On the ride of her lifetime

by Petrol Mum
Ready to ride Joni Pursell

When Idaho resident and avid Harley-Davidson rider, 63-year-old Joni Pursell decided to pursue her personal mantra of ‘YRUW8NG’ (Why Are You Waiting), it was not only a given that this mother/grandmother/financial advisor was about to take on the adventure of her life — but she insisted there would be a charitable cause along the way. Thus, the beginning of her 34-day, 8,000-mile motorcycle ride throughout North America, raising funds for Parkinson’s Disease through non-profit Drive Toward a Cure™.

Now, nearly two weeks and 3,000+ miles into her journey, with another 5,000 to go, she reflects on the reasons she is going the long distance. “Not only am I taking the time to enjoy the country in the best way possible, but I’m also getting a chance to visit with some of my very best friends, one of whom happens to have Parkinson’s,” said Pursell.

Her ride began atop her 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide bike in Meridian, Idaho with a special send-off from sponsors including Simmons Fine Jewelry, Idaho Watch Collective, High Desert Harley-Davidson and Next Level Financial Planning. Along with her mascot AXE, her husband Clyde Dornier and friend and fellow Harley owner/rider Mike Burke, colleagues and fellow motorcyclists all gathered despite the inclement weather which surprised them all – a combination of rain and snow, coupled with wind in May, no less. But no weather was about to stop Pursell’s plans.

Having overcome two major back surgeries and one hip replacement, Pursell is not one to let her bike or her body sit idle – in fact, she’s enjoyed motorcycle events and rides since 2002, racking up more than 130,000 miles in all, and is currently riding on the fifth Harley-Davidson she’s owned. And she remains strong to her convictions. “No matter how cold or hard this is going to be, we’ll be doing nothing compared to people struggling with Parkinson’s…we got this!” said Pursell.

As a successful financial advisor for the past 38 years and representing her firm Next Level Financial Planning on this ride, Pursell is no stranger to planning and perseverance. While her plan for this road trek will have her traveling through eighteen states, 2 Canadian Provinces and crossing over Lake Superior before heading home to Boise, Idaho, she’s prepared to cope with any challenges along the way. With her husband Clyde trailing in an Acura MDX as a support vehicle, she’ll be crossing some of the most glorious roads in North America.  She’s also got a partner along for the ride – family friend, 73-year-old Mike Burke on his Harley ‘Fat Boy’ bike – whom she’s been riding together with since 2002.

So far the threesome has thankfully faced an abundance of better weather, along with friendly roadside stops and historic venues including visits to both Gettysburg and the Flight 93 memorial from 9/11. As a fundraising endeavor, she’s already been successful nearing $10,000 since her departure with hopes to keep growing the funds over the remainder of the ride.

“Donations are coming in, including those from generous folks we don’t even know – there’s nothing that can be more fulfilling than helping those that can’t always help themselves,” said Pursell. To donate and follow her blog visit www.drivetowardcure.org/joni .  A portion of the proceeds raised will support St. Luke’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Boise, along with other Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence in North America.

Since 2016, Drive Toward a Cure has been on a mission to support Parkinson’s Disease research AND patient care, with donations primarily benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s Foundation. Most recently, Drive Toward a Cure created its own ‘Access to Care’ fund that supports Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence throughout the country, in areas including Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston, Denver, Houston, Nashville, New York City, Portland and San Diego. Additionally, the foundation benefits grassroots and regionally located Parkinson’s clinics and facilities in the areas it hosts events.

Having raised more than $960,000 since its beginnings in 2016, Drive Toward a Cure has also created the #BeOneInAMillion campaign for 2022, helping the foundation to cross the $1,000,000 threshold.  Pursell’s ‘ride’ has already played an important role in that. 

Affecting nearly one million Americans and 10 million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for Parkinson’s and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

Follow Joni’s YRUW8NG blog at www.drivetowardacure.org/category/yruw8ng

To become a local area sponsor or host a gathering during the 34-day event, contact info@drivetowardacure.org

Photographs by Olive Tree Photography.

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