Mark Junge crosses the Fraser River with his portable oxygen machine.

Mark Junge crosses the Fraser River with his portable oxygen machine.

Showing what can be done, one trip at a time

Mark Junge has biked coast to coast and up and down each coast, all on oxygen just to prove what's possible.

Breathe in, now let it out. You may not actually feel the oxygen flowing through your lungs, feeding your brain and the various muscles in your body, and, if your lungs are working well, you’ll never notice them except at the end of a long bike ride when your breath comes hot and fast.

Now take away those healthy lungs and you wouldn’t get to the end of that bike ride, unless you had a little help, which is what Mark Junge, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, is hoping to provide by pushing a machine that has allowed him to continue biking into his seventies, despite his scared lungs, known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

“The whole purpose is to show people even if you’ve got COPD, if you’re on oxygen and you get yourself a portable you can do anything you wanted to do in life and there’s no stopping you,” Junge said.

In 2002 Junge was diagnosed with COPD. Blood clots in his veins had found his lungs and caused scarring.

It could have been due to genetics, or because of the surgeries he’s had, the doctors didn’t know.

When the news came down, Junge took it hard.

“I got depressed and figured my life was over, but it wasn’t,” he said.

The first thought for many people might have is two aluminum tanks of compressed air on  a trolley, which would have put Junge on a tight leash. The reality is a small, portable device, called the Simplygo, powered by batteries that strips the air of its nitrogen, feeding oxygen to the user.

For Junge, this, and hopefully ever-smaller machines, are the future, while the tanks of compressed air, they’re ancient history.

“Some day we’ll look back on that as antediluvian, as the Jurassic period of oxygen therapy, because people won’t have to go that route,” he said.

He looks forward to the day when he’ll be able to wear a belt, powered by the sun, that will give him the oxygen he needs.

This all led up to a novel idea: he put it beside his stationary bike at the local YMCA and rode as he would have otherwise.

It worked and inspired an idea.

With a desire to see his country and a growing awareness of his mortality, Junge decided to hit the road with his bike, travelling from San Francisco to New York City with the help of a sponsor.

He has since, with funding from Phillips Respironics, the maker of the Simplygo, crisscrossed the continent, going from Vancouver to Prince George this year.

“Portability means mobility and mobility means freedom. And freedom is what you and I and everybody on this planet wants,” he said.

To follow future rides, or to get information on the machine Junge uses, go to http://www.gosimplygo.com/FollowMark/.