Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ride Sharing

If you have something you like, you want to share it. Readers of this space know of my love of travel. If you had the floor, it might just as easily be about music or photography or painting. Or if you're Cliff Adams, and you love motorcycling and watching the scenery go by, you make a movie.

A devoted rider for many years, Adams would motor solo and with friends whenever he could. Then, at his grandfather's 100th birthday party, he was talking to his Pop about a trip he had taken in the distant past, a nine day excursion heading west on an old Scout . At the end of his ride Pop sold the bike for little more than trainfare home. He would have loved to ride again, but, he lamented, "nobody rides forever." That planted a seed in Adams' mind. True, no one does ride forever, and the older you get, the harder it gets. So you better do it now.

He looked at his calendar and nailed own a three week period he had free. He poured over maps, called friends from around the country, and had mounts made to rig his camera to his bike. He figured he would need to travel 500 miles a day to keep to his schedule. He had no sponsor, no backers, just a desire to ride and share the experience. But that's all he needed to let out the clutch on his film "Redline America."

Departure day started ominously when smoke started to seep out from under his gas tank: seemed one of the wires to his monitor melted. He fixed it, but road closures, traffic and rain compounded the headaches at the outset. Still, he was determined to ride hard to catch up and get back on track. So he roared through New Jersey and continued through Pennsylvania, riding hard for ten hours before catching a few hours of sleep, then heading further west into the Badlands.

There he hit yet another obstacle. The road ahead was closed, riddled with potholes due to shifting ground. A sympathetic Park Ranger heard his story, and gave him a tip. He zigged and zagged, and got on a little further down the way. But while checking his viewfinder as opposed to looking at the road, one of those potholes rose up and bit him. Luckily, neither he nor the bike we're badly hurt, though he lost one of his cameras. Just two days in, and it seemed to be over before it started. He decided to flip a coin. Heads he would continue, tails he would call it a day. When it hit the ground, Pop was looking up at him. On he went.

Finally, he got to the stuff of which a biker dreams. His route was to include Needles Highway, a 14 mile stretch of road in South Dakota that is lined with rock spires and pine trees. Alas, the signs said it was closed for paving. But in fact, the signs weren't accurate: it was open, just unmarked. Adams had hit that small window when it was virgin pavement, smooth as silk with no lines yet marring its surface. He jumped on it as if he were the first to ever take the route. If there was a sign the trip was meant to be, this was it.

The ride continued through such spectacular scenery as the "Going-To-The-Sun" Road in Glacier National Park and the Cherohala Skyway in Robbinsville, North Carolina. Adams documents all this using custom onboard bike and helmet mounts. He also enlisted other biker friends to ride alongside, providing perspective so it's not just scenery whizzing by. And he takes ample time to stop and shoot the local inhabitants: not people, mind you, but moose and birds, flowers and fauna. All of this is accompanied by his own musings and running commentary on his trip, mixed with a music soundtrack written and played by a variety of friends.

What emerges is a film less about motorcycling and more about wandering. It won't make you so much want to ride as it will make you want to see the country. For while it's easy to plan your next vacation to the warmth of the Caribbean, the excitement of Las Vegas or the bright lights of Paris, to do so is to forget what exists here under our very noses. Adams traveled 10,000 miles, and never once crossed an ocean. And in doing so, he contradicted his Pop. The old man said "no one rides forever." But with "Redline America" you can, and you can do it again and again.


Marc Wollin of Bedford was captivated by "Redline America" despite the fact that all his bikes have pedals. His column appears regularly in The Record Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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