The theme of the first three episodes was “charging issues”, but thankfully Episode 4 goes in a very different direction. It’s time to join back up with Ewan and Charley! Did you catch my recap of the first three? If not, you should probably start there.
Episode 4 – The Andes (52 minutes)
Good news for Charley, Ewan and most importantly…you, the viewer! Things are finally looking up. As the weather gets warmer, the range on the batteries improves, and the duo has also become better about charging. Looks like we can finally just enjoy the adventure instead of worrying about where the next charge is going to come from ten times an episode. “Now that we’ve got the bikes working, we can relax a bit and meet the locals, which is what these trips are all about.” This is exactly what I was hoping for.
This episode starts with the dynamic duo 11,860 miles away from the final destination in Los Angeles (they’ve covered over 1,000 so far en route to Perito Moreno). Now we’ll see them cross into Chile and ride up the western side of the Andes.
When you do trips like this, do you visit countries to see the sights or to meet people? My travels with Vy are mostly about the former, and so it’s interesting for me to see how good Ewan and striking up conversations with strangers even when he doesn’t know their language. I’d be too shy, but Ewan makes it look easy. It’s not just “being an actor” as that’s also Charley’s profession, but inevitably you’ll find Charley watching along while Ewan’s the center of attention – even if it’s something goofy like an impromptu dance off with Argentinian kids. I’m not judging Charley because I’d be exactly like him, it’s just something I can’t help but notice.
Charley and Ewan cross into Chile, and national flags are out as it’s Independence Week. Chile declared their independence from Spain in 1818, and things are about to get “lively” so it looks like they’ve picked a good week to explore the country.
Programs like this are most successful when they make you want to emulate the trip, and I definitely got that feeling when I was first shown the Carretera Austral – it’s a ~800 mile highway that looks like a must do on any motorcycle trip in the area.
Harley haters will be curious to know how long our adventurers were able to go before something broke on the LiveWire. Well, the answer is Episode 4 (it’s not 100% clear but if I had to guess I’d estimate they’ve covered 1,400 miles?) as a brake lever bolt has backed itself out. Ewan employs some trusty cable ties for a temporary fix.
More tow-charging with the Rivian – in a weird way, this is the most interesting part about the entire trip to me. They hire a semi-driver (by paying for his empanadas) to pull one of the trucks with a tow strap 15 minutes out of town and then back. In Episode 1, it’s said that 1 hour of tow-charging can get the battery from empty to 50%, but here in Episode 4 they say that you can get about 80% charge with the same amount of effort. Here’s another excellent use of the drone:
After crossing back into Argentina, Ewan and Charley stop at a campground and meet a cyclist couple who got together when a Polish gentleman who was riding around the world stopped in Istanbul, Turkey and met a lady who had never cycled before. But she fell in love with his eyes and they hit the road together! It reminded me of cyclists that my riding partner me when on our trip to the top of Alaska and back – a couple from the Netherlands who flew their bicycles into Ushaia (where Charley and Ewan started) and were almost done with a 18 month trip to the top of Alaska. You think you’re cool when you’re on a long distance motorcycle trip until you meet someone doing the same trip also on two wheels, except they’re relying on pedal power and not horsepower.
Have I bored you with drone shots yet? Here’s a fantastic road that they were recommended to use as a shortcut by a local. Soon after the switchback, Claudio the cameraman runs out of gas so Ewan jokes about how gas power has “become a liability”. Of course, the difference is that Claudio just poured in a stereotypical red jug of gas and they were back on the road in 5 minutes instead of waiting a few hours for a charge. But it’s good for a laugh!
With that said, the next city (Zapala) is experiencing a fuel shortage. When the boys get to a gas station, they are greeted by a line of at least 30 cars. The person who’s first in line has been waiting for 5 hours! They might have to spend the night in the city just to wait it out. Luckily, a moped rider filling up a jerry can lets Charley fill up their jug and they’re back on the road. Today the Harley’s did 137 miles with 10 miles of range left, a personal best for the trip so far. Now that they’re out of freezing temps, things are working better. As Ewan puts it, “it’s been a bit of a gamechanger, this last couple of days.” They plug in, and the LiveWire dash says that it will take 11 hours and 11 minutes to get back to full charge.
The producers in the truck are having an issue of their own – in fact, it’s the Rivian’s first issue that doesn’t involve charging. Something has jammed the calipers and the wheels are stuck. They start by trying to manually leverage the caliper pistons with a screwdriver, but a very IT Crowd moment of turning it off and back on again with a system reboot magically fixes it.
They stop at a B&B in the middle of the day to top up on charge. The facility is 100% sustainable as it runs of solar during the day (storied in car batteries) and wind at night. After getting a tour of the premises, Ewan and Charley decided that there wouldn’t be enough juice to charge the bikes, so they continue on. They find another place to throw a couple of hours in charge in the bikes in the hope that it will be enough to get to their destination in the desert at night and continue on again.
As the sun sets it appears that they won’t have enough range. They find a tiny farm but “the power here is not strong enough” – knowing that they won’t be able to make it, they turn back to the last place that they were able to get a good charge. It’s a bit discouraging, and I know we’re not free of the charging issues that plagued the first three episodes, but it’s much more reasonable now. In fact, this is the first episode that made me want to hit the road. I haven’t been able to do any multi-day trips since COVID hit, and this episode made me all antsy again…so I consider it a success from a content standpoint! The next morning Ewan wakes up to a 99% charge, and he’s happy enough to do a “charging dance”, which is as bouncy as this screenshot makes it seem:
The episode ends with a visit to what Ewan and Charley think is a stereo shop, but it ended up being a random home – the hosts let them plug in and fed them lunch. Ewan says “they don’t know us from Adam,” though he says “The Island” (a movie that Ewan was in) with a knowing face. Ewan responds with, “he’s on to me.”
The last day of episode ends up being more than 200 miles – the LiveWires cover 215. Hopefully future days will go as smoothly, because they’re about the climb the Andes! I was concerned about how this series was going after the first three episodes, but now I’m excited for Episode 5…
P.S. There are some people who look down upon this trip because of all the support trucks and camera equipment, but I think that’s silly. It’s a TV program with high production value, that’s what you need to make this kind of thing happen. If you prefer people who go it alone, here’s a story of someone that went 3,500 miles coast to coast over a 15 day period on a LiveWire. Of course, there’ll be no video for you to enjoy, instead you’ll get some photos and an interview by Andy Greaser from RevZilla’s Common Tread!