Friday, 25 April 2014

Wedding Cycling Tour Days 2 & 3

We had a rest day before the Big Day, stopping two nights in picturesque Barmouth.

We pootled about town in the morning looking for things to make a bouquet with and only managed to get some ribbon, then in the afternoon embarked on a few hours of hiking from the Panorama walk onto the hill tops & back into the town behind the lovely old fishing cottages that are propped against the hillside in San Francsican fashion. All the little stairway alleyways were an idyll for me - allowing me to snoop on people's gardens and wonder at the cuteness of the place.

We returned to the b&b to find a card & a bottle of champagne outside our door that Jupp & John had kindly left us, so we hauled up for the evening with face masks, hair masks and generally chilled out.

The morning of The Big Day arrived. Alas the previous day's amazing sunshine was nowhere to be seen & the sky threatened rain for our ride along the Mawddach Trail.

A light breakfast for the mere ten flat miles saw us arrive in Dolgellau in good time (without getting rained on) & we even had a leisurely pot of tea at Ty Seren where we would be stopping for the evening.

Then the rush around. A fast shower & a frenzied attack with curling tongues and hairspray followed by a battle with the birdcage veil. Sarah & I then rushed off to find a florist toot-sweet. The lady there was lovely, but spoke better Thai than English & despite me wearing a wedding dress, she didn't seem to understand what the flowers were for. I thought an explanation would confuse things further, so I took my vase display back & asked Sharon & Nick for some scissors. There ensued a flower massacre in the shower as I cut the stems to a sensible size and tied my bouquet. Ta-daaa, ready! With time to spare.

Stephen's pretty bobbins with directions, so I was surprised when he had made it to the registry office before me!

Official business in the back and some laughs with Rhian & Rhian, the two registrars. They misheard my address thinking I had moved to the village of Lame Bottom, which when you're on a cycling tour gets some pretty good mileage! They were lovely & very welcoming. The tiny office is tucked away in the back of the council building and seats up to 20. Ideal for a quieter wedding ceremony & perfect for ours.
Everything had gone to plan and the music began to some giggles (readings below for those into that kinda thing).

We headed off to The Ship Inn for a wedding lunch then up to Gwesty Gwernan where Stephen's family were staying. We propped up the bar for a couple of hours.
We returned to find our room at Ty Seren was decorated with a wedding balloon & confetti everywhere you could think of! A really lovely touch.

Moors and clouds, Hills and sky
Stretching out forever infront of us
A lifetime of adventures ahead.

Headwinds, inclines, flats- unavoidable
We’ve already had our fair share
Keeping the ride diverse.
The challenges of our journey
Shape and strengthen our union
As we grow to understand each other more.

The climbs are easier
And the care-free-wheeling, a joy
Now we share our path.

The momentum gathered will carry us.
Our wheels propelling happiness
Onward, forever affirmed.

They say the tandem shows the sum of a couple
They also say, ‘She’s not pedalling!’ a lot!
Communication, compromise & humour required,
Then a flying machine is what you’ve got!
Complete trust in the pilot’s essential for enjoyment
For a ride ride full of laughter and smiles.
Team work is the last ingredient needed
To make a lifetime of happy miles.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wedding Cycling Tour Days 1&2

Months in the planning, 400 miles, not a drop of rain, no punctures either. A very memorable way to get hitched!

Lon Las Cymru is a route that has been calling to me for a few years - right through the heartland of Wales. It happens that there's a registry office en route in Dolgellau, so it seemed a fitting way to get married. We stuck a chunk of NCN5 on to the start from Chester and added an extra stretch into Somerset onto the end to beef it out a bit finishing at Blue Anchor near Minehead.

Day 1 had big mileage, but not much climbing, however there was a heck of a big headwind that ground things to a slow crawl along the banks of the Dee and all the way along the seafront past Rhyl into Llandudno towards the peaks of Snowdonia's hill tops that seemed to remain on the horizon forever as we slogged away. We enjoyed a nice bit of climbing after Flint which was lovely on pretty lanes up to Hoylake golf club for our first pint of the trip, which broke up the flat slog nicely.


As the holiday season hadn't got underway, most places were closed so finding a place to eat was no simple task. A lovely village before Llandudno came to our rescue with a fancypants pub meal. Semi-defeated we decided to get the train to Bangor to make up the time - that stretch is mostly along the A-road, so we werent missing much & we'd already visited lovely Conwy so had been on that stretch before.  We were also stopping at an Airbnb find & I was worried about arriving late, not knowing if our host had an early start for work the next day.

The night-time ride to the train then on to Penisa'r waun was delightful; bats flying alongside us, quiet narrow roads and the shadows of the mountains against the dark sky were breathtaking. Roller coaster roads came one after another.

We arrived at 10.30, our host, Luke who is a fellow cycle tourer was very understanding & lovely company - he had cycled Lon Las Cymru a number of times.

The great thing about arriving somewhere in the dark, is that when morning arrives, you're awarded with a beautiful view. The area here was stunning and I'm sure I could while away many cycling and walking hours just here. I aim to return there for a proper explore. 

Day 2 we set off towards Caernarfon where the start of NCN8 is beside the old mountain railway near the castle. Brilliant sunshine from the start, but cold headwinds again.
After leaving the beautiful lanes, we were on the converted railway track which offered mountain views to the west and more distant views of the coast to the east as it worked it's way in land to cut across the peninsular. 
The flat track was long forgotten as the route snaked it's way up steep hills and around farms, beautiful, but our legs were already tired from the previous long day in the saddle and getting reaccustomed to hauling two weeks worth of gear in the panniers. Eventually we were rewarded with a fast descent into the pretty seaside town at Criccieth where we enjoyed a picnic overlooking the bay, beneath the castle in a warm sheltered spot.

We plumped for a little bit of rough-stuff along the bridleway coastal path here, although it turned out there was a style we had to lug the heavy bikes over.

As we approached Black Rock Sands, we were greeted by a gentleman on an oldschool ten speed mountain bike & his good lady on a 3 speed, 20 inch wheeled bike with a basket containing crisps and pop. She  was taking the rough climb in her stride & apparently kept leaving him far behind as she managed every climb unphased; both joked (with grand Huddersfield accents) about his heart-attacks and the vein surgery he was about to receive. Half an hour later & we were pedalling towards Porthmadog again.

We made a quick stop for provisions before quickly carrying on to the stiff climb we knew was approaching.

We knew that the storms that had battered Wales the other month had left plenty of infrastructure problems in this area, but the miles of A-road diversion was less fun than we anticipated as we powered on with fast traffic on a very narrow road with drivers who must be sorely irritated by not only this huge detour, but the road works & traffic lights along this stretch that they've had to endure since before Christmas. The railway & pedestrian bridge is also out, adding to the volume of traffic on the stretch that cyclists are also being diverted on.

Finally we were through the diversion and we stopped at a roadside b&b which also has a cafe for a brew, a cake & a chill out! Right above us was a very high, steep hill. This is where route 8 goes. But we decided that we would make up for lost time by  going on the b-road which runs part way up the hill - offering lovely views, but with less effort. It was a good decision, although I'm sure the off road track is worth checking out another time.

It was a straight run into Barmouth from here and we did make excellent time, better than we'd anticipated, so it was a shame to miss the off road hill, but equally nice to enjoy our luxury room at the b&b, beside the window enjoying a glass of wine & the view of the Mawwdach Estury.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A different perspective

I've lived in my home town for 31 years. Over the last few weeks, I've migrated to a different area of it and discovered that even after 31 years of general exploration of the place, there are still enclaves to be discovered.

And my new commute is flipping EPIC! 

It's upped from 18 miles to somewhere in the region of 30 miles per day depending which route I take, but so far I am loving it - the new bits are mostly off road or on quieter roads before I join my usual route.  And now I have someone to share the ride with, it feels less like a commute and more like a leisure ride.

I'm building up to it, not doing it every day just yet, but getting my legs used to that kind of distance more often. I'd been doing the 18 miles almost every day for a while now in all that blustery / galey weather we had the other month, so it shouldn't be too much time before I'm into the swing of those extra miles every day. 

And I'm looking forward to having another new perspective on distances. Since I started riding for utility as much as leisure, my concept of 'far' has changed dramatically. A 30+ mile round trip to meet my friends for a pub tea fits into the same bracket as going to work & nipping to town feels such a short trip that I can't get my head round why cycling round your own town is such a rarity - it really is so quick and easy & fun. And free!

The past year has been a real shift in how I experience the area where I live. Travelling to another town regularly to stop at Stephen's has made the county shrink & now I dont think twice at pedalling across the county for anything. As your learn new sections, the distance seems shorter as you break each bit of a route down into manageable chunks.
But now we're finally in our new house & we'll be getting into more of a journey routine rather than trying to figure out new & improved ways. Although there are a lot of new bridleways to explore up at this end of town heading over into Yorkshire. I'm looking forward to it immensely, although I will miss some of the routes I no longer need to frequent.