Airline Adventures with Matt Wilhelm


Photo & Text: Kevin McAvoy 

One of the best perks of being a pro rider is having the opportunity to travel all over the world on someone else’s dime. Matt Wilhelm has performed shows and competed in contests all over the globe, which means he’s logged plenty of hours in the air. Here are a few fascinating flight facts from flatland’s frequent flyer.

Local airport:
Chicago O'Hare or Midway.

Total number of frequent flyer miles you have:
Less than 100,000. I should have way more, but I didn’t sign up for the programs until I had already flown a bunch.

What countries have you flown to?
Japan, Germany, UK, France, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Portugal, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Korea.

Wilhelm upside-down megaspin no-handed Have you brought any souvenirs back from those countries?
I brought back this creepy-looking devil mask from Japan. It’s supposed to be for good luck, but it looks scary. My wife made me take it out of the bedroom because she couldn’t sleep with it in there. I also brought these chocolate hippo candies from Germany that taste really good.

Have you ever flown first class?

Aisle or window?
Window, because I have a strong bladder and I hate when people wake me up so they can pee.

Peanuts or pretzels?
Peanuts, although Northwest has something called Spinzels, which are pretty tasty.

How do you kill time on the plane?
Make songs on my laptop until the battery dies, then do some Sudoku puzzles.

What are Sudoku puzzles?
It’s a logic/number puzzle, kind of like a crossword puzzle, but using numbers instead of letters. Don’t worry, there’s no math involved.

Do you do anything different to kill time on long layovers?
If I’m traveling with a couple of people, we usually do some pranks. I’ve glued quarters to the ground and watched people try to pick them up. It’s funny, because when someone bends over in a crowd of people they always get trampled over.  

Is there anything you always make sure you have with you when you fly?
I have a sleep mask, which probably makes me look like an idiot. I always carry a hoodie (even in the summer) because it makes for a good pillow and sometimes the AC is too cold.

Tell us a story about one of the events or places you’ve flown to.
I flew out to L.A. for a show called 30 Seconds to Fame on FOX, where I won $25,000 competing against acts from Cirque du Soleil, fire-shooting jugglers, and tons of freaks. I also had a limo pick me up at the airport once; the driver had a sign that read “Wilhelm”.

Jump switch at night Has anything scary, funny, or weird happened on a flight?
The airlines in Europe made me put my bike in a huge box to get it home, and I couldn’t find my bike at baggage claim until I looked down the oversized baggage conveyer belt and saw the box wedged about 25 feet down the belt. I climbed down two stories on my stomach and carried it up. I’m sure I could have been hit with a stiff anti-terrorism charge for trespassing or something.

Do you have any tricks you use (or used in the past) to try to get your bike on the plane without paying for it?
I had an ex-girlfriend who used to work for Southwest.  Even after I knew she quit, I would still ask if she was working, and tell them that she was my first kiss. There’s no way they could charge me the bike fee after that. I still ask for her and she hasn’t worked there for over two years.

Have you ever missed a flight?
Once, but only because my ride was late. If the airlines were on time more often, I would have missed a lot more flights.

What would make flying better or easier for you?
If I didn’t have to take my bike apart all the time. It’s so easy to fly with bikes in Europe because they’re a more common form of transportation. Hot security screening girls would be nice, too.

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