Riding a motorcycle in Iceland is an out of this world experience. Riding on an island covered in volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains, it’s an adventure motorcyclist’s paradise. We’re sitting down with Shawn Edmonson, creator of Where the Glacier Meets the Sky, a 90 minute documentary on Iceland, its people, and his motorcycle ride across the country.
Watch the video and check out our interview.
YouMotorcycle: Hey Shawn, we watched your documentary on Iceland after you shared it in the comments of our 5 Must Watch Motorcycle Adventure Films and enjoyed it. The scenery was breathtaking and we were more than a little jealous. Tell us a little about the man behind the film.
Shawn Edmonson: I was born and raised Fairbanks, Alaska. I currently live just outside of Seattle, Washington and work as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Washington STEM. My work involves helping teachers use video technology to analyze their teaching of the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). I have no formal training in videography or film-making, so I’ve been teaching myself the basics of how to operate a camera, edit video, and to create documentary films.
YouMotorcycle: What made you wake up one day and decide you were going to travel the world on your motorcycle and film it?
Shawn Edmonson: I’m a big fan of travel documentaries that introduce the audience to interesting people. One day, I was watching the Canadian travel series called Departures and I thought, “I bet I could do that”. So, two years ago I rode my BMW f650gs Dakar from Seattle to the Arctic Circle, through Alaska and Canada, and back.
YouMotorcycle: Were you shooting then too?
Shawn Edmonson: I met and interviewed as many people as possible along the way and created a documentary called Ashes Before Dust that told the story of my trip and of the people I interviewed. I had no experience operating a DSLR camera, editing video, or making a movie, much less doing it from atop a GS motorcycle. For me, this was both a motorcycle adventure as well as an adventure in learning how to do something totally new: making a documentary film.
YouMotorcycle: How has Ashes been received?
Shawn Edmonson: To date, Ashes has been seen online about 15,000 times in more than 120 countries. I got a lot of really positive feedback that encouraged me to try this again. On a motorcycle trip to Idaho, I ran into a friend named Kevin Bleything that shared my interest in Iceland. Over a campfire that night, we agreed to explore Iceland together. Less than a year later, we did it.
YouMotorcycle: What about the Iceland flick?
Shawn Edmonson: I released Where The Glacier Meets The Sky (which is free via Vimeo) online about three weeks ago. Since then, it’s been viewed about 5,000 times in 100+ countries. I get lots of messages from people all over the world telling me how much they like the movie, which I really appreciate.
YouMotorcycle: What stands out most?
Shawn Edmonson: Most important to me has been the feedback from Icelanders. They have told me that that I portrayed their country and people accurately and authentically, and that really means a lot.
YouMotorcycle: What was your favorite part of Iceland?
Shawn Edmonson: Every part of Iceland is unique and spectacular, but my favorite was the West Fjords. This peninsula, which sticks out of the west-side of the island pointing towards Greenland, is filled with lush green hills, aromatic wildflowers, snow-capped mountains, and waterfalls.
YouMotorcycle: What was that experience like?
Shawn Edmonson: The area is bit more remote because it’s off the Ring Road and it feels like traveling back through time. On another planet. The kind of planet where dinosaurs and Yeti roam.
YouMotorcycle: And in-land?
Shawn Edmonson: The Highlands in the interior of the island, provide truly epic off-road motorcycle riding, but the terrain is barren and inhospitable. With colder weather, frigid river crossing, and constant wind, it felt a bit like an endurance test to make it through to the other side of the island, back to the relative warmth of the coast.
YouMotorcycle: Brrr. What was the most difficult part of the ride?
Shawn Edmonson: Riding off the main road in the Highlands was pretty challenging. We followed our guide, Hjörtur, on a trail towards Bone Hill, the site where a few hundred sheep and their shepherds were killed in a snowstorm in the 1700s. The volcanic rock is pretty unforgiving and we had to turn back before we made it. We smashed up our panniers pretty good in there.
YouMotorcycle: It’s a big planet, any plans of returning to Iceland, or are you already thinking of your next trip somewhere else? If so, where is it going to be?
Shawn Edmonson: I’d love to return to Iceland, but I’d like to see some more of the world before I start going back to the same places. I’m not sure where to go next. I keep looking at the empty corners of maps, zooming in to the fuzzy spots on Google Earth, looking for the next place to ride. I’m still looking!
YouMotorcycle: What to give a shout out to anyone?
Shawn Edmonson: I’d like to thank my sponsors, Biking Viking, BestRest Products, Pagnol, and Klim. Many thanks to Executive Producer and riding partner Kevin Bleything, my guide Hjörtur L Jónsson and Jerame Gray for writing an original song for the movie.
YouMotorcycle: Where can readers find you?
Shawn Edmonson: My Facebook Page. Also, Ashes Before Dust and Where the Glacier Meets the Sky can both be streamed for free from Vimeo. I can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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