Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“I don’t know why I should even think about wanting to have kids when I have you guys to worry about,” I said to my dad the other day.
“What? I can’t hear you. It sounds all muffled,” my dad said.
I roll my eyes. I want to say, “Do we need to buy you a hearing aid, too?” But I let it go.
I do think there is a time in everyone’s life when their parents become their children, and my time is now.
“Do you want to hear about our little adventure?” Mom said after Dad handed her the phone. I was banging around the kitchen, doing dishes and thinking about getting dinner ready. “What is all that noise? It’s so loud!” she said.
“So your father and I decided to a mountain bike ride out by Clark and four hours later …”
When a story starts like that, I know I’d better sit down.
She told me they went riding up a dirt road looking for this trail my dad was confident he could find. When I say “up,” I mean uphill. They climb and climb and climb and still, no trail.
“I stopped and told your father, ‘I’m not going another inch,'” my mom said.
“Why did you wait four hours to do that? Why didn’t you just turn around and go back down?”
“You know your father. He insisted there was a shorter way out. And the climb wasn’t so bad. I could hardly tell we were going uphill!”
This whole “I can hardly tell when I’m going uphill” thing is a new trend with my mom. When they were in Aspen last, we did two uphill rides and the whole time my mom insisted we were actually going downhill. “Look at the river,” I’d tell her. “See how the water is flowing in the other direction? That’s because of this thing called gravity.”
“Oh, shut the hell up,” she’d say, though she used another expletive I’m not allowed to use here.
There is no doubt that she and my father are both impressively strong, mind-bogglingly fit, and acclimated to long outings on their bikes. One thing they are not, however, is prepared.
“When we ran out of water, we decided to call 911,” my mom said, all casual as if she’s saying something like, “We had to stop to tie our shoes.”
“What?” I didn’t even know where to begin. “Why did you wait until you ran out of water? Why didn’t you turn around before then? If you were going uphill on a road, and you weren’t technically lost, why didn’t you just turn around and ride back down?” I realized I’d already asked this question, but I never got a straight answer.
“Dad insisted there was a shorter way out,” she said, and around and around we’d go.
She went on to tell me they called 911 who then called the Forest Service and had them call her back. The Forest Service was able to give them directions, as if this whole debacle was as simple as pulling off the freeway at a gas station.
I yelled at her for not being more prepared. I told her they were foolish for going that far into the backcountry without knowing where, exactly, they were going. I said it was irresponsible to have ridden for that long when they knew they were draining their water supply and were lost.
“Oh, pipe down. It’s not like we called search and rescue. We just needed directions.”
I explained to her she was damn lucky she even had cell phone reception. She was lucky nothing bad had happened.
“What if Dad fell and hit his head on a rock? What if you passed out from heat stroke or dehydration?”
She finally backed down. “That’s what all our friends said. They think we’re suicidal.”
It’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened. Over the winter, they went out cross-country skiing on Rabbit Ear’s Pass after a big storm left over a foot of snow, burying all the tracks that designate which way the trail goes. Three hours into it, they realized they were totally lost. Their border collie, Sabrina, took the lead and guided them, successfully, back to the car.
Rather than learn some kind of lesson about getting lost or taking responsibility for their mistake, the focus was entirely on how brilliant their stupid dog is. (She’s not stupid – I love her. I’m just making a point). My dad was so proud of her that he wrote this long letter to the editor of The Steamboat Pilot. Believe it or not, there is even less going on in Steamboat than there is in Aspen, because the editor decided to take that letter and not only publish it, but turn it into a front-page news story with a photo and everything.
So you might understand why I was a little nervous when my dad participated in the Triple Bypass last Sunday, riding his bike 120 miles from Avon to Evergreen over three mountain passes.
“Call me to let me know he comes in OK,” I told my mom.
When I didn’t hear from her by 5 o’clock, I called her. “Oh, my god, he’s still riding,” she said. “He’s almost at the top of Swan Pass. It was a 19-mile climb. It went on forever.”
“Well, call me to let me know he made it in OK.”
Of course she never called.
I chewed her out about that, too. So now she calls me every few hours to let me know they’re OK. She thinks it’s hilarious.
Then my dad tells me he’s doing the Tour de Steamboat this weekend, another 113-mile ride. “What? I’m already rested. I feel great!” he said when I protested.
Kids … they never learn.
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The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.