Three months on a motorcycle with Ewan McGregor
by Felicia Cameron Leger
My husband is obsessed with motorcycles. He rides them every chance he gets, and when he’s not out riding, he’s wandering through dealerships, checking out the latest Harleys and Suzukis, BMWs and KTMs. My husband doesn’t discriminate. Be it large or small, touring model or dirt bike, as long as the thing has two wheels and an engine, he’s in love.
I think one of the reasons he married me was because, during a vacation in Kauai, I let him talk me into riding up Waimea Canyon on the back of his Honda. (I got extra points for taking videos.) As we raced up the hill, the landscape opened up to me in a way it had never done in a car, or even on foot. The sheer speed of it, the exhilaration of rushing wind and whipping hair, was the closest I had ever come to flying.
Encouraged by my new appreciation for things loud and fast, my husband decided to dust off his bucket list and revisit his dream of riding across the United States. As a part of the research process, he started surfing the Internet for like-minded adventurers who had memorialized their long-distance motorcycle trips on video.
I have to admit I was skeptical. A trip like that sounded just a little north of insane. These were Hollywood actors, after all, who were probably more at home with maître d’s and red carpets than freeze-dried stew and sleeping in the dirt. How did they expect to pull off riding 15,000 miles, through eighteen countries, over some of the most hostile terrain on the planet?
But as I began watching the movie, I realized that Ewan and Charley were a lot tougher than I’d given them credit for. I found out that they had actually ridden around the world together three years earlier (Long Way Round) and had lived to tell about it.
And they weren’t just taking this trip for the bragging rights; they had partnered with UNICEF to bring aid and public awareness to some of the most impoverished communities in the world.
As I watched Ewan and Charley make their grueling three-month journey southward, I quickly forgot they were celebrities. They were just guys on the road, looking for a place to lay their heads at the end of a twelve-hour ride. Through them, I discovered the breathtaking continent of Africa. Like them, I fell in love with its vibrant colors, its undulating wildlife, and its compassionate people.
I probably don’t have to tell you that their trip was a success. Sure, they got banged up a little, but their gratitude always outweighed their complaints, even as the deep African sands coated their bodies and toppled their bikes again and again. For them, it wasn’t just about the ride; it was about getting to know the hearts of the people, about sharing with the poorest of the poor. I’ve said it in my posts before, and I’ll say it again: The best thing about celebrity is using it to help someone in need.
So thank you, Ewan and Charley, for taking me along on your motorcycle adventure. Thank you for letting me share your joys and frustrations, your excitement at the start of a new morning and your relief at the end of an exhausting day. But most of all, thank you for renewing my perspective on a hot meal and a comfortable bed. Even on our worst days, there is always something to be grateful for. So now, if my husband and I ever take that cross-country road trip, I’ll think of you buried up to your thighs in sand, and I’ll be grateful for asphalt.Tags: Charley Boorman, Ewan McGregor, Felicia Cameron Leger, Long Way Down (documentary series), Long Way Round, Making a difference, Motorcycle riding, UNICEF