Life on 2 Wheels: Silverthorne couple pedals across Europe with labrador mix in tow
Special to the Daily
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Bikes are like books: They open up entirely new worlds. So where has your bike taken you? French Creek? A tour of Europe? The heights of Nepal? If you or someone you know spends countless hours in the saddle every summer — and have the memories to prove it — send a note to sports editor Phil Lindeman at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in an upcoming edition of Life on 2 Wheels.
To some, embarking on a cross-country bike voyage through Europe might be a difficult task to swallow, but for Silverthorne residents Megan and Barry Immerfall, the challenge was necessary.
“I thought, ‘Gee, we like to ride our bikes, we’d like to ride across Europe (and) we have a dog,’” Megan explained. Throwing caution to the wind is almost a way of life for the Immerfalls. Within the course of a year in 2016, the two sold their house in Broomfield, quit their jobs and moved to Summit County. Their new quest: taking their 11-year-old labrador mix, Cisco, along for a 2,600-mile, four-month journey from Germany to Croatia.
“I thought, ‘Heck, we can do this,’” Megan said. “Europe is even more dog friendly than the U.S. is.”
Cisco in tow
The pair devised a plan to take turns hauling Cisco in an open-top dog carrier, allowing the K-9 to see every bit of the same European countryside that Megan and Barry took in.
After months of making countless spreadsheets, researching gear and routes, and squaring away seemingly every logistic and scenario possible, the trio of husband, wife and pup boarded on a non-stop Lufthansa flight from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany, on May 18 of 2016.
Even with all that planning, the ride was still a bit of a leap of faith due to the fact that late-spring snowfall prevented them from ever practicing the bike-carrier setup.
“We hadn’t ridden for a month before the trip because the weather was so bad (in Colorado),” Megan laughed.
A few days after landing and recovering from jetlag, the family set off on May 21, heading west for Belgium. Through pastoral, rolling farmlands over goat trails and cobblestone, the Immerfall’s pedaled with Cisco sitting obediently in back. Shortly after starting, Megan and Barry discovered one problem Cisco had with his new traveling lifestyle: sitting still.
“He started out OK, but after a couple weeks into the trip he started to get kind of whiny in the trailer and we couldn’t figure out why,” Barry explained. “When we first started riding, Megan was up front and I was in the back pulling Cisco, and Cisco was last. And we figured out he doesn’t like to be last. So, we switched to first, so I was in front, he was in the middle and Megan was behind. From that point on he was great.”
Europe, meet Cisco
Over borders and through different cultures they biked. Whether the trio was greeted with “Gutentag” or “Bonjour,” one thing remained constant when they met strangers: fascination and joy upon seeing Cisco in his carrier.
“People with their cars would pull off and play with the dog, wave and point, take pictures,” Barry explained. They camped as often as logistics and their backs would allow, staying in hotels and rentals for the remainder of the trip. This aspect required some of the most planning, as only certain hotels were dog friendly. In areas where they had to rely on other modes of transportation, such as trains or ferries, extra planning had to take place.
“That was challenging,” Barry said. “On some of the trains we had to completely strip down the bikes.”
The summer of 2016 was a wet one throughout Europe, with extreme flooding in many of the northern regions. Luckily for the Immerfalls, most of the precipitation seemed to fall at night — that is, except for one instance still engrained in their minds.
“There was one place we pulled into a campground and it was raining — just like pouring rain for hours,” Megan said. “We had to stay in a tent (and) there were no hotels around that allowed dogs. The campground manager pointed us to the laundry room, which was in a nice, dry, warm building.”
Want more? Read about the Creekside Crawlers of Frisco and their winter training for Ride the Rockies 2017
Hills, mountains and vistas
From hilly Belgium, the three made their way to forested France and Paris shortly after that, where they took a break. The rain continued, but the trio didn’t let it dampen their spirits, visiting Versailles and the Eiffel Tower.
Once back on their bikes, they learned to embrace the unpredictable condition of roads and trails, and also how to manage the inconsistency of their GPS directions. By mid-July, Switzerland beckoned, and with that came fairer weather, but also new terrain. On one particular day, they had to travel with their 100-pound dog carrier up 2,600 vertical feet in the span of 25 miles.
From Vienna, Austria, they took to Eastern Europe. In Serbia and Hungary, they passed by ancient medieval castles and jutting Balkan cliffs before finishing in Croatia. There, they biked less and concentrated on sightseeing — something Megan estimates they only spent about a third of their trip doing.
With their visas ready to expire in early October, the Immerfalls flew home.
“We got more than we bargained for, but we enjoyed it,” Megan said. “He (Cisco) enjoyed it as well.”
Back on the bike
The Immerfall’s love for cycling and desire to explore the world didn’t end with the European tour. This coming November, they’ll embark on a new cycling journey, this time to the southern hemisphere in New Zealand. They plan on doing almost everything the same way as in Europe, except for one major detail — no Cisco.
“It’ll be a bummer,” Megan said. “I’m actually not that excited about leaving him.”
Due to New Zealand’s quarantine rules and rugged landscape, the couple concluded that bringing Cisco is not feasible. They know it won’t be the same without their lovable travelling pup, but they aren’t likely to miss the extra 100 pounds of weight either.
“In Europe, most of it was flat,” Barry said. “In New Zealand, it’s not going to be that. Most of it’s mountainous terrain. There’ll be more climbing.”
Even if Cisco isn’t there in person, the couple’s four-legged friend will always be with them in spirit as they chase the horizon in the pursuit of adventure.
To follow the latest adventures from the Immerfall clan, or to learn more about their European trip, check out LetsGoWander.world.
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