It's fast approaching the end of August, and after a couple of weeks off the bike I've had a little time for reflection on the first few months of this journey. It's going to take a lot more than that to fully comprehend everything I've experienced and learned, but it's a start. Definitely worth mentioning straight away that I've discovered just how big America is. It's HUGE. I mean really huge. And it's absolutely full of stories. Whether fast-paced city or tiny truck stop, busy sidewalk or every deserted boardwalk, the places and people I encountered had history, a present and a future, and all these tales are worth of retelling. It's impossible for me to do that, but I feel honoured to have heard them, and I look forward to sharing some of them with you in the upcoming documentary.
So here's where I'm at right now. I've cycled about 3,500 miles from New York to Seattle. In a few days I'll hop back on my bike and pedal from Seattle to San Diego. From there I'll make my way to New Zealand and ride North to South. After that it's the East Coast of Australia, and then finally South East Asia; Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it is, that's for sure. However distance wise I've made a pretty good start. 3,500 miles is probably about a third of the overall distance I plan to ride, give or take a few pedal strokes.
I'll use this opportunity to give new readers and old a quick reminder of what I'm trying to achieve.
My passion is the documentary. I'm aiming to make a film combining my personal journey on the bike with the stories of the people I meet. I'm especially seeking to highlight individuals and causes that are working to try and make a positive impact on the world we live in. To donate to the cause for the documentary, follow the link to the 'How can you help?' page or click on the button below:
The other consequential element is that of the charity fundraising. I'm endeavouring to raise £10,000 ($15,000) for the children's charity UNICEF. They work around the world to deliver health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, and rely on voluntary donations. If you are interested, inspired or moved to donate to their cause I would be delighted, and you really would be making a huge difference. You can do so by clicking on the UNICEF logo below
That's all for now - keep checking in regularly for more blogs, photos and videos. I'll be back in the saddle within the next few days, so log on then to see how the next stage of the journey goes!
Don't forget there's plenty of info all over the site to read and enjoy, including the snapshots I've taken so far here, so have fun navigating around!
Today is my last day at one of the film internships I've been doing in New York. While this is a sad in some ways as it's been a great way to get involved in the documentary scene in NYC, it also has it's positives. A major one is that I now have two days a week to devote to seeking the sponsorship and funding that I need to hit the road. This should have been an ongoing thing, but I let it slip quite badly when I moved to NYC, getting completely swamped by new jobs and lifestyle in the Big Apple.Thinking about how best to promote myself and the expedition, I've also started pondering how well this website is working. So I'm going to ask you all two things to help me out.
The latest endorsement for The Cycling Reporter has come from another great cameraman who I strive to emulate in both the quality and subject matter of my work - Claudio Von Planta.
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 trip to collect my new Santos bike has become one of the casualties of the current severe weather in the UK. Admittedly this is a minor casualty compared to some of the crazy stuff that's been going on, but it still means I'm 5 days away from leaving for NYC, and minus a bike. With any luck I'll get to Lancing tomorrow to collect it, then I can breathe freely again.
Meanwhile, I'll save you from the boring details of my life recently - it's mainly involved lots of emails trying to sort out somewhere to live in NYC. Instead I'll share another of the encouraging messages I've received recently.
Will Gow worked in the city while undertaking the odd adventure here and there, before deciding to set up the go all Polar - recreating Ernest Shackleton's legendary Nimrod Expedition of 1909 when his team came within 97 miles of the South Pole before being forced back. Will happens to be a direct descendant of the great Shackleton, and the rest of his team were also related to the original members.
I went along to hear Will speak about their adventure as part of the Canterbury Festival, and managed to grab him for a quick chat afterwards. It's always good to talk face to face with inspiring people, because it can really give you a kick up the backside motivation wise. Will was very down to earth, and was kind enough to give me a few words of encouragement about my trip -
"It sounds like you are taking on an amazing challenge. Best of luck –it’s a bold dream, now make it come true!!"
- Will Gow
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!"
Hopefully those of you following my blog will have shared some of my anticipation, and maybe even nerves, about the appointment I had with the specialist yesterday. The topic was : Would I be fit to travel to New York this Monday, setting in motion the series of events that would lead to the eventual start of this expedition. The answer? No.
Never mind. Otherwise, the consultation was good - the operation seems to have been a success, and the muscles are healing well. It's just a case of more rest needed, and doctors order's are to remain in the UK for another 4 weeks so I can get some physio and they can monitor me. It was one of those classic situations of the worst actually happening...and then things not seeming so bad. Okay, so its really annoying. I'm 100% eager and raring to get going as soon as possible, but I know I'm not ready for it at the present time ( I can still only use one arm really, and I can forsee a few problems trying to ride a bike like that to be honest.) Plus the film work I'm doing in NYC won't be affected, AND it means I'll get to spend Christmas with my family. Other unexpected bonuses are that I'll see a lot more of my girlfriend before I go, and I'll be able to organise a few expedition related events in the UK. This is pretty exciting, as it means a potential launch party this side of the Atlantic, sometime in December. Watch this space.
So all my expected dates will shift about 1 month down the line - I'll post the final departure and arrival dates for the various countries at the end of this week. I'm returning to Canterbury tomorrow, which I guess is about the closest thing I've got to a permanent base at the minute. The reason you need to know this is because my film equipment is there, so I will finally have a video blog uploaded onto the site by Friday! You can hold me to that - I've got no job, I can't do any training...what else am I gonna do with my time!
Thats pretty much all the news for now. Summary I guess is that the news was not what I wanted to hear, but there's a lot of positives that can come out of the situation and the end result should mean that I arrive in New York fitter, stronger and better prepared than I would have been otherwise.
Roll on January!
Also, on a final note, thanks for the supportive messages I received from many of you- definitely helping my recovery!
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."