Apr 30, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
More than five years after their cross-country bike tour made a pit stop in their hometown of Skaneateles, brothers Pearson and Pete Constantino were back in the area last week to screen the documentary film that tells their story.
“The Long Bike Back,” directed by Pearson’s wife Julia Wrona, follows Pearson’s recovery from a hit-and-run accident while on a bicycle and the brothers’ bike ride that took them from Oregon to Massachusetts, primarily on Route 20.
The trip and film also aim to spread the message of sharing the road, with the hope of preventing accidents, like Pearson’s, from happening in the future.
“I think everybody wants to have an adventure in their life, and pretty much everybody does whether they realize it or not, and here is a look at ours,” Pearson said about the film.
Originally released for the first time in October 2013, the film was publically screened in Central New York for the first time on April 25 as part of Syracuse International Film Fests’ Spring Fest. The film is available for purchase on thelongbikeback.com and will soon be available to stream via the same site for a rental fee, Wrona said.
Pearson and Pete, who grew up in Skaneateles, have been biking their whole lives. When Pearson was 12, he rode from Skaneateles to Cape Cod with his brother and father — an experience he credits with planting the seed for his eventual cross-country trip.
Though the path leading up to the trip was not easy.
In June 2006, Pearson was riding on Central Avenue in Hartsdale, N.Y. when he was hit by an SUV. He ended up in the hospital with a broken femur, one broken vertebra and head trauma. The brothers had planned to do the ride that year, but had to postpone the start date to August 2008 so that Pearson could rehabilitate.
It was after the accident that Pearson and Wrona (who were dating at the time and got married during the time covered in the film) decided that the ride could be made into a film, they said.
“When Pearson decided to bike across the country for road safety and so that it wouldn’t happen to other people, somewhere in the early recovery stage, is when I decided to make a film about it,” Wrona said.
Despite his bones healing, Pearson continued to have constant back pain, which would become one of many obstacles the brothers faced in completing the ride.
The ride itself covered about 3,500 miles over the course of 51 days. Their pace was roughly 100 miles a day with some rest days mixed in. Due to the strenuous pace of the riding, both brothers get worn down at different times and on a couple of occasions can’t finish the day’s scheduled route. They also struggle at times with injuries from falling, flat tires and illness.
At times, particularly in Iowa, the brothers are forced to ride in the road because there is no paved shoulder. Though law gives them the right to use a lane for riding, many motorists honk at them and come dangerously close behind, a direct demonstration of the behavior they hoped the film would improve.
“My hope was that it [the film] would help get people behind the wheel to think about a human being riding a bike and not just an obstacle in the road that they need to deal with,” Pearson said.
Sharing the road is also the responsibility of cyclists, a point hit on by Pete in a scene where the brothers talk to a group of cyclists in Albany.
Rather than just complaining about poor roads and inconsiderate motorists, cyclists can help by being courteous and waving in appreciation to motorists who are respectful of their right to the road, he said.
One of the reasons for picking Route 20 was that it goes right through Skaneateles, Pearson said. The crew took a rest day in Skaneateles during which they visited with family and made appearances at Skaneateles High School, the library and elsewhere. Creekside Books and Coffee is also featured earlier in the film, where Pearson gave a talk before they set out.
The hills between Skaneateles and Cazenovia are described as some of the toughest riding of the whole trip and that day is made even tougher when Pearson hits a mailbox and falls of his bike, all caught on camera. Though they power through the adversity and are greeted by a group of enthusiastic kids as they pass by Grimshaw Elementary in Lafayette.
In the end, the brothers complete the ride and even hint at a plan for another lengthy ride, though with a less frenetic pace.
Since the film was largely funded through Wrona’s own production company Alujion Films, they did not have the money to complete the editing process until 2013, when they sought donations through Indie Go-Go, a crowd-funding service.
Since its release, Wrona and Pearson, who is a musician by trade, have been living on the road traveling to do screenings, which they plan to continue doing for the foreseeable future they said.
Since May is National Bike Month, Pete and Pearson have decided to go back out on the road and bike from Glens Falls, N.Y. (where Pete lives) to Portsmouth, N.H. stopping along the way for the next string of screenings of “The Long Bike Back.”
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.