As an actor, William Shatner’s characters are no stranger to adventure. Be it boomeranging around the sun to zoom through time and space as James T. Kirk in Star Trek, or popping up in exotic locations as spokesman for an online travel agency, this is a man whose adventure passport is well stamped. Now, at a spry-seeming 84-years-young, the well-enunciating icon is hitting the road in real life on June 23, hopping aboard a one of a kind, three-wheeled motorcycle and traversing the country on an eight-day road trip, from Chicago to his home in Los Angeles.
His H.R. Geiger-esque ride, dubbed by American Wrench and Rivet as the “land jet,” feels for all the world like something out of one of his sci-fi films. Allegedly inspired by military craft from World War II, specifically the B-17 Bomber, its low-slung, metal-wrapped chassis, plush upholstery, and triceratops-like back end looks like something from the Mad Max prop house, or maybe an old White Zombie video.
Elegant, it is not. But that isn’t the intent.
“It’s gorgeously designed, along lines that I helped suggest and American Wrench has put it all together,” he says via phone, in his signature cadence. “The motor in will be a Cadillac 500 horsepower engine, and beyond anything that’s ever been seen before.”
He pauses, then adds, “I’ll only get to see when I get there the weekend before the ride and get to ride it, so we’ll see what happens there.”
This spontaneity is a theme for Shatner for his whole voyage, which he has dubbed “The Ride.”
“It’s a jump into the dark,” he admits, though not one that will go undocumented. “I’m going to film it, and I’m wondering what the story is. The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s a ledger of an adventure into the unknown.”
The route, which follows the old Route 66, will weave through the mid-and-south west, with stops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Las Vegas before wrapping up with “a big celebration” in Los Angeles on June 30. Along the way, a posse of riders will accompany Shatner from the American Legion, in an effort to raise awareness for the group.
It’s not his first time taking a trip like this, just the first in a long time.
“I thumbed Route 66 when I was 18 just prior to going to university,” he takes a breath, either wistfully or for dramatic effect. “So we’ll be visiting something that progress over the last many years has eradicated. But there are vestiges in the road, as there are vestiges in me, that will resonate.”
When asked about whether he’s given any thought to the bad rap that bikers have been getting in the south in the wake of the Texas bike gang shoot out that left nine dead, 18 injured, and saw nearly 200 people arrested and held, in some cases, for weeks, he is nonplussed.
“I know it exists, but that of course is not what we’re doing,” he says, pivoting the narrative smoothly, in the manner of a man who has done many, many interviews. “What we’re doing is in essence mounting an iron steed and taking what remains of those old cattle trails. It was a game trail, it was an Indian trail, it was an explorer trail, it became the settler’s trail, it became a paved road in places, and then it became Route 66. It’s a magical road.”
This sort of nearly solo trip may be just the thing for the Shatner, whom Star Trek co-star George Takei called out recently for not being a “team player,” and he recently caught flack online for not attending co-star Leonard Nimoy’s funeral, though he has been an outspoken supporter of Nimoy’s son’s proposed documentary on his late father.
Turbulence aside, the aging actor’s slate seems full, and the Internet is ablaze with speculation of his potential return for the next Star Trek film as well as a new TV series.
“I’ve got a reality show coming up in August where I go…” he pauses, and lowers his voice conspiringly. “I can’t tell you too much ’cause they haven’t made the announcement yet, but I’m going with a couple of other actors to several other countries and we’re filming it.”
Asked why he stays so busy so far into his golden years, the actor attributes it “purely to a love of the adventure.”
“It keeps you on your toes, which tightens your calves, which forms your quads, which tightens your belly,” he proclaims with trademark grandiosity, taking a long, slow moment before finishing. “Just to leave you with my state of mind, I’m filled with dread and anticipation.”