As the duo reached flat land and continued riding, something unexpected happened. “While riding through Eastern Montana, things started to change,” says James. Shep started complaining of persistent headaches—and switching from coach mode to dad mode, James knew he needed to seek medical attention for his son.
They rode over to the nearest hospital in Glasgow, Montana, and with a simple prick of the finger, Shep was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. Though the disease runs in the family, this news came as a shock—Shep wasn’t even eight years old.
Both father and son agreed it was time to take a break.
On the train ride home, James made Shep a promise: “If you want to stop riding, that’s fine, but if you want to learn how to treat yourself with insulin, we can get back on the road.” Shep was as determined as ever to get back on the road one day.
Though their trip had a slight detour while Shep learned how to manage his disease, James explains that, “It was a lot easier for Shep to make that transition. A lot of kids have to make dietary and exercise changes. Shep didn’t have to do that, he’d already been living like that. The transition was easier because he’d already been such a physically active kid.”
James and Shep planned to set back out on the road in 2020—then the pandemic struck. They didn’t let this stop them from riding though. Instead, they went off the beaten path and cycled around nearby cities learning the country’s history. James would come to call this their ghost-town tour.