I had an opportunity to catch up with Travis Pastrana just before he was about to compete for a world championship yesterday. What competition you ask? Well, I can tell you it was not Motocross, and it wasn't Rally Car. No, he has already set world records in those sports. On this day, he was competing to be the world champion of the video game Big Buck Hunter Pro, and Big Buck Safari.
Playing into Travis's very competitive nature, we began the interview with a little arm wrestling. I cannot tell you who won, I am sworn to secrecy.
Since almost everything you would want to know about Travis can be found on his web site, I thought I would take a more intimate approach during my time with him. I could have asked him what it was like making the transition from 2 wheels to 4, or what it means to him to have claimed 11 career gold medals in the X Games, or how nervous he was before jumping out of an airplane with no parachute for a stunt on the TV show Nitro Circus. However, I had some other questions I wanted to ask.
I read somewhere that despite his status as a world class high profile athlete, Travis maintains a reputation of being just like the guy next door, maybe nicer. And he is, he was gracious to take the interview after a long ride on the Red Bull bus from Maryland, and made me feel like I was the only other person in the room. He is charming and eloquent, and here is what I learned about him:
Is this your first time visiting Chicago?
No, I have been here before. I have gone to 2 Cubs Games. I am not a huge baseball fan, but it was fun. I have also spent sometime in Naperville.
I know you started riding motorcycles at age 4, but have you ever wanted to do anything else, like be a fireman or veterinarian?
No, since the very first time I rode a motorcycle, all I have ever wanted to do is race motocross, well, and monster trucks.
Did you feel like you missed out on any "normal" childhood stuff competing at such a young age?
Not at all, all of my best friends rode dirt bikes too, that is all we ever wanted to do.
Do you ride on the street?
I have a cruiser, a Suzuki Intruder 1500, but I just ride way too fast. It is best if I stay off-road.
What was your first job?
I worked construction with my dad and my uncles for a couple summers. My dad would always tell me that he spent more time undoing what I had just done than it was worth. I stopped working with him when I was 15.
How do you keep in touch with your fans, are you on Twitter or Facebook?
(laughing) No, I just don't have the patience for social media. I get on Facebook about every 2 weeks, but if it is an activity that does not involve movement, I'm not really interested.
Is it true you do not have an ipod?
I have an ipod, I don't really know how to use it, but I love music.
What is your perfect day?
Waking up, having a good stretch (sometimes I am sore from my past injuries), doing all of the things I get to do for a living, but with my best friends, and with no one else around. I would eat sushi, have a little saki, and finish up with some ice cream from Cold Stone. That's a perfect day.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Home, I just do not get to spend much time there.
What about other countries you have visited, any favorites?
I really enjoyed Australia and Costa Rica.
Some people call you the best athlete in the world. What do you think about that?
(He laughs modestly) Well obviously they have never met me. I just feel so lucky to be able to do what I love, and I approach competition with the mind set that it's not the desire to win, but more about the desire not to lose.
Being such a high profile athlete, do you feel any pressure to be a role model?
I do not feel any pressure, but I try to be conscious of the things I do and say, and always try to do the right thing. Sometimes I feel like I let some of my fans down when I am at an event, and there is a large crowd waiting to meet me or get an autograph. I try really hard to get to everyone, but sometimes I just can't. People have said some nasty things to me in those situations. I just try to do the best I can.
I feel like I am well known among a very small group, mostly the motocross community. I could not imagine really being famous, and having the extra pressure of being recognized everywhere. It would be difficult.
As you get older, are there things that scare you now that did not when you were younger?
I do not necessarily get scared. I think I am just better at assessing risk, and deciding if it is worth it. Things that were worth it at age 16, may not be worth it now. But I think I have made some good choices, and I have proven to be pretty durable.
Do you have any Idols?
I have always be very fond of Mat Hoffman. I think for him, it was more about racing, than it ever was about winning.
That concluded my time with Travis Pastrana. I now know why his favorite place on earth is his home in Maryland. Check out this video on Travis's backyard.
I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.