Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So we all biked up Rabbit Ears Pass on Tuesday, our last hurrah before the big Ride for the Cure on Saturday.

I’ve heard so much about Rabbit Ears Pass. “It can’t be as hard as Rabbit Ears” is my mom’s favorite line of all time.

I had to hear it every time I called her this summer to boast about my latest road biking achievement.

“Guess what, Mom! I rode all the way from our friend’s house in Missouri Heights to the top of McClure Pass and back! That’s, like, almost in a different county!”

“Well, it can’t be as hard as Rabbit Ears,” she says.

I got the same racket after we did Independence Pass, went up the Fryingpan past Ruedi to Meredith, and the “Two Valleys” Bells and Ashcroft combo.

I also thought it was pretty cool when the odometer on my computer clicked past 1,000 miles last week. I was super proud of myself.

“Guess what! I put in over 1,000 miles since I got my new bike!” I boasted to my mom after our ride yesterday. “How many do you have?”

“Let me see,” she said, pushing the button on her computer to cue up the right data. “Let’s see … seven thousand, one hundred and forty two?”

“You’ve ridden over SEVEN THOUSAND MILES?” I said, jaw dropped to the floor.

“Oh don’t be ridiculous, Alison,” she said, which is another one of her favorite lines. “I’ve had my bike for three years and you’ve only had yours for, what, like three months?”

It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out she’s had to have put at least 3,000 miles a year in to come up with that number, but whatever.

Of course I realize it’s ridiculous to be competitive with my 67-year-old mother, but that’s only because I should be the one who is supposed to have the easy-win advantage.

It was my idea to ride Rabbit Ears. I wanted to see what all the hype was about and get one more challenging ride in under my belt. So we woke up and headed to the local bike shop, Orange Peel, to see my old friend J.R.

I’ve known J.R. for something like 20 years. We go back to our college days and a group of friends I had in Boulder who were avid mountain bikers. He was part of our little traveling circus the summer we all decided to race in the Colorado Off Road Points Series and pretty much witnessed all the casualties. He was there when I did my first mountain bike race in Durango. He was in Gunnison, the time I ate it 10 miles out on a 20-mile loop and had to finish the ride on dented handlebars without brakes. He was in Crested Butte when I crashed in the first five minutes of the town crit and ripped my shorts and had no idea my whole ass cheek was hanging out for the next four laps through downtown. I was confused because everyone was cheering so loud for me even though I was in second to last place.

“Wow, I can’t believe you put a thousand miles on your bike already,” J.R. said when I walked in, nodding with approval. “Impressive.”

I’m impressed with the fact that he’s still so passionate about bikes and doesn’t look a day older than he did 20 years ago, still with a stud in his ear, a buzz cut, low-rise camo cargo shorts and chain wallet. He’s like a walking testament to the anti-aging effects of cycling.

I chat the service boys up for a bit, and they’re a much better audience for all my biking exploits than my mom is.

The last thing J.R. says as we’re leaving is, “If you can do Independence Pass, you can do Rabbit Ears.”

We all head out on River Road through the funky neighborhood called Brooklyn, past Dakota Ridge and out to the 131 junction where we’ll pick up Route 40. I’m feeling pretty good, strong, steady and comfortable on the bike. Mom is behind me and Dad is up front.

“Looks like all that training has paid off,” Dad says when I catch up to him on the side of the road where he’s stopped to take photos. “Mom is usually ahead of you.”

Even though I’m not the competitive type, it makes me feel good. When we finally hit the base of Rabbit Ears, there’s a little downhill so I pick up some speed and hit the first hill going about 12 miles per hour. I downshift as gradually as I can, trying to maintain my speed. I slow down to about 7 miles per hour when Mom goes flying past me.

“Are you in your lowest gear?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say and then downshift. “Oh, I thought I was. Thanks.”

I watch her ascend the steep pitch in front of me effortlessly, like she’s weightless. She’s so tiny she looks more like a child than a senior citizen and is in the best shape of her life. I’m at least 10 pounds heavier and two sizes bigger than she is. Needless to say, I don’t look nearly as good as she does in those little bike outfits.

About halfway up the pass, she finally disappears from my sight and I can let myself slow down to a more manageable pace. I’ve maxed out my heart rate and my legs are starting to cramp. There’s just no way I can keep up.

I just got my ass beat – once again – by the old lady.

I don’t let it get me down, though. I know this is good news. If that’s what getting old is all about, then apparently I have a lot to look forward to. If I’m lucky enough to take after my mom, I’ll just get better with age.