Silverthorne resident to set off on 2nd cross-country e-bike trip to raise awareness for Meniere’s disease
Exactly a year after he left Denver to ride his e-bike to Columbus, Ohio, Silverthorne resident Steve Schwier will take off this week on a second trip — this time from Silverthorne to San Francisco — to raise awareness for Meniere’s disease.
Steve was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease — a syndrome that attacks the inner ear and, as a result, hearing and balance — in 2013, and it has altered his life drastically. Last year, he and his younger brother Dave Schwier raised $10,040 along their 1,295-mile journey to benefit organizations dedicated to treatment and research of the disease.
While sharing the progress of their trip on social media, the On the Vertigo team gained traction, including on Facebook and Instagram. Steve said the momentum from the first trip is what inspired the second one. The brothers also co-authored a book about their experience called “On the Vertigo: One Sick Man’s Journey to Make a Difference.”
“It just exceeded our expectations,” Steve said. “We weren’t expecting it to get as big as it got in only a month. By the time we were done, we just had a lot of momentum going forward, and On the Vertigo turned into a brand that people are recognizing.”
A book wasn’t even a thought during the initial trip.
“About a month after the trip, I sat down just to write down my thoughts and journaled a little bit on what I thought I learned on my trip,” Steve said. “And eight hours later, I had five chapters of a book written.”
Steve called Dave to see if he would co-author the book, and after about three months of working on it, the pair published a memoir of their trip.
Steve said his supporters kept asking what was coming next, so he thought a second trip would be a good idea.
“People are pretty excited out there in social media land, and they’re ready to follow another trip,” Steve said. “I think I’m up for the challenge. I’m a little more worried this time because I know what I’m getting into; I went in really naive last year.”
Steve will depart at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, from the Silverthorne Pavilion. A continental breakfast will be provided starting at 8 a.m., and supporters are invited to bike with Steve to North Pond Park on the first leg of the trip.
Steve said last year’s trip went great, with the team arriving in Columbus by Sept. 25. He said weather issues were the hardest part in addition to a bad vertigo attack in Illinois that put the trip on pause for a day.
While Steve was riding his e-bike, Dave followed in a car with everything the pair would need to get through the trip. This year, Dave will join in his own car again, and their youngest brother Brian Schwier is coming along to drive the new On the Vertigo van that Steve and his wife bought from the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and refurbished for the trip. The van serves as an all-around support vehicle, storing extra e-bike batteries, food and drinks, as well as a bed.
Steve’s wife will also tag along for the trip, riding her bike as much as she can. He said the team will be meeting up with different groups of friends and supporters along the way, and that some folks are even flying to San Francisco to meet them at the final destination.
“My goal is just to tell my story and what I go through and try to bring awareness to what my life is like and what it’s like to have an invisible, disabling illness,” Steve said. “Last trip, the reception was great. Everybody we met was very attentive and inquiring. That’s the most important thing — meeting those people along the way that may have never heard of Meniere’s disease.”
This year’s fundraising goal is $20,000, and everything will be donated to the Deaf to Meniere’s foundation and the American Hearing Research Foundation, the same organizations the team donated to last year.
In addition to fundraising, Steve said his goal for the trip is to meet as many people as possible and bring as much awareness to Meniere’s disease as possible.
“I’m excited for the fact that it’s doing something positive in a world that has so much negativity right now,” Steve said. “As long as it keeps growing and it’s doing good for people, then I’ll continue to do it as long as I can.”
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