Joel Reichenberger: A story for every mile
June 29, 2008
I spent much of last week talking to organizers, participants and former champions of the Great Divide and Tour Divide mountain bike races. By the time I was done, I had hundreds of photos, dozens of pages of notes and hours of recorded interviews. There was no way to fit it all in the story this week, so I’ll use this space for a few more of the dozens of inspiring stories people shared.
Alan Goldsmith and Dominik Scherer left Steamboat Springs reluctantly early Thursday afternoon, and one day later they were waist-deep in a terrible ordeal. The pair was the first to arrive on the scene of a car accident at Ute Pass in Summit County. A car carrying three people flew through a guardrail and 200 feet down an embankment. The Tour Divide racers quickly offered help.
They hit the emergency button on their SPOT GPS tracking devices and flagged down help to make a run to cell phone range and call for an ambulance.
Each of the three racers I tracked down and interviewed in Steamboat had different attitudes and expectations with regard to the race. Goldsmith’s was easily the most inspiring.
Leighton White is a Steamboat Springs firefighter when he’s not biking from one end of the continent to the other. Scherer is a bike mechanic and tour guide south of Munich and Germany. Goldsmith, however, works at a desk in the city of Swindon in Great Britain. For him, the epic journey that is riding the length of the Continental Divide has been a life-changing experience.
Along the way, he and Scherer pushed their bikes through huge snowdrifts, helped save lives at the Ute Pass car wreck, saw herds of elk, several moose and a couple grizzly bears.
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All that did little to assuage his fear of thunderstorms.
“What do you expect for the rest of your journey?” I asked him Thursday morning over a cup of coffee.
“Thunderstorms. Terrible thunderstorms,” he said.
I’m not sure who made Colorado’s flash-and-dash summer storms out to be the tornado-spawning giants of the Great Plains, but that person has Goldsmith nearly worked to a tizzy.
White said he’ll eat in a town when he can but has been eating frozen burritos when he can’t.
No, he’s not packing a microwave.
“They thaw if they’re in your pack all day,” he said.
One of the scariest parts of his journey so far, he said, came at night but didn’t have anything to do with his night ride through grizzly bear country.
“I don’t get lonely, and when I did, there was Quincy. That would be the incredibly drunk welder from Baggs, Wyo.,” he said. “He felt compelled to offer me a ride to Baggs, and it took probably 45 minutes to convince him he needed to really go on his way, and I’d be OK.
“That was the scariest encounter I’ve had with any beast.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org