This episode of my weekly blog is coming to you from my dining room.

We’ve not long come home from a couple of hours wandering on the hill, I’ve got a cup of tea and a Lindor (still making our way through the Christmas chocolates), I’ve put The Eternals on Disney+ in the background (which I admit I am enjoying much more than I thought I would), and I’m settling down to finish this up ready to publish later.

But as you know, because this is being published on Monday, I failed at that. The words were just not flowing yesterday, and so at around 6pm, having spent hours staring at my Mac, I gave in and moved to the lounge. I tried. Never mind. Let’s see if I can finish this thing before I start my working week…

Anyway. How has your week been? Mine has been reasonable. It’s flown by again to be honest, work has been very busy, and I’m tired. But it’s also been fun, which is obviously the bit I’m going to concentrate on in this weekly blog episode.

National Outdoor Expo

I spent last weekend at the NEC for the first National Outdoor Expo. I acted as a volunteer Ambassador for the event, thanks to Ordnance Survey being a lead partner – the expo was designed as a way to encourage people to spend more time outside more often.

Having been postponed more than once thanks to pandemic-related restrictions, it was good to gather with likeminded people once again. It’s not my first big event since we were allowed such things again (we went to Motorcycle Live in November, read Weekly Blog Episode 92) – this kind of show are always a good day out.

There were talks from outdoor adventurers and those offering adventure advice, stands from companies offering outdoor related gear and services, organisations spreading the word about their work in and for the outdoors, and even a bunch of activities to take part in.

It really was an excellent opportunity to fill up my inspiration bucket.

The Inspiration Stage at the National Outdoor Expo

I have to admit the event was better than I expected. I don’t think the organisers will mind me saying that. It was busy, yes, but it was also relaxed. It seemed like everyone got the memo about it being a show about encouragement and inspiration rather than the hard sell.

The main pull was the talks, and the organisers had got in some big names to address the crowds. Given that most people will have got their tickets for free (all the Ambassadors had free ticket codes), that made the show excellent value. If you ever get opportunity to hear Belinda Kirk or Harrison Ward speak about their love of the outdoors, please do go and hear them.

The best thing about the weekend was the opportunity to meet up with friends – old and new – meeting some of them for the first time. Some of the people I know are very wise, and I enjoyed deep chats and fleeting conversations. I look forward to using some of those words to motivate me over the coming months, and to that not being the only time this year I am able to share with others in that way.

Did you come along to the show? Did you enjoy it?

The second National Outdoor Expo will take place on 18 and 19 March 2023. Maybe I’ll see you there.

On the way home from the show on Sunday I had to pull over to take a photo of the most wonderfully beautiful sunset. I often say I should see more sunrises and sunsets but I never seem to manage it – this one was a reminder of how gorgeous they can be – and of course had to be my weekly blog header image for this episode.

New Adventure Rubber

It’s time to get ready for the next adventure. With a month to go, preparations have started to ready my GS to ride somewhere new. I love this part of travel – preparing gear and making plans is all part of the fun. This week, I got new rubber fitted; it’s always good to get the right shoes on.

We’re heading to explore some of Portugal. We were meant to be joining Globebusters for a ride to and around Morocco, but you know from Weekly Blog Episode 101 that won’t be happening. Political fall-outs really do have a lot to answer for, don’t they? Anyway, Portugal is a most excellent Plan B, and having heard that the country offers some great riding, I’m looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

I loved the Karoo 3s I had on my bike for Iceland, they were the right choice for the roads and conditions of that trip. But given that our riding in Portugal will be much more tarmac than dirt, I’ve gone back to the trusted Karoo Street tyres this time. They will last more miles, be quieter on the road, but will still provide me with confidence on any gravel and dirt we do choose to ride.

Have you road tripped around Portugal (by bike or another vehicle – I know it’s super popular with campervanners)? If so I’d love to hear your recommendations for must-see views, must-ride roads, and must-eat food – drop me a line in the comments below, or over on twitter.

Planting trees at work on Monday.

Mail Time

Odlo Base Layers

The base layers I ordered from GoOutdoors arrived (did you read last my mail time special in Weekly Blog Episode 103?) – in three separate parcels and via Evri (the renamed Hermes). The less I say on them coming in three parcels the better I think, seems a waste of packaging and courier time to me, but there we are. Also one of the parcels had a postcard in it from Millets in Plymouth, which is more than a little strange, but there we are.

But I said I’d let you know if I chose well. And I think I did. Clearly I haven’t needed to wear warm base layers in the last few days, but I’ve tried them on and I like all three pieces enough to keep them.

The top is the Oldo Active Warm Half-Zip Fleece. It’s made from polyester but is soft to the touch, and will work well as a layer on its own or in combination with a bunch of other layers when needed. It’s form fitting, but not too tight (will be less tight once I’ve gotten rid of some of my lockdown belly), and I like the way it feels on. Oldo say it’s great for “iron-pumping, cardio-blasting workouts”, and while there won’t be any of that going on, I think it will be ideal for motorcycling and hiking.

I’ve ended up keeping both pairs of leggings I bought. The Active F-Dry Light Baselayer Pants are designed to keep you cool and dry, while the Merino Warm Pants are a less fitted making absolutely perfect for sleeping in (although I will definitely also wear them under my motorcycle gear too). I like to have a layer under my textile trousers, the inside of motorcycle gear is a bit scratchy for my liking, and this gives me two options to choose from depending on what the weather.

I got all three items for £80, which is less than the full price of some merino leggings, so I’ll take that as good value. I’ll be packing them all for Portugal, so I’ll let you know when I get home how they performed.

A photo from a pre-work walk this week.

That’s Entertainment

I’ve got a couple of mini book reviews for you in this Weekly Blog episode – both titles I listened to via Audible whilst out walking or driving.

Dare to Do, Sarah Outen

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to listen to Dare to Do by Sarah Outen, it was published back in 2016 and has been on my to-read list since then. It was such a good listen; a story of a big fat adventure with all the twists and turns you can imagine.

The book tells the story of Outen’s five-year, 25,000-mile journey, looping the planet by bicycle, kayak and boat. The idea itself is incredible, and way bigger than anything I could conjure up in my mind let alone set about achieving. Let’s face it, each leg of her journey was a major expedition in its own right. What an amazing lady.

What happened to Sarah in the Pacific and the Atlantic when Sarah was in Gulliver and Happy Socks is well documented – this book gives you that bit of the story from the adventurer’s mind.

But more than that, the book tells the stories of the people Sarah met, those who helped her journey, her encounters with wildlife, notes on the beauty (and strangeness) of nature, the places she travelled through (and some she ended up staying for a while), and the emotions she felt along this very long trip. It’s also a story about Sarah’s humanness as an adventurer – of how she coped, even when the odds were stacked against her.

Being narrated by Sarah herself, it really felt like I was being given an insight into this adventure from her personally, which definitely lead to me getting through this book in just a few days.

A note on hiking.

Wild Winter by John D Burns  

In October 2019, John Burns wrote a bucket list of things he wanted to see in Scotland’s winter that year. Rutting deer, seals, otters, mountain hares, pine martens, sea eagles, whales. Wild Winter by John D Burns is his account of that winter; finding some of that list easier to come by than others.

It didn’t take me long to get into this book, I liked the style of the storytelling, it seemed to be very real and unexaggerated. I wondered if I would be able to associate with someone as experienced and adventurous as Burns, but I was happy to feel included as Burns moved through from October through to March.

I found myself smiling and even laughing at times, sometimes through agreement with Burns (such as on his notes on how no hiker likes heavy rain despite what raincoat advertising photos might suggest), and sometimes because it was just funny (such as Martin’s recurring encounters with train officials).

Through all this wildlife watching and winter hiking, he also speaks of our place in the landscape, the quirks of rural living, and the changing shape of what it means to be a hiker and climber in Scotland’s wilderness. Burns also takes time to discuss the dark side of nature in Scotland – the burnt grouse moors, land made intentionally inaccessible, deer number management, and a rural economy funded by shooting sports.

Of course, we all know what happened at the end of that particular winter, and I appreciate the way Burns speaks about how the vague rumour of a coronavirus became full lockdown, a restriction on freedom to explore and visit the places he loves. The pandemic had significant impact on our wildlife both in urban and rural areas, and so it’s an important topic to tackle.

I really did enjoy this. It has a good mixture of that wildlife bucket list, the hiking and bothy adventures Burns goes on as a result, stories of the people he spends time with, and thoughts about the land. It’s light enough to accompany a long car journey, but thought-provoking enough to make me sit up and take note. Burns has a number of other books which I will now add to my to-read list as a result.

Question of the Week

And with that I will end this episode of my weekly blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings. As is my tradition, I have a question for you to answer in the comments below:

What is the thing you are most looking forward this week?

I’m most excited to go surfing later this week. That’s right, I’ve got a lesson booked down at The Wave in Bristol, and I can’t wait to see if I can remember anything about getting on a board. I’ll let you know! Apart from that it’s looking like a busy working week, with a long list of chores to go with it, so it’s even better to have something fun to look forward to next weekend.

I hope you have an excellent week, whatever you have planned. I’ll see you in my next weekly blog episode next Sunday (or Monday, you know…!).

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