Bikes aren't all bad, and fixers

I live across the street from a bar that attracts many bikers from all over the city. I don't know if bikers are generally concerned about how they are viewed in the eyes of non-bikers, but the bikers who patronize this particular neighborhood bar do nothing to endear the motorcycle culture to my heart. Mainly because they insist on letting their bikes idle forever, and then rev the engines so loudly that I can *feel* them from the couch!

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have, though, given me insight into the passion people can have for motorcycles. I have a new appreciation -not that I ever want to ride one- after watching the documentaries of their bike trips around the world. In 2004, they rode from London to New York and called the trip The Long Way Round. In 2007, they rode from John O'Groats, Scotland to Cape Town and called the trip The Long Way Down. The documentaries are brilliant - they use cameras on their helmets, handheld cameras and travel with a camera man to record everything - encounters with wild animals, border crossings, meals with people they meet along the way - and while the landscape, faces, houses, beliefs, lifestyles change drastically as they travel east, there are enough commonalities that make the world seem like not that big a place after all.

While there are many things that I love about what they experience (including their work with UNICEF), one thing I noticed in the credits was a long list of 'fixers.' In general, fixers help travelers (including journalists and foodies) navigate border crossings, cultural differences, security concerns, translation needs etc. Charley and Ewan sometimes travel into the countries with their fixer, but most often get the skinny on the condition of roads, learn about places to eat and stay, and must-sees.

Fixers don't handle everything, of course. There are many scenes as the team prepares for the trip of the producers gathering essential documents, visiting embassies and meeting with advisors in London, and trips to the Royal Geographical Society (I love all the maps). In addition to passports and visas for the crew for every country, they needed carnets (customs documents) for the video equipment, and a few other documents.

(Oh, and speaking of documentation, tomorrow is Passport Day in the USA. Seriously, there is a day, week, or month, for everything!)

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