Pelham Natives Document Cross Country Bike Trip Delayed By Accident

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PELHAM, N.Y. -- For most, biking cross-country is a physically difficult and even unimaginable task.

Biking enthusiast Pearson Constantino of Pelham was planning on completing such a task with his brother when he was the victim of a hit-and-run by an SUV in Hartsdale in the summer of 2006. 

The accident landed him in the hospital for nine days, where he underwent surgery on his femur and two crushed vertebrae, and was monitored due to severe head trauma. 

Constantino's dreams were seemingly dashed with no one to blame. But for Constantino, they were merely postponed. The SUNY Purchase College grad decided he would rehabilitate himself and take the voyage against all odds.

"I was just really determined," he said. "There isn't an easy or special way to say that. I was dedicated to get my life back as much as I could and, nine months after the accident, I was back on the bike."

His roommate and college friend, Julia Wrona of Pelham, is a documentarian. When hearing of Constantino's determination, she decided to document his journey for the purposes of making her first full-length documentary.

After two years of recovery, Constantino, still in severe chronic pain, embarked on his 30th birthday to bike across the U.S. with his brother as he had planned. The two traveled down Route 20, one of the oldest transcontinental highways, which begins in Newport, Oregon and terminates in Boston.

Overall the trip took 51 days with a few rest days in between, and the two biked over 100 miles a day.

Wrona, in a van with a photographer, followed the two men on their trip. Four years and hundred of hours of footage later, "The Long Bike Back" debuted in Buffalo last October, where it won an award. 

"It was a great adventure going across the country," Constantino said. "There were tons of highs and some low points, all of that is in the film."

Wrona said her main goal in making the documentary was illustrating Constantino's resilience and touching on the etiquette between cars and cyclists.

"I wanted to show the resilience and the trip," she said. "The human aspect of it as an adventure and a fighting adventure at that. I wanted to have it be about road-sharing and the conflict between cars and bikes, to create a dialogue about changing car culture so there aren't so many hit and runs."

She added that the highest points of tension in the film relate to the trip's pacing.

"The trip was poorly scheduled, and that leads to a lot of drama. Their biggest challenge is keeping up, because they're locked into a time frame due to events and meetings they had along the way," she said. 

Wrona said she believes the film has already begun to change the way drivers think about cyclists.

"Most drivers have said it makes them think differently about how to pass cyclists," she said. "I think it has changed some people certainly. Hopefully it will continue to have impact."

How To Watch It: The Long Bike Back will be screened at the Pelham Picture House on Friday, May 16 at 8 p.m., followed by a Q&A with Constantino and Wrona. $12. 175 Wolfs Lane. 

@suzannesamin

ssamin@dailyvoice.com

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