A "journalistic-motorcycle-stunting-gypsy" would probably best describe my role in the summer of 2011. My personal project fueled by pure passion had led me to travel a criss-crossed path from ocean to ocean across America for the majority of 2010 and finally over the Atlantic to experience the European version for 2011.
This passion of course is motorcycle stunt riding.
It had captured my Type A, but paradoxically still shy and reserved teenage imagination in high school and ravaged my life like the bubonic plague from that point on. At 15 I started practicing the evolving urban sport and carried it with me to Los Angeles for my first job in video games. Seven years later in New York City I was still stunting and finally my hobby peaked with the decision I should take a sabbatical from my professional career to dedicate my time and skills to help it grow into its fledging maturity.
My girlfriend (also a stunt rider) and I decided to start a news website and provide regular and reliable news, event coverage and how-to information on this underground, entirely DIY sport. Our goal was to help grow the sport and allow anyone with the interest the opportunity to take part. The sport attracted social deviants, like most alternative hobbies and the sense of family and sweet taste of real accomplishment made men out of boys and confident, contributing humans out of rebellious, misunderstood characters.
StuntBums.com was born and we hit the road in 2010 to learn everything about the scene in America. With a whirlwind of success we saw our project taking off and decided we wanted to expand the project to Europe for 2011. After a lengthy and stressful visa application process, we touched down in France mid-February and by May we were ready to spend the summer on the road with a van, a caravan and two motorcycles in tow.
For more information on StuntBums, we wrote a three part series about its history over the past two years starting here.
First stop: Italy
Ortona, Italy was hosting the first ever "Italian Stunt Fest" an event that would welcome over 100 riders from upwards of 10 countries, something unheard of in America. American stunting events saw riders from varied states and an occasional exotic guest from another country, but we never sat down for paninis with riders chatting in five different languages.
As an American, it was a beautiful thing to watch: the common denominator of motorcycle passion bringing together a cultural canvas as colorful and diverse as an oriental rug. We rode, became friends and shared stories with riders from around the world, getting our first taste of stunting in Europe.
With our final sip of life-altering espresso, we headed back to the French Riviera to regroup and plan for the bulk of our summer travels to follow.
Second stop: The European Stunt Championship, Austria
It was late and we had been driving for over 18 hours. We had pulled into the town which hosted our next stunting event, but had apparently also entered some type of black-hole abyss where we circled and circled mere meters from the event grounds, but were unable to locate or enter.
The lights blurred from fatigue and the option of sleeping in a parking lot was tossed about. I conjured some type of other-worldly will power and solved the geographical puzzle; at last parking for the night successfully on the event ground.
The rest of the weekend we were scurrying back and forth between camera and motorcycle, both of which are fulltime positions. Recording each run, photographing the lifestyle, warming up, competing and performing for the crowds on our own motorcycles.
Third stop: An Alpine Session With a Legend
Chris Pfeiffer is a bit like the Michael Jordan of stunting. He's inspired more riders than one will ever know, broke down more industry barriers and pioneered more methods and styles than Jam-Master Jay. The man is a living, walking legend who's sponsored by Red Bull and we had an invite to ride at his personal spot.
We woke up in the morning mist of an Alpine Valley, the steep mountain slopes seemed to bleed into the bed in our caravan; making us oscillate between feeling part of a very grand entity and an insignificant speck at the same time. As the summer air warmed we grabbed some coffee and headed down to Pfeiffer's practice location; a slab of pristine concrete in an unreal Apline landscape. Our motorcycles engines just couldn't help themselves from humming "the hills, are alive...with..." well you know the rest, I won't get it stuck in YOUR head too.
We met up with Chris, who ended up being extremely down to earth and spent a fantastic afternoon riding motorcycles with friends.
Fourth stop: Poland
We arrived, as usual, around 3am. Our host was awake, waiting to show us to the grassy pasture where we would park the caravan. After a eerie drive through overgrown forests and past abandoned crumbling Polish buildings, we pulled into a small plot of land surround by potato fields stretching down to the ever-ominous forest.
We piled out of the van to meet our host, who also happened to be arguably the most talented rider in our sport living today. We exchanged the usual formalities of a first time meeting and moved to conversation along quickly - as we were all ready for bed.
We started to return to the caravan as our host called out - "watch out for the razorbacks," we laughed in typical nonchalant, completely secure, American style "Ok...sure." He got serious and said with his metronomic accented English:
"If you want... I have a gun"
The whole group of tired travelers burst into laughter at the thought of us settling into our caravan bed, shotgun propped up against the doorframe, to fight off the possible midnight rambling swine.
The realities of American versus Polish life had been made comedically obvious in a simple, honest suggestion. Poland would end up being my favorite country, teaching me more about cultures, humans and perseverance, then my entire 18 years of structured childhood education.
We spent the next week preparing for the biggest event on our calendar. We trained in the morning and evening, spending afternoons fixing the motorcycles and preparing for the next stop.
Fifth stop: Northern Poland
The stunt event in Poland perfectly summed up my fascination with the country itself. A paradoxical medley of progress mixed ancient beliefs and values partially frozen in a past era. It's safe to say Poland is home to the most passionate and true "stunt fans," with packed stands and sharpie-toting teens scurrying from rider to rider collecting autographs and photos.
With this exciting scene we were sad to discover the hard way an instilled sense of sexism from the organizer which resulted in my girlfriend not riding. We recorded our media and departed from Poland with mixed emotions. Feeling blessed to experience firsthand the home life and day-to-day of easily the most inspiring rider in our sport.
Sixth stop: Germany
Dusk was falling and marked the first time we pulled into an event not in the dead of night. Hosted on a giant airstrip and fastidiously marked with signs throughout the neighboring towns, we found the event with no problems. From the formal, competitive scene in Poland we had entered the exact opposite in Germany: a week-long party and gathering of bikers:
The German Stuntdays.
We backed into a space for the caravan, purposely parking "out of the path of all the drunk drivers" to avoid unnecessary collisions. The wind was sharp and cold, putting a icy haze over what would be our least favorite stop of the trip.
The Germans were a raucous, vivacious group. They seemingly had evolved to naturally have a beer in one hand, no matter what time of day. The first two nights we were serenaded by ear-piercing motor revving by some individual who somehow came to the conclusion that everyone would find it amusing if he circled the camp from 10pm-7am, running his engine pinned on the rev-limiter. The final night he was reprimanded when he drifted off in bone-headed unconsciousness and a group of Dutchies burned out a few tires literally on top of his tent.
Like the strong, cold winds, the week came and went and with little sorrow we headed back to France, by way of Belgium.
Seventh stop: Paris
In Belgium the sweet sound of native English reached our ears for the first time in a half year, by way of NPR near Brussels. We sat spellbound by the tempo, vocabulary and interpretation of the world and events through our mother tongue.
Around 5 AM we pulled into our hosts driveway, but first had to unattached the caravan (the simple trailer type) on a steep hill and guide it into his driveway. Holding our breath and praying the handbrake would work we popped the trailer off the ball-hitch, everyone surely imaging it breaking loose and the scene that would ensue: two tired Americans and two tired French men desperately chasing a wild caravan bouncing down a steep Parisian hill, gaining more and more speed, until it either shot across a four-lane highway or burst through the second story of a residence at the bottom of the hill.
Luckily the handbrake worked and we shimmied the trailer into the driveway, without said scene.
Paris was Paris, magical as always and some type of trip-frosting, making the low points a bit blurry and a distant memory. We enjoyed dinners with new stunt friends, riding and of course a tour of famous churches.
Eighth stop: Nantes
Our final stop was a visit to an old friend and someone who actually helped our initial move to France. A rider of over 12 years, he truly recognized and appreciated the effort we were putting into the sport.
After the trip of a life-time, it was great to spend a week with a good friend who could really see the accomplishments with us. Stepping back and reflecting, from a farm in Tennessee, to a dream career in video games, to pioneering the first news source for the sport that's given so much to me, I've been a person blessed by good friends, hard work, determination and a fair bit of luck.
Seeing the stark landscape changes from Western to Eastern Europe helped make me more grateful to be American, born in a land of opportunity and hope. I felt motivated by my sharpened awareness of the numerous prospects truly afforded to me. Not taking advantage of these opportunities seem like a slap in the face to anyone struggling to become better in a scenario not half as conducive to that mentality as the USA.
After a year on the road in Europe I know who I am and what I want. I am Anthony, an American who strives to constantly create things that reflect my passion and that I'm proud of, that benefit the world and hopefully make everyday life a little better.
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