So today marks the start of my last month in the UK before I leave for the bright lights of New York. It's definitely a very strange feeling, but the uncertainty about it also is quelled by an enormous sense of liberation. I'll be in NYC for around 3 months before I set off cycling, which'll hopefully give me time to finalise sponsorship, get my kits sorted, have a few fully loaded practise rides, that sort of thing. Anyone from New York reading this, give me an email if you want to meet up or havew a chat, I'd be happy to have some company when I move!
Meanwhile I'll be continuing with my planning and preparation for the trip; it's been a full time job so far and it's only going to get busier I feel. There's no complaints from me though - every second of it is incredibly exciting.
I took the last 4 days off to spend some quality time with my girlfriend before I abandon her for a bicycle, and now I'm ready to return to the prep with renewed vigour!
So expect some exciting things to appear on the site in the coming days and weeks, watch this space!
This week another one of my personal heroes has come out in support of the expedition. Mungo (real name Paul Mungeam) is one of the best known, and best, TV cameramen around. He has worked with some of the big stars in TV adventure documentary such as Bear Grylls and Charley Boorman, and his career has taken him all over the world filming numerous shows for BBC, National Geographic, Discovery, ITV, Channel 4 and so on - You name it, he's done it. Mungo is a top quality example of the type of cameraman I'd like to be someday - working on exciting projects that would take me all over the globe, filming things I can only dream of at the minute.
So, you can imagine my excitement when he sent me this endorsement for my trip - what a good bloke!
"Leon is an inspiration to us all, setting off in the true spirit of an Adventurer and living life to the FULL. I wish him all the best in this latest adventure & I look forward to seeing the results... I'm green with envy! All power to your legs mate - you'll need it."
Mungo (The Cameraman)
On Wednesday evening I attended a very entertaining and enlightening talk by Charley Boorman as part of the Canterbury Festival. For those of you that haven't yet had the pleasure of becoming aquainted with his work, Charley is a world famous adventurer. In 2004 he rode east on his motorbike from London to New York with his mate Ewan McGregor. The trip was called Long Way Round, and has since become a favourite among aspiring adventurers. Since then he's riden the Dakar Rally, done Long Way Down (John O'Groats to Cape Agulhas, SA) and two series of his latest show By Any Means.
After his talk last night, I managed to speak to him briefly about my trip, and today I received this great message of encouragement:
"I wish you all the luck on your bicycle ride. It will be an amazing adventure for you and I can’t imagine the people you will meet along the way. People around the world are very generous and so you will be in safe hands. As an ambassador for UNICEF I am delighted you are raising funds for such a worthy charity. All the luck in the world."
Thought it was maybe about time I put out another welcome message to those of you who are new to following my plans through this website, I hope you enjoy it! There's been a few additions in the last couple of days; a bit more of the route has been uploaded here and there's more info about the filming side of the expedition here.
Otherwise, follow the link to the right that will tell you all about the trip, or just visit the various options along the top to find out whatever you want to know. And, as always, feel free to email me with any queries at email@example.com
This week promises to be a really big one for 'The Cycling Reporter" - tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday especially. I'll keep you in suspense for now, but keep an eye on the site for what will hopefully be very exciting developments!
Until then, I came across this video this morning. It's not quite the type of biking I'll be doing (at least I hope I don't end up in this situation on a touring bike!) but man, it's awesome. Check it out!
So the first part of my route takes me from one side of North America to the other, and along the way I will inevitably see and experience many fantastic places. Some of these will come as a pleasant surprise (mainly due to my ignorance of many parts of the continent) but there are others I'm definitely already excited about. I thought I'd share a few of these with you quickly. (My choices are probably also a little biased as I think they're mainly based around the route I know I'll be taking!)
New York City - How could I not be psyched? For me, it's currently the home of film. I can't wait.
Niagara Falls - Pure, awesome power of nature at work
Great Lakes Region - Looks stunning, and I can't even comprehend lakes that size
Mount Rushmore - One of those things I think you gotta see to believe
Yosemite Valley - Apparently surrounded by mile high, near vertical cliffs, sounds pretty dramatic
Yellowstone National Park - Quintessential U.S. National Park experience
Seattle, esp Pike Place Market - Seattle really appeals to me from what I've read, and theres some great music
Pacific Coast all the way to LA! - Need I say more?
Portland - A cyclist's paradise
Whistler - All set up for Winter Olympics, appeals to me greatly, as does the rest of the area of Canada to be honest!
Thats a quick tour of my highlights that come to mind right now, there are of course many more. What are yours? Anywhere you recommend me to visit?
Just thought I'd share a sentiment I read recently on the topic of discovery. I think the idea, the hope, the need for discovery lies at the heart of every great adventure. In fact, I reckon the notion of discovery dictates most of the excitement in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. From the banal discoveries of a new type of pasta sauce (don't knock it, it brightened up my dinner this evening) to a thrill with slightly more longevity such as all those new species found on the recent BBC2 series 'Lost Land of the Volcano' - discovery is everywhere.
It's certainly a key factor in my wanderlust, and one of the catalysts in my decision to finally get on my bike and hit the road. But what can I discover? Taking cliched responses with little real meaning like 'I'll find myself, man' out of the equation, what is there really for me to discover? Surely everything worth noticing has already been found, studied and probably had a TV show made about it. Well, in a way, yes. But, assuming I don't discover a new Grand Canyon somewhere in the middle of the USA that everyone else has somehow just missed, I think there's still plenty to search for. For me, I'm fascinated by people and what they have to say. Listening to folk talk about themselves and the environment they live in, well, I reckon that can unlock a whole store of information about a place, a time, even a feeling. This idea is perhaps losing a little of its focus as I stray away from tangible discoveries, so I'll leave you with the words of the Nobel Prize winning Scientist Albert von Szent who said:
"Discovery consists of seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
Couldn't have put it better myself. In keeping with this blog post theme, here's the famous picture of 'Bigfoot.' I'll try and get a clearer one.
Firstly, thanks to everyone who replied to my last blog – I now have loads of email addresses and phone numbers of friends-in-the-making along my route!Yesterday I took the day off work to attend the 2009 Cycle Show, held at Earl's Court. And what a show! Running from Thursday until today, the event is essentially a showcase of the hottest new bicycles and gadgets, and an excuse for everyone who loves their bikes to get together.
I arrived around midday and was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the arena, the amount of display stands and the throngs of enthusiasts keen to see whats fresh and new. After stumbling around for twenty minutes and making no impression into the vast heart of the event, I finally staggered out onto the perimeter walkway feeling dazed and hassled. I decided that I needed to come up with a plan of action, and, as with most of my plans, it would start with a sandwich.
Moments later I was happily munching on lunch as I studied the show map. It seemed to make sense to tackle the exhibit logically, checking out each aisle from one end to the other avoiding shiny, distracting turn offs which would lead to more confusion. I also took the chance to listen in on the conversations of those around me. They were very, very technical. I couldn't keep up. As I surveyed the show it seemed that everyone walking around also had a much deeper knowledge than me. This isn't hard to be fair, I have a (very) limited understanding of the technicalities of bike construction and maintenance. Until now, it has never overly concerned me, but as I sat in the middle of hundreds of true enthusiasts, I felt like a fraud. I was out of my depth. Do I really think I can make it thousands of miles across vast continents when I don't know my crankset from my brakeset? (Actually, I do know that...but its an easy one!)
And then, for the first time, I properly acknowledged that for me this trip isn't about the bike. It's about a lot of things, and they are all tied in with the idea of cycling, but the physical bike itself is not what excites me. To put it bluntly, I guess it's a means to an end. This is no excuse for me to avoid deepening my technical know-how, and I certainly will have to before I leave, but it felt good to come to terms with the fact that I'm not a bike enthusiast, I'ma cycling enthusiast. There is definitely a difference.
After that I had a really enjoyable day - meeting interesting people, chatting about my trip, watching masters of their art de-assemble and re-assemble components in the blink of an eye. I have great respect for such technicians, and despite my lack of understanding I could still appreciate their skill.
I also met Kevin Shannon, whose superb proposed zero emissions trip I've been following on his site at www.becauseitisthere.co.uk, and had a good chat about our respective journeys. Great guy, great expedition. I have to say that everyone I've met who has done or is planning a long distance cycle tour have all been really down to earth and easy going. On Kev's stand I also got a look at James Bowthorpe's Santos Travelmaster, the bike he recently rode round the world to successfully break Mark Beaumont's high profile record from last year. A truly lovely bike, with a fascinating device on the front that harnessed the power generated from the spinning wheel, and converted it into energy that then powered his iPod. This caught my imagination, and I've been thinking a lot recently about the possibilities of using the human power involved in cycling in order to create power. The topic jumped straight to the top of my list of things to research. Anyone know how effective it is, or where I can find out more?
So, the cycle show, all in all, was a success. Now it's back to the grind of planning. This week expect more blogging from me as I make a renewed effort to keep the website fresh and interesting for the regular followers – thanks everyone!
You can check out some photos from the cycle show on the site here or via flickr here
Everyone I've spoken to about my trip has been amazingly supportive and helpful so far, which I'm really grateful for. Something I've especially enjoyed has been when people have offered to put me in contact with friends and family of theirs along my route. This kindness still surprises me (although it shouldn't, because the world is clearly full of lovely people!) Anyway, I decided to now take a proactive step in this direction, and make a unashamed APPEAL FOR CONTACTS!
So if you know anyone along my route who you think wouldn't mind talking to me, giving me advice on roads etc, perhaps even giving me a place to stay for a night, then please let me know! Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the 'contact me' section on the website here, or leave info on the facebook pagehere.
The googlemaps version of the route can be accessed from the expedition outline drop down tab here, but as its not 100% definite (and probably won't be until I'm actually cycling) I'll also leave a list of the major towns and cities I hope to pass through here. It's a little vague, sorry. If theres someone really nice that you recommend I meet who lives a little off my track, I can always detour! Cheers everyone, heres the list (bold indicates larger places where I hope to spend a few days)
New York City Scranton Buffalo Toronto Hamilton Detroit Chicago Cedar Rapids Sioux Falls Great Falls Kamloops Vancouver Seattle Portland San Francisco San Jose Santa Barbara Los Angeles
New Zealand (North Island)
Auckland Tuakua Hamilton Rotorua Murupara Napier Hastings Waipawa Masterton Martinborough Wellington
New Zealand (South Island)
Blenheim Nelson Kiwi Westport Greymouth Darfield Christchurch Ashburton Waimate Palmerston Dunedin
Sydney Newcastle Port Macquarle Coffs Harbour Lismore Brisbane Gladstone Mackay Townsville Cairns
South East Asia
Anywhere! My plans beyond Australia are vague - if you have any suggestions, or people that would make visiting somewhere worthwhile get in touch!
So since last time I blogged, what's been happening? Well, on Thursday night I attended Rob Lilwall's launch party for his book and DVD series 'Cycling Home From Siberia.' It was a great evening, with an inspiring talk and slideshow from Rob about his trip. I'm halfway through the book already, and enjoying it thoroughly. These events are fantastic at bringing together like minded people, and it was really good to have a chat with folk that have 'been there and done that' (even though they'd never put it like that themselves) and others who, like me, are in somewhere the dreaming/planning/holy-crap-this-is-really-happening! stage.
On Friday I spent the day in the US embassy waiting for my visa, but the hours flew by as I was still on a high from the night before. It's at times like this that I realise just how lucky I am to have the resources and time to go on this expedition. I find it's easy to spend too much time worrying about all the problems that inevitably arise with the planning and prep required by this sort of trip. How silly though! This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm sure anyone else who has done/is doing anything like this would agree, as soon as you make the focus a little wider, everything becomes relative. The hurdles to overcome are really incidental, inconsequential inconveniences, whereas the positives of the trip promise so much more on a larger scale. It's worth a few days of stress, endless emails, phone calls, late nights, whatever it might be that is required. Listening to Rob's talk I was transported to a moment in the future on my own adventure, away from the trials and tribulations of everyday society. I had no work to get to the next morning, no deadlines to meet. I was my own boss, and life was good. I can't wait! New resolution - don't worry (be happy!)
The other good thing about Friday was that I was successful in my visa application, so I'm good to go. Next stop, New York! This week I'll continue to work on a potentially exciting sponsorship opportunity, and finally deliver on that long-promised video blog.
A few dates for your diary, from mine.
9-11th October - The Cycle Show, in Earls Court. (This promises to be amazing, although probably more for those who like bikes because, well, its a bike show.)
30th October - Will Gow, Polar Explorer and descendant of Ernest Shackleton is talking as part of the Canterbury Festival, can't wait for that one
13-15th November - Explore! Expeditions and Fieldworks Planning Weekend, can't speak highly enough of this, I went last year and it's probably the main reason why I've finally got my butt in gear and am heading off on my bike. Pure inspiration, and a lot of fun to boot.
One more thing for now, UNICEF are working around the clock providing aid for kids affected by the Asia-Pacific disasters, namely the Sumatra Earthquake, Typhoon Ketsana and the Samoan Tsunami. They urgently need funds to help the displaced and injured children in that region. More info is available here
If you're in a position to donate anything please visit the link, or donate via my site.
Finally, as I was concerning myself the other day with the topic of 'Do I know enough about bike maintenance?' (which I'll come back to seriously at some point) I was reminded of this great clip from Monty Python. Anyone else remember ''Bicycle Repair Man'?! If not - enjoy!