Monday, November 15, 2004

Motorcycle Boy

I haven't been around much lately to watch TV, and when I do, I watch cable. Oh, don't get me wrong, I am very easily sucked in to reruns of CSI and Law & Order, but that's about it. Reality TV especially scares me.

HOWEVER... a show started up recently that I knew I'd have to catch. Bravo's Long Way Round. This is a reality show about two guys who decide to hop onto their motorcycles and ride around the world, starting in London and ending in New York City.

They went some 20,000 miles, crossing through France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada before hitting the Big Apple. These two lunatics are actors Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor.

I Heart Ewan McGregor.

Anyway, these guys took their bikes and cameras (a small truck of two or three more guys followed them to help document the journey) across some insanely inhospitable terrain, through beautiful villages, down canyons, into media traps... and that's only been the first couple episodes. Maybe this is boring to some of you who don't lust after Ewan like I do (and even my lust wanes as his beard grows on the program), but it is as close as I'm going to get to actually traveling this world for a few more years. Granted, when I travel, I try to avoid eating baked goat head or camping alongside wild camels, but that's just me. The trip, despite the tiny support crew, is pretty bare bones, rugged, and macho, to be honest. It takes a certain kind of person to do this sort of thing.

One of my dearest friends is one of these guys. Not actually on the show, but a former motorcycle boy who could just ride and ride and ride... I overcame my fear of riding with this guy. Pretty soon, I had my own helmet and boots and was nearly scraping the pavement with the best of them. Well, I think I did pretty good as a passenger, anyway.

But my friend was very serious about his riding. He was very safe, and carefully chose his routes so that we would see some amazing things. Even just in the not-so-wild Bay Area. We were wandering a back road one time and encountered a huge black bull standing in the middle of the road. It wouldn't budge. It was twice the size of us on our bike, and we wound up carefully inching our way around it as it sort of just zoned out on the street. I know that's not as exotic as a camel, but come on - we're talking Marin county here.

Currently, this same friend is riding his bicycle up and down the West Coast. Last summer, he rode across the entire United States on the same bicycle, camping out at farms and by the side of the road or wherever was going to work out that night. I was stunned after he crossed the Rockies, which was not very dangerous at all since the tourists on the road were cruising to take in the scenery. I remember him sending me a postcard which said: "There is a special place in hell for truckers." On one occasion, his arrival in a small town prompted the local press to ask if they could write a story about his journey. Because people just don't ride their bikes any further than the park or something.

His current tour has taken him from the Bay Area to Canada, and then he flipped around and came here to LA, riding on or alongside freeways much of the way down. He rolled into my driveway with a funny hat on, a bandana around his neck, gloves and a smile, having really enjoyed the trek through LA (his hometown). And he rode off in much the same manner.

So, of course, I thought of this friend when watching Long Way Round. Watching how these men are a curiosity to the people they met, not just because they are not native to the area, or even the fact that they are somewhat well established actors, but because they are RIDING THEIR MOTORCYCLES AROUND THE WORLD. And watching their very basic existence, pared down to keeping both body and machine in good shape and getting through each day, while encountering all sorts of humanity, made me a bit jealous of my friend's adventure, because I don't have the stamina to do something quite that untethered.

And then there was the fact that they also wore funny hats and a bandana around their necks...