The Bikes of Wrath

The Bikes of Wrath Play

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The Bikes of Wrath tells the story of five Australian friends as they attempt to cycle 2600 kilometres from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to Bakersfield, California in honour of the mighty westward migration undertaken by The Grapes of Wrath’s’ Joad family.

Armed with an inordinate amount of self-belief, the cyclists set-off on their 30-day adventure with no training, no support vehicle, and as one member puts it best, ‘no real idea’. Burdened with trailers, musical instruments, and camera equipment, the group set themselves the additional challenge of surviving on $420 (the modern-day equivalent of the Joads’ $18 in the 1930s) and whatever their musical performances can yield.

Riding 90 kilometers a day, the journey along America’s iconic route 66 takes them from the farmlands of Oklahoma to the blistering Mojave desert and countless places in-between; the diversity of landscapes only matched by the assortment of characters met along the way.

It is through these chance encounters with everyday Americans that the cyclists explore whether the United States has progressed since the book was written, discussing the wealth gap, immigration, and the American Dream.

These vastly different small-town characters quickly become the central focus of the film and series, as well as integral to the group’s success; letting the cyclists into their homes, lives, and demonstrating the startling parallels of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ seventy-eight years after its publication.

The Bikes of Wrath shines a positive light on America and the human spirit at a time when the world needs it most; all rolled into a unique, funny and life affirming observational documentary series filled with adventure, literature, music, and human connection.

 

Episode Synopses

Episode 1 – The Beginning

Touching down in rural Oklahoma, the Bikes of Wrath prepare for their epic journey across the Land of the Free, while seeking a greater understanding of what it was like to live through the Dust Bowl.

The riders finally set out from Sallisaw with $420, a yearning for adventure, and no idea of the challenges that lie ahead.

Episode 2 – Oklahoma

Sweltering heat, steep terrain, and utter inexperience leave the cyclists struggling along route 66, but a band of rodeo riders, fi rework hawkers, and small-town mechanics keep their hopes alive. Along the way the team learns about the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants upon their arrival in California, before a serious accident brings the cyclists’ progress to a standstill.

Episode 3 – Texas

The Bikes of Wrath cross the Texas state-line, but celebrations are curtailed by two trip threatening injuries. Crossing the immense agricultural industries of the Texas Panhandle, the group speaks with locals about the book’s relevance today; touching on a nation divided, hope, migrants and inequality. As New Mexico looms, the cyclists are faced with their most dangerous hurdle yet: riding illegally on the Interstate-40.

Episode 4 – New Mexico (1)

With 1000 miles left, the sheer weight of the trailers begins to grind the team down. The riders discuss whether America has progressed since the book was written; discussing immigration, the wealth gap and security, before making a major decision to gamble on their own success.

Episode 5 – New Mexico (2)

The riders reach the halfway point with rapidly diminishing funds. The team explores one of the book’s main themes: ‘those who have the least tend to give the most’, and delve into the relevance of this notion in today’s America. Continuing to make westward gains, the team encounters a homeless and suicidal man who quickly shakes them from their own trivial concerns.

Episode 6 – Arizona

The team rides into Arizona where they meet ‘Buckskin Dan’ – a survivalist cowboy who bemoans his country’s decline. The group explore the American Character and ask the question; ‘what makes America great?’ Pushing on, the team’s funds drop below $100 and the most challenging section of the ride looms in the distance.

Episode 7 – California

The cyclists cross the Mojave Desert in 47-degree heat before stumbling upon the town of Hinkley and its tragic past. The team asks their final question: ‘what can we learn from the book’? And characters spanning the series share their views. Finally reaching Bakersfield, the weathered cyclists attract the attention of the local news station and are soon contacted by a viewer whose heartfelt, real-life account of the Dust Bowl brings closure to the journey.