I spent the last week of September with my parents — the Notorious Babs and Big L — in Sun Valley. These avid world travelers nabbed a condo for a week in one of our family’s special places and I shimmied over the Trail Creek Road, a unique portal that connects Central Idaho with shi-shi-la-la land by way of a 7,900 foot summit.
It wasn’t long before I discovered my dear parents had become cyborgs. The premise of our trip was solid. I would bring my mountain bike and they would bring their e-bikes so they could keep up with me. And before you start to feel any sympathy for them, Notorious and Big L are far from elderly thanks to the Podunkian phenomenon of quick generational turnover.
So, first stop Harriman Trail, north of Ketchum. Harriman was a perfect choice for us because this gorgeous aspen-framed path goes right by what used to be my dad’s grandpa’s cabin and the Forest Service campground where our family gathered on many a Memorial Day weekend. Past the church camp my grandfather, my dad, and I all attended and the hot springs swimming pool where I took my first strokes.
The Harriman Trail makes a long, gentle ascent north of Ketchum all the way to Galena Lodge, about 19 miles one way. My parents have a unique buddy system. Babs and Big L have bluetooth helmets so they can talk to each other. My dad has impaired vision and my mom rides in front of him and describes the topography and other notable conditions he may want to consider while operating a motorized vehicle/e-bike.
“Dip in the trail about 2 inches deep — watch out.”
“Muddy here for about 5 feet.”
“Another rider coming at you at your 10 o’clock. No, 11 o’clock. Oh crap, it’s high noon. Sorry man.”
I’m letting this all soak in as we pedal beneath the backdrop of the Boulder Mountains. My dad tells me his great-grandfather wandered around these mountains in search of gold, without much luck. I’m savoring the storytelling because I don’t have bluetooth audio in my helmet, so we have to stop to talk, or pant in my case.
Babs continues to narrate the scene, out of habit.
“The sky is blue and the leaves are just beginning to turn,” she announces.
I have no pedal assist and my nether regions are beginning to chap, and I don’t care how old you are, you will revert to being a childish child when you are with your parents, especially under duress.
I tap into my most charming 13-year-old bratty former self.
“Mawwwwwwm,” I whine. “I can see the leaves are turning. You don’t have to tell me that,” and I find the muscle memory for an adolescent eye roll, and immediately wonder if the movement could trigger cataracts at my age.
Now I’d done it. Notorious snapped her grip shifter and let her back tire spin in the loose gravel, a menacing hum as she pedal-assisted up the next hill, quite possibly looking over her shoulder and laughing as I labored up it.
Alone with my thoughts now that the chattering cyborgs had sprayed gravel on me and left me in the dust, I noted that of all the people we’d encountered on the glorious trail, I was perhaps the youngest, and AARP has my number, if you get my drift. I found myself wondering if anyone had invented bike shorts with a Depends insert. Before I could fully develop the concept, I ran into Babs and Big L, waiting for me at the top of another hill. The cyborgs were friendly again.
“You don’t have to go any farther than you want,” they soothed. “These bikes are good for about 80 miles and we know that is a long way for you humans.”
Using a formula Odd Number had shared with me on a family hike, I explained to the cyborgs that however many miles we had pedaled (or coasted, in their case), I would have to multiply by 2 to return home. Big L, a retired mathematician concurred.
The rest of the week, I employed my own technological advances to moderate the cyborgs. My Trailforks app shows where e-bikes are not welcome. I would shepherd the chattering cyborgs in that direction and then — Oops! You cyborgs can’t ride here. See you back at the condo!
Places I found where e-bikes could not chase me.
All in all, that week in shi-shi was awe-inspiring, nostalgic, exhausting, and breathtaking (in so many ways on so many days). Maybe someday I will be a seeing-eye cyborg. For now, I’m going to get back to the bike shorts/Depends design.
And by the way, Happy Birthday, Babs! Don’t slow down for anyone!