A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

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Stumbling Into Wales

By Ren Withnell

Ride Date 19 April 2105

Oh goody! Father dearest is renting a holiday cottage just outside Pentrefelin which is just inland from Criccieth which is on the Llyn Peninsula which, in case you don't know, is in North Wales. Even better the gf and I are invited down to join him and his wife for a couple of nights. What a splendid opportunity for a cheap weekend away to further explore the nooks and crannies of an area I already know quite well. I don't know if my Dad's got anything planned for us but if it's going to interfere with bikey time then he'll just have to alter his plan.

To make things even better the forecast is excellent. Today, Sunday, is going to be dry but overcast and possibly chilly. Monday and Tuesday promise clear skies and rising temperatures although let's face it when can you trust a weather forecaster? Along with a change of clothes and my toothbrush I ensure to pack my full waterproof outfit. To not take them would be tempting fate.

thick heavy clouds gather over a french town
This seems to be the usual weather for our trips.

So after a late night and an early rise the gf and I hit the road bang on time, 1000. The trip is but a mere 120 miles and I don't plan to get there until late afternoon, so why are we setting off so early? Because I want to saunter, to dawdle, to have a relaxing and easy ride today. I wish to have the time to stop and relax, to take in the views and to rest as often and for as long as I wish. There's been too many trips where I've always been pressing on, rushing and thinking I need to be further along. I have six hours to cover what should take three and that's a good feeling.

Firstly we must make our way down through Warrington, this is the only fly in the ointment. There's nothing wrong with Warrington except the A49 that we must ride through it. Even on a Sunday morning it is busy and I'm bored of this road because it's part of my commute. I grin and bear the tedium and the traffic lights until relief comes in the form of the A56 heading towards Chester. We can't bypass Warrington on the motorways as the gf has yet to pass her test you see.

An hour has already passed as we ride through the broad high street of Frodsham. It's obvious where all the money for the North West ends up as we pass by boudoir boutiques with Chelsea Tractors parked outside. Still, I wouldn't trade places today, I have the best bike in the world, a couple of days ahead and the world, or at least a bit of Wales, is my oyster, Helsby lacks the high street but still boasts the posh houses, mind you overlooking an oil refinery wouldn't be my primary choice of scenery first thing in the morning. I reckon we're due a brew soon.

I spot a sign for a cafe soon after Helsby so I slow down and pull in. "Cafe Fresh" is a greasy spoon for the Cheshire set. There is of course the Full English and bacon butties alongside a few choices for a more discerning palette. The tables and chairs are made from wood not plastic and there's carpet too in places. In fact it's quite nice and the prices are within acceptable parameters. I just have a brew while the gf pigs out on a fried egg barm. Rather than drinking up and hitting the road again as soon as possible we sit and chat, all relaxed and calm. Time is the most valuable thing, and today we have plenty.

Sharon smiles broadly and shows the camera her half eaten egg barm at cafe fresh
Look at the joy on her little face!

While there's light cloud and occasional hazy sunshine outside it is in fact rather chilly. We wrap up well before we set off as there's about 15 miles of dual carriageway coming up which adds to the wind chill factor. The A55 ring road around Chester takes us swiftly to the A494 for Mold and Ruthin. Now we're off the dual carriageway and finally in Wales it feels like we're truly away from home and on holiday. Seeing the signs in two languages is just that little different from the norm back home. 

It's even colder in the hills! However seeing the baby lambs gambolling alongside their mothers should warm the cockles of even the coldest of hearts, my gf would tell you I'd need a heart first for its cockles to be warmed. Mold, Ruthin and the A5 all roll by and we make steady and solid progress. I'm aiming for Pentrefoelas where I know there's some public toilets and perhaps another brew stop. I keep an eye on the gf. Her wet weather corner speed has always been fine but her dry corner speeds are still somewhat cautious. Most normal folk operate the other way around but Sharon's always been obtuse like that. I still lose her a little on some bends but to be fair she's doing just fine. Her speed is increasing slowly and cautiously, the best way.

a sheep and three very young lambs frolicking in a Welsh field
Aaaaawww, look at the wittle lambs. Gosh I want a kebab.

Pentrefoelas provides much needed toilets and another brew. This time the cafe, "The Riverside Chocolate House", is much more tourist orientated. Twee little trinkets adorn the shelves and posh cakes line the counter. This is the downside of the beautiful places in the UK, the tourist trade. I can't grumble though as I am a tourist and I am therefore part of the problem. Catch 22. We sit and we talk some more about the chill, the lambs, the countryside and what we may want to do tomorrow. 

the public toilet block in pentrefoelas
Public toilets, remember them? They still have them in Welsh Wales.

The B4407 should take us from Pentrefoelin to Ffestiniog. I'd thought it would be an interesting road but I wasn't expecting it to be mostly broad single track. This is perfect. As there's very little traffic I slow right down, we're cruising now between 20 and 30 mph. We have time to see the farmhouses, to watch the tractor trundle along the edge of a field, to take in the brook as it winds through the trees and observe the endless sheep with their lambs. We pull in at one point to let a car pass, ever mindful of how slow we are moving. This is why I ride nowadays, to see.

Up a head a red car is stopped, I slow down. I see a tiny little lamb bleating loudly, it's head poking through a wire fence trying to reach mother. Mother sheep is bleating in response a few feet away. I wonder if the couple in the red car are going to help? In a snap moment of out-of-character kindness I decide to stop and help. I slow down carefully, put my side stand down and stop. At which point for reasons unknown my existence in time and space becomes surreal and incorrect. The usually reliable ground is no longer under my feet, gravity seems to be acting from the side and the sky is in the wrong place...what's going on for goodness sake!

Oh I get it, I've fallen off my bike. What a muppet. I can now see this hill is steeper than I estimated, I was closer to the verge than I had calculated and I can only assume my side stand was not fully in position. Systems check...no pain...good...arms and legs moving...good. What reaction is required in this situation? Seeing as the system checks so far are good I think laughter might be the most appropriate. 

The gf's parked up successfully and the couple are getting out of the car looking all concerned. My laughter seems to help everyone relax. It takes a few moments to struggle out from under the bike. The whole purpose of having a small motorcycle is that in such events I can pick it up. Holy damn cow! This thing is a lot heavier than I thought. I need the assistance of the gf to get it upright. I'm sure I could have done it myself given time to work it out, I think I am all fingers and thumbs after the shock of having my normality interfered with.

We assure the kind couple that we are both fine and well. And the little lambykins? It had been scared off by the sight of a 125 and rider toppling towards it so ran off straight through a gap in the fence back to mother. Probably the same gap it had passed through before getting separated. Sheep are not very intelligent creatures, but then when did you last see a sheep falling off a motorcycle? 

a sheep and a young lamb looking at the camera from a field
Yeah, thanks for that ewe two.

As the couple drive off I remount my bike. It won't start, it's probably flooded from being upside-down. I wait a moment. Nothing. I run it down the hill to give it a bump start. Nothing. DAMN! I've broken my bike. Oh pants, oh poop, this could be the ruination of what was panning out to be a rather good day. Think boy, think, what could it be? Think! No, think harder. Damn, I'm going to be on the phone to the RAC anytime soon. Erm...er...bike fell over...erm...tilt switch? I wonder if the bike has to be rebooted to reset the tilt switch? I switch it off and on again. It starts as good as it ever has done. Stupid boy.

a narrow road winds its way through the Welsh countryside
Back on the road and upright. All seems to be well once again.

As we make our way down through Ffestiniog and on to Porthmadog I am aware I am slightly hurt. It's the mild pain of a gentle fall, strained muscles, stiff joints and slight bruising. I feel fine though if a little shaken. Riding alongside the Cob into Porthmadog brings back a cascade of happy childhood memories. These emotions are more than enough to push any minor gripes into the background. I know where I am here and it is a good place. Oh my goodness, the smell of engine oil, steam trains and the seaside is joyously overwhelming. 

By the power of Google maps and Google street view I already know exactly how to find the holiday let. Out of Porthmadog, through Pentrefelin, right into the hills and then left. Here is the gravel driveway. It causes me no issue to make the awkward turn from tarmac onto loose chippings but the gf is far more cautious. I wonder if seeing her bf who (allegedly) knows what he's doing lob his bike down into a simple verge has shaken her confidence. I wait. She navigates the corner far more successfully than I did the simple act of parking. 

Dad's spotted us coming up the road and waves us around the back of the cottage. The last time I saw my Dad and his wife was in The Isle Of Man almost a year ago, it's good to see him still looking well. After the usual greetings and a cup of tea the gf grab our gear and settle in. Being the careful researcher my Dad is he has chosen what I can only describe as an almost perfect place to stay. The cottage is recently rebuilt from an old cow shed. In stone, wood and slate it is pristine and thoroughly in keeping with it's surroundings. 

And what surroundings. The view across the bay on this evening is simply breathtaking. The images I can take using a camera don't really do it proper justice. I hope they provide at least a taste.

The stunning view across the bay to harlech from the holiday cottage
...wow...weather's cleared too.

The rest of the evening involves eating food that we neither paid for or cooked, watching TV, chilling out and catching up. Our bed is warm, plush, comfortable and there's a handy en-suite bathroom. The gf and I enjoy a little private time before we settle in. It could have been warmer today. I could have kept the bike upright today. But hell Ren these are but minor blemishes on a great day. 

Stumbling Into Wales It was a great day to be on two wheels in Wales...as long as you ignore Ren's inability to park a motorcycle.
Back Roads And Beaches Our Dynamic Duo saunter and bimble around the beautiful back roads and beaches of The Llyn Peninsula.
Steam Trains And Biker Hang Outs Ren gets all sentimental around the Choo-choos our couple return via The Ponderosa

Reader's Comments

Johnny750Xdct said :-
Ya muppet........mind you, can you imagine what it would have been like having to pick up thE DV?

Again, great little blog Ren.
1/1//2000 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I know I can pick the 125 up but it hust seemed extra heavy that day. I think if I dropped the Deauville I'd just have to hire a crane.
1/1//2000 UTC

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