Iowa man sets off to cross the state for Alzheimer’s


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His story may not have tumbleweeds blowing in the wind or an old saloon with swinging wooden doors.

But it does have one tough cowboy.

Bill Taylor, 80, began his ride across Iowa Monday to raise money for Alzheimer’s research at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“I’ve had a lot of friends whom I’ve lost to Alzheimer’s,” Taylor said. “I have at least three friends with it now. Hopefully, we can help fund a lot of research with this ride.”

He said the 259-mile ride will take him and his trusty sidekick Liberty — a three-quarters quarter horse and one-quarter Arabian gelding — between 10 to 12 days. The duo plans to rest on Sundays.
“Liberty is in excellent shape,” Taylor said about his 17-year-old companion. “I don’t expect any problems. The only thing that’ll stop me is an electrical storm.”

He will take Highway 92 from Grandview to Council Bluffs, riding approximately 26 miles a day. He said he plans to wear a purple shirt every day so he’s easily recognized.

“I’ve got about seven purple shirts lined up now,” he said with a grin.

On Monday, an audience of about 10 watched Taylor and Liberty begin their journey.

UI neurology Professor Dan Tranel, with nearly 30 years of Alzheimer’s research under his belt, decided to join Taylor for the first few miles of his ride.

As Tranel pulled his livestock trailer into the small Grandview School parking lot, Taylor readjusted his white cowboy hat to get an unhindered look from atop Liberty.

“I’m here to support Mr. Taylor’s heroic effort to raise money for Alzheimer’s research,” Tranel said. “What he’s doing is pretty phenomenal.”

Two UI neuroscience research assistants, Annie Tye and Ashton McNutt, also decided to join in on a portion of the ride.

“It’s a really interesting cause,” Tye said. “Plus a beautiful morning surrounded by horses is hard to beat.”

Tranel said he has ridden horses with Tye and McNutt for a couple of years. On Monday, Tranel brought a horse for each of them to ride.

“They’re both very good riders,” Tranel said. “And they are very enthusiastic supporters of what Mr. Taylor is trying to accomplish.”

McNutt said she was thrilled at the chance to ride with Taylor.

“We all ride a lot,” she said. “But it’s exciting to do it for a great cause that will hopefully benefit our field of study.”

The money raised by Taylor’s ride will directly help fund Alzheimer’s research in Tranel’s lab.

“Our testing is not just for diagnosing that they have Alzheimer’s,” Tranel said. “It goes well beyond that — it’s about what this disease means in terms of day-to-day function.”

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