He did it. And he made it look so easy.
A few minutes after the clock struck 2010 (on the East Coast, that is), Travis Pastrana jumped his Subaru Impreza 269 feet, smashing the previous record of 171 feet set by DC Shoes co-founder Ken Block in November 2006. And, just for added flair, he did it under the first New Year's Eve blue moon in 19 years and in front of a live television audience. Then he landed on a barge floating 200 feet off the Long Beach pier, slammed into the tire wall and jumped out of the car to celebrate with the tens of thousands of folks lining the pier. Then, reminiscent of his 1999 jump into the San Francisco Bay, he backflipped off the pier and into the chilly water below. But he's come a long way from having his gold medal and prize winnings stripped for that stunt. "Yep," he says. "A long way."
The thing is, it was hard to find anyone in Long Beach who was surprised by his success or nervous in the hours leading up to the jump. "When I used to say I was going to do something, everyone would say, 'Don't do it. That's crazy! That's dumb! And they'd try to talk me out of it," Pastrana says. "Now, I say I'm going to do something like jump a car onto a barge and they say, 'Cool. You'll be fine. You're Travis Pastrana. It will work.' Somehow I've built this reputation as being better than I actually am. It's an amazing position to be in because, when I have an idea, people are willing to take a risk to help me make it possible. But it's also very scary because I have to think things through a lot more now."
But if his friends weren't offering their usual last-minute advice or trying to talk him out of yet another possibility-bending stunt, perhaps it was because, in the days leading up to New Year's Eve, there were signs.
Like when, at lunch during two of the final practice sessions in Lake Elsinore, Calif., Subaru rally team manager Clint Fast was handed his order number 43, Ken Block's rally number printed in black on a white, plastic card from Carl's Jr. "They were a sign," he says, showing Pastrana the two identical cards the day before the final jump, "that Ken's record is going down tomorrow night!"
And there was the Target omen. "Check this out, Trav," says Mario Panagiotopoulos of Red Bull, a few minutes later, while pulling a rather lengthy receipt from his wallet. "I spent more than $200 and bought a ton of stuff and, after all of that " He points to the "change due" line, which reads, "$1.99." Pastrana's number since he was a kid. "That's a sign if I've ever seen one," he says. "That's good luck."
And, of course, there were the signs. Plastered all over the city of Long Beach, posters announcing that, "On New Year's Eve, Travis Pastrana will make a car fly." The city, its firefighters and police force embraced the event. So Pastrana didn't want to let them down. "If I could sit down tonight and write about this experience," he says, "I would write about this town. How cool everyone has been, and how fun it's been to get to work with the fire marshals and the law enforcement. I get to do so many things that have nothing to do with racing cars or motorcycles. I am so fortunate to be in these situations. And I don't know how it keeps happening to me."
Lately, his sponsors have a lot to do with that. Last New Year's Eve, Pastrana watched as his friend and Red Bull teammate Robbie Maddison jumped his bike onto a replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Las Vegas. Although he wasn't interested in swapping places with Maddo (he says he was scared to death for Robbie last year), he decided he was interested in getting in on the New Year's Eve action. "It sounds cliché, but it's so cool to be a part of No Limits," Pastrana says. "They shut down the whole city, and thousands of people are out here just having a lot of fun." So on Friday, once the party is over, will he start 2010 with any resolutions?
"I've never made a New Year's resolution," Pastrana says. "I don't need the extra motivation. I live my life every day as best I can." And if he wants to change something, he doesn't wait until Jan. 1. "I get that from my dad," he says. "If he bought me a cool Christmas gift, he'd give it to me that day. He'd say, 'What if I waited to give you this bike and it snowed the day after Christmas and you couldn't ride it? Why wait for Christmas?"
But if he were to make a resolution today? "It would be to do less," he says. "Lately, I'm always tired and sore and hurt." So, less is more? "I couldn't do it," he says, already rethinking his resolution. "I'd be bored by next week."