A few summers back my Dad came out for my college graduation and while he was here rented a bike, to ride up Lookout Mountain in Golden. When he reached the top, Andrew told him the next step would be Mt. Evans, the highest paved road in North America.
The next step would probably have been riding something a little higher than the 7,900’ that is Lookout, but Mt. Evans at 14,130′ works too.
My Dad’s only experience with 14,000 feet was from a childhood experience. He and his family drove to the top of Pikes Peak and he remembered how hard it was to breathe. I didn’t think it would be too easy to convince him to try Mt. Evans.
We kept talking to him about it though and I was pretty surprised when my Dad said he was going to buy a plane ticket this summer, to come watch the USA Pro Cycle Challenge and try biking Mt. Evans. Time to train.
Training for Mt. Evans when you live in Florida isn’t easy. The elevation at his house is about 5 ft above sea level (10 ft if he’s standing on the deck). A few times he traveled 2.5 hours from Bradenton to ride his bike up Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, which is a whooping 312 feet above sea level as part of his training. Despite sounding insignificant the grade of the road goes about 11-16% so it’s not an easy ride. Mt. Evans never reaches much more than 6% from the start at Echo Lake. Between Sugar Loaf, bridges and riding plenty of rides over 15 miles he knew altitude was going to be the biggest issue.
When I picked him up from the Denver airport on Thursday morning, 5 days before his bike ride, he was much more concerned with the looming hurricane, Issac than his attempt to bike a 14,000 foot mountain. The hurricane was headed straight up the coast threatening to destroy his new crop of poinsettias and nursery.
At 4:50 am Monday, five days after he got in town, we woke up and headed for Mt. Evans. I wondered if he was more nervous about the bike ride or about the hurricane, but I didn’t ask.
I dropped my Dad and Andrew off at the Echo Lake parking lot around 6am and they headed up Mt. Evans. I stayed back and snapped shots of the sunrise and then headed up about an hour later to see their progress. They were farther than I expected! I met them again at Summit Lake, where they only had 5 miles left. I knew my Dad would make it from there.
The next 5 miles I stopped and snapped a lot of photos of them and cheered them on.
When I got to the summit I stopped to take another photo of them, and an older woman asked me if I was with the two bikers. I proudly told her about my Dad coming from Florida to ride his bike up Mt. Evans.
When Andrew and my Dad got to the top he said that the last two miles were the hardest part and that riding Sugar Loaf Moutain Road, in Florida, had actually really helped. We snapped more photos and they headed down. The altitude took it easy on my Dad and he escaped the miserable effects.
As soon as he had service he called my brother who was taking care of the nursery. The storm had blown West and the tides had stayed out. My brother had been up all night keeping an eye on the nursery, but everything looked ok. I think hearing that news was probably when my Dad finally felt like he could relax and enjoy his recent summit.
Every time I share a trip report or write on Bradley’s Adventures, I hope to inspire other people to get outside or follow their goals. Whether he had made it to the summit or not, my Dad proved that even at 60 you can still try something new and check things off your “bucket list.” You’re never too “old.”
What’s next on his list? “How about that mountain in Boulder the (USA Pro Challenge) bikers did.” Flagstaff, here he comes.
I’m proud of you Dad!