Two years ago Andrew Gettle wasn’t sure he would walk again.
Today he’s preparing to start a bicycle ride that will cover hundreds of miles.
But this trip, although Gettle admits it’s part of his recovery from the April 26, 2018, motorcycle crash near Baker City that nearly killed him, isn’t about Gettle at all.
It’s about kids with cancer.
Gettle registered with the Great Cycle Challenge, a nationwide event that raises money for research into treatments for childhood cancer.
Participants set a personal bicycling goal to achieve during September.
The campaign, which started in 2015, has raised more than $24.6 million, according to its website, greatcyclechallenge.com
Gettle, 30, planned to leave Baker City either this evening or on Sunday morning for the starting point of his ride, Winchester Bay on the Oregon Coast just south of Reedsport.
From there he’ll pedal south on Highway 101.
Although Gettle’s goal of 400 miles sounds significant considering he has a prosthetic left leg below the knee, he has even more ambitious expectations for himself.
“I plan to do at least 50 miles a day,” he said.
And he intends to keep riding throughout September.
Gettle said he doesn’t know exactly where he’ll go after he visits the redwoods in northern California.
He’s packed freeze-dried meals and a butane stove in his bicycle’s saddlebags.
His grandmother, Linda Lang of Baker City, will mail packages with additional food and other supplies to post offices along his route — wherever that might be.
Gettle’s fundraising goal is $2,000.
As of Friday he had raised $953.65. Donations can be made through his page on the Great Cycling Challenge website — https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/AndrewGettle
Back on the bicycle
Gettle chuckles when he talks about how he ended up planning a multistate bicycle trip.
The topic amuses him because he’s never been much of a bike rider.
“I was a skateboarder,” said Gettle, who graduated from Baker High School in 2009. “I was not a bicycle guy at all.”
Gettle was a top wrestler at BHS.
He also competed in cross-country — “mainly to get in shape for wrestling,” he said.
“I like to physically exert myself,” he said.
But that simply wasn’t possible for a long time after April 26, 2018.
That’s the day Gettle crashed while riding his motorcycle on Highway 30 between Baker City and Haines.
Gettle’s wife, Lea, said in a 2018 interview with the Herald that doctors told her that night that her husband probably wouldn’t survive.
Gettle suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was in a medically induced coma for 21 days. He underwent three surgeries to alleviate pressure on his brain.
His other injuries, though not as immediately critical, were severe, including a broken back, cracked elbows and broken legs.
Doctors were unable to save his left leg. It was amputated below the knee.
Gettle was released from the hospital in Boise on June 29, 2018.
Although he was able to return to another of his favorite pursuits — art — Gettle couldn’t immediately resume his physically active lifestyle.
Earlier this year he and Lea rented bicycles.
Gettle noticed that although he could get the bike moving easily enough, when his left leg — the one with the prosthetic — reached the top of each pedal stroke he struggled to push the pedal down.
“It was annoying,” he said.
Gettle said he still hasn’t pinpointed the cause. He suspects, though, that bicyclists typically flex their ankle and foot with each rotation.
“I don’t have a left foot,” he said.
But then, about 4 months ago, a friend fortuitously offered to let him ride her fixed-gear bicycle.
On a fixed-gear bike there is no freewheel mechanism — the device that allows the rear wheel to spin even when the rider isn’t moving the pedals.
Which is to say, the pedals spin at the same speed as the rear wheel.
Gettle quickly realized that the pedaling problem disappeared while he was riding a fixed-gear bike.
“I was smiling so big,” he said. “I never thought I’d be able to ride a bike again.”
Gettle went online and bought a basic bike for $200.
He started fixing it up.
He named the bike Beatrice.
But Gettle’s newfound love for bicycling was only the first of his epiphanies.
Not long after he acquired Beatrice, he read about the Great Cycle Challenge.
Gettle said he can’t recall exactly where, although he thinks it was probably online.
Regardless, he felt an immediate connection to the fundraising campaign.
Gettle doesn’t have children, but he has friends whose kids have had health problems, including cancer.
And he has family members who died from the disease.
“It felt like it was meant to be,” he said, referring to signing up for the Great Cycle Challenge.
Gettle concedes that he was leery of setting up a page on the fundraiser’s website and asking people to contribute.
“I really don’t like self-promotion; it makes me feel weird,” he said. “But this isn’t self-promotion. It’s really for the kids.”
Gettle, who celebrated his 30th birthday on July 19 by taking a 20-mile hike in the Elkhorn Mountains, said his experience with his new bike — training rides and now preparing for his month-long adventure — has helped him continue to adjust to his post-accident life.
“It’s been empowering for me,” Gettle said. “I’m doing all right.”