Bobby McMullen on Chris Waddell Living It Podcast

Posted on December 07, 2020

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“I’ve never had a bad day,” that’s what Bobby McMullen told me when we caught up after a few years, which for him had meant, another kidney and pancreas transplant, two open heart surgeries, two bouts of cancer, a lost pregnancy and relationship, a marriage and a beautiful daughter. “Really?” I asked. He answered, “Really, I’ve never had a bad day.” I should have pushed harder. On the US Disabled Ski Team together in 2002, he’d ridden shotgun with me one day when suddenly he’d ordered me to pull over. His transplant wasn’t taking. Bobby jumped from the car and puked on the side of the road. “I’m alright,” he said left arm extended like a curb feeler because Type 1 Diabetes had taken his sight when he was twenty-nine and right hand wiping his mouth as he stepped back into the front seat.

For a long time, his email address was Sunburnedteeth, a side effect of smiling too much. He loves what he does, and he doesn’t care if he has to fall down to make it happen. After he lost his sight, he started riding his bike in his parents’ driveway, probably the same way he had as a little kid, but just with further to fall. For perspective, try walking outside with your eyes closed and see how long you stay upright.

Bobby rides a mountain bike downhill the same way that he skis, with a guide calling out the turns and changes in terrain, which means that he’s responsible for his own steering and balance on single-track or with cars speeding on his left. He follows so well that you forget that he can’t see, something that can be painful for him. Guiding to a restaurant in Austria back when we were on the ski team, I ducked under one of those red and white striped, parking lot gates. Bobby took it straight in the chest like getting smacked with a baseball bat—not a full swing, but more than enough to get your attention.

Bumps and the bruises don’t stop him. His website says that he is an Extreme Athlete, Mountain Bike Racer, Paralympian, Husband, Father, Friend. From experience, I can tell you that he gives each equal weight. He’s the best friend you could find. I’d imagine that daughter Ella and wife Heidi would agree that he makes them feel like the most important people in the world. And he’s never had a bad day.

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