Because airlines are making it harder for folks to use their frequent-flyer miles – United recently announced its plan to award based on ticket prices instead of miles flown – car trips may make a comeback.
Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz of Mercedes-Benz fame, took the first road trip in 1888 when she loaded the family car with her two sons and went for a long ride to help sell more cars.
During a two-tank road trip last week, we headed to the Los Angeles Film Festival at the L.A. Live entertainment complex adjacent to Staples Center.
Recalling road trips past, I remembered how air conditioning didn’t figure prominently when I was child. I loved the breeze blowing on my face through the open window – which ended badly when my doll dropped onto the highway asphalt. When my twin brothers came along, they took trips lying down in a playpen in the cargo area. Seat belts were optional at the time.
I mulled over these memories as we walked into the immense three-story, 800-seat art deco-style Regal Cinema in Los Angeles. We had tickets to a preview of “Land Ho!,” an independent film about a road trip in Iceland. Directed by husband-and-wife team Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, the movie hits theaters in July.
A funny, quirky movie, it tackles issues like loneliness, isolation and friendship in older men. For adventurers, the movie’s travelogue aspects make for compelling viewing.
Colin (played by Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), ex-brothers-in law, meet in Mitch’s Kentucky home. Although their ages aren’t discussed, they are probably in their late 60s. Mitch, a widowed doctor, tries to console Colin, whose wife just left him. Both confess to feeling a bit isolated.
After dinner, the recently pink-slipped doctor unveils his plan to take Colin to Iceland with his retirement money. The first-class tickets have already been purchased, so how can Colin say no? As their road trip unfolds, the extroverted Mitch shows Colin how to live in style and enjoy life despite his loss.
“Land Ho!” has everything to keep baby boomers’ attention: drugs, bawdy conversations and late-life hook-ups. In some scenes, Mitch smokes a joint, which he calls “doobification.”
The excellent cinematography highlights the possibilities of car travel. The protagonists stop to camp, hike and dip in geothermal springs, which seem more like pubs. Traveling by car around the Golden Circle allows them – and viewers – to see Iceland close-up.
Magnificent landscape shots take the audience from scenes of hipster Reykjavik, with its glass buildings, to the rugged Icelandic outback and sea-green glacial lakes. The cinematographer swoops in to show the geyser Strokkur erupting violently. Another natural landmark – the Mount Hekla volcano – still erupts. In the Middle Ages, residents thought the mountain was the gateway to hell. The backdrop of the Landmannalaugar Highlands and the geothermal hot spots will likely inspire more tourism.
Apparently, Iceland makes its mark as a trendy place to visit – even the Society of American Travel Writers will go there this fall for its annual conference.