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Slow ride

Road movie crawls from Seattle to Boston by Segway
By JEFF INGLIS  |  August 15, 2007

10 MPH | at Frontier Café & Cinema, Fort Andross, 14 Maine St, Brunswick | 7 & 9 pm August 18 | $7 | 207.725.5222
When their semi-loony friend “j.fred” had the idea, it was a laugh, a lark. Nobody would ever ride a Segway across the country. The battery-powered, gyroscope-balanced, two-wheeled “human transporter” invented by New Hampshirite Dean Kamen is too silly, too awkward for something like that.

But the more longtime friends Josh Caldwell and Hunter Weeks thought about it, they realized the idea could, in fact, become (if you’ll pardon the pun) a vehicle for launching their filmmaking careers.

Both were complete rookies — neither had made a full-length film, nor had either ridden on a Segway — an experience within the reach of anyone who has a few grand to buy one or time to wander into a Brookstone specialty shop and ask for a demo.

Now, after traveling 4300 miles from Seattle to Boston in 100 days, Caldwell has probably ridden a Segway farther than anyone else. His journey is documented in the film 10 MPH, screening Saturday at Frontier Café and Cinema in Brunswick. But even after all that, Caldwell is no Segway acrobat. He can do a wheelie, but he never tried to “grind on a rail,” much less any more adventurous trick.

What Caldwell and Weeks have made is a road movie, in the tradition, perhaps, of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” reports for CBS News, or maybe more like William Least Heat-Moon’s backroads peregrinations in Blue Highways.

Caldwell rode the Segway; Weeks followed in an SUV — sometimes just feet behind — loaded with supplies, spare batteries, and a couple of helpers. The movie is about driving a Segway 10 miles per hour across the country, the people they met, the sights they encountered, and the occasional run-ins with the law. “Barney Fife is alive and well” in rural Illinois, Caldwell reports, recalling his encounter with a police officer livid that he and the SUV were moving at a snail’s pace along a narrow road posted with a speed limit of 45 mph.

There have been plenty of road-trip films and TV shows. Most of them — like Smokey and the Bandit, The Dukes of Hazzard, and even MTV’s Road Rules — feature plots centered on driving way too fast. Not 10 MPH. These enterprising journeymen turned a blind eye to the only thing the government gives you completely for free: the right to do the speed limit.

What’s not in the film is a 50-Segway parade to the Bedford, New Hampshire, factory where the two-wheelers are made. Nor are viewers offered any footage of the team repairing the Segway, which needed frequent changes of batteries, as you might expect, but never once had a flat tire or needed a tire change. (There was a problem with an electronic component in the handlebars, which was cured by installing a new set of handlebars, but that was it for breakdowns.)

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  Topics: Features , Barney Fife, Charles Kuralt, William Least Heat-Moon
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