A Kings County resident has literally taken his fundraising efforts coast-to-coast.
Jim Best recently returned from an 8,700-kilometre motorcycle trip that took him from Boston to San Francisco, collecting memories while raising awareness and funds for cystic fibrosis research.
Best, 31, grew up in Centreville and now lives in New Minas. He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant.
“I was diagnosed early on, and it’s been tricky to figure out at times,” said Best.
He didn’t let the disease stop him from attending university, then pharmacy school, at Dalhousie. Today, he does aerosol mask treatments twice a day, physiotherapy, and has occasional ‘tune-ups’ at the hospital.
“I’m getting quite used to it,” he says.
Best has been driving a motorcycle for about nine years.
“My father did it when I was growing up, that’s where I got the interest,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do a long trip. I wanted a cause to pair it with, and I chose CF.”
He picked a route through the United States because he had a list of things he wanted to see. He also visited some friends who were living along the route and attended baseball games in Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Anaheim and San Francisco.
CF remains incurable
“I feel very lucky to have lived this long. CF has changed dramatically in recent years. The life expectancy for someone with CF when I was born in 1983 was around 11 years. Now it’s close to 50,” Best said.
Cystic fibrosis remains incurable, but a big reason people with the disease are living longer is all the research that has been done into new drugs and medications.
While effective, the new drugs don’t come cheap. Kalydeco, one new medication that is really making a difference in CF patients, costs over $300 per day.
Along with the actual fundraising, he said, “that was another reason I did it, to raise awareness of the advances in medical science.”
On the road
Best was on the road for nearly a month, riding 8,700 kilometres, through 20 states, which was more than he had initially planned.
“I rode for 20 days, and took five days off during that time for rest and rejuvenation, or if I was in a place where I wanted to spend a little more time.”
The hardest part, he said, was the extreme heat. At one spot in Utah, it was 46 degrees Celsius, while at a stop 20 minutes outside Denver, it was just 6C.
“I had drawn up a tentative schedule, including some of the places I wanted to see. I got re-routed around a couple of times because of the weather,” he said.
“I got ahead of schedule, so I got to see South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and the Hoover Dam. I even managed to work in some skydiving, which was a lot of fun.”
Three weeks in, his father, Hal Best, emailed him with the news that he wanted to join his son for the end of the ride.
“(That) was the cherry on top. We drove right up the California coast. Having him with me made it really special.”
Best didn’t experience any ill effects from the ride, either.
“I’m doing OK. I thought when I got back I’d need a bit of a tune-up, but though I was tired and a bit jet-lagged, otherwise, I fared quite well,” he said.
“Looking back, it was more of a physical challenge than a mental challenge. I knew why I was doing it, and keeping that in mind kept me going.”
It was harder on his body than he thought it would be, however.
“Even though I had lots to eat, I ended up losing 15 pounds from the heat and exhaustion.”
Due to his lung condition, he also wore a mask or a bandanna under his helmet.
Sharing the story
Best maintained a blog, a fundraising site and a Facebook page during his travels.
“I thought once or twice about calling it off. Then I’d go into a restaurant, or look at my Facebook page and what people were saying, and that kept me going.”
On his return, his family and friends hosted a get-together at the Centreville community hall.
“It was nice to get back,” he said. “If I hadn’t had the support of family, friends and fellow CF sufferers, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
The thought of raising funds and awareness, along with the memory of three good friends who passed away young due to CF, was his real motivation.
“I feel a real sense of accomplishment,” he said, “and I’m very proud to have done it. It took a lot of planning and preparation, but I love being on a bike, and I love even more being on a bike for a purpose.”
And as an added motivation, he managed to raise $10,500 and counting, surpassing his $10,000 goal, which he reached just after crossing into Arizona from Nevada.
“I don’t publicize that I have CF, but I have a lot of friends, and friends I’ve lost, and I wanted to give something back.”
He’s already thinking of another trip in a few years, likely across Canada.
“And the next time, I wouldn‘t change a thing.”
See a slideshow of photos from Best’s trip at KingsCountyNews.ca