CASCADE — Sunday will mark the 99th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and of the racers had his own mountain to climb to get here.
“To me it’s like nothing else in the world,” Don Wickstrum said.
Wickstrum is living his dream.
“For me it all started at eight years old,” he said. “I remember on Friday nights me and my cousin used to watch the evening news… and on there was Bobby Unser racing an Audi up Pikes Peak. And I was hooked.”
For the past three years, he’s emulated his childhood idol. He’s been taking on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb himself.
“I feel like I’m in somewhat of a spaceship that’s a rocket,” Wickstrum said. “You can’t help, even going at that speed, look at the beauty around you. Pikes Peak is so beautiful.”
It’s a dream he never actually thought he’d get to fulfill.
“It just still does not feel real for me at all,” he said.
But life has a funny way of changing things.
“The cancer just kind of blindsided us,” he said.
Back in 2018, he found out he had colon cancer, and it didn’t look good.
“We were just kind of going through life,” Wickstrum said. “We had a robotics company, we were doing ministry.”
With a compromised immune system, he couldn’t do chemotherapy. His doctor told him if he kept carrying on his busy lifestyle, he could die. So he sold his company and started down the path that got him where he is today.
“My friend that encouraged me, he actually gave me money to buy the first car,” Wickstrum said.
And while he doesn’t call Colorado home. “I’m from Monroe, Wisconsin, we call it the cheese capital of the United States,” he said.
It hasn’t taken him long to get to know America’s Mountain intimately. “This mountain you’ve really gotta respect,” he said.
He learned that the hard way. His first two years ended in crashes during practice rounds. He never made it all the way up.
“We weren’t sure I’d have another year,” Wickstrum said.
Yet here he is again, still chasing that impossible dream. “My hope is to make it to the summit and have a donut,” he said.
He makes one thing clear: he believes his faith is what’s gotten him this far. “Eternal security through Christ Jesus is really what carried me, and got me to focus on something better,” he said.
It’s why, no matter how he does come Sunday, he’ll be content.
“If we’re angry, I think it’s because we look at perspective wrong,” Wickstrum said. “It’s like the mountain behind me. From here it looks pretty big. But when you fly over it in the airplane, it’s so small.”
Small. like he thought the chances were he’d ever be here.