More than just a road trip
by Guy Thompson
My definition of a good movie is one I want to watch over and over. And for me, those movies have one thing in common – great characters. I don’t care if there is a big twist ending or action or what have you. If I’m going to spend 90 to 120 minutes with someone, I want to enjoy being around them.
“The Flying Dutchmen” is one of those movies and has two characters that you want to spend time with. If anything, at just under 90 minutes it’s not enough time spent with the two men at the center of this documentary.
The premise is simple – former Elkhart-area businessman Jon Helmuth wants to take his friend and mentor, Middlebury resident Daryl Zook who was one of the founders of KZ RV, on a trip. But not just any trip. This is to be a cross-country trip with a motorcycle and sidecar so that Zook can see the Pacific Ocean. Time is a factor, as Zook was nearly blind at the time and no one knew how long he would be able to see.
The tagline, “It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime,” gives you a clue that perhaps everything did not go as planned. But what trip ever does? What stories about trips where everything is fine rarely get told over and over? Instead, it’s the trips where the grit and grime from the road stick to the tale that become those legendary trips. Those become the “trip of a lifetime” we remember.
And it doesn’t take long for their trip to go south, even as they try to make their way west. Mechanical issues develop right out of the gate, putting the two men on the side of the road more than on it for the first few days.
In movies, obstacles reveal character and it is greatly enjoyable to watch Jon and Daryl together working through the problems. Jon is the optimist. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. He jokes as he tries to fix the latest part of the motorcycle or sidecar that has halted their trip. Sparse accommodations further west do little to dampen his humor.
Meanwhile, Daryl offers few words throughout the trip and when he does speak, it’s often to poke at Jon a little. Jon never gives up in his attempts to coax more words out of his friend, but often to little or no effect. Daryl is reflective at times and often, his silence says more than words.
There are also great moments as the two men meet and interact with those they meet along the way. They receive much needed assistance at one moment, only to turn around and give generously to someone in need the next.
Often in movies, characters seek what they think they want, but end up finding what they actually need. Jon wants to get Daryl to the west coast in time for his mentor to see the ocean and its amazing coast. But what he finds is his desire for a deeper connection with Daryl, a man who had become a father-figure to him over the years. At first, Helmuth admitted, he wasn’t sure that connection was made. But Daryl, in only a few words as they sat watching the sunset on the Oregon coast, assures him that what Jon needed was there all along.
And it leaves Jon speechless.
More information on “The Flying Dutchmen,” including future showings and release dates, can be found at: www.flyingdutchmenfilm.com.