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Blinded from a stroke, biker defies and rides in York Bike Night parade

As Scott D. Ewell maneuvered his trike through Continental Square Friday as he made his York City Bike Night parade debut, he felt like a hero.

Nearly 15,000 people waved and cheered as the 59-year-old, of Chanceford Township, revved the engine and sped through the streets as fast as the parade would allow.

Ewell was one of 11 trikes that led close to 1,000 motorcycles through downtown York at this year's trike-themed parade.

York City Bike Night has been a tradition, bringing live music, food and as many as 1,500 motorcycles to downtown York for 21 years. And though Ewell has attended Bike Night many times, Friday was something special.

One year ago, Ewell didn't know if he would ever ride again, let alone lead the York City Bike Night Parade.

On Aug. 25, 2014, just one month after he married his wife Marti, Ewell woke up unable to see. He was rushed to the ER, where doctors diagnosed him with a detached retina. But hours later, they realized they were wrong. Ewell had had a stroke.

"(The doctor) said he wished it was a detached retina because he could fix that," Ewell said. "But this, they can't fix."

The stroke left Ewell blind in his left eye and semi-paralyzed on his left side. For months, he struggled with simple tasks, like putting toothpaste on his toothbrush, he said.

"I thought my riding days were over," he said. "I wanted to die. I could not comprehend life without being out there on the road."

But after months of recovery, Ewell came up with a solution. With the help of Freebyrd Custom Motorcycles in Brogue, he converted a custom Softail chopper he built in 2001 into a trike.

Freebyrd completed the conversion in December, and Ewell spent the winter months finishing up the electrical, paint and detailing work. As a finishing touch, Ewell painted the words "Stroke of Luck" on the back of the trike, which reminds him that he was lucky and that his stroke could have been a lot worse, he said.

By April, he was back on the road.

That same month, Ewell had a heart attack, but he said that hasn't stopped him from getting back on his trike.

"Some people drink, some people do drugs, some people do marijuana — to each their own," Ewell said. "My whatever you want to call it is getting out there and booking down the road."

His new trike gives him the balance he needs to ride with his impaired vision and partial loss of feeling in his leg, he said. His wife also rides with him to help him operate the turn signals.

"She's my left eye when I'm riding," Ewell said.

Ewell also plans to install a hand clutch and a second mirror underneath the handlebars to increase his field of vision when he's turning.

Since converting his bike into a trike, Ewell has won several awards, including one at the Red Lion Legion Riders Bike Show a few weeks ago and the People's Choice award at Friday's Bike Night.

Bike Night guests had the opportunity to pay $1 to vote for their favorite of the 11 trikes who rode in the parade, Bike Night organizer Mary Yeaple said.

Ewell won by a "landslide," she said.

Ewell said his whole Bike Night experience — riding in the parade, listening to the live music and winning an award — was a blast.

"It was great," he said. "If I die tomorrow, this is going to be it. I'm just giddy. This is fun."