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Five Miles Up with … Peter Fonda

Deborah Hopewell
January 29, 2013

As road trip movies go, "Easy Rider" is a classic. Peter Fonda, who co-wrote and starred in the film, recently partnered with designer Troy Lee to release a line of moto gear and accessories inspired by "Easy Rider" for folks ready to hit the asphalt. As one would expect, Fonda’s racked up a good deal of mileage traveling around the globe himself. His favorite mode of transportation? No wheels required.

What’s something you never fail to pack?
Charging devices with the proper current for whatever country I’m traveling to and a shower filter to filter out chlorine.

Carry-on or check-in?
Normally both, no matter if I’m traveling for two or 20 hours.

Window or aisle?
Window. If I’m on the aisle and sleeping, the person next to me has to climb over my extraordinarily long legs to go to lavatory. It’s easier for me to climb over without disturbing them.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Open-ocean sailing is a passion. It’s the traveling that’s a vacation for me – spending as little time on land and as much time sailing as possible. My perfect vacation would be going from Los Angeles to the Galapagos Islands with a brief stop to restock in Panama. From the Galapagos to Easter Island, to Marquesas Islands to the Tuamotus then to the Society Islands – Papeete, Bora Bora, and Raiatea, then back up to the Hawaii Islands.

Can you share any travel mishaps?
After directing Warren Oates in The Hired Hand, we took the film to screen it in Europe. We started in Stockholm, where we had a fabulous time going to clubs, hearing incredibly cool jazz and meeting some very interesting people. As we were leaving for Copenhagen, I realized I didn’t have my purse where I kept my passport, gold coins, watches and credit cards. Everyone in Stockholm said it would be found and returned to me. I thought, boy, are they naïve. When we arrived at the hotel in Copenhagen, waiting there was my purse with everything in it. It absolutely amazed me.

What's the most decadent souvenir you ever came back with?
On that trip, Oates and I traveled to Stuttgart to pick up a Mercedes Benz 6.3 – another cool way to travel. It was the fastest sedan in the world, built by Germans to take executives on the Autobahn from Stuttgart to Munich for lunch. We drove the same route with the film, then on to Armsheim.

So it became a road trip?
It did. We whizzed through the beautiful countryside of Germany at 140 mph, with me pointing out castles I’d seen on past trips. We went to Belgium, the whole time Oates couldn’t stop talking about our upcoming stop in Paris. I finally asked him why he was so excited about Paris. Was he meeting a girl there? It was then he told me he’d never been to Europe.

Your biggest travel regret?
It had never occurred to me Oates hadn’t been to Europe. With me driving, 140 mph, these great old cities of Europe were disappearing fast in rear view mirror. I wished I’d taken the time to get off Autobahn and cruise on the cobblestones. I felt so bad Oates didn’t get a chance to see this marvelous part of Europe, when we got to Paris I showed him the entire city.

Ever try a food you wished you hadn't?

(I came down with) food poisoning from bad seafood. Both times in France, though it wasn’t necessarily France’s fault. It was god-awful.

Favorite hotel you've ever stayed in?
The Baur Au Lac in Zurich. I stayed there when I was the President of the Zurich Film Festival and when shooting a film and loved it both times. The service is fabulous and I love their chocolate croissants –I could put on a 1,000 pounds there in a flash.

The one thing you've splurged on?
I bought an MV Agusta 37 F4 DC (motorcycle) for $100,000 euros. They made 100 of them and I have No. 21. It came with a watch and leathers. It’s in my garage. It talks to me and wants to go riding.

What’s on your travel playlist?
John Lennon’s In My Life, the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and some Led Zeppelin.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

If they were sailing with me, then to Lahaina (Maui) to beaches you can only see by boat. We’d drop anchor and snorkel.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
See my answer to the perfect vacation? Take two, as they say in the film business.