A pair of major heart attacks – the last one just two years ago – couldn’t keep Tim Fisher from living his dream. Nor did Type 2 diabetes.
A few days ago, and with six stents keeping the blood flowing smoothly, the 55-year-old lifelong valley resident dipped the front tire of his bicycle into the Atlantic Ocean, completing more than two months of pedaling across the country after leaving Tillamook, Ore., on June 1.
Indeed, he overcame a series of health scares to ride coast to coast, with his father, Coleman Fisher of La Grange, following along with supplies and moral support.
What nearly stopped Fisher? Finding out vandals struck at his home in Hughson on July 26 while his wife, Angela, had joined him on the road. Daughter Tiffine had just returned to the valley after visiting him along the way. She checked the house and it was fine. A few hours later, thieves pried open a storm door, kicked in the main door and then used a cutting torch in an unsuccessful attempt to crack a heavy safe that had been bolted to the floor.
When that didn’t work, they ripped it out of the floor, dragged it out of the home – shattering the sliding glass door – and somehow loaded the heavy safe into the back of a pickup. They drove off, and the safe slid out, landing on a canal bank still in one piece and still unopened, Fisher said.
That is, after all, why they call it a “safe.” They did steal a flat-screen TV, though.
He got news of this while in upstate New York as he entered the last week of his ride. But wait, there’s more – he got another call from home a day or so later.
“With this drought, our well went dry,” Fisher said. “I’ll either have to get a tank or figure something out.”
Crooks and climate change, you might say, nearly derailed his dream.
“I almost threw in the towel at that point,” said Fisher, who works for Modesto Irrigation District.
But family and friends told him the damage had been done and urged him to finish the ride. They boarded up the kicked-in and broken-out doors of his home. And since family members planned to meet him when he reached the East Coast, nobody was going to need water at home anyway.
So he continued, completing a trip that began in Oregon – friend Peter Rogers of Hughson rode with him into Idaho before other commitments demanded he return to the valley. Fisher, with dad in support, went on to through Yellowstone National Park, Montana, into South Dakota including Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Sioux Falls. There, he and his father spent the Fourth of July with Earl and Becky Girton, the parents of Brooks Girton, his exercise physiologist in Modesto.
Their route took them northeast into Canada, where he rode along the north shore of Lake Erie and past Niagara Falls as he returned to the United States. He was in New York, having just visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when he learned about the troubles at home.
“I had a plenty of time to think about how I was going deal with everything,” he said.
He’s had experience in dealing with obstacles, most health-related. Overweight and a diabetic in 1998, he asked if he could join Rogers and another friend on their cycling excursions. One ride convinced him to begin taking better care of himself. He soon began thinking about a transcontinental trip.
Fisher began getting in better shape, or so he thought, and was to a certain extent. But serious damage had been done over the years. In 2009, Fisher suffered a heart attack and nearly died because of 98 percent artery blockage.
“They call it a ‘widow maker,’” he said. Two stents helped the blood flow better, but not enough to prevent a second heart attack in 2013, which merited three more stents. His cardiologist added another in May.
“They put it in through the wrist,” he said. “I had that done on a Wednesday. I was back on my bike by Monday.”
With his doctor’s blessing, Fisher continued planning his coast-to-coast ride. He needed to bank vacation and comp time at MID, which he said encouraged the ride. And he wanted to do it before his dad turned 80, which they accomplished. Coleman Fisher turned 79 on July 20, about two weeks before then reached the Atlantic Coast, near Plymouth Rock, Mass.
“The pilgrims got there coming this way (westward),” Fisher said. “I thought, ‘I can get there going that way (eastward).’”
They chronicled their trip through a Facebook page titled Tim Coleman Bicycle America.
Family, including his wife, daughter Melanie, her boyfriend Theron Thomas and his mother, Myrna Fisher, met him along the way and some rode with him for stretches. Some, including Tim’s brother Ed Fisher, went east to meet Tim and Coleman in Massachusetts and were there when he dipped his tire into the ocean.
An incredible journey, indeed, is over, but Fisher was ready to fly home Wednesday. After all, the house needs attention and the well’s gone dry.