“Go west, young man.” That hoary bit of wisdom still stands up, especially for Connor Lynch, a New York-based videographer.
In fact, he went about as west as he could, filming the documentary Mount Lawrence, the story of Chandler Wild’s 6,500-mile bicycle ride from New York to Alaska.
Luckily, Lynch liked to ride a bike almost as much as make a film. “I discovered a love of biking in the city,” he says. “Ride to survive.”
A cross-country tour, however, isn’t quite the same as a dash to Starbucks, especially for Lynch, a 2009 communication arts gradute, who wasn’t your stereotypical cyclist. At the start of the journey, he weighed 300 pounds, used to be a pack-a-day smoker, never slept in a tent and only took up bike riding a year earlier to impress a woman. The beginning of the tour, he admits, was rough.
“The first 10 minutes of the documentary you can hear me wheezing, but it slowly dissipates over time.” He shed about 20 pounds despite fueling up on a steady diet of classic American road food. His tip for roadtrip dining: “There’s no such thing as a bad patty melt.”
But this is one Xavier grad always up for a challenge and a fresh opportunity. And like a true documentarian, his longest journey began as a blog: “This trip will change my body in ways that I can’t imagine. My eyes, my mind, the way that I walk through the world will also change and grow, and that’s going to change the way I point a camera at it.”
When Lynch and Wild hit the road, it was just the two of them. All the gear, on trailers, hitched to the bikes. Lynch filmed as he pedaled from a digital camera mounted on his handlebars. He blogged and posted updates throughout the five-month trip, and even made another great discovery. While en route in Pennsylvania, he came across a beautiful old drive-in theater.
“The owner came out and talked to us. He took me the projection booth and showed me these old, beautiful 35mm projectors that have been in use since the 1950s.”
Thus, in the midst of filming one documentary he found his next documentary, Changeover, the story of an independent drive-in and its final screening on a 35mm film print.
Lynch sums up his recent experience perfectly in his final Mount Lawrence blog post: “For now my bicycling adventure is done…13 states, 40 popped tires, 400 hours of footage, three pairs of sunglasses and one really strange lower back tan… So with open eyes, and a thankful heart, on to the next adventure.”