Documentary filmmakers ride for ALS

Award-winning couple captures ride across Canada for entry into Cannes Film Festival

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Oct. 12, 2007, Photography by Drew Bienemann
Filmmakers Glen and Jeannie Tedham have found a good way to pass the time this fall.

The married couple have decided to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by riding a motorcycle across Canada and shooting a documentary of their adventure, which they hope to enter into competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Before they began their journey, however, some small details had to be worked out: the couple didn’t own a motorcycle, and Glen, to put it mildly, was not exactly an experienced rider.

“My wife has been motorcycling since she was a kid. She rode dirt bikes most of her life,” Glen told Motorcycle.com. “But for me, up until two months ago, I had never ridden a bike in my life.”

The ALS Across Canada crew with some people who came out to see us in Cornerbrook, N.L.

To learn how to ride, Glen went back to school and took his wife with him. The couple drove from their Surrey, BC home down to Tacoma Wash. and enrolled in an intensive, three-day motorcycle safety program at Puget Sound Safety.

Since they were trying to raise money and get noticed on their journey, it was decided they needed a motorcycle that would draw some attention.

“We’ve got a 1991 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic,” says Glen. “It was the most interesting bike we could find, because it’s creamsicle orange with a white racing stripe down the middle and it came with a matching sidecar.”

To find such a bike, they headed to the information superhighway.

“We found it for sale on eBay,” says Glen. “It just so happened that the seller lived about 20 minutes from our house.”

They got lucky to secure a bike so close to their home as it was one of just two they could find with a sidecar for sale in North America.

The Tedhams picked up a motorhome and a trailer and drove straight from Vancouver, BC to St. John’s, Nfld., where the trip would begin.

Bob (ALS patient) getting on the bike at St. Peter's parish in mount pearl, N.L.

The project, however, began long before they took off on their bike.

“This whole project actually started because we shot a short documentary about what ordinary people could accomplish if they set their minds to it,” says Glen. “We stood on the street in Vancouver in May and sold hugs for the ALS society and we managed to raise $530.

“We shot the documentary about doing that, entered it into a special competition at the Cannes Film Festival and won first prize. From that to the media coverage and everything that happened afterwards, our $530 grew to about $7,000.”

The Tedhams decided if they could raise $7,000 just by standing on the street for a day, they could raise a lot more by driving across the country and stopping in cities along the way. What better way than to do it on a motorcycle.

On Sept. 13, a group of retired firefighters rode the Tedhams out of St. John’s and the cross-country trip was underway.

They are making stops along the way to sell more hugs and raise more money and awareness.

Glen says the reaction has been incredible in some of their stops, but people are more skeptical in bigger cities.

“Let me put it this way, it’s hard to sell somebody a hug in downtown Toronto, but we do it anyway and most of them walk away smiling,” says Glen.

Having a brightly colored Harley-Davidson with a matching sidecar does make things a little easier.

“We get a lot of attention from the bike,” says Glen. “A lot of people want to come out and see it. A lot of people want to go for rides on it. It’s a real attraction.”

Besides being an attention-grabber, Glen says the bike offers other benefits.

“Honestly, I love the sidecar. I nap in the sidecar,” says Glen. “When Jeannie is driving, my routine is I have a snack, drink some water, put my head back and go to sleep until it’s my turn to drive.”

Despite the fact that they are riding across Canada, the couple has also been getting a lot of support from Americans.

“We’ve been getting donations from a lot of US people that understand that research is research,” says Glen. “It doesn’t matter what country it happens in. It affects everybody equally.”

When asked if there was any chance of doing this in another country next summer, Glen responded: “Anything’s possible. Never say never.”

People can track the progress of the Tedhams at http://www.alsacrosscanada.com/. That is also where you can help out financially and view the original short documentary.

Glen and Jeannie taking a break after a long day of fundraising in Ottawa, Ont.

Glen says he and his wife would also like some company on their ride.

“We would like to invite riders to come out and join us,” says Glen. “We are in the process of putting our schedule up on our website so people will know approximately what cities and towns we will be in and at what time. So if they want to come out and ride along with us we’d sure love to have them.”

The ride is scheduled to wrap up on Oct. 24 in Vancouver and they hope to have the documentary completed by the end of February, 2008.