Mull Brothers to bicycle from Flora-Bama Beach to shores of Lake Erie on behalf of Simon Says
By Fran Thompson
Even beyond the obvious, brothers Chris and Andy Mull have much in common.
Until Andy recently moved to Scenic Hwy., they lived on opposite holes of Perdido Bay Golf Club.
Both had previous careers. Andy taught school (sixth grade math) at Jim Bailey School for three years after logging 20 years and a retirement as a Navy air traffic controller. He currently has his most fun job ever, as stay at home dad for his two year old.
Chris had a solid job in manufacturing in Ohio, but he often thought he would like to move to the Perdido Key area once his children flew the coop, even if it meant a major pay cut. He already knew he liked the area from visits here to see Andy. And that was without comparing January temperatures.
Chris and his wife Tracy followed through with their dream and moved here in 2014. They knew they would find jobs, but they did not see themselves owning The Purple Parrot Tiki Bar & Grill on Perdido Key.
“I said if I could make a third of what I made in Ohio I would be happy, if I was doing something I wanted to do,’’ Chris said.
Chris saw the Purple Parrot listed for sale on Craig’s List while he was looking to buy a business that could net him an extra $30K a year. That was five years ago, and he is just now starting to see his bistro turn a corner towards profitability.
“I had absolutely no restaurant experience, except from the other side of the bar. But since the opening I have never regretted it for even one day,’’ he said.
The Purple Parrot features live music seven days a week in the afternoon and again in the evening and has gained a large and loyal local following.
“Well I love live music, but more than that, it attracts people. People love music down here. When I didn’t have it, nobody came. So I figured I better put it back in and they will come back. That is about it,’’ he said.
The Mull brothers have always been close as their four year age difference would allow. Chris, the elder, played basketball at Western Reserve High School in their hometown of Berlin Center, Ohio. Andy played football for the Roughriders.
As the elder brother, Chris was able to dominate most competitions when they were younger. The relationship, of course, matured, when Andy caught up in size.
“Now the abuse is just mental,’’ Andy joked.
“I usually beat him in everything’’ is how Chris remembers it.
The brothers grew up as part of what is still a close knit family that includes relatives who will be traveling from as far away as California their grandmother’s 100th birthday party in Cleveland on Aug. 30.
Andy and Chris will be there as well. And it’s safe to say that they will be the only two family members bicycling to the party from the Flora-Bama.
That’s 1500 miles or 60 miles with five days set aside for contingencies before they dip their front tires in Lake Erie.
The men are bicycling on behalf of the Simon Says Run for Prostate Cancer, and they hope their adventure from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of Lake Erie will raise a significant amount of money for prostate cancer awareness. Their goal is to raise $25K.
“We talked about it and dreamed about it. And we finally just put it in our heads that we were going to do it,’’ Andy said. “We are probably in over our heads. But I am excited for it.’’
Chris’s good friend, Pastor Rick Long of the Flora-Bama Central Church, will give a ‘Wheels in the Water’ blessing for Andy, Chris and Ken Krempin, their one-man support team, on the Gulf of Mexico behind the Flora-Bama at 7 a.m. on Aug. 1.
The brothers have stayed in relatively good health for most of their lives. They previously participated in a four day ride from Cleveland to Cincinnati to raise funds for ACS.
“That was fun trip. But the scale of this is something that neither of us has ever done before,’’ Andy said.
Chris is worried about surviving in the heat and Andy, more of a glamper type, is worried about having to rough it in the 5th Wheel. But they recently completed a 140 miles out-n-back overnighter to Blakeley State Park.
“It will take some adjustments. I’m not as rugged as I thought I was,’’ Andy said.
“I am very confident except for the heat, but I am going to do some research and learn the tricks of the trade for lowering my body temperature,’’ Chris said.
Both agree that Andy has been logging way more training miles, as he went on a post Christmas diet that resulted in a 65 pound loss of excess baggage. He now weighs 210 lbs, and has beefed up his training schedule with help from two Pensacola peddling groups, Ride More Bikes and The Northwest Florida Wheelmen. He trains four or five times per week and logs anywhere from 30 to 80 miles.
“He’s not drinking as much since he moved away from me,’’ Chris said. “He is exercising and eating a lot better. His life style has changed.’’
Chris said his passion to help Simon Says in its quest stems from his own lack of awareness of the disease. Diagnosed two years ago during his routine 50 year old checkup, he said if he had waited much longer, he would have been in deep trouble,
which is tragic since it is as easy as drawing blood for a PSA count to get checked for signs of prostate cancer.
“If I waited, things could be a lot different for me today. I went in for a PSA test and it was 6.5 or something like that. We took it a step further and my doctor could see that there was something going on,’’ Chris said.
Chris chose an operation over radiation and that was the right choice as his cancer was accelerating when he went under the knife.
“Afterwards, the doctor said the cancer was a lot worse than he thought and it was a good thing I had the surgery,’’ Chris said. “It pretty much saved my life. I am glad I did my 50 year old checkup. I feel firmly about guys getting checked. All it is a blood test for PSA’s.’’
Andy said he knows his brother has not matched him in training miles and he is worried that might slow him down and overextend his muscle memory.
“What I know about Chris is that he likes a struggle,’’ Andy said. “He sees something and he pushes through that thing to show he can do it.
“I am not going that way. I am going to enjoy it and have fun because in that environment, I don’t want to be beat up by the physicality of it. I don’t think you can do this on bullheadedness.’’
The men will mostly follow the Underground Railroad Trail that extends from Mobile to Canada. The route is very historical and mostly off-road. They will also take advantage of the country’s vast Rails To Trails program during the trip, especially the final few hundred miles.
The brothers realize that as their support man, Ken Krempin (see page 8 story) is the crucial part of the trip.
“He is one of my neighbors and also an Ohio guy. He works with me too,’’ Chris said.
The men will leave at sunrise each day to try to beat the heat.
Chris said he is especially looking forward to traveling off-road though the backside of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. “I’ve always traveled through those states on freeways. So this going to be pretty awesome,’’ he said.
The men have some press set up to help them raise funds along the way thanks to hometown friends in Salem and Berlin Center.
When they return from the trip, they will present a check at the next Simon Says Run at the Flora-Bama.
“We already knew this was something we would like to do,’’ Andy said. “We really started talking seriously about putting it in our que when we were able to do it in a time frame around grandma’s birthday.’’
Just as ambitious as Chris and Andy Mull’s 1600 mile bicycle trip, is their fundraising goal: Raise $25,000 by end of August for the charity that educates men on prostate cancer. To donate log into simonsaysbike.org, Venmo @SimonSaysBike or Simon Says, 13422 Valerie Dr., Pensacola, FL 32507.
“We are going to enjoy our time at each of the stops,’’ Andy said. “We don’t plan to be eating at McDonalds. We expect we will be meeting people along the way. Telling them our story and hearing theirs. It will be a pretty cool thing.’’
We agree Andy and Chris.
It will be a pretty cool thing.