While the action on the track ultimately defined my six years representing Team USA at the Motocross of Nations (MXoN), from my whirlwind debut in 2009 to my growth as a leader in the final years of my participation, I can’t ignore all of the memories away from the races experiencing a variety of different cultures across Europe.
As a kid from a small town in Minnesota who spent the majority of my youth on the road going from one amateur race to another, the idea of going overseas was completely over my head. In fact, even visiting some of the biggest cities here in the U.S was a totally different experience from what I was used to. So, when I was selected to be a part of Team USA for the first time when the MXoN was in Italy, I had no idea what to expect.
At the age of 19 I hopped on a plane to make my first trip abroad. I was excited, but a little nervous. When I arrived I was immediately captivated by everything. In some ways it felt like I was on a different planet, but I also found things like the quietness of the small rural towns by the track to be similar to the places I grew up, which was comforting. I think above all, the thing I was most fond of was the welcoming nature of everyone I encountered in Italy. Even though I didn’t speak the language and probably looked like I was lost most of the time, it didn’t matter. I quickly realized that a core element of their culture was the shared experience. Everyone wanted me to enjoy the best of what each place had to offer, and in some cases went out of their way to do so. That resonated with me and made me eager to explore.
In the years that followed, I found myself equally as excited about the host country as the race itself. When I was growing up I always thought it was cool that the MXoN traveled somewhere different each year, but after finally being a part of it, the ability to visit different countries turned into opportunities to experience more cultures. In 2011 we traveled to France, then traveled to Belgium in 2012 and Germany in 2013. My final trip was to Latvia in 2014. While each country was distinctly different, the same welcoming quality that made that first trip so memorable was felt every time.
Participating in the MXoN also coincided with my growing love for coffee. Prior to that first trip to Italy coffee had become a part of my daily routine. While I didn’t necessarily know much about what I was drinking, I certainly enjoyed sipping on something warm and comforting. I carried this somewhat unassuming mindset over to Italy, and it resulted in one of the most eye-opening experiences involving my education of coffee. At the hotel buffet I decided to get a cup to go with breakfast. Little did I know that what was being offered was espresso. Upon my first sip the strength of the coffee caught me completely off guard. Not only did I not expect it, but I also just wasn’t ready for it. By the time I was able to make it palatable it was probably half milk! However, I went back for more every time and I learned to develop a taste for it. By the end of the trip I really enjoyed “Italian coffee.” Now that I look back, it seems pretty obvious that espresso would be the preferred coffee in Italy, but that just makes me realize how little I knew back then.
That experience was my first major eye opener to the differences in coffee. Not just from drip coffee to espresso, but even the flavor profile. Most of what I knew stemmed from whatever I ordered at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, The Coffee Bean, Peets, or any other major chain. I simply picked something from the menu and either enjoyed it or didn’t. However, things changed when I tried espresso upon returning to the U.S. and found that it wasn’t the same as what I had in Italy.
I became more curious than ever to try and answer the various “Why?” questions I had. I knew I enjoyed coffee, but I found myself in search of deeper knowledge, no different than how I’d approach a new challenge on my dirt bike. As I started to learn more about the coffee process and became more aware of things like regional differences in beans and brewing methods, those following MXoN trips turned into chances to discover these coffee nuances first hand. With Lindsay by my side, we visited cafes all over Europe, expanding our knowledge of coffee with each sip. It’s something I look back on fondly because this is when coffee evolved from something I enjoyed to something I was passionate about. Each of those extended stays we took in places like Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands were cornerstone moments of ultimately getting to where we are today with RD Coffee.
Ironically enough, when I first had the idea to eventually start a coffee business I drafted up a cafe concept. At the time it seemed like the most logical thing to do. However, as time wore on, I learned more about the business of coffee and the coffee industry itself experienced huge growth with so many small businesses. That led me down a different path to focus on sourcing, roasting, and packaging my own coffee for retail. I liked the potential of how that type of business could evolve, not necessarily being tied to a day-to-day cafe operation, and decided to start there and see where this new journey takes us.
During those European travels, one thing that consistently stood out to me in all the coffee I consumed across multiple countries was its strength and smoothness. While it all had a considerably bolder flavor than anything I had in the U.S., there was a distinctive balance with how easy it was to drink. That memory has always stuck with me and it’s something that has served as the inspiration for the development of RD Coffee. While having the best quality of bean is the foundational element of each roast, the part that I think is most important to you, the consumer, is that balance of flavor and smoothness. I think we’ve been successful with the handful of roasts we’ve created thus far, and I hope you feel the same.
When I look back on it, the Motocross of Nations really served a pivotal role in my life, both as a professional racer and as an owner of a budding coffee business. I’ve gone into quite a bit of detail regarding how special this event was to me and is to the sport of motocross, and I hope I’ve been able to provide a new appreciation for the MXoN through this series of blogs. My career wouldn’t have been what it was without representing Team USA, and RD Coffee wouldn’t have the passion it does behind it without those discoveries abroad.