Durangoan's ride honors granddad

1,200-mile bike tour to raise awareness about Alzheimer's

Collin Vlass, 28, of Durango trains for his 1,200-mile bicycle ride to support the Alzheimer's Association, which started Tuesday in Loveland. The ride is inspired by and honors his grandfather, Norman, who organized the Relay for Life in Loveland that raised $1 million for the American Cancer Society in the 11 years before his death. He died in June 2011 of Alzheimer's. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Collin Vlass, 28, of Durango trains for his 1,200-mile bicycle ride to support the Alzheimer's Association, which started Tuesday in Loveland. The ride is inspired by and honors his grandfather, Norman, who organized the Relay for Life in Loveland that raised $1 million for the American Cancer Society in the 11 years before his death. He died in June 2011 of Alzheimer's.

The goal of the next outing for a Durango man with a passion for adventure is to repay one good deed with another.

Collin Vlass, 28, a 2001 graduate of Durango High School, on Monday started in Loveland a 1,200 mile bicycle ride to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association to honor his grandfather, Norman.

Normal Vlass, an organizer and mainstay of the Relay for Life in Loveland, died of Alzheimer's at age 77 in June last year.

“In the 11 years before he died, the Loveland relay raised $1 million for the American Cancer Society,” Vlass said. “I want to carry the torch, to continue his legacy of giving.

“My grandfather went elk hunting the year before he received the diagnosis of Alzheimer's,” Vlass said. “The end came very quickly after that.”

Vlass' Loveland-to-Durango route will trace the double keyhole-shaped Alzheimer's Association logo.

Adventure is nothing new to Vlass, who quit his job at La Plata Millworks in Mancos recently to train for his upcoming trip. He spent 4˝ years seeing the world.

“I had saved money from my job with the Chema Hotshots fire crew in Alaska,” Vlass said. “Then I sold everything I had and moved into my backpack.”

Travel took him to Central and South America, Australia, Asia and Europe.

“My trip now will be entirely in Colorado,” he said. “It will be my first road trip because I've always been a mountain biker.”

Vlass plans to camp along the road, stopping to fly-fish or visit people with Alzheimer's.

The duration of the ride is open-ended, but Vlass expects to arrive in Durango in about a month.

He already has raised almost $1,700 from friends and family.

Zia Taqueria, Durango Cyclery and Velorution Cycles have helped with trip expenses.

The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on Vlass' departure Monday.

Vlass left from his grandmother's house wearing a T-shirt that read: “Miles fueled by hope.”

“I'm carrying my grandfather's torch, you could say,” Vlass told the newspaper.

Vlass has GPS on his bicycle, which will allow people to track him through his website and give him the ability to send emails home and alert the police if he's in trouble.

“I like adventure, and I like to wing it,” Vlass told the Reporter-Herald.

He told the newspaper he won't have support from a vehicle.

“It's not a race; I want to enjoy myself, as well,” he said.

His grandmother told the newspaper he has always been adventurous.

“He's got this wandering, go-for-it spirit,” she said. “It was quite a surprise when he said he wanted to do this for Grandpa.”

daler@durangoherald.com

The route of Collin Vlass’s ride will mimic the shape of the logo of the Alzheimer’s Association. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Collin Vlass

The route of Collin Vlass’s ride will mimic the shape of the logo of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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