Father and son share trip of a lifetime
When a 6-year-old announces that he wants to take on an epic adventure most healthy adults would find daunting, it would be easy to write it off as overactive youthful imagination.
Instead, James Colver paid attention. Some 18 months ago, his son Shepherd — who was barely 6 at the time — told James that he wanted to take a coast-to-coast bicycle ride with his dad. Shepherd was inspired by photos and stories from James’ multiple cross-country bike rides.
“I didn’t dismiss him,” James said during an interview at the Mazama Community Club last Saturday (May 25). “I told him if you really want to do it, we’ll start training.”
From that day forward, father and son trained rigorously and planned in detail for the trip, which they launched on May 20 from Anacortes. The Colvers live in Kenmore, where James, 40, is a mechanical contractor and his wife, Sister Elizabeth Colver, is a minister. The Colvers’ two other children are Hazel, 12, and Amos, 2.
Training involved long rides in every direction from their Kenmore home. James’ profession gives him the freedom to take the time off for the cross-country trip, he said.
Shepherd, now 7, and James arrived in Mazama just in time for the annual pancake breakfast at the community club, after negotiating the steep ascent to and descent from Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway. While there, they got their bikes tuned up at North Cascades Cycle Werks, talked to folks and downed a few pancakes before continuing eastward.
James said they hope to travel about 30 miles a day, sticking to safe non-freeway routes for their 3,590-mile journey to New York City. The arrival date is open-ended, because the Colvers don’t want to hurry for the sake of getting there on some strict schedule. James said he expects the trek to take three to four months.
When their bikes’ brakes got hot coming down from the pass, James said, he and Shepherd just stopped to enjoy the scenery for a while. “There’s lots to see on Highway 20,” James said.
“The slower you go, the more fun you have,” James said. “It’s about the journey, not the destination. The important part is being flexible. People on a rigid schedule are not having much fun.”
In addition to building up Shepherd’s stamina, James emphasized safe bicycling habits during their training. “We religiously take trails if we can,” James said, “and leave the road to drivers. We’re trying to spread some good vibes about safe biking.”
Gift of time
“I’m really proud of him,” James said of his son. More than that, James said he values the opportunity to spend so much time with Shepherd — the kind of “quality time” that parents sometimes have difficulty finding space for in their busy lives.
In fact, James looks at the adventure as “the gift of being present with your kid. Shepherd offered me the opportunity to bike with him.”
Already, the Colvers have encountered lots of friendly folks who have been willing to help if needed — an experience James recalls from his previous cross-country rides. “All that stuff happens unexpectedly, and it’s always a pleasant surprise,” James said. Looking out for other people is something James cherishes and practices. He was a kidney donor to “a dear friend” about three years, and said he encourages other people to consider being donors.
It’s easy to follow the Colvers’ progress, and share in some of their other experiences, on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Trek-2019-2173254939579490. There you’ll find regular updates, a route map, photos and videos, including a story by Seattle’s KING-5 TV on the Colvers’ departure from Anacortes.
For instance, there’s this Facebook entry from Sunday: “On our way to Twisp a very kind woman named Carolyn stopped and gave us directions for a better road to ride. Then she brought us hot cocoa 10 minutes later down the road. So far we have met so many awesome folks.” You may recognize the woman in the photo as valley resident Carolyn Sullivan.
“We’ve already had a great time,” James said.