Norman Reedus may be best known for his role as Daryl Dixon on AMC’s The Walking Dead, but his talents and passions extend far beyond the small screen. This June he strapped on his vagabond shoes for a six-episode reality mini-series called Ride With Norman Reedus, where his love of travel, photography and motorcycles is on full display. We spoke to Reedus about what it’s like to hit the open road, and where he’d like to explore next. Catch up on all the episodes of Ride With Norman Reedus, and make sure to tune in to the season finale this Sunday, July 17th at 10/9c on AMC (Ch. 254).
Where did your passion for motorcycles come from? Was it a childhood obsession, or did someone in your family ride?
When I was in junior high, I had a friend that had a bike that we all kind of shared. We’d take turns on it, you know, “My turn! My turn!” We would just run around the neighborhoods, and I really liked it. I always wanted to get one, and as soon as I could afford to buy one, I just did it. But the obsession really started in Junior High.
Oh wow, so this was like sort of a Rebel Without a Cause kind of situation.
Haha more of a Jackass meets Evel Knievel kind of a situation!
Do you have any aspirations of following, in say Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps, to do for biker culture what he did for culinary culture? There must be so many characters to uncover and so many amazing stories to tell.
Yeah, he was definitely an inspiration for the show. I’m a big fan of his, and I’m a big fan of his shows. I’m also a huge fan of the show Ewan McGregor did, where he traveled across the world. I also really like documentaries, and the kind of television that pulls from that style. I’ve always been interested in travel, and photography, and I’ve always done it.
But I’m not approaching Ride as an expert—I’m in no way an expert in motorcycles like Anthony’s an expert in food. I’m just an enthusiast, and I want people to see that I’m learning as I’m going along. I don’t know everything about motorcycles, so for me I want people to be on that ride with me—introducing them to new things and inspiring them to travel. I received a lot of letters, and have had a lot of interactions with women who’ve seen the “Babes Ride Out” episode and they’re totally into it! The Babes Ride Out people have told me that they’re getting more and more calls, and their group is expanding all over the place. What they’re doing inspires me! The show’s not scripted and it’s all off the cuff—it’s a natural journey, you know?
Absolutely! Talking about your travels, I’m curious if there was a town that really made an impression on you. Was there a place where the locals really stole your heart?
So many places made an impression on me, but I have to say, I love our San Antonio episode. I like the smell of gasoline, and I like all these guys sitting around playing bingo and working on their bikes. That was really a lot of fun. New Orleans was also incredible. Going to Louisiana with Brent, and meeting people that snag crawfish and stuff like that—it’s a whole different thing that I’d never been introduced to before. Going to the Keys with Peter Fonda and learning about the Keys through his eyes, and seeing this legend reminisce about old stories and girlfriends. It was pretty awesome I will tell you that!
Every place has its own energy, its own vibe, and its own set of people, then you bring them all together with this common denominator of motorcycles and it’s magic. You already have your foot through the door, and you can really talk about real things. So I guess I don’t have a favorite! They all stuck with me.
You mentioned in a recent interview that you feel that driving is a liberating experience. Are you of the mindset that we should all just unplug and take a road trip through our great nation?
Without a doubt! There was one point when I went back to my old Blackberry just because I couldn’t do anything other than make a phone call or write a text. I definitely feel like you should get out and see what’s around you. I do love stuff like virtual 3D goggles, but you really can’t get the real deal from your living room. It’s not the same thing as going to the Grand Canyon with your own two feet.
I’ve always wanted to travel. I’ve been lucky enough to travel and I’ve always taken a camera with me. Hopefully people watch the show and they feel like they’re doing it too—but they should also just get on a bike and go do it themselves.
Who would your dream riding partner on a cross-country motorcycle trip be?
You know I was really trying to get Cher this last season. I was trying to go through Vegas with Cher. I heard she was a big motorcycle enthusiast, and I just though that would be so dope to do. To do that part of the country with Cher. It would just be awesome!
Steven Tyler, I would love to have him on. I’d like to get Ewan McGregor. The stories that he has! I watched both of his shows—he went through Africa and to so many amazing places—I just had a million questions. He would be great! I’d like to get some cool rockers on too, like Nikki Sixx—that would be amazing. I’d love to ride with Sammy Hagar. I’d like to have Dolly Parton on the back. There are a ton of people I’d like to ride with!
You know what ride I’d really like to do? I’d really like to do Hawaii with Chris Christopherson!
Tthat would be awesome!
I know he lives in Hawaii, so I’d love to do that one.
What other places in America are you hoping to take the show in the future? Do you have international yearnings too?
Absolutely. I’d love to go through Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, New York—I’d love to do upstate New York, and then just drive up North. I’d like to go to Canada, Italy, Vietnam. I’d like to do all of that!
You could make 500 episodes in just America alone, and not see all the beauty it has to offer. There are so many places. I live in Manhattan, and I kind of forget that it’s all out there. It’s a real treat for me to get out and connect. It’s such a liberating feeling to do it on a motorcycle as well. You’re kind of wide open to everything—it’s great!