June 24 – Day 12: Hickory to Asheville: Sunny Skies, Steep Slopes

As we left our hotel this morning, Carol, who works there, came out to send us off and wish us well. When we checked in the day before, she had come out to sign the van, take pictures, and of course get a t-shirt and hear all about our ride and the cause.

Carol at the Hotel Who Was Excited About the Van and Ride

The sun also came out to greet us again today. After a soaking wet day yesterday, we were very pleased to have favorable weather conditions. Just an hour outside of Hickory – by bicycle – is the small town of Valdese in the foothills. We saw a beautiful mural and had a lot of fun taking pictures with it. We saw Civil War re-enactors across the street, but when Renate ran over (in her green spandex) to try to get her picture taken with them, they retreated. So far, we have seen very few cyclists in this part of the country, and we do get some stares once in a while.

The Mural in Valdese, NC

We entered the Smokies today – they were everything people told us they would be, and more. The “more” is that at some point, Old Hwy 70 ended and left us to detour on a dirt road. Yes, literally a dirt road. This one was special, as it went up the hill switch-back style. Where is a mountain bike when you need one? It was a challenge to keep our bikes rubber-side down, as they say, while we were climbing a slope so steep we could go only about 3 to 5 mph. It was quite the adventure. You could say we took “the road less travelled” and “the path of most resistance.” We were thinking of many sayings then to keep our minds off our trembling quads. The effort was rewarded, though, as we rode through Sandlin Park. Having beautiful scenery certainly makes a huge difference on these physically challenging days.

A Little Help Up The Dirt Road Hill

We don’t take short cuts on this bike ride, but a short cut in Niemann-Pick Type C research could get help to children much quicker than expected. The laboratory of Professor Olaf Wiest in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame is using a drug repurposing approach to develop drugs for treating NPC and other rare diseases. The aim of the approach is to identify small molecules that are already FDA-approved or in late-stage clinical trials for other diseases and use them for rare diseases, including NPC. Already, working in collaboration with Professor Helquist’s laboratory at Notre Dame, Dr. Fred Maxfield at Cornell University Weill College of Medicine and a corporate partner, the Wiest group has been part of discovering the potential use of histone deacetylase inhibitors for NPC. The strategy could help speed drugs to market, avoiding the time-consuming and prohibitively expensive clinical trials required for newly-discovered compounds to gain approval. Previous approvals for other illnesses would demonstrate the safety and usefulness of the drugs. We’re going the distance in the fight against NPC – and if we find short cuts to help the children along the way, we’ll take them to speed up development efforts.

1 Comment so far

  1.    Jonathan Jacoby on June 26th, 2011

    I’ve been following your trip regularly. Thank you so much for injecting a new spirit of tireless adventure & discovery into the search for an NPC cure!