Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Sunshine And Mould

Ride Date 27 Jun 2019

By Ren Withnell

The forecast for the weekend is HOT! Parts of Europe are melting into the oceans and even Baltic Blighty is at high alert, some northern folks may need surgery to remove their jumpers. 

As such on the one weekend where being in a tent might be acceptably warm and dry Sharon has found us a last minute deal on a Gypsy Caravan. Admittedly at £30 a night it's not that much more than camping these days, I won't need to put the tent up and we might even have a proper comfortable bed. Fair enough, it'll make a nice change I'm sure. There are probably copyright issues with using other's images - so here's a link to an image of our accommodation - click here.

We've both booked a little extra time off work so we are departing this day which is a Thursday. Yes indeed, this is to be a long weekend, none of your scuttling off late Friday nonsense. 

This will be the inaugural test run for what has been christened "Tour-A-Plank" in honour of the overpriced Touratech adventure range. Further details regarding Tour-A-Plank will be coming in a future post but these images should help you understand what Tour-A-Plank is.

A plank of wood about 2 feet long strapped to the rear seat of the Z250SL with ratchet straps
Tour-A-Plank is a plank and some buckle straps.
The wooden plank is not heavily loaded with Sharon's luggage
Tour-A-Plank provides a stable base for Sharon's wobbly luggage. Hopefully...

I ask Sharon to lead us at least as far as J&S in Delamere. Why? Because Tour-A-Plank is as yet unproven technology and I need to be behind her to ensure Tour-A-Plank is working as intended. This could go wrong in 2 ways. 1 - Tour-A-Plank doesn't work leaving to Sharon's luggage over the highway and me crashing on a pair of Sharon's lady knickers. 2 - Sharon gets lost (again) and we end up in Scotland and not Wales.

Tour-A-Plank does need some initial adjustment at Frodsham then seems to settle down quite acceptably. Sharon also manages to navigate all the way to Delamere. It worries me this, when things work, when things go OK. I always sense impending doom.

Our cutesy little Gypsy Caravan is located in Talybont-On-Usk, not to be confused with the Talybont near Aberystwyth or the Tal-y-bont south of Conwy (not to be confused with Conway...). Too late, I'm confused. I just need to stick with the A483 then the A470 then the A40 and I'll be fine.

The sun shines, the road winds on and all is well with the world. Admittedly it is not a particularly exciting ride as the traffic is spoiling the bends. We stop for fuel and snacks at Tesco in Welshpool and a glass of pop at a peculiar pub half way between Builth Wells and Brecon. The couple behind the bar of the pub are perfectly pleasant and amiable yet I can't stop feeling that there's bodies buried beneath the beer garden.

Sharon and the heavily loaded bikes at a supermarket car park in Welshpool
Sharon's OK, bikes are OK. Maybe the bodies are under Tesco's car park?

We arrive at the "working farm" where our Gypsy Caravan is located. "Working Farm" is made very clear in the promotional material so we are not expecting manicured lawns and topiary. However we're not expecting the ramshackle construction site we've just ridden into either.

Tools, building material and general items strewn across the driveway at the site
I guess there's more than just farming afoot here today.

We weren't expecting the caravan to be anything special, it's only small, essentially a glorified wooden tent on wheels. However we're not expecting the mouldy and unkempt and unclean hovel that is supposed to be our accommodation for the next 3 nights. 

Montage of unclean, mouldy and worn out gypsy caravan
Not quite the cutesy little caravan we'd hoped for.

The "path" to the caravan is either up a dirt slope or via overgrown uneven ground and steps. The main kitchen which is part of the farmhouse is rudimentary, untidy and unclean. Next to the caravan is a small shed within which is a kettle, sink and some utensils, none of which has been cleaned for quite some time.

a broad dirt track leads up behind an abandoned lorry trailer at the working farm
The caravan is behind the trailer up that slope.

It's so bad we have to laugh. 

There is a curious problem with the modern advantages of the internet. To book a site it is normal to pay at the time of booking. As such we've paid for this already. We have the camping gear with us, there is a site about 2 miles away, we should just go there and seek recompense at a later date. But that might not work, we could lose our money here and pay extra for the alternative camping. 

After the initial shock and a brew from the questionable main kitchen we stop and have a think. We're here, we're in. Maybe stop tonight then go and pitch up elsewhere? Maybe complain? We have already asked for the electric to the caravan to be switched on, twice, to no avail.

We take a walk into Talybont-On-Usk. Contrary to our caravan experience Talybont is a pretty and charming small village. There's a little shop-come-cafe, several pubs that seem popular with the bikers, a calming canal and ladies taking an outdoor exercise session at the village community centre. The campsite is in the village with smart lawns and average yet clean facilities. 

White bungalows in smart gardens and a tree covered hillock behind
Talybont-On-Usk is laid back and graceful.
The towpath and canal with a boat moored up all set among trees and the setting sun
All is calm on the canal this evening.

We dine back at the site in the late evening and do our best to settle in to the Gypsy Caravan. I just can't help but look at the stains and fur growing on the internal roof area and wonder what I'm breathing in. Looking at the questionable light I'm almost thankful the electric is off.

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Sunshine And Mould With scorching temperatures forecast in a change to the usual script Sharon and Ren are booked into a Gypsy Caravan. Can you guess how that's going to turn out?
Somewhere Between Heaven and Merthyr Tydfil What can the Brecon Beacons offer and is Merthyr Tydfil as bad as the media would have us believe? The Dynamic Muppets find out to save you the trouble.
More Brecon Beacons It's all waterfalls and nature today with a little motorcycling thrown in.
Going Home With Elan, Valley The Elan Valley. Over-hyped or actually worthy of it's accolades? Sharon and Ren check it out on their way home.

Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
Oops that sounds awful.

Good job I'm rich. I was thinking more along the lines of a MacDonald 4 star resort. Dont think Paula could handle mouldy caravans.
05/07/2019 13:21:09 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I'm sure there's a Kawasaki under them bags somewhere? Maybe.
Could you hear a banjo in the distance when you pulled up.
We pre booked off a biker site last year in a "lovely, quaint, village french longhouse bed and breakfast", it was a complete s..t hole. Thank god it was only one night, I had the job of squeezing the b'jesus out of every spider I could find. There were lots too, with long hairy legs. But that's enough about Er'Indoors.
05/07/2019 16:02:27 UTC
Henrik said :-
Terrible :-)

Guess I will stick to wildcamp, normal campsites can be a PITA also, its just that I want a bath every now and then, then find a camp, I should be a real viking and jump in some norwegian fjord needed be, but I am not, I hate cold water
06/07/2019 04:17:24 UTC
Rod said :-
Stayed near here two weeks ago, Wales has great scenery, and the roads were not busy.
07/07/2019 12:20:45 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Any time you iare passing by the Llangollen area Ren let me know and I'll put the kettle on, assuming I'm in the country. Might even run to a packet of chocolate hob nobs.

I like the Tour-a-plank. What amazes me is you actually got Sharon to agree to let you fit it. Was she on strong medication at the time, or some other form of hallucinogenic compound that had her thinking that it was the latest Givi must have add on.
07/07/2019 23:25:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Borsuk - I'll be at the Llangollen Bike Fest all weekend in erm... about 3 or 4 weeks. Come n say hello if you're not all at sea.

Rod - there's some beautiful places in that there Wales. The roads I find a variable, they can be busy at times and in certain locations. Generally if you can get off the beaten track there are some lovely spots - as you will see in the forthcoming posts for this trip.

Henrik - what is it with Scandinavians and running gleefully into freezing lakes after a hot sauna? There's something not right in their heads I think. I'm glad to hear you are wisely opposed to such foolishness.

Upt'North - I hope Er'Indoors never sees this blog. Otherwise Er'Indoors will be making sure your "'Im I buried".

Pocketepete - Rich? Gosh I wish I'd know.
08/07/2019 10:33:43 UTC
John S said :-
I look forward to reading about Tour-A-Plank
15/07/2019 14:05:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cheers John. I'm almost scared to write it though
15/07/2019 14:20:08 UTC
Drew said :-
Just looking at the pictures, before reading the article: I thought he's fitted a bird table or a solar panel to Sharon's bike!
"Tour-A-Plank" I assume is now under copyright and will surely appear on Dragon's Den?
Maybe the idea that once the bike is full, it's full, may help. Or just simply take less stuff.
My paniers hold one pair of shoes ??????
17/07/2019 10:23:26 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Just in case no-one knows I'll add an image of Drew with Sharon.

Tour-A-Plank is now a registered trade mark, a patented product and a future best selling adventure motorcycling product. I'm going to be a millionaire this time next week.
17/07/2019 15:40:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
DOH! Forgot to add the image. Here is Drew...

17/07/2019 15:51:56 UTC
Shay said :-
Sharon's been doing Tour A Plank ever since she started travelling with you, hasn't she, bro?! She must have copyright by now. Er, I know Sharon isn't super tall, but how tall is Drew? That's a BIG height difference. Great pic, and I love the big smiles on both their faces :-)
20/07/2019 02:25:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You know - I do not need grief from my own BROTHER!! Thanks for the moral support bro.

In case you are wondering Sharon is now just a smidgen under 5 feet tall where as Drew is 6 feet 7 inches if I recall.
20/07/2019 07:07:29 UTC

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