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Father-son pedal, paddle and bond during JD race

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RJ Morgan with the Douglas Budget, via the Wyoming News Exchange

DOUGLAS — A couple of years ago, 35-year-old Keith Hopkins finally took the time to learn how to skate on ice. His bulky frame and uncoordinated glide along the frozen pond led to an affectionate nickname “Wrecking Ball,” an accurate description, he admits.

He had the urge to learn because his now 8-year-old son Brodey plays ice hockey. Keith wanted to be a bigger part of his son’s journey and was willing to risk bumps, bruises and, yes, a cute nickname.

That was the athletic foundation of a father-son relationship that builds by the weekend and grows by every mile, literally. They spend every possible weekend competing in off-the-grid events together, from runs to biking, and the mileage is incredible as they both conquer races of greater than 20 miles via foot or bike or both.

That’s why the father-son team competing together last week at the Ride, Row, Run – hosted by the Outdoor Enthusiasts of Converse County during Jackalope Days – was only a surprise to those unfamiliar with seeing them everywhere.

The annual race encompasses biking, rowing and running and is typically filled with seasoned athletes accustomed to such lengthy races.

Not Brodey, and he made it look easy at times alongside his mentor, his dad and his best friend.

“That long stretch in the first half of the bike ride was tough. Uphill most of the way (to Anderson Farm) and the rain up to the turnaround,” Keith explained. “On the way back, I was the one keeping up with him. At one point I clocked him going 27 miles per hour, and he was telling me he wanted to go as far as he could.”

Keith said his son never tired and literally ran all the way to the final line where they finished all three challenges in 2 hours, 55 minutes.

The event opened with the challenging and scenic round-trip bike ride from the Wyoming State Fairgrounds followed by kayaking down the North Platte River to Esterbrook Road. After that, teams ran back to the fairgrounds where they crossed the finish line.

“We had a great time. I just knew we would. I did this competition for the first time with some friends who came to town last year from Casper, so I knew what to expect,” Keith explained. “They didn’t compete with me this year, but I had Brodey. Converse County is so lucky to have a group as involved as the Outdoor Enthusiasts. They not only run a great event but they host events all year and Brodey and I will keep doing these. He’s my best friend.”

The father-son tandem have grown a competitive relationship that is now two years strong and growing with every mile.

Their journey started nearly two years ago on two wheels when they took on some competitive mountain bike races. Brodey developed quicker than Keith did in perfecting his skating skills, and similarly, in one season, Brodey improved from 20-inch to 24-inch (tires) as he racked up the endurance, skill and hunger to complete the rugged roads of statewide mountains.

Every day is Father’s Day for Keith. He spends his free time competing with his biggest motivator and family.

“We do everything we can to stay busy. One of the great things about our area and our state is that Wyoming has all this beautiful land. You can go anywhere with family and enjoy yourself. We get the extra benefit of enjoying it while competing together,” Keith shared.

Keith said he discovers just as much from Brodey as Brodey learns from him while their competitive lifestyle tightens their bond.

He also plays the small role as coach and knows as a kid Brodey wants to always ride fast, run fast and do everything at full throttle.

“The biggest thing I help him with is pace. Going fast is fun but reminding him and sharing with him the importance of pacing yourself when you have 20, 40, 60 miles to go – depending on the race – is everything,” he said. “He’s a tough kid and he is learning fast. There is so much out there that he will succeed and it’s fun to be along for the ride.”

The ride has only just begun. The two recently made a weekend vacation out of camping in Glendo and competing at Glendo Days and will be back on the trail next month at a mountain bike competition in Glenrock that tackles Mormon Canyon.

“My biggest regret is not learning to skate sooner,” Keith said. “Everything now couldn’t be more perfect.”

This story was published on June 12, 2024.

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