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This should be seen as a map of good intention, which is my speciality. Thus far I have met with mixed success in executing said plans, but I'm okay with that. I believe it to be healthy. Still, pretty crazy stuff looking at it like this, eh? This'll take me as far as Seattle, and from there I'll do a loop up to Vancouver and then back down to start my journey on the Pacific Highway.
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It looks like, as predicted by the optimists (and even realists) among you, I will get everything I need to depart on time. There are a number of components to this, few of which I can take credit for. I've been humbled many times already during my preparation, but the last couple of weeks have shown me the kindness of others on an entirely new level.
Let me paint you a picture - at home in Ireland I live in a small village, barely more like a hamlet. To get to the house you must turn off the main road passing through, and take your chances on a winding, steep, narrow laneway. Once you have mastered the art of these conditions, you must then factor in the unpaved surface - regular rainfall erodes the gravelly surface to create a sloping effect on both sides, and potholes big enough to lose a wheel into. Negotiating this for well over half a mile will take you past the most inclined section, where you must avoid the temptation to turn onto a more attractive looking offshoot. Eventually you will arrive through the farm gate to the McCarron homestead, where you will inevitably be greeted by a wild bounding brown blur of what is most likely an over-excitable dog. Dog it is, and a most beautiful and friendly one at that once you get to know it. But imagine for a second you are a postman - to me this does not seem like an ideal scenario; in fact I believe if this was on my route as a postie, I'd probably dump the letters at the bottom of the lane and take my chances.
It's true - One week to go! I've been slightly dubious about putting an exact departure date on this thing since last time. For those of you new to the blog, my previous attempt to leave ended with hospitalisation and a four month lay-off! But, the procrastination can continue no longer. When next Saturday rolls around, I will no longer have anywhere to live in New York City. I will have my bike and my belongings, and I must ride.
I expect many of you will find this piece of news very exciting, especially those close to me. I am too of course, but currently the buzz lives deep down, stifled by a seemingly insurmountable mound of stressful last minute preparations and gear-gathering. At the minute it feels like it will be more of a relief than anything else to get on the road. It's not an ideal frame of mind to be entering into the trip with, but I guess given the scale of what lies ahead, it's somewhat inevitable. And even as I write this I can sense that bubbling feeling of unspeakable exhileration rising up. Yes, I will enjoy it. And I'm ready.
Time for some updates. I'll post them in installments so that the excitement isn't too much for you.
Due to an imminently approaching departure date (watch this space) my search for sponsorship and funding has begun again in earnest. I've said it many times before on this site, and it's true that whatever happens, this expedition WILL happen, and soon. However, a little money and supplies can make a huge difference. For instance, the better my bike and camping equipment, the less chance there is that I'll freeze to death or get eaten by a bear. Actually that's exaggerating a little, but the premise is true. Higher quality gear (and the correct gear for the task) will vastly improve my chances of my safety and success. Company sponsors are keys to this - and I can offer them a lot in terms of publicity and profile in return for the goods they supply me with (see the sponsorship proposal pack for more info.)
The first stage is over! Thanks to everyone who suggested potential names - I lost count somewhere after around 50 different names.
Some were clever, some were funny, some were...interesting. But I appreciate the effort. So the final thing I'll ask of you now is to vote on your favourite out of the final 5. These 5 got chosen by a very complicated selection process. Obviously that's a lie. These are the names that either got suggested multiple times, or that I thought were particularly good.
I'll give you the quick run down:
Lola - 4 different people offered this as a potential name - that makes it a popular choice already, and I do like the idea of being able to sing a song about my bike.
Sam - Suggested twice, plus it's kind of androgynous - Suzanne pointed out it could be Samwise Gamgee, or equally Samantha, both of which I like!
Odetta - Based I guess on the singer, it's a pretty cool connection
Mathilda - Watch the film 'Leon'
Billy - C'mon now, who doesn't love Billy the Bike?
So please vote below!
Okay, so here's the game. I have a shiny new Santos TravelMaster (as seen above in the ever-so-sligtly embarrassing publicity photo) which I plan to ride a minimum of 10,000 miles across North America, NZ, Australian and SE Asia. This much you know (or at least you do now). What you probably don't know is that as yet I haven't named my bike. Now this is a pretty big deal. Me and this bike are gonna get to know each other very well. We're really, really gonna have to become best buds. We're gonna spend a LOT of time together - enough to put any relationship under strain, especially one where I'm the only human being involved. Inevitably we're going to fall out every so often, but in general this bike will be the only company I have for long stretches of time whether I like it or not, so I better get used to the idea. Simply...we've got to get on well. And, central to this, is giving my bike a good name. Maybe I'm going a bit far, it is after all still an inanimate object, but I'm not going to lie to you, i WILL talk to this bike.
Sorry for the delay since my last post. I've been pretty busy, but I guess I've also been pretty lazy in not posting! Update wise, there's not a huge deal to mention. I've been thrown in the deep end with work here, and it's a lot of fun. I'm starting to get to know my way round parts of the city, and finding good hang out spots. The tourist attractions have on the whole still eluded me so far, but I'll catch them soon I'm sure, and right now I'm happy just to be living and working here - it's nice to feel more like a local every day! It's also pretty cool when I get given errands to run such as 'Just drop this off to the Empire State Building, will you?' So work in Manhattan is great, and living in Brooklyn is also going well so far. It means a 40 minute commute to the production company everyday, but it's kinda nice in a way - without wanting to sound cliched, Brooklyn feels more 'real' than Manhattan. That doesn't explain it very well, I'll think on it and write more when I can articulate it. They're both amazing places to spend time though, so I guess I'm lucky to be able to.
The down side is that it seems impossible for me to stop spending money. Even if I have everything I need for the day, somehow I still manage to spend something somewhere. Frugality is slowly taking hold again however, so it should just be a matter of time before I learn how to survive here without having to pay for it. It's definitely an expensive city though - I guess I just overlooked that. But still, fun to be had on every corner, you can't really put a price on that, eh?!
The expedition side has kinda had an enforced break since the move, and I restarted it sluggishly by sending out a few emails and making a couple of calls. It's not much, but a start. I have been spreading the word to the people I've met here so far though, so hopefully I can build some interest in the trip from there. I've got a positive reception about it, and I'm learning a lot about the documentary process every day through the production company I'm with. I guess that means once I get myself organised and proactive again, everything will start sliding into place.
There should be some good news related to the expedition coming at the weekend, so keep an eye out for that, but until then I won't bore you with any more details of my day to day life - I'll write again when I've formed some coherent thoughts about NYC. Perhaps it's still just a little to fresh for me to express how I'm finding it yet - we'll see. Meanwhile, here's a few more snaps. They're mainly of Brooklyn - a few on the Bedford-Stuyvesant area where I live, and some more on and around the Brooklyn Bridge. The uploading process isn't going very smoothly, so it's rather a random selection, but I'll put up the others at a later date.
The title should say it all! But I've jumped ahead of myself. I should start by saying Happy New Year -2010, who'd believe it?! I had a great new year's celebration back in Canterbury. Everything here is starting to feel slightly more special because my departure date is imminent. However, that too is pretty special. Tomorrow marks the commencement of the year in a working sense for me, and I'll have just under 2 weeks to get everything ready to up sticks and move to New York. My main concern at the minute is getting my bike on the plane without having to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. Talking of which...
I'll be picking up my Santos Travelmaster this Friday! It feels like it's been an age in coming, although I've only been waiting a month for it. That's still quite long though. We all now how hard it is to have to wait for something we really want. Patience is a obviously a virtue I have to work on. Anyway, only 5 days to go. Don't worry, I'll take my camera along.
I'm still looking for somewhere to live in New York City, so I'll need to up the ante on the search for that. Conversely, expedition stuff is coming along nicely. One of the real pleasures recently has been the lovely messages of support and encouragement I've been receiving. They've been coming from friends and strangers alike, and it makes my day when all the boring emails I wade through eventually lead to some kind words. I thought I'd share a few with you over the next few blog posts. For today, I'll share the incisive inspiration of Josie Dew. Josie is an English cyclist and author, and has been touring regularly since she was 15. I read one of her books, The Wind in my Wheels, a few years ago when I was first contemplating my big adventure. Her stories were a breath of fresh air from all the 'serious business' cycling stuff I'd read before. Fun seems to be top of her agenda when she's touring. Anyway, it was great to get a word of encouragement from someone who has had such an effect on my mindset.
Also, if you haven't already, don't forget to sign up to my newsletter to receive all the latest updates and excitement every fortnight!
"Cycle and see the world, Leon. There's no better way!"
I hope you all had a great Christmas Day yesterday, and are all still enjoying the festive season. I certainly am, perhaps a little too much, but hey, it's only once a year!
As it's Christmas, and we're all now well practiced in the art of giving and receiving, I thought I would try a little something on here. First - my gifts to you!
1 - I have created a Newsletter from which you can follow my adventures! Please sign up via the submission form on the right of this page. It'll come out fortnightly with updates of where I am, any interesting news, and as the trip takes shape, links to the latest videos on this site.
2 - I recently wrote a short piece for the Guardian on my perfect Boxing Day cycle - check it out here. I'm aware you can't all ride it as it's in Northern Ireland and most of you aren't, but there's 4 other ideas on the page so maybe you can give one of them a go.
Okay, so maybe my gifts are a little self-involved. Please forgive me. I'll also put some new photos up, maybe you can enjoy those as well. Which brings me to - what would I like from you?! Well...
1 - Please sign up to the newsletter and read my piece in the Guardian!
2 - Join my Facebook group for the trip here, or follow me on Twitter if you're that way inclined here.
3 - Attending lots of parties and dinners over the Christmas period? Stuck for conversation? Try telling people about my trip and my website, and encourage them to donate to the UNICEF cause here.
4 - Have any wealthy friends/acquaintances? Print off my sponsorship pack and give them a copy, or direct them to the link on here.
So there you go. I'm getting lots of positive feedback on everything I'm doing so far which is great, as the more people that get involved, the better the film will be, and the more money I'll raise for UNICEF.
A quick bit of other news - I'm delighted to announce a few more sponsors for the trip. Check them out here. A special mention for Kata, the fantastic resource for videographers and filmmakers. They're providing me with the R-104 camera rucksack which will carry my camera, accessories, laptop and tripod. It will be indispensible as this bag will rarely leave my site during my trip - it'll go everywhere with me out of necessity (so my camera doesn't get nicked!) They're also giving me a rain cover for my camera so I can film whatever the weather's got in store. All of which is good news!
Finally, here's a few Christmassy photos from where I am.
Once again, sorry for the lack of activity on the site - it's not good enough! However, I have been keeping all the boring bits of the planning process ticking over and have been immersed in books and maps regarding South East Asia, trying to get my perfect route. So that's why I haven't been blogging. Honestly.
Anyway! Enough of my excuses. The latest in my injury/delays saga is that I had to come back to Ireland for another appointment with the surgeon who operated on me. This was another big one; he was basically going to tell me whether the muscles were healing properly and essentially how much longer my recovery would take. After the disappointment of the last meeting with him I was pretty nervous, but luckily it all seemed to go rather well. He was of the opinion that everything was healing at a good rate, and I should continue to rest until Christmas, but after that it's all systems go! I obviously can't jump straight back on a bike and cycle 50 miles before hitting the gym, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. So I'll try pedaling a few short routes around here in Northern Ireland, and start with some baby dumbbells - My ego may take a knock but at least I'll be being sensible! That's the plan anyway, and I will now feel less guilty regarding the inevitable Christmas overindulgence.
In light of the good news, I felt healthy enough to attempt an early morning walk in the beauty of the North Coast of Northern Ireland. I'm desperately trying to find time and energy to improve my photography skills, which are at the minute, not great. I've never really got into photography the way I did with filmmaking, and I don't have a particularly good camera, but I'm going to give it a shot. Who knows, if I get better may I can blag a decent camera to take with me. So here's a few of my efforts from this morning, although I can't say it was a roaring success as my camera battery died before I'd even left the village. Lesson learned for next time.
That's it - with any luck, expect a couple of announcements regarding my expedition before Christmas. Otherwise, thanks for reading and following my adventures so far!