2012 London Olympics: Fan in a Van

Lancashire native Rachel Kershaw rode around Great Britain for 70 days as VisitEngland's "Fan in a Van."

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

If you ask the sea of people behind the 2012 London Olympics about what they want journalists and the public alive to take away from the Games after they wrap up this weekend, you’ll get a chorus response.

While London will be irrevocably tied to the 2012 Olympiad, UK officials want the world to understand the event is about much more than just the two weeks of competition inside the British capital and few other scattered venues. It’s about the entirety of Great Britain.

During the Games, reporters had a chance to journey across England’s mountain’s green in every direction, from Dorset to Kent and from Windsor to Birmingham. And, before the Olympic Torch even arrived in London, one UK citizen had a chance to follow a path across the country inspired by the fire’s journey.

VisitEngland – the tourism promotional organization – sponsored Fan in a Van – “an epic journey around the country inspired by the Torch Relay.”

They said they were “looking for someone who really loves England to be our man or woman on the ground in 2012.” They would adventure around the country in a specially built camper van named “Rosie.” to sample “all that England has to offer.”

After winning the selection process, Lancashire native Rachel Kershaw, 30, set off on her trip. She blogged her journey along the way as she wound her way through the UK on a 70 day trip, making a different stop each day.

She travelled over 6000 miles, visiting towns, villages and cities eager to show off their local attractions in the spirit of UK Olympic fever and “capturing the spirit of Summer 2012.”

She finally arrived back in London in time for the Games. To celebrate the successful journey, VisitEngland throw a mid-Olympic fortnight Fan in a Van After Party at the Tower of London. Kershaw was on hand to discuss the highlights of her trip.

As the journalists honed in, the event was obviously as much to call attention to her various destinations as much as Kershaw herself. She started her trip at Land’s End in Cornwall – the very bottom of England near Penzance and the Isle of Scilly. I know that because I’ve been to both.

From there, she hit everywhere from Bristol to Birmingham, Bath to some other British town staring with B. Kershaw blogged her journey along the way until her Olympic arrival back in London.

“It was a dream come true for me,” Kershaw said. “I got a little exhausted along the way. But I never could’ve imagined all the things I had the chance to try. I flew gyro copter. I learned archery. I bun-jee jumped. I parachuted. It was incredible.”

And what is Kershaw’s favorite journey along the way?

“It had to be that gyro copter ride.”

Now that she brought Kershaw back safely, Rosie – her titular van – is now a celebrity herself. She’ll be used as a VisitEngland photo-op and publicity tool around the UK from now until she goes wherever camper vans go.