Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

I’m happy to report that I’m in Steamboat to celebrate my dad’s 72nd birthday, which went off without a hitch. Also, Steamboat is reporting 11 inches of new snow this morning, so I have to make this quick.

So my dad decided he wanted to celebrate his birthday doing his favorite activity, skate skiing. I’m sure you guys know by now that my dad is a shrink who also happens to have a psychological disorder so rare and acute that he himself cannot diagnose it. The only prescription he’s been able to write himself is for industrial ibuprofen at a dosage a little higher than you might be able to get over the counter. As he enters his golden years, it’s become pretty clear to us all – his disease has no cure.

Dad is a compulsive exerciser. When I say compulsive, I don’t mean in the Aspen way, when you wear your yoga clothes underneath your ski clothes because you go from the hill directly to hike up Smuggler and then to your workout class, all in a day’s “work.”

No, Dad is a different animal. His thing is going further, longer and sometimes faster. If you are not half dead and out of food by the time you get home, you haven’t gone far enough.

On a road bike, he has been able to achieve this mission with jaw-dropping prowess, leaving men half his age in the dust as he pedals his way around Routt County, putting in an average of 70 miles a day. He’ll do every century ride he can find in the Rocky Mountain region and maybe a tour or two, infuriating his “team” when he refuses to wait for them until he’s reached his destination and is forced to entertain himself for the few hours he has to wait for everyone to catch up. It’s quite a sight to see his skinny little legs pedaling furiously up steep climbs with impressive cadence as he disappears over the horizon, his tiny form like a little dot until you can’t see him anymore.

Understand, cycling came into his life as a mere substitute for marathon running, which he did for several decades until he literally ran himself into the ground. Road biking provided the perfect alternative: the same level of pain as running but without the impact to the joints. And on a bike you can exercise much longer. Hell, you can exercise all the livelong day if that’s what you want.

For Dad, that is like a dream come true. Armed with an ample supply of caffeinated gels, electrolyte mix and various brands and flavors of energy bars stuffed into his various Lycra pockets, he’ll leave in the morning and return home sometime before the sun goes down, the tan lines on his legs and arms and the bridge of his nose branded into his flesh after hours spent sizzling in the sun.

Until recently, winter posed Dad with a new challenge. As stubborn as he is, he continues to snowboard, even if that means taking out half the lift maze as he careens blindly to a stop with one arm out in front of him like a wrecking ball just because he wants to get as close to the lift as possible before he goes through the agony of having to bend over and unstrap one of his bindings. Don’t get me wrong – he’s solid for an old guy and has a good handle on carving some decent turns, but when it comes to unmoving objects that jump out in front of him with no warning, he’s a bit of a hazard.

He set up the Compu-trainer in the spare bedroom I like to sleep in when I visit, transforming what was once a lovely, sunlit guest room into a smelly, stinky gym with oil marks on the carpet and stinky bike shoes at the foot of the bed.

“I’m going to go to Hawaii,” he’d say, clad in all his bike gear, earbuds tucked above his oversized lobes. He’d march upstairs to ride a computer-generated route through the hills of Honolulu only to pad through the kitchen two hours later, still panting, with sweat in his hair and stink emanating from his dirty, sock-clad feet.

Then a few winters ago, he discovered skate skiing, the answer to his compulsive-exercising prayers. You can jack up your heart rate, well, to your heart’s content and suffer as much as you like. Better yet, you can tire yourself out in just a few hours, and that’s always the goal – if you’re stumbling into the house blinded by exhaustion, hunger and thirst, you haven’t gone far enough.

So despite the fact that it was a balmy 15 degrees and windy and that there were 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground, we as a family went skate skiing. When we pulled into the empty parking lot and saw that the tracks were buried, we discussed giving up and going out for lunch instead.

“Oh, come on,” my dad said, exasperated as always with his less-than-obsessed family. “We’re here. Let’s just do this.”

It took us more than an hour to make it around the four-kilometer loop. I had to count strides just to force myself to plow through the fresh snow enough to make my heart pound in my chest so hard it hurt my ears. It was the kind of activity that becomes fun as soon as it’s over.

But nothing makes me happier than seeing my dad pushing himself along that grueling, snow-covered track with a steady stride, his arms and legs working to keep that big heart of his full and strong.

Whether it’s his steel will or his tiny, muscular body or both, he’s 72 years old and still skating through life. Forget about over the hill – for Dad, it’s all about the climb.

It’s been a long time since the Princess has ridden the Boat on a powder day. Send your love to

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