Much like a reunion special, Charley and Ewan are getting the old gang back together. You might remember them from the Long Way Down, where they brought around the world motorcycle travel into the spotlight. Or Long Way Down, the follow-up series through part of Europe and Africa. There were colorful characters like Claudio, the casual cameraman they hired who never actually had a motorcycle license. Or Russ, the director who wanted to make the show a sort of staged reality series. (Read the book excerpt where Russ tries to get Charley into a codpiece for a shot.)
The boys even had along the thick-accented Doctor, Vasily, because every road trip needs its own personal medical DR. Charley, the easily aggravated friend who appears to have bitten off more than he can chew at times seems to take out his frustration at various times on Russ and poor Claudio. Finally, the star of the show. The red-headed rebel Ewan, who appears to be the emotional team leader. Highlighting the ups of teamwork and self-discovery, and the inevitable downs that come with long days away from one’s family.
Well, they’re back! This time it’s all things America. From South, through Central, then ending in North America. From the Long Way Round to the Long Way Down. Now they plan to be embarking on the Long Way Up. Seems all they’ll have left to go will be sideways.
Let’s bring you up to speed
For those of you who enjoy their cinematic presentations to be well scripted and viewed with a bowl of popcorn, then you might not have seen this series of motorcycling adventures. You might, however, have seen some of Ewan’s slightly more well-known performances. Like his role as Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in star wars, or the fetching role of a heroin addict in Trainspotting. Charley’s big-screen roles were with the help of his director father, with a role in Deliverance at a young age. Then a number of theatrical performances later in life.
Together, they then etched out an entirely new genre with their documentary motorcycle series. This experimental series then gave birth to a whole new cult following of adventure motorcycle riders. First up, the Long Way Round. An adventure that would take Ewan and Charley via their BMW R1150GS motorcycles from London England on April 14th, 2004 to New York City on July 29th, 2004. From “London to New York, the long way round.” Some 19,000-miles across Europe, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Then fly the bikes from Russia to Alaska, where they finally got to switch things back to sixth-gear to cross part of Canada and back into the USA. As far as “around the world” goes, they cut some corners. Still, the adventure was Impressive none the less.
This became such an unbelievable success as far as personal, and motorcycle accomplishment caught on film. That the team then followed up with the series, the Long Way Down. Here the pair would ride BMW’s follow up bike, the R1200GS, from Scotland to South Africa. This adventure would kick off May 12th, 2007 and reach the finish line on August 4th, 2007. The Long Way Down expedition would wind its way down through Spain then follow the Western side of Africa. Again they were accompanied by an overwhelming crew of camera personal, directors, security and a Doctor. As well having many people along the way in place to arrange translation and aid with border crossings. If you are looking for a funny perspective from a guy, who was doing his own round the world trip, solo, with no budget, and no help. Read through The University Of Gravel Roads. The author crosses paths with the duo and their entourage, it is a stark comparison.
What the Long Way Up Looks Like
In a brief interview about the possible plans to ride from Ushuaia in Argentina to Alaska. Boorman told MCN “We are very much in the early planning stages at the moment. I’m scared to say too much in case I jinx it, but hopefully, it is going to happen.”
This route would take them around 15,000-miles covering every climatic region possible. From the extreme winds in South Argentina through the Ruta 40 zone. Then reaching dizzying heights while surpassing the Andes in Peru, crossing humid jungle in Colombia, around the active volcanoes of Central America, then up the beautiful beaches of Mexico. With the final stages to likely pass through the rocky mountain regions of Canada and into the more remote areas of Alaska. This is a ride dreamt of by many, yet only accomplished by those with a keen sense of adventure.
The route has so much to offer that the several months they proposed to do it in won’t be enough to enjoy much of the views. Not impossible though, the current record to drive from Ushuaia Argentina to Deadhorse Alaska. 11 days, 17 hours, and 22 minutes. I also read a report recently of someone trying to do it in 10 days.
Political situations do, however, throw their own proverbial wrench into things. As of right now, Venezuela is defiantly a no-go zone. With traffic going into and out of the country closed altogether at some border posts. This is not a make or break deal, as you can just stick to the western side of the continent. A bit more difficult would be the current political unrest in Nicaragua. This has PanAmerican drivers looking for alternatives to crossing this county that stretches from the Caribbean to the Pacific. That along with the hurdle of getting from South to Central America. Crossing the infamous “Darien Gap.” The only point between the far reach of both North and South America that can not be driven. Unlike the boys from Where The Road Ends, a group of x-military who recently took their KLR’s across the narco-controlled Colombian jungle, a.k.a. The Gap. I feel like the Long Way Up is a more pampered expedition, and the boys will probably fly the bikes out of Bogota and into Panama City.
If you recall the wee hissy fit that Charley had in the Long Way Round. The pair had settled on taking KTM’s around the world. In the end, KTM would not provide them with the bikes to use, on account they didn’t feel the boys would make it. I might note that if you were to do a survey of most popular bikes used for world over landing expeditions, KTM would be nowhere in the top 10. I’ve seen one, and it was in the shop for repairs. BMW, if you can afford it, is defiantly near the top of the list. I’m not sure if everyone believes in fate, though KTM might have been right when they got the gut feeling the trip would have never been accomplished. I’m not sure it would be on account of Ewan & Charlie. KTM is a premium quality bike, just maybe not the choice for a round the world adventure. They do look good on the Dakar route though.
As it stands right now, Charley is one of the faces for Triumph and Ewan for Moto Guzzi. As far as the adventure motorcycle crowd is concerned, they are both associated with BMW. As far as the Pan-American highway is concerned, you could easily stick to the paved routes. Then ride the whole thing on a Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring addition, or one of Triumphs Thruxton line. For the adventure rider look and overall capability. I’m sure BMW would be happy to have their new R 1200 GS drooled over in another documentary series.
Please insert personal opinion here:
So here’s how I feel about it because I know how much everyone enjoys a personal opinion to lash out at! Seriously people, read your own YouTube and FB comments. Man, could you imagine if people actually talked to each other like they do online? Yikes!
I personally stumbled across the Long Way Round series on a 14-hour plane ride from Auckland New Zealand to Vancouver Canada. I watched the whole series, and have since watched it several times over! Despite being an avid traveler, it had never even occurred to me that you might be able to drive around the planet. Let alone on a motorcycle. Once I started looking into it, Ewan and Charley defiantly we not the first to give it a go. You can read Chris Scott’s, Adventure Motorcycling Handbook. This guy has been at it for years and has since had his book endorsed by Ewan. Or read Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon, a comical look into riding around the planet by bike that kicks off in the 70’s. Then, to rub the polish off their adventure with a massive support team. There is the book, Around The World On A Motorcycle 1928 – 1936. I feel confident saying the adventurers here never ate freeze-dried dinners or had a sat-phone to call their wives when they got lonely.
I will say this. It was as though these two friends took the dreams of many and made them into a reality. Almost giving permission to the idea that what you had always had grinding away in the back of your mind, or brought up in casual conversation on weekend rides was actually possible. Not only possible but could be done in a short time with two-wheels, iron & steel. Suddenly the whole adventure motorcycling world and even those with a sense of adventure and no riding experience felt that they too could travel the world by motorcycle. One could even say it’s become quite trendy to drive around the world.
Look at the four-minute-mile; it seemed unbreakable. From 1850, right up until May 6th, 1954, it could not be broken. Suddenly, Rodger Bannister breaks the record, the whole world goes crazy. Then 46-days later it’s broken again. Then it continued to be broke again and again. Once the world sees it can be done, it allows itself to believe its possible.
Dreams Should Be More Than Just Dreams
To date, I’m yet to meet an overlanding motorcycle traveler who has not seen the Long Way Round, and its no coincidence. If the Worlds Fastest Indian can make you believe your Grandpa can still race motorcycles, and Wild Hogs makes you feel comfortable in your mid-life crisis. Then a series of Long Way Rounds, Downs, and Ups will make you feel like you can ride off into the dusty far-off parts of the world. Even without a support team and several major sponsors. I think the adventure motorcycle community will enjoy the Long Way Up. At least now they can go from dreaming what it would be like to go. To dreaming how they would have done it on a celebrity budget and with a huge support team. As for me, I’ll probably watch it from my dorm. Over ice cold beers, along with the rest of the dusty road warriors who are riding bikes held together with back alley weld jobs and a bit of luck.
Photo credit: LongWayRound.com