During the springtime I was talking with my parents about summer vacation plans and they expressed an interest in bikepacking together. I listed off a few different route options then casually mentioned, “we could do a section of the divide if you want.” My mom and dad jumped on that idea and I was giddy to share the experience with them. Both of my parents are avid cyclists and adventurers.
Here they are at the top of Long’s Peak last year, 30 years after they summited for the first time.
I’m lucky to have parents who inspire me to ride and be outside and who support me in every adventure in my life. My dad deserves the credit for getting Andrew and me into bikes. He is a long time cyclist and went on a bikepacking trip over Pearl Pass before I was born and before #bikepacking was a thing. I asked what was different between then and now and he said their bikes weighed 70 pounds with all their gear (including a bottle of wine). My parents ride a lot at home but this would be my mom’s first time over a mountain pass by bike since lugging me up Vail Pass in 1998.
My parents and I settled on starting in Silverthorne and heading north to complete the 180 mile stretch to Brush Mountain Lodge. In typical Strempke fashion, I pulled up a spreadsheet and reviewed the gear we had and what we needed. I had a debate with my mom about whether deodorant was a necessity. Ha!I started my journey by driving the van up to Brush Mountain Lodge. I got to spend the morning with Kirsten. She made us a pot of coffee and we chatted on the porch. Before I knew it, it was noon. That place really is a vortex. It’s so hard to leave Kirsten’s warm company and the comfort of the porch.
When I finally headed out, hail and looming clouds provided some extra motivation to crest the climb quickly. Fortunately, aside from that and some rain while I was sleeping, I had good weather all the way to Silverthorne where I met my parents.
After a day to acclimate and ride their loaded bikes around, my parents and I pointed our bikes back north at 7am on Friday morning. We arrived in Radium around 2pm with 65 miles and 2 passes under our belt. I fully anticipated calling it a day, but after a short rest, my mom and dad were ready to keep moving.
The climb out of Radium was just brutal. We were exposed to the sun and saw huge elevation gain right off the bat. We watched the river get further and further away with each switchback. The heat was starting to get to us so we took a break in the shade provided by some brush to cool down, refuel, and make a plan.
I suggested camping there but my parents wanted to continue up the climb. They set a goal to get to the top by the end of the night. “You know we have 3 days to do this and it’s not a big deal to leave the rest of the climb for the morning. We’ve already had a big day.” They made up their minds though. All the way to the top. We pedaled and pushed until sunset and dammit we made it to the top. We found a beautiful place to camp, forced some food down, and called it a night after 80 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing.
Our 80 mile day set us up nicely for a couple of more mellow (but still difficult) days of riding. We rode 50 miles over Lynx Pass and into Steamboat Springs for lunch.
We were pooped from the tough day before and decided to save the remaining 50 miles for our final day. It’s funny how after the previous day’s ride, 50 miles almost felt like a recovery day.
Feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep, we rolled out for our final push to Brush Mountain Lodge. We cruised to the Clark store. My dad got a kick out of the grocery, restaurant, liquor store, and post office all contained within one building. We ordered gigantic breakfast burritos and sat near another bike tourist. DG was planning to get to Brush Mountain Lodge too.
Bellies full and fully caffeinated, we started up our last pass. This was my favorite part of the ride. It has everything I love about Colorado: mountain views, aspen and pine groves, and wildflowers. We were even treated to seeing a mamma and baby bear cross the road a couple hundred meters ahead of us.
I tried my best to mentally prepare my parents for this difficult climb. It’s littered with babyhead rocks and gets steep at parts so you have to choose a good line and keep your momentum to stay on the bike. I anticipated doing a lot of walking but thought, “what the heck, I’ll show them it’s rideable, take it at a reasonable pace, and see what happens.” To all of our surprise we had very minimal walking up the climb. I was way proud of my mom who is typically less than thrilled to ride on more technical roads. She really pushed her limits and tried something she didn’t know she could do when she rode up all the loose and rocky terrain.
Once you get to the top of the pass, you *almost* don’t even have to pedal the rest of the way to Brush Mountain.
Our arrival at Brush Mountain was bittersweet. It’s an awesome place to be, but it meant our journey together had come to an end. Kirsten greeted us with hugs and water. She fired up the pizza oven and gave strict orders to drink 3 glasses of water before beer.
Not far behind us, DG arrived and we chatted about our journeys and Radium’s climb from hell. Craig, another touring cyclist joined our little group and we sat on the porch that evening connecting about all things bikepacking.
Kirsten served a delicious breakfast in the morning. We said our goodbyes and drove back to Silverthorne in the van. What an awesome experience to share with two of the most important people in my life. They claim they’re hooked on bikepacking and they felt very accomplished, so I’m sure we’ll see more in the future!