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From Jack Kerouac to Matt Harding, the drive to escape the familiar and explore the world is a constant among generations — and with the growing scourge of corporate America possibly serving as a impetus, Generation X is travelling far more than Baby Boomers ever did. Each era brings a unique way to sate this wanderlust; for the team behind the documentary 10 MPH, that vehicle was the Segway.
A Segway, the upright scooter invented by Dean Kamen and prior to its release referred to as "Ginger" and "IT", carries one passenger at a top speed of ten miles per hour, with an average of ten miles per battery charge. A team of creative entrepreneurs funded the purchase of a pair of Segways and set out to drive one from Seattle to Boston, with Josh Caldwell on Segway and Hunter Weeks, Hunter's twin sister Gannon, and Alon Waisman as support, trailing in a van on the road's shoulder.
The resulting documentary is far better than I expected, as after watching the similar hitting-the-road film Parallel Lines, I worried that I'd be bored by amateur shots of whatever or whoever stepped in front of the camera. Instead, the 200 hours of footage has been pared down to a fun, novel, and fast-moving trip across America. Stunning vistas and an original soundtrack capture the mountains and valleys traversed by what's intended as an urban machine, with entire days or weeks passing in a blink that the team might better capture the journey's highlights.
More often than not, those memorable moments come not from places, but people. The strangers our pilgrims met along the way don't stay strangers for long, their curiosity and generosity affording the documentarians many meals, stories, and beds. A recurring theme is finding one's life passion, with pullquotes identifying those lucky few people's "things". It inspires the viewer to ask, what is my thing?
It's these third parties that best represent America, as the narrator's delivery is dry — though perhaps a more favorable interpretation would be "professional". But more often than not, the camera is better focused outward than inward. I'm sure the crew hoped everything would go flawlessly, which would've made for a better experience for both them and their viewers. But financial issues nearly brought the trial to an early close, and the causal internal conflicts and resulting desperation are a part of this documentary.
Just as the journey started with a personal investment in the Segway that its manufacturer refused to provide this team, the journey ended at great expense — but only because the team insisted on seeing the road to its end. One hundred days and 418 battery charges later, Caldwell, Weekses, and Waisman made their way to Boston and then further north to New Hampshire, home of the Segway.
During the resulting coverage on New England Cable News, Hunter indicated the documentary would be completed in 6-8 months. Two years later, it's available on DVD and online at a price of your choosing. The DVD comes in stereo sound and with an acceptable number of extras: the full eight-minute NECN interview, deleted scenes, "bloopers" (mostly people falling off Segways), and director commentary. It's an interesting mix of people, places, and dreams, edited together from scripted and unscripted scenes. The variety of elements combine into a slightly uneven package, but overall it works well to capture this adventure, entertain its audience, and motivate us to take our own first step.