Happy New Year folks! And with apologies to cheesy '90s supergroup D-Ream, remember - things can only get better...
So, what did 2020 mean for Pub2Pub? As the last year begins to recede into our scuttle-shake blurred rear view mirror and we brace ourselves for a few more months on the same old corrugated track, before the smooth tarmac of a vaccinated spring comes to the rescue, it seems a fitting time to look back and answer the question.
I started last year with high hopes. New road trips such as the Beer Italia were on the horizon, bookings were looking good with plenty of returning customers and the horizon was dotted with dream-like plans, covering everything from big overseas adventures to Kermit's first UK track day. Those years of pursuing automotive adventures were paying off. The future was bright.
March 2020 changed all that. Lockdowns. Border closures. Travel restrictions. From dreaming of adventures across the globe, the world closed in upon itself to such a degree that even a drive to the next county seemed an ambitious goal. Popping to the pub for a pint became as viable as a trip to the Moon. As a new business which doesn't qualify for rate relief, Pub2Pub slipped through the web of the government's financial support. But as some vaguely remembered saying surely goes, its not how you get through the easy times which defines you, it's how you square up to hardship. And rather than take it lying down, I've taken what I like to think of as the 'Costa Rican Border' approach by adopting a stiff upper lip and trying to make the best of the situation (and if that sentence makes no sense to you, I apologise - grab yourself a copy of the Pub2Pub book and all will become clear.) So, here are a few notable ways in which Pub2Pub has been moved forward over the past year:
When the first lockdown swept across the nation in late March, it was billed as a blip, rather than a new normal. A few weeks, maybe a month. And with this in mind, I aimed to make the most of the forced hiatus and spent much of the time barricaded in my home office, filling Word documents with text by getting the full story of our Corvette and Rolls-Royce drive to Singapore down on paper. Or hard drive, even. The result of this is more than just another book. It means that the 'Road Trip Trilogy' is now written - three books which come together to cover over a decade of adventurous road trips, from those early days in a classic Mini, Mongolia bound, to the Pub2Pub Expedition's all-conquering TVR surging across Patagonia towards the southernmost bar.
Ah, bars. Remember them?
The latest book is called 'The Road to the East', and it sits between Survival of the Quickest and Pub2Pub, pulling the three titles together into one continuous story. The first draft was completed by the end of the first lockdown, and I'll be taking advantage of this third lockdown to complete its forth and final edit, which means it is now so close to being ready for publication it hurts. It will be going on sale this year, and hopefully it'll be worth the wait - certainly, my proof reader seems to think so:
With the book written, between edits I got stuck into another project - this very website. The goal behind it is to bring all the disparate things which fall beneath the Pub2Pub banner together into one place - books, driving tours, inspiring adventures, article writing, and the future tangents which are being working on, but haven't gone public just yet. What was envisaged as a fairly quick task ended up dragging out over a fair few weeks as I figured out exactly what it was that I wanted to achieve with the new website, but I'm pretty happy with the result - an online place of road trip inspiration, through which people can connect with the various directions in which the Pub2Pub project has been taken.
It is still very much a work in progress, as these things always are, but it should continue to grow and improve over time, particularly once we're allowed back on the roads of the world to generate new content once again.
What does an automotive adventurer do in the evenings when the pubs are closed, socialising is banned and anyway, leaving the house is kind of frowned upon at best? Yes, that's right - he acts on his first instinct and heads over to eBay to look for a cheap Micra K10 SuperTurbo. Or a Lotus Esprit. Or a Lada Niva. Or...
But obviously, there's only so long you can look at cars for sale before it starts to become boring, and that's when other avenues of future frivolity are investigated. Future adventures, destinations and directions. Many an evening in the past year has been spent researching potential follow-ups for the Pub2Pub Expedition and other previous adventures, focussing on shorter, sharper automotive challenges, rather than the long, drawn-out marathons which have gone before. Because let's face it, The Pub2Pub Expedition's 8 months was rather a long time to be away on the road.
Several of these ideas have definite potential and are currently being worked into actionable plans, though in the current climate it's unlikely that our next big adventure will be happening imminently. This is fairly standard for our adventuring though - Pub2Pub took three years to take from idea to launch, and the V8Nam Expedition - where we drove V8s to Vietnam - took even longer. So at this stage, we're playing our cards pretty close to our chest as we work to confirm the viability of our latest batch of daft ideas, and bring them to fruition in the coming years.
The year began well from a spannering point of view. In February, with a glorious smorgasbord of adventure on the horizon, I got stuck into preparing Kermit the TVR for the summer. Over £3,000 was ploughed into the interior and mechanics, whole weeks were spent swearing at recalcitrant bolts, but eventually with the car better than ever, the future was looking bright. Then, well, you know the rest...
With the work on the TVR nearly - but not quite - finished, the first lockdown prevented me from going to the workshop in which my project cars live for quite a while. Add in the financial uncertainty which meant that throwing money at project cars seemed unadvisable, and it was late summer before I finally got back on with the job of finishing the TVR's mini-restoration. And worth it, it certainly was - the car left the workshop into the autumn sunshine in fine fettle, and was even pressed into service as my daily driver while I completed some work on my usual daily - a 32 year old Volvo 240. This included fitting new headlight bowls, sports springs, a full service, a suspension refresh and a non-negligible amount of welding on the underside. However, the satisfaction of seeing it sail through the MOT with no advisories after all the work certainly made it worth it.
As for the Mini - with the general events of the past year, along with the other two cars in the garage taking precedence, little progress has been made in the past year. However hopefully, 2021 will be a very different story, and even though various other things got in the way of last year's planned 'Mini6000' expedition, don't worry, I still have some pretty bold and remote plans for her...
As you've probably garnered by reading this far, 2020 has, by necessity, been a year of consolidation and contemplation. Rather than panicking and treating it as a disaster from a business perspective, I've instead used is as an enforced half-time break in which I've looked at what's gone well since I began treating road tripping as more than just a hobby, and what's gone not so well. And the benefit of such an opportunity is that the near-unlimited thinking time the 'Rona has given me has hopefully enabled me to turn a crisis into an opportunity, by settling on an optimum future direction. From the dark days and long evenings of lockdown, there have emerged a plethora of ideas, some of which will be coming to define the Pub2Pub project in the coming year. There have been ideas for how to take our driving tours beyond Europe for the first time, and give our friends and customers the opportunity to experience a true Pub2Pub-style global adventure. There are ideas for smaller UK-based gatherings and events, and for new European drives to add into the mix. Ideas for new publications, and even ideas for whole new spin-off businesses, to capitalise on what we've learnt from driving old cars across over 80 different countries, and take Pub2Pub in a whole new direction.
So, there you have it. 2020 could have been a disaster for a new, travel focussed business like Pub2Pub, but instead it has turned out to be an opportunity. As well as completing the latest book and carrying out much spannering on the TVR and Volvo, much of the year has been spent quietly beavering away on various related projects behind the scenes, which will be revealed in the coming months. If all goes to plan, the coming twelve months are going to be our best year yet. Here's to '21 (raises glass).
To finish, I'd like to say thanks to those people who have kept the faith over the past year of frustration, as our events such as the Beer Italia and Eagle Rally were rescheduled, and then finally cancelled. I look forward to rewarding your trust by making this years runnings of these trips the best yet. And if you fancy supporting Pub2Pub by joining one of our trips this year, do feel free to get in touch.