Apologies if this post isn’t as balanced as usual. Dan was here on Friday, and adjusted my chair, without asking.
In fact, while your reading this, go on youtube and listen to the wild beasts (they are pretentious musicians).
They have a song called lions share. Listen to it, I’m convinced that the chorus says “lying shit” rather than lions share, but I’d appreciate other views.
Well, Glenn completed the triathlon which is an amazing achievement, and got me thinking.
The Queens Diamond Jubilee weekend was coming up (lots of people have views on this). Personally, I don’t and won’t ever buy into the idea of high birth, but I am proud of Britain’s heritage. Instead of having a party and making a hat out of a handkerchief with knots in it, I decide on something else.
Part of the British tradition is adventure (it was Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay who stood on top of Everest on the day of the Queens actual coronation). Although I can only stand in the shadow of those 2 great men, adventure is a relative concept.
I decide that I’ll ride to Llangollen (a place I love more each time I visit it) camp overnight, and then ride back the next day.
The weekend began with Friday. Absolutely insane, with loads to do at work, and private clients to help in the afternoon. Shattered, I head back to Chester and relax by the Canal with a couple of pints (the Lock Keeper has re-opened, but they let anyone in now, and its a bit rubbish).
Saturday morning, I rise early and check my equipment. I’m taking a tent, sleeping bag and kip mat all inside a 25 litre rucksack (for comparison, its smaller than the one I normally take to work).
I take a few essentials like money, a penknife and a head torch as well.
As I look out of the window, there’s no sunshine and light drizzle. Not optimistic, but this is the adventure line. This is the thing I’ve written about before, the moment where you think is it really worth it. In reality, the cycling will be easy, the real challenge is ignoring the weather and the urge to relax in a warm house, and getting on the bike and getting out there.
I decided to take the route I normally ride to the Golden Groves. Pedalled a bit further and met Sue at the Plough.
From here we pedalled to the Pant-yr-ocian. Christine Kennedy had told me about this place, nearly 10 years ago, and what a pub !. Service was superb, décor excellent, they had an extensive menu and most important off all, it felt friendly.
We had a pint, and then set off (although we did stay for 90 minutes, as I was really enjoying myself. We had to pass through Wrexham, and Sue lead the way, so I have no idea where we went.
I realise now how lucky Wrexham people are. They have the mountains and countryside, literally on their doorstep, Sue knows the area inside out as she walks and cycles around here all the time.
We encountered a street, with Tesco, a bakery, a chippy and a kebab shop. Sue bought a sensible sandwich, and I had a chip butty, just for the hell of it. Apparently, this is the village where Sue was born, and her parents still live here.
Another couple of miles, and we reach a pub. The last one before Llangollen I’m told. We debate locking up the bikes and going inside.
I’m a bit concerned at this point. Thing is, a modern bike, is a collection of components. If you fasten the frame of your bike to a fence, then technically “the bike” can’t be stolen. The gears on the bike, are probably worth £100 and they can be removed with a par of pliers, as can the brakes, the saddle, handlebars and wheels, and stuff like lights and bike pumps.
We decide to stand outside with our bikes. I felt a bit daft to be honest. A couple of local lads having a smoke outside, spoke to the barman, and he said we were welcome to bring out bikes in the pub and sit down (where there was a nice fire !).
We declined, as we were only staying for 1 drink, and it would have involved a bit of messing about. I was taken aback by the willingness to help of the locals who after all, stand to benefit nothing by helping us, and were helping simply because they were good people.
After this, there are more hills and the rain gets a little worse. At this point, it starts to become obvious, that Sue is an experienced cyclist and very fit, and that I (on my third outing) just aren’t up to a 20 od mile ride, with equipment. I put my bike in a very low gear (to people that don’t know, this means I have to peddle about 5 times, to get the wheel to turn once)
This works as I have limited strength in my legs, but loads of stamina. Over time, I expect this to change, and I also think my bike may need
some adjustment, as I was pedalling my from knees, rather than my thighs. I also got off, and pushed, every time we came to a hill !.
Still, the goal was to get to Llangollen, under my own steam, and self contained with all the gear I would need on my back and this was going to plan.
I never once thought of giving up, but as the afternoon progressed I became a bit demoralised. At that point, I realised we’ve arrived at a tea
house just near Llangollen, so I know we didn’t haven’t too far to go.
Hot chocolate and cake (there are Union Jacks in the Tea house, which we’ve seen, most of the day.
They bring us tea by mistake and Sue asks to change them in an assertive yet charming way. I would have just drunk the tea. Made me think,
have I become so obsessed with avoiding fuss, that I’ve now become a push over !.
No time for that, were on the last leg (and in my case on my last legs !). Peddle a bit further along the flat, with fog blocking what would normally be a spectacular view over Llangollen. From here we cruise (and that’s the first time all day that I could use that phrase) downhill to the camp-site.
Then it hits me, what if they haven’t got enough room. I mention this to Sue, and her face drops. I realise that although she’s got me this far, the thought of pedalling home with me at 1 mile an hour, tests her normal enthusiasm.
No problem, 7 quid and I’ve got my pitch. The camp-site is mad busy despite the rain, but my new tent is only 6 foot by 2 and a half
(someone called it a canvas coffin, but it isn’t that big !)
Sue leaves me and heads back for Wrexham, I put up my tent. Its brand new, I’m really pleased with it, but looking back, Im convinced that I didn’t actually put it up properly !.
I get a couple of hours of badly needed sleep, then Sue drives back into Llangollen and we visit a couple of pubs in the town. I really appreciate her company. I can manage fine on my own, but spending time in the company of friends is always much better, than just sitting in the corner of a pub on your own.
Regretfully, the chippy is shut as I had back to the camp-site, so I go to the kebab shop. Sue drives me back to the camp-site, which is up a massive hill, then I put my head down and drift off to sleep.
I slept soundly, but all night I could hear the rain (which was now quite ferocious) battering the tent. The good news, you get what you pay for in with outdoor gear. The tent’s expensive, but keeps me dry, all night. I wake at 5:07am. Its daylight, but the weather is appalling. I quickly pack up my stuff, put it into my bag, and head for home.
First problem. My legs are so stiff, and I’m so fatigued from the previous day, that I cant ride the bike, and Im only able to push it along slowly. From time to time, I come to a hill, so just sit on the bike, and point it down hill.
I don’t know the exact route home, but decide to walk along the Canal to the Ruabon railway station. I don’t remember it being too far, but in driving rain, it seems to take hours to get there.
From here, things start to unravel. I’m now relying on the GPS in my phone, to get me home. I send a quick text to Glenn and Sue, and then right before my eyes, the phone says shutting down. I’m unable to re-boot it after several attempts.
The only thing I know for certain, is that the A483, runs to Wrexham, which is in the direction of home. I while the bike along the edge of the road, in some of the foulest weather I’ve ever been out in.
I’m now soaked to the skin, as the rain has got through the neck opening of my waterproof jacket, and soaked my t-shirt, jumper and trousers. A trench along the edge of the motorway is 4 inches deep in water, which I walk through for several miles.
I cant call and ask anyone to pick me up, as the phone is out. I realise I should have listened to Ben Mcnutt’s advise. Technology is great, but never come to depend on it completely, if it lets you down, you really will be stuck. And I am.
My energy is running down. I’m getting tired, dehydrated and hungry.
First piece of good news.
I only ate half my kebab the previous evening. For no reason I can think, I put the remaining half in my bag that morning. Starving hungry, I tuck into this unlikely meal.
After a couple more hours, I arrive in Wrexham. Sue lives in Wrexham, but I cant remember where, and I cant call her. Its 11 miles to Chester, and I consider walking the “Golden Groves” route. I think better of it, I’m hagard. I head for Wrexham railway station, and Ill get the train home.
For the 2nd time that day, to quote the Black Adder, fortune vomits on my eiderdown. I thought I had £35, which was plenty enough, but I realise I’d only bought £25. The train doesn’t arrive for an hour. I’m freezing, and I’ve only got £3.90, so I probably don’t have enough for the train, and I haven’t got enough for a warm drink at the cafe on the platform.
I shiver on the platform for another hour, mentally recalling the capital city of every country in the world, and various other “keep you mind busy” tricks.
Train arrives. Ticket collector see’s the state I’m in, and says how much have you got. I put it in his hand, and he gives me a ticket.
The warmth of the train, is the first I’ve known since last night in the pub, and I start to feel sleepy. I wake to find myself in Chester, and push the bike to my house.
Bath, bed for a couple of hours, and life returns to normal.
I relax later with some hot chocolate, and reflect on my experience. Lessons learned:
1. Most people are basically descent.
2. Reliable (and knowledgeable) friends like are worth their weight in Gold.
3. My new tent is smart.
4. I can fit all my stuff in a 25 litre bag.
5. Always have a copy of phone numbers written on paper, as a backup
6. Don’t be bloody stupid and over do it. Enthusiasm and determination are 1 thing, but transforming your physical fitness in 24hrs through mental focus is biologically impossible.
All the photos I took were on the phone, so sorry that there’s only 1 picture.
Finally, great-full and sincere thanks to Sue. None of it would have been possible without her kind and enthusiastic help.
The search for adventure continues…