Joel Reichenberger: Keeping his word

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— Alan Goldsmith seemed like a character from a movie when I first met him.

Think Peter Gibbons, the main character in "Office Space."

The British engineer passed through Steamboat Springs early last summer on the Tour Divide.

The Tour Divide is a mountain bike race that leads from the heart of the Canadian Rockies to the desolate New Mexico desert and the United States-Mexico border. The race takes riders nearly 2,800 miles in the middle of June, on a trek over still-snowy mountain passes and through wide river valleys. It's as sure to bring riders into close contact with moose, elk and grizzly bears as it is to take them to the brink of exhaustion with 125-mile days.

So it's not surprising that the Tour Divide is the kind of race that might change a person. In fact, it seems impossible to walk away from the finish line - a nearly abandoned border crossing station about as isolated as Tranquility Base- the same as when you started.

A year ago, though, Goldsmith, usually a desk-bound computer chip design engineer, seemed uniquely affected.

"I thought this might : show me I'm wasting my time," Goldsmith said, relaxing on an outdoor patio at a downtown Steamboat cafe midway through his race. "It has."

Those are easy words to lay out in the middle of a trip - grumbling that "this is how life should be" is as regular a part of a wilderness vacation as dumb hats are a trip to Disney World.

Easy words often forgotten, but they made a compelling story. I couldn't ignore it last year when I wrote about the race.

That, it turns out, was a blessing, Goldsmith said. He actually followed through, becoming one of the few travelers who has ever actually kept the on-vacation promise.

"When I got back, I was thinking of quitting. I read what I said in that article, and it helped keep my focus and make sure I did it," he said. "Without that, I might have lost my nerve and decided to stay comfortable."

Since that jump, Goldsmith said his life has been a mix of satisfaction and worry.

He quit his stable job in the months leading up to the global economic depression and credit squeeze. Had that developed a little earlier or had Goldsmith waited a little longer, he said he'd likely still be working 9 to 5 in the densely populated southern regions of England.

As it is, he moved to the less populated and more rugged terrain in the country's north. He immediately was hired by his former company - whose praise he now sings - to do contract work from his home. He also has sought out other contracting opportunities.

And he's back, again taking an ultimate tour through North America's mountains on the Tour Divide. He was happy and bright on Wednesday as he again passed through Steamboat Springs - a far cry from the man who a year ago seemed afraid to finish the race and return to his life.

Peter Gibbons never had it so good.

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