Thursday, 27 November 2008

Explore - a weekend of inspiration

What a weekend! The Explore conference at the Royal Geographical Society was nothing short of brilliant. I met and learned from some of the most intrepid and interesting adventurers, film-makers and scientists alive today. To top it off I was given an amazing bike! Genuinely one of the most inspiring weekends of my life. Friday kicked off with a chance to look through the RGS library and maps. After a few hours researching routes through south-eastern Europe I'd come no closer to choosing the easier route along the Danube or the one that originally inspired me, along the beautiful Adriatic coast. After four hours I needed some perspective. On entering the bar the first person I saw was Dan Martin - who has just completed a shudderingly impressive cycle from South Korea to South Africa - through the 'Axis of Evil'. Now to be honest I didn't like this guy before I met him. Why? Well he's already ridden from London to Cape Town and what's more he's 6'5 - one inch taller than me - totally stealing my thunder! Ego looking to be unique; flattened! Jokes aside meeting Dan was fantastic - he gave me heaps of good advice in exchange for a few beers, then out of the blue offered me his bike! Awesome! (Apparently he doesn't like cycling - go figure!) The weekend continued in the same thrilling vein, with lots of fascinating lectures on subjects as diverse as fundraising to film-making. The cycling workshop was superb and provided me with the sort of advice that will save me days on the road. Big thanks in particular to our well peddled hosts: Hallum Murray Al Humphreys – Rob Lilwall – Jessica Hatcher – It was great to meet so many positive people doing original and challenging things. Inspiring and motivating – I’d recommend the Explore conference to anyone.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Pushing the right buttons – Website Launched

As the planning for the ride continues, the last ten days have seen a real breakthrough. The website is now launched! If you’re reading this blog on the website that much may be self-evident – just allow a moment to eulogise! Ken my good friend and former business partner, took two days off work solely to help me get the site up and running. What a legend! In truth he was doing more of the hard work than me – I make things look pretty – he’s the nuts and bolts man that makes the site work. So if it looks crap blame me – if it doesn’t work … no, that wouldn’t be fair ;) The highlight of the two days was trying to make a video for the page. We both decided it would be a bit dry to talk straight to camera, so instead the plan was hatched to film me on my bike – the question was how to do it? Ken had moment of genius pulling a flat head mop and masking tape from the cupboard with a mischievous chuckle. 3 yards of tape later we had a mobile camera unit and over to the park we went for filming. I can’t imagine too many of you have tried riding a bike a using a mop to film yourself, while giving a pitch and remaining coherent. I struggled. It didn’t help that every punter I passed looked totally bemused. It took me quite a few circuits to get it right, interspersed with near crashes with tourists, and several takes ending bugger bugger bugger! The final cut ended with me wiping my nose with my hand and finishing in a bye bye that would be better suited to a Disney character. Stay classy San Diego! The site will continue to evolve, with Kenny’s ever-present assistance. Next step is to get the sponsorship pages up and running! Tomorrow sees the start of the Explore conference at the Royal Geographical Society – a fantastic chance to meet people with experience of planning and undertaking all sorted of adventurous adventures! I have a lot to learn!

Monday, 10 November 2008

A little spark required

Over the past few weeks, things have been a little up and down. One great success: finding a charity to raise funds through has been counter-balanced by the weight of the task at hand. Its a little daunting chipping away but after a month, with not much to show for it. I was hoping that the bike ride itself would help me focus and get some passion flowing back through my veins (a little lacking of late) but it seems like I'm going to have to make that transition a lot earlier if I'm even going to make it as far as the start line. On a positive note, meeting Caroline McFarlan of the charity Kids Charities was a real blessing. We have provisionally agreed that I will raise funds as an appeal for Kids Charities – allowing me to collect gift aid as well as benefitting from Caroline’s contacts and experience, as a long-term devotee of fundraising. Over the next few days, a good friend of mine Ken has offered to help get the first phase of the Better Life Cycle website launched. He’s actually taken time off work just to help me out – what a star! Not only do I benefit from his programming guru skills but the motivational kick up the arse couldn’t have come at a better time. In fact so many people have been really helpful – Lisa for introducing me to Caroline, and finding a contact for an orphanage in SA, Dorthe for telling me about the invaluable Explore conference coming up for expedition planning, and Nikki for introductions to multiple contacts volunteering across Africa. With a little help from my friends I’ll get there – thank you all. Now it’s time to get cracking and get this site launched!