So while it snowed outside, we finally got around to watching the DVD of 10 MPH that I’d ordered a month or so ago. I’d read about the crazy 10 MPH adventure early on, and followed Hunter and Josh’s trek via the eponymous website over at 10mph.com – which had more of a photo blog feel in those days.
The basic foundation to the documentary is that Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell got fed up with corporate life, in particular corporate life in the IT industry. So they quit their jobs, and decided to do something that would allow them to live life at a slower pace.
And with a friend’s inspiration, they ended up riding a Segway scooter from the Seattle on the west coast (home of the excellent War Games book/movie) all the way across to Boston on the east coast. The Segway’s maximum speed back in 2004 was 10 mph – the same speed as a horse and cart might travel.
They set of with a Segway, 16 spare batteries and a Jeep for the supporters towing a trailer full of provisions. Josh rode the whole way – leaning forward to make the Segway go – and Hunter coordinated the filming, while his twin sister Gannon looked after logistics and keeping the local press informed as they travelled.
At the time, it struck me as a mad cap scheme – but one sufficiently zany to be worth supporting. Eccentrics need to support one another! So I’ve been wearing my 10mph.com T-shirt at tech camps and the like for the last few years ... hopefully contributing a little to the running costs of keeping a Segway whirring across the US.
It’s a very unusual film. It’s about two guys with a purpose, with a goal to get to the other side, despite Segway’s initial corporate reluctance to sponsor them and the financial problems that beset their 100 day trip. They overcome the practical obstacles – like getting a flat tyre on the trailer in day 8, followed by two flats in the Jeep, but none on the Segway!
It’s also about slowing right down and looking at America’s diverse culture and scenery that is so easy to ignore when zooming up the Interstate from A to B. To keep things safe, and to get a chance to meet more people, they’d planned the trip to take more minor roads, going through local towns and communities. Away from New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles and maybe Orlando – what do we really know about the US?
And it’s a road trip, as much about the people they met along the way as the journey itself. There’s the Chicago, Illinois cop who pulled them in for doing 10 mph in a 45 mph street! There are potters earning a living while pursuing their art, farmers growing and harvesting grain in the middle of nowhere, and shop workers enjoying a slower pace of life. (And unlike anyone using any other form of new technology to make a coast-to-coast trip, this one succeeded first time.)
Given that they used a handheld Sony DV camera (PD150) the captured footage is excellent quality. Hunter (et al) have an eye for a good visual image, and it would be great to see the film again on a big cinema screen rather than constrained to a 28” standard definition TV. (Don’t think the film’s had a UK screening yet?)
It’s not a perfect documentary. Hunter and Josh were lucky that they could give up their jobs to pursue other interests, knowing that their savings and share options would provide a security blanket to fall back on should the 10 MPH project veer into a ditch. This is in contrast to many of the people they met along their trip who would be a lot comfortable pursuing a mad cap scheme. Another observation is that from the footage in the film, the trip at times became a means of promoting the film and the 10 MPH brand – why did we have to endure so much footage of local radio interviews? - rather than remaining an epic quest that just had to be completed.
But overall, it was a relaxing 92 minutes that allowed this viewer to peep into the US countryside and be reminded that going slow and observing has its advantages over being too rapid. Glad I bought the T-shirt ... and the DVD. Don’t think you could do Coleraine to Cork though!