That’s a six-word combo I previously hadn’t thought much about. I certainly never expected to need to research the correct tying of Middle Eastern shemaghs as prep for an ESPN The Mag story. But that was my last order of business this morning before leaving my apartment to start nearly 24 hours of travel to U.S. military bases in Doha, Qatar, and Kuwait City, Kuwait.
For the past few years, a group of X Games BMX riders and ramp builders have traveled to American bases to entertain the troops. Several of them, including multiple-time gold medalist Chad Kagy, are on their sixth tour as part of Bikes Over Baghdad. Each time they return from their two-week trips, during which they build ramps put on two or three shows a day and interact with the troops, they do so with incredible stories and a desire to return. Today, they’re the number-one requested show at bases overseas.
But few people outside of the BMX world know about the work these athletes have been doing. At first, the guys didn’t want media attention. That wasn’t their reason for leaving their families multiple times a year and spending their summer vacations in Afghanistan. But three years in, they were willing to allow a reporter, photographer and a video producer to tag along on an eight-day trip to the Middle East. And that reporter’s bosses (and moms) felt more comfortable with a weeklong trip to Kuwait and Qatar than a two-week stay in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each day, we’ll be sending video blogs back to ESPN.com/action and I’ll make sure to repost them here. I’ll write a story for our early December issue of the magazine and we’ll also shoot TV features on some of the guys that will run during the summer X Games. (There are three next year!)
Okay … there’s my boarding call. Off to Doha via Dubai. My next update will be from the other side of the world! And I promise it will include photos.