Beating the Odds: A Mother-Son Bike Adventure on the Oregon Coast
After his ride of a lifetime across the United States with his cyclist dad, 10-year-old Shepherd (Shep) Colver knew he was ready for the next big adventure. This time, though, he wanted to take on a new challenge with his mom, Liz.
“I always thought it was going to be a Shepherd and dad kind of thing,” said Liz about her son’s unexpected request that she partners with him for his next bike trip. “I’ve never been a cyclist. This wasn’t my jam.” Adding to the lengthy logistics? Shep’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
But letting obstacles stop them has never been the Colver family way, so despite her nerves at the idea, Liz decided to say yes to this new challenge. The duo then began planning a bike trip from Canada to Mexico along the western coast.
Originally, the plan was for Liz and Shep to bike the whole Canada-to-Mexico route while dad James and siblings Hazel (15) and Elsa (5) took the RV as their support squad. This way, the two cyclists wouldn’t have to carry everything while riding, making it a little easier for Shep’s less experienced mom. However, after taking a week to travel from Blaine to Silverdale, Washington, the RV started having mechanical issues, bringing the trip to an abrupt standstill.
“We all took a few days to sit with this separately and think about it,” Liz explained. “How would this continue, and what would it look like?” Even before the complications with the RV, they had realized bringing everyone along may not go as smoothly as they had hoped.
When Shep and his parents came back together, they decided to pivot to a shorter trip with just Liz and Shep. The Oregon coast was the perfect solution for mom’s first trek. A popular route for cyclists around the world, this scenic ride has great maps to make planning a trip easy.
Getting prepared for anything
Shep and Liz were not without their difficulties in making this trip happen. Not only is Liz completely new to long-distance cycling, but Shep has the added complication of caring for his Type 1 diabetes as they travel: a condition he was diagnosed with halfway through his last bike trip. This meant they would need to have scheduled stops every few days to recuperate and refrigerate Shep’s insulin.
Making the trip without their RV support team also presented a whole new challenge: They would now need to carry 30lbs of gear — something they hadn’t trained for. So over the next three weeks, Liz and Shep took every opportunity they could to get ready, riding anywhere from 20 to 40 miles three days in a row and taking every fourth day to rest.
To prepare for all the steep inclines along the coast, Liz set a personal goal for herself during these training rides. Near their home in Kenmore, Washington, is a very tall and steep hill that Liz was not strong enough to pedal all the way up when she started. She told herself, “I will feel like I can do this ride when I can ride up that hill with all my gear and not have to walk.” After just over a week of training, Liz did it!
New ride, new bike!
Shep’s dad, James, first learned about woom bikes when researching to prepare for their cross-country trip. As a cyclist, he loved how lightweight and kid-focused our bikes are and knew the woom 4 would be the perfect bike to withstand a long journey.
Because they needed to carry so much gear with them, they modified Shep’s bike to add storage space on the back. Now a little older and taller, Shep rode the woom OFF, was perfect for the Oregon coast ride.
Shep likes how the shifters and hydraulic brakes make it easier to stop safely. When asked what he would say to families interested in woom, Shep exclaimed, “You should try it! It’s a really awesome bike.”
On their 18-day trip with 30+ miles on their bikes almost every day, “nothing went wrong with the bike at all,” said Liz, “We only had to put air in the tires twice because it was a teeny, tiny bit low.”
Parenting on the road
When the child is the experienced rider, it shifts the dynamic of the parent-child relationship. On his first ride with his dad, Shep got to be coached and follow his dad’s lead, but Liz wasn’t a cyclist before their trip. “I got to watch and experience Shepherd coach me and teach me,” Liz said.
With help from James learning to be an attentive parent on the road and a good cyclist, Liz quickly discovered that she could trust Shep to be in tune with everything around them. He was always aware of how far behind him she was and would pace himself to match her ability. They soon developed a strong rapport as teammates, and after a while, Liz was able to let Shep ride behind so she could set the pace.
“When I watch my son ride his bike and be attentive to creation around us, it’s obvious how he has already been prepared at 11 years old for a full and prosperous life that is so different from so many other kids,” Liz explained, “because we, as parents, are so afraid to give them the room to know who they are when we think they’re too young to know who they are.”
Adventure as the value
Liz and Shep weren’t in this for the speed or the workout (although there was plenty of exercise to be had!). The vision for the trip was to be an adventure, so they decided from the get-go to say “yes” to everything they wanted to do along the way.
“If adventure is the family value and not someone succeeding at something, then anyone can do any of it,” encouraged Liz.
From their very first stop in Seaside, Oregon, they were making new friends and having new experiences. One cycling couple they met gave them free tickets to the local aquarium, and just before leaving Seaside, they found a ropes course that Shep got to enjoy. As their journey continued, Shep and Liz caught a boat ride, saw dozens of whales, toured the Tillamook Creamery, visited museums in Newport, and even took an elevator 200 feet down into the Florence sea lion caves.
When the trip finally came to an end just past Brookings at the California border, Liz had assumed she was going to be relieved it was over. “I remember thinking when I was done, I was going to be so glad. But now I would go out again and do it tomorrow!”
“One sentence can change everything.”
When Shep told his dad he wanted to ride across the United States with him, James said “yes,” and when Shep told his mom he wanted to ride down the West Coast with her, she said “yes.”
Those two “yeses” transformed Shep’s life and his parents’ lives as they discovered the power of believing in one another and not being afraid of big things.
“Any adventure that you are willing to say yes to is an adventure worth doing,” said Liz. “Trust that you can do hard things as a parent, and your kids can do hard things.”
From the outside looking in, Shep’s journey has certainly been a challenging one. With a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis on his first ride, the RV breaking down on his second ride, and all the smaller hitches along the way, stopping and starting again was the name of the game.
Thinking back on all the bold plans Shep has made with his bike, Liz joked, “I guess somewhere along the line, we taught him to think big.”