Up in the air

The daring young man on wheels turns out to be a most gracious host



When my assignment editor, Chuck Weiss, called to tell me I would be visiting X Games and AMA Motocross Champion Travis Pastrana's home in Davidsonville to photograph him in advance of this year's X Games, I was pretty excited.

If it is dangerous and on wheels, Pastrana does it - from motocross and rally car racing to launching motorcycles 30 feet into the air to perform daring flips and twists.

I arrived a few minutes early and pulled up to an enormous garage. When I asked about Travis, the people there said he had gone to the hospital that morning, and wasn't at the garage.

As we stood there talking, a four-wheeler whipped down the hill with the two left wheels spinning lazily about a foot off the driveway. Travis zoomed up to my truck. He said he had visited a doctor but was fit.

We talked about what kind of pictures I wanted to take, and after an aborted attempt at mounting a camera on the handlebars of his bike, the entire group headed off on four-wheelers and dirt bikes to the practice track in the back of the property. Travis made riding the four-wheeler look a little too easy, and I promptly rode mine into the bushes.

By the time I got to the track, everyone was in place watching and Travis began jumping that 200-pound bike and doing stunts. He was amazing to watch, making it look impossible and effortless at the same time. He gunned the bike up the ramp, and as he soared overhead, he somersaulted, or let go of the bars, or flew behind it. He was almost casual. While the bike was in the air, he used every moment to his full advantage: He would begin performing the stunt on the way up, nail it at the apex, and would not get back onto the bike until the descent.

Time and again he would get his feet on the pegs just before the bike touched down. His rhythm perfect, he never hurried and he never missed.

I was glad to hear he did so well in Los Angeles at the X Games, winning the Moto X freestyle for the sixth time in eight years of the event and pulling off a double back-flp on his motorcycle.

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