Long Way Round

I want to buy a motorcycle.

No, it’s not a mid-life crisis. We recently watched the ten episodes of Long Way Round on DVD, and I’ve got the adventure bug. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been dreaming about picking up a nice BWM R1150GS, getting a few maps together, and setting off on the open road.

If you haven’t seen the series, you really should check it out. For 16 weeks in 2004, Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman travelled 30,000 km from London to New York by motorcycle. It’s a buddy picture, a travelogue, and an homage to big, powerful machines.

The highlight of the series is episodes 5 through 7, as Ewan and Charley drive through Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia to the Siberian coast. The scenery is beautiful, and their interaction with the locals they meet en route is very honest and compelling. As the roads become practically impassable, I really felt their sense of frustration and accomplishment.

In fact, if the series has a shortcoming, it’s that the emotional climax comes three episodes too early. After they’ve traversed the rugged Road of Bones and finally arrive in Magadan, it feels like the natural conclusion of an epic journey. The next couple of hours, which follows them down the paved highways of Alaska, Canada, and the U.S., almost feels like an afterthought (although seeing Ewan get hit by a young idiot driver in Calgary was pretty funny).

What really struck me was the obvious friendship that exists between Ewan and Charley. They’re very likable guys, and really seemed to support each other through the trip. We’re so conditioned to viewing celebrities in sterile settings that it almost seems ridiculous to watch a famous actor like Ewan sleeping in a hut in Mongolia or straining to push his bike out of a muddy rut.

Their trip made me envious on a couple of levels. First, it’s been a while since I’ve had a real adventure. You know, one of those life-altering experiences in which practically every second is seared into your memory. I suppose it’s natural that at a certain point domestic responsibilities take priority over more engaging pursuits, but I recognize the need for some degree of risk. The orchestra’s Asia Tour was going to fill that void, but I managed to dodge that bullet.

Second, watching the bromance between Ewan and Charley was a reminder of something that’s been missing in my life for a while. While I had a number of really close guy friends in school that I could count on for some testosterone-fueled mischief and mayhem, those opportunities have dwindled over the past decade.

The obvious solution to both issues is getting a motorcycle. There’s the instant bonding between bikers, as exhibited in rallies, clubs, and the donning of gang colours. There’s also the element of risk and adventure, with road trips, rain-slicked roads and cigarette smuggling. In the meantime, I’m going to rent The Wild One and Easy Rider and live vicariously through Brando, Fonda, and Hopper.

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