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Riding the rocky road

By Curtis Carden
Sports Writer
[email protected]
It was a special Father’s Day for Jason Cooper.
Not because of cards or presents, but because of time shared with his family. Jason and his son, Eric, participated in the annual Ride the Rockies event, which began June 9 and ended on June 15 in Colorado. Robert Cooper, Jason’s father and Eric’s grandfather, also assisted throughout the week by driving their team car.
The event pits around 2,000 cyclists in a ride through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains each year.
For Jason, it was the perfect time to gear up for the ride.
“I have been wanting to do Ride the Rockies for a few years now,” he said. “I have suffered through breaking my left pelvis twice in 2009 … then to surviving a fatal car accident back on December 2, 2011.”
Jason said he decided to participate in Ride the Rockies this year for two reasons.
“The first was being able to take my son Eric and being able to finish the day before Father’s Day … it made the entire week feel like Father’s Day.”
The second reason stemmed from a love of cycling, Jason said.
“I remember watching the Tour de France as a kid on Saturdays on ABC sports when Greg LeMond was winning in the late 1980’s and that’s when I really saw bike racing for the first time.” he added.
Jason said he wondered how he would handle the event after his injuries.
“I have aspirations of competing in Race Across America, and I thought this would be a good test for me to see how my body would handle the strain of hard riding day in and day out with other riders,” he said.
Also during the event Jason said he remembered one of Erwin’s local legends.
“I want to mention Maynos Jones. I thought of him a lot on this ride with his recent passing and to me he was the greatest cyclist I ever met. I hope I can ride as many years as he did.”
The six-day ride had the trio going from Gunnison to Fort Collins, cycling almost 500 miles during the ride.
For Eric, it was a trip of a lifetime.
“Ride the Rockies was unreal,” Eric said. “I felt like I was part of a professional European bike race. It was my first of, I hope, many trips to come out West. I really loved it out there and I would like to cycle the entire country because you see so much more from a bicycle than just driving by in a car.”
While Jason, Eric and Robert shared many different moments during their trip, the fun of going together was the best part of all.
“I told Eric before we left that one day the best thing he would remember about this would be the time he got to spend with his Dad and Papaw because we may never have the chance to do something like this as a family again,” Jason explained.
Eric was quick to agree with his father.
“My best memories will be the trip there and back with my Dad and Papaw,” he said. “Going camping with them and being able to make friends from all over the U.S.”
Of course, you can’t forget about a friendly race, Eric said, which saw him beat his father to Independence Pass in Colorado during one day of the event.
Jason hopes the experience will go down in the history books for the Cooper family.
“When we reached Fort Collins we were both sad to see it end and surprisingly, we both felt great,“ Jason said. “Eric has always wanted to go out West and I'm glad he saw it from a bike and the road trip with three generations will be the best memories for the three of us.
“I think it was the best time I could ever spend with my father and son and I'm just sad it went by so quickly.”
The trip also gave Eric some publicity with some universities in regards to cycling, Jason said, with coaches giving high praise to the Unicoi County High School student.
“At first it was something to do with my dad and my papaw,” Eric said. “Now it’s about the adventure and being able to compete.”