Trek across country ends at Bedford plant
One hundred and two days after setting off on their cross-country trek, Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell stepped off their Segways for the final time.
The five 20-somethings in the group and a collie named Alby, along with a few last-minute additions, arrived like heroes Thursday afternoon at the Bedford plant that makes the Segway.
A red ribbon awaited the documentary filmmakers at the end of their journey, 4,064 miles from where the trip had started in Seattle.
And after hearing accolades from Segway executives, including inventor Dean Kamen, the riders signed autographs on small signs labeled with the trip’s motto, “America at 10 mph.”
Terry Goodman and his 10-year-old daughter, Aleeza, stood atop their own Segways with scores of other fans of the high-tech scooters to watch the hearty bunch arrive at the Bedford Hampton Inn.
“It’s gutsy. It’s a long trip. Going across the mountains must have been a treat,” said Goodman, adding he never doubted the two-wheeled machine would make the trip.
Then a long convoy with scores of Segways went down South River Road to the company.
Earlier, Alon Waisman, a Nashua native, sat in the shotgun seat of the group’s Jeep with a laptop computer open. Its GPS tracking system attached to the Jeep’s roof directed the group of adventurers northward, avoiding the highway.
“It’s all very weird to be home,” said Waisman, adding the whole trip has been a three-month journey back to New England.
A 1997 graduate of Nashua High School, the 25-year-old Waisman joined the group for a semester’s internship from his college, the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz. He is studying video game design, but his expertise on the trip was using an Allen wrench to change the batteries that power the Segways, and navigating the caravan across the country on secondary highways and back roads.
The Jeep had a lived-in look after more than three months on the road, with wrappings from an Odwalla bar, a loaf of bread and Izze sparkling juice bottles. A paperback copy of Charles Kuralt’s “Life on the Road” was tucked behind the front seat. Cameras and equipment bags took up the back seat, and battery packs and other equipment filled the trunk.
Weeks and Caldwell, both 27, were motivated to leave their Dilbert-like world of corporate cubicles at a Web company in Phoenix.
Instead, they wanted to see the country and film a documentary about America to “tell the story of our country in an interesting way,” said Weeks, who was doing most of the filming Thursday.
A college friend suggested slowing down and taking a trip across country by Segway. The vehicle’s maximum speed is about 12 mph, but the group averaged about 7 mph.
“Live this life for what you truly love and value,” Weeks said.
The group left Seattle on Aug. 9. It rode through 17 states, visited with family farmers, showed the Segway to American Indians, toured Chicago escorted by Segway-riding police officers, and filmed 200 hours of travel.
The trip celebrated its official end in Boston on Tuesday. The journey to Bedford, which took them through downtown Nashua and up Daniel Webster Highway, was an “encore leg” to see the Segway founders, Caldwell said.
Gannon Weeks, Hunter’s twin sister, joined the group two weeks into the trek. And then Rose Kontak, 23, took to the road after meeting the group in Toledo, Ohio.
The group traveled about 50 miles a day, 105 miles in Wyoming at the longest stretch.
“To go 10 mph, it is actually amazing. I know the difference between Iowa and Ohio,” said Gannon Weeks.
The cross-country trip cost an estimated $50,000. The group relied on credit cards, a little savings, and donations to pay for it.
Saturday’s snow made the trip from New York to Boston one of the toughest legs, said Caldwell, officially the rider and co-producer of the future film, as the group stopped outside Chuck’s Barbershop on Main Street in Nashua. “It was a hard push,” he said.
In the November cold, he was dressed in ski gloves, a shell and fleece jacket, and a winter cap. He rode all the way, hoping for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Riders switched back and forth on the second Segway.
Seeing the country during the white-hot presidential campaign, the group crossed red and blue states alike.
“It’s not as extreme as it seems,” said Hunter Weeks.
The Bedford firm did not officially sanction the trip, and it wasn’t until the trip was well underway that the company warmed up to the idea.
On Thursday, Segway inventor Kamen welcomed the travelers and the machines to the plant.
“To Segway, it is no big deal. To you, it ought to be a big deal. You guys did something nobody (else) can ever do for the first time ever,” said Kamen, noting how everyone remembers the Wright Brothers flying the first airplane, but nobody remembers the second flight.
The company feted the team with jackets stitched with “America at 10 mph,” along with three other Segways so all the members of the team take home their own.
And as for the days after the trip, none of the group has thought beyond trying to get back home for Thanksgiving.
“Honestly, I don’t know what tomorrow brings,” Caldwell said.