angeles to Portland, Ore., Ian Mackay’s goals remain the same: follow his personal passion for adventure, encourage people of all abilities to get outside and push for infrastructure that makes that not only possible but safe.
“So much of this ride is about exposure and demonstrating that people of all abilities want to follow their passions,” Mackay, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since a 2008 bicycle crash, said Monday. “In my experience, people love helping others reach their goals, and this is mine.”
Along with four cyclists and two road crew — including his mom — Mackay will ride his lithium battery-powered Invacare chair 272 miles along a portion of the Pacific Coast Bike Route, starting in Brookings, Ore., and finishing seven days later, on Oct. 10, in Fort Bragg, Calif.
As with his previous long-distance journeys, he knows he’ll spend a portion of his trip riding on the often-narrow shoulders of U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 1 in California.
“The wheelchair community is a user group of our roadways, and I like to be seen out there on the road as one of those users,” he said, noting that increasing his visibility to motorists is a big reason he’ll be riding with cyclists. “I want to celebrate my passion for the outdoors as much as any cyclist.”
Mackay, who said he chose this route in hopes of limiting his interaction with the public while the coronavirus pandemic persists, will pass through northern California cities and towns such as Crescent City, Orik, Eureka, Scotia, Redway and Hales Grove.
Months ago, he planned to center this year’s ride around a friend’s East Coast-to-West Coast cycling trip, to meet up with them in eastern Oregon and traverse that state in the final leg of their trip.
“It was going to be a two-week thing that would go through Eugene, Ore., and other more-populated places,” he said. “We switched plans because some of those areas we’d be going through came with a higher COVID risk, and I am already at an elevated risk.”
Along the way, Mackay and his team will spend their nights in Airbnb rentals, he said. They’ll also do their best to carry on the tradition of tossing back local craft beers after each eight-hour day on the road, although he expects that’ll take place back at the rental rather than out at breweries.
“We’re going to have those beers one way or another, but we also want to be respectful of the local regulations where we are,” he said.
After his first long-distance ride in 2016, Mackay started the nonprofit Ian’s Ride with a mission of creating a more accessible outdoors. In 2018, he completed a 13-day journey from Coeur d’Alene back home to Agnew, riding through the heat of Eastern Washington before crossing the North Cascades.
In late August, he hosted the second-annual Sea to Sound group ride, a three-day multi-modal trip spanning the Olympic Discovery Trail and raising money for the Peninsula Trail Coalition along the way.
As for the long-distance rides, Mackay said he plans to keep up the momentum. He said he hopes to ride the Great American Rail-Trail all 3,700 miles across the country.
And as a lover of craft beer, he said a ride that culminates at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver would be a dream come true.
“I’ve definitely thought about how cool it would be to start in California, cross two major mountain ranges and finish at that festival in Denver,” he said.
To keep up with Mackay’s latest ride, visit his blog at iansride.com, where he plans to post updates each night, or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for photos and updates throughout the day.
Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected].