Wheels down: Agnew’s Mackay completes wheelchair journey from Idaho

A triumphant Ian Mackay last week crossed the Clallam-Jefferson County line with supporters cheering him on.

On Aug. 24, Mackay was nearing the end of a 13-day journey on an electric wheelchair from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to his Agnew home.

The 36-year-old quadriplegic had traveled across the state — skirting forest fires on the North Cascades Highway and sipping craft beers at day’s end — to promote the need for wheelchair-accessible trails in Washington.

“It’s nice to be back on the ODT,” Mackay told more than two dozen supporters and teammates who gathered for photographs on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

“Finally.”

The 475-mile journey took Mackay and those who accompanied him through Spokane, past the Grand Coulee Dam and over the Cascade Mountains on a smoky state Highway 20.

From Marblemount, the team turned south to catch the Edmonds-Kingston for a final push to Agnew.

“It’s all sinking in still,” Mackay said in an interview at the ODT trailhead at Diamond Point Road.

“I’m feeling really good. It was a long, long way.”

The welcoming ceremony at Diamond Point Road was organized by Annette Nesse, who held a sign that read: “Ian — Keep Calm … Roll On!”

“We just got a group together to come out and greet him at the county line,” said Nesse, chief operating officer of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.

Other welcoming stops were at Carrie Blake Community Park, Railroad Bridge Park, Robin Hill Farm County Park and the finish line in Agnew.

Mackay has been paralyzed from the neck down since a bicycle accident in 2008.

He gained international attention in 2016 for riding from Port Angeles to Portland, Ore., with a side trip through British Columbia.

On his recent cross-state journey, Mackay was accompanied by friends and family who bicycled or jogged alongside or traveled in a support van.

“Being here with all the ODT people now, all the community members, it’s nice,” Mackay said Friday.

“It feels really good.”

The team encountered thick smoke from wildfires burning on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, particularly in the Methow Valley.

“It was really nasty,” Mackay said.

“Leaving Twisp, we felt we were going into a war zone.”

Firefighters with heavy equipment were staging on Highway 20, which remained open as the “Ian’s Ride” team traveled at about 7 mph to the Western-themed town of Winthrop on Aug. 18.

“Between Twisp and Winthrop, the fire was by far the worst for the smoke,” Mackay said. “Once we got to this side of the Cascades: wonderful.

“People were still saying (the smoke) was pretty bad, but compared to what we were in, it felt great,” Mackay added. “Now, today, I don’t even notice the smoke.”

Mackay controls his lithium and lead-acid battery-powered wheelchair through a sip-and-puff mouth stick.

Since his accident, Mackay has been unable to regulate his core temperature through shivering or sweating.

“In the span of a couple of days we went from frequently spraying me down and reloading my ice vest for cooling purposes to my needing to go into the van with the heater at full blast to warm up,” Mackay said in a blog post on the Ian’s Ride website, www.iansride.com.

The entire team cooled off in breweries after long days of travel. Mackay had to average more than 36 miles per day to complete the journey as scheduled.

When asked if he had a message to his supporters, Mackay said: “Follow your passion.”

“It doesn’t matter what your ability is,” he said. “Go do what you love. Your community will get behind you and support you, and people love just seeing you complete goals.

“This has been a big one,” Mackay added. “We’ll just have to see what we have planned next.”

Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Ian Mackay, center, and his supporters stop to celebrate after crossing the Clallam-Jefferson County line on the Olympic Discovery Trail at Diamond Point Road on Friday, Aug. 24. Mackay had traveled on his wheelchair from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to highlight the need for wheelchair-accessible trails in Washington state. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Ian Mackay, center, and his supporters stop to celebrate after crossing the Clallam-Jefferson County line on the Olympic Discovery Trail at Diamond Point Road on Friday, Aug. 24. Mackay had traveled on his wheelchair from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to highlight the need for wheelchair-accessible trails in Washington state. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

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