Joel Reichenberger: Connecting on the fly

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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.

— I spent my first month in Steamboat living in the extra bedroom at a ski-obsessed co-worker's Stagecoach condo.

One room of her house was wallpapered with posters of famous - or supposedly famous, as far as I was concerned - extreme skiers, great shots of guys flying off cliffs and over boulders.

Once, as we sat in that room partaking in our only common interest, the fourth season of "Lost," I asked who all the random people were.

I think at first she thought I was joking, and she seemed stunned I would even joke about something like that. She acted like portraits of U.S. presidents surrounded us.

I felt a little bit the same way Friday afternoon, when I strapped into a rally car for the first time, catching a ride on Rally Colorado media day.

There weren't an overwhelming number of people in attendance - a few local media members, sponsors' representatives and other town dignitaries and race volunteers.

The world-famous Travis Pastrana greeted as many of them as he could.

See, Pastrana is little more familiar to me than those skiers on the wall. I rarely drift past MTV and have never seen his show. The only Summer X Games events I catch are those flickering past on SportsCenter.

I didn't know my driver, Andrew Comrie-Picard, either.

Comrie-Picard isn't as famous as Pastrana, but he does have his own Wikipedia page.

He's a 38-year-old Canadian who abandoned his career as a lawyer to travel the world racing cars.

He competes in three race series each summer and has participated in the past three X Games. He has hosted automobile-related TV shows on two networks and will be hosting his own show on the Discovery Channel.

That's impressive, but the only thing I could really relate to was that we share the same birthday - April 28 - and both grew up on wheat farms, his in Alberta, Canada, and mine in Kansas.

That was all until we started driving. I was buckled into his ultra-modified Mitsubishi so tight it almost triggered a claustrophobia I didn't know I had.

But we flew. He sped away from the starting line of the course so fast I was jammed back into my seat with more Gs than I feel when taking off in an airplane or riding a roller coaster.

Calling the roads of this weekend's Rally Colorado race "dirt roads" barely does justice. We swung up and down a dusty trail filled with loose gravel and seemingly unstable rock. We topped out at 94 miles an hour and never took a turn slower than 40. Most, we hit closer to 60.

We drifted around corners, and on several occasions I could look straight out the passenger side window and see straight down the road.

It was a stomach-knot-inducing ride and a thrill I immediately loved.

Comrie-Picard has devoted his life to that thrill, and even if I didn't know him from the man on the moon before Friday, that is definitely something I can identify with now.

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