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A journey relived: ‘Bikes of Wrath’ traces Joad family’s trip, on two wheels

It’s been 80 years since John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” was published.

The novel has inspired many. A movie was made, starring Henry Fonda.

A scene from the documentary “The Bikes of Wrath.” (Courtesy of Cameron Ford)

The classic was the impetus behind the Cameron Ford’s film “The Bikes of Wrath.” The film will screen in Albuquerque and Santa Fe on Monday, April 15.

“The Bikes of Wrath” is inspired by the Joad family’s fictional journey from Sallisaw, Okla. to Bakersfield, Calif. with the backdrop of “heartland” America in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

In the multiple award-winning and critically acclaimed “The Bikes of Wrath,” five lovable Aussies take the 1,600-mile journey on bicycles, in 30 days – while living on the kindness of strangers to survive (and the current-day equivalent of $18; the amount the Joad family survived on).

Ford says the documentary explores the broader themes of poverty – in the modern day and in the Great Depression, when the book is set – and humankind’s willingness to offer assistance to their fellow humans.

“I remember riding through New Mexico, and Albuquerque was our halfway point,” Ford recalls. “We were coming down the big hill into Albuquer-que, and we were thinking of a way to celebrate our halfway point. We went to Marble Brewery to have some drinks, and we had four offers for a place to stay for the night. Turned out our host offered us an extra day and we took it as a rest day. Albuquerque is very special to us for that.”

The documentary was filmed in 2016 during the presidential campaign.

Director Cameron Ford

Ford and crew wanted to travel through the heartland and talk to the people who lived there.

Because these Aussies were giving them a voice, these Americans, just like the characters in the book, helped get the boys to their destination with food, accommodations and, often, cash. They are presented as sympathetic characters, because they are, and audiences worldwide are resonating with the themes and the sentiment of generosity on display.

“We all have a fascination with America,” he says of the group of Australians who took part in the trip. “We grow up looking at this country as a top-down superpower. I had done road trips in America before, but that was in a car. Being on a bike, we were able to move at a slower pace. This gave people a chance to open up to us and tell their story. The conversations intrigued us because it started some great conversations.”

_WebHeadline”>EXCERPT: Five Australians who have a ‘fascination with America’ ride from Oklahoma to California