THIS all started with a dream, explains Jez Colborne, to ride across America on a bike.

"I'm not the first person to want to do it, but I may be the first to get the Arts Council to pay for it," he says.

In October last year, Colborne rode pillion with Tim Wheeler, director of Bradford theatre company Mind The Gap, on a low-slung Harley Davidson down the old main street of America, from Chicago to Los Angeles on the immortal but now marginalised Route 66.

Colborne is a learning-disabled actor and musician, one of 25,000 people in the world with Williams Syndrome. One characteristic of his condition is an over-friendliness toward strangers.

"This came in handy in America," he says, ever self-deprecating. "But then I think they must all have Williams Syndrome because they were all so friendly."

Like Steinbeck and Kerouac before him, Colborne went to look for America, and more particularly what it meant to be an American today, in the company of Wheeler and a cameraman.

"Freedom, you're free," kept coming the replies shown on a video screen, as Colborne relived his time on the road in leather jacket and biker boots, swigging a Coke on a stage got up as an American diner.

For his answers, he was drawn to those who, like himself, live on the verge: a glass bottle artist; a Las Vegas transvestite; a Los Angeles hobo, who viewed life sunny side up. "The Lord don't keep waking me for nothing," the hobo reasoned.

However, abuse from a New York hotel manager jolted Colborne, prompting him to ponder the admission policy to American freedom: the sting in the tail end of his illuminating road trip.

Updated: 10:32 Friday, April 22, 2005