30 seconds with…Boaz Frankel
In a new cable TV series, the 28-year-old Portlander documents his car-free voyage across America.
YOUR SHOW IS CALLED THE UNROAD TRIP. WHAT’S AN “UNROAD” TRIP?
In summer ’09, I left Portland and covered over 12,000 miles, using everything I could find except gas-powered cars—101 modes of transportation. I ended up with all this great footage, and that became a 10-episode series on Halogen, an environmental network.
SOUNDS VERY PORTLAND. ARE YOU ON AN ANTI-CAR CRUSADE?
I didn’t get my license until I was 24—it felt embarrassing not to have it. But I do like going on road trips with friends. So how could I combine two things I like: not driving, and road trips? I started finding stuff online—like, oh, this guy in Kitchener, Ontario, has a “couch bike.” But I didn’t want to preach to the choir. If you’re going through the South, you don’t want to say cars are a bad idea! Everyone can relate to a crazy adventure.
SO WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
In a lot of cities someone would tell me, “Y’know, back in the old days, we were called ‘The Hub City’ because of all our streetcars!” And now all the downtowns are boarded up, and they’re desperate to build bike lanes.
WHAT WAS YOUR SCARIEST RIDE?
The most exhausting day, I had to buy a Schwinn bike from a Salvation Army in New Hampshire, and go 60 miles over hills. The gears were rusted in place, and I had to walk it a lot. I was hallucinating by the end of the day.
YOU’VE HAD A FASCINATING CAREER. FOR EXAMPLE, YOU USED TO HOLD THE WORLD HIGH-FIVE RECORD. WHAT’S YOUR, UH, STRATEGY?
Basically, I do some projects that make money, and some that don’t. I’m working on a documentary about this endangered beetle found only in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s just a story I can’t get out of my head. I broke the record for high-fives in one hour in Pioneer Courthouse Square a few years ago. I got 408. Suddenly, within the last few months, three people have broken my record. It’s upsetting. I will get it back. Fortunately or not, I have wide-ranging interests.
Boaz Frankel’s series, The Unroad Trip, airs 8 pm Fridays on Halogen TV.