Evan Page’s mom, Barbara, has a longstanding wish: to live independently, in a house, for as long as she can. So far, the 86-year-old “fierce debater,” as Page calls his mom, still does. But the devoted son and speech pathologist at HealthPartners Neuroscience Center knows his mother’s independence is waning. She has early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Even before his mother’s diagnosis, Page had seen the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in his family. All the women on his mother’s side have experienced Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.
The personal connection to the condition led Page to raise money for the Center for Memory and Aging (part of the HealthPartners Institute) – and to raise it boldly. In July 2021, he biked 320 miles across the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). To date, he has raised $1,500.
Page’s journey – hitting the open dirt roads
Page is an experienced biker – completing a 3,160-mile journey from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., to raise money for dementia research in 2017. But the GDMBR trail presented unique and unforgiving obstacles.
“I’ve always liked when people combine doing something big and outside of themselves with a charitable cause,” said Page. “I was going out on a limb with this trip, and it was harder than I anticipated.”
The route presents stunning scenery but also a winding patchwork of unpaved forest roads, with cars rarely passing.
On one day, Page biked 60 miles, starting at 7,200 feet of elevation and ending at 2,000 feet. He also had 45 pounds of gear in tow while trying to reach his reserved campsite.
Changing the best-laid plans
Page had originally planned on biking for 10 days and covering nearly 500 miles. But on day two, his traveling companion got hurt and had to return home, leaving Page in a remote part of Colorado alone — with no communication device.
“I thought about buying a satellite phone before I left, but I held off,” said Page. “That was a mistake. I had naively thought that cell phones work almost everywhere. So, I wasn’t prepared for a solo journey.”
Feeling uneasy, Page decided to end at the halfway point in Silverthorn, Colo. His husband, Dan, met up with him, and they toured Rocky Mountain National Park.
Despite the disappointment of an adventure cut short, Page was ready to return home and check in on his mother. He was missing their regular political debates.
“My mom still tries to get into political arguments with me — I have been winning much more than I had before,” said Page. “It is hard to watch someone you love lose their abilities. That’s why I am so passionate about raising money for Alzheimer’s disease.”
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