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Child and dad finding time to bicycle across U.S.


Last updated 6/5/2019 at 4:43pm

Shepherd Colver pumps toward Grand Coulee on SR-17 in Douglas County.

At 40, he thought he'd left his cross-country bicycling days in his 20s. Then his 6-year-old shared a dream.

James Colver and his son Shepherd, now 7, are bicycling across the country, from Anacortes, Washington, to New York City.

If they make it, says James, Shepherd will be the youngest person ever to cross the United States by bicycle.

Last weekend they visited the Grand Coulee Dam area.

James, now a mechanical contractor from Kenmore, Washington, had toured professionally in his 20s, getting paid with sponsorships that financed cycling for causes or products.

Then life happened, as it does. He got married, had kids, put his nose to the career wheel.

"I really thought those cycling days were behind me," he said.

Then Shepherd saw some old clippings of his dad and decided that wasn't the case.

Shepherd wanted to do that too, with his dad, and told him so.

After a-year-and-a-half of training, they left Anacortes May 20, headed up SR-20, the Cascade Highway, toward Washington Pass, a 5,477-foot-high obstacle.

"Washington state's not an easy state," James said Saturday morning, 13 days after the start of their "Trek 2019." He recalled making it all the way across Kansas in four days in that earlier time of his life.

But this trip isn't about getting there. It's about the journey, with Shepherd, who is handling the challenge very well and urged his father to stop talking to a reporter so they could hit the road to Wilbur from the SkyDeck Motel on Banks Lake in Electric City.

Despite seemingly boundless energy in young legs, children do tire, so the two had been riding every morning and afternoon, then taking long, two-day rides on weekends. And James approached Woom Bikes, a Texas-based company that specializes in high-quality, lightweight bikes for kids, and now is counted as a sponsor of the Colver adventure.

James said he's been grateful for kindnesses along the way.

In fact, people in the coulee area were so kind, they stayed longer than planned: Sitting on a curb along the road, James and Shepherd met Steve and Sheila Sauer, who just appeared with root beer for them. A local contractor, after recommending Pepper Jack's for breakfast, gave them a ride to the restaurant. And a waitress there, who didn't know of a taxi they could take to the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center, came back later with the right answer after having tracked one down.

James Colver snaps a group selfie as Shepherd hangs with new friends Sheila and Steve Sauer. - James Colver photos

Shepherd, by the way, "was really digging those virtual reality headsets" and the electronic circuits that snap together at the visitor center, his dad said.

"I feel like I've built more memories with my son in the last two weeks than I have in the last two months," James said. "I think I've discovered how to make time slow down."

James said he is using this ride as a means to encourage people to take more family time, having noted multiple older relatives saying they wish they had.

And as a kidney donor, he says, "I want people to know that you can donate a kidney and recover, and be athletic afterward."

James is married to Sister Liz Colver, head deaconess of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their other children are Amos, 2, and Hazel, 12.

You can follow James and Shepherd Colver in this summer's adventure at Trek 2019 on Facebook.


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