Q: This episode is a much different format than most Ride episodes. How did you and Norman figure out that this was the journey that you wanted to take?
A: It just kind of fell into place between me and Norman. … We were shooting the finale of The Walking Dead Season 8 and we were on this incredible hillside with an amazing view and Norman said we should do a Ride episode together. I was in the throes of my research and said, “Have you ever been to Scotland? Why don’t we ride our bikes around Scotland and trace my ancestry?” And he was like “Really?! OK!” I said, “Well I better learn how to ride a motorcycle!” [Laughs]
Q: How did you get started on this journey of finding out more about your ancestors?
A: I had already been doing some ancestral research. I had never been to Scotland before and haven’t been out of the country that much in my life. There were a couple of misspellings on a handwritten list that [had been passed] down from my grandmother to me, so I hit a roadblock. So, I stepped away from the research for a few years because I was just pulling my hair out. And then I went back into the database, which had been updated, and found a clue. Someone took a photograph of a headstone that had all the names on this list I had on a piece of paper and I could see where the misspelling was. I’m like, “Yeah! This is them! They’re there!” I got the spelling from the headstone and was able to make more headway. I got down on Google Earth and strolled around the streets near where they were buried in Aberdeen and went into the countryside and I was just getting chills. I thought, “I’ve got to go!” They’re right on the ocean. For hundreds of years, that place is still there. What a forever view. What a place to be buried. It just amazed me that it was all still there and it was possible for me to go and be on the ground where they were. I’ve always felt a longing to know more about where I came from and who my ancestors were and what they were like.
Q: Did you start riding when you knew you would be on the show?
A: Immediately, I found a used motorcycle. It was like a starter and I learned to ride on that and then I went for the course. So, I was riding a little bit before I passed the test to get my license.
Q: And then of course the weather got in the way.
A: What I didn’t know about Scotland is how cold it is. They had just had a lot of snow at the time we were going to be there. The wind is incredible. I’m a new rider who is driving on the opposite side of the road. It’s not ideal even for a seasoned rider. So, we got that Defender, which is a character in itself. It’s very funky and that was part of the fun – watching Norman drive the Defender. There were some serious wind gusts pushing the automobile. Out from Edinburgh, we came around to this magnificent open view and the view in every degree is breathtaking. I’m thinking to myself, “There is no way I could have taken this trip on a bike and seen everything I wanted to see.” When you’re riding, the bike will generally go in the direction of your eyes. [Laughs] I would have driven myself off a cliff! I got to see things and look behind me while we were moving forward.
Q: There are so many new discoveries that you made along the journey. What was that like for you?
A: It really was chilling. There was a lump in my throat. Even though I was doing the little bit of research I had done, there was still this emotional reaction to it. I could feel that lump in my throat as we got closer. On the flight home, I was thinking about the reaction I had. The more you found out, the more you want to know. Every little answer opens the door to another mystery. The things that I did find out gave me chills and made me feel all stirred up inside to know that I could have been standing where my great-great-grandfather stood. I didn’t know we were standing in Nigg Bay when I asked. When she said, “You’re in Nigg Bay,” I remember turning away because I had to catch my breath. It truly is amazing to go and dig this stuff up if you’re able to. It’s fascinating and insightful and personal.
Q: Did you ever imagine you’d take this trip with Norman?
A: Not in a million years. I thought this was something I’d do on my own. I do want to go back and spend more time exploring those places. I’ve continued the research with some of the information that the archivist gave to me and found out some more interesting things. It’s just been incredible. It was so much fun to share this with Norman. Him providing that opportunity to me is something I will never forget.
Ride With Norman Reedus airs Sundays at midnight/11c.
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