Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesA Winter Weekend In Wales

Sunshine And Sadness

Ride Date 10 February 2024

By Ren Withnell

The bed is a bit squishier than I'm used to. I've slept but not deeply and I've a bit of a crick in my back but I'll survive. Looking at the frost outside I've slept a lot better than I would had I been in the tent. Breakfast and ablutions follow although admittedly it's 1030 by the time we're donning our kit and unlocking the bikes. 

Sharon and I have a new thing - stop giggling at the back it's nothing perverse. Here, let me explain.

I need an excuse to ride. I need a destination. I need a point to aim for. Over the years it's been fords (as in water crossings), cafes, bike shops, points of interest, you get the idea. I am capable of wandering aimlessly but I'm better if I have a destination, a purpose. 

A babbling ford in Wales and Ren in his bike gear contemplating if it's safe to cross
You can't beat a good ford.

After 19 years of courtship there is discussion, merely discussion, around the notion of Sharon and I living together. It's a HUGE step and a massive decision, a decision that's not been made quite yet.

We need to agree on the where and what of it all. Please bear in mind I am deliberately exaggerating here for comedic effect. I myself would like a large garage with a bed and a toilet in it. That's it, I don't want the house bit just the garage, oh and maybe a sink for the odd wash - of bike bits. I could wash in the toilet...? Sharon wants a country mansion with gated driveway, a room for every day of the week plus guest accommodation, a country kitchen, stunning surroundings, staff quarters and heated garages to ensure the motorcycles never rust. 

About the only thing we can agree on so far is the heated garage.

Anyhow our new thing is visiting various places to learn about them and see if we like them. We look at various properties to see what we like and don't like about them. It's actually been a lot of fun so far and we only argue to the point of hating each other, it has not descended into violence. Yet.

There's something happening this morning. Sharon's daughter Beth has a dog, Peggy. This poor mite is a rescue dog and came to Beth in terrible health and a life expectancy of "a few months". With an extraordinary amount of care, love, and medicine this critter has muddled and struggled through for, get this, seven years. While Peggy has never been in the best of health she's enjoyed a happy later life with Beth by her side. Alas this time seems to be coming to an end.

Peggy the dog
Peggy living her best life.

I'm not a pet person myself, far too selfish, but I am aware people form strong bonds with their furry friends. Various phone calls between Sharon, Beth and the vet are made as a terrible decision has to be reached - is it time? I'm glad to hear it's about what's best for Peggy and not what's best for the humans.  

So that's where we are as we set out towards Llangollen. We have a property to look at and a much loved fur-baby in a bad way. There's the remnants of frost on the bike seats, the air is chilly and the skies are hazy mist that appears to be clearing. 

A hard frost has frozen raindrops onto Ren's backbox
Bit chilly last night.

The A5 is a main road and often busy. This being mid February and Saturday morning it's a lot quieter without the summer tourists. We get to swoop a few bends and enjoy the delightful scenery as the sun burns away the mist. I know I'm blowing into the wind here but so far I rather enjoy the new 20mph zones in the Welsh villages. It's relaxing just pottering through the small towns, looking at the houses and shops rather than having to be razor focused in case Doris takes a stumble or that Beemer doesn't see me. 

The bungalow we've come to look at is located on a perfectly acceptable estate on the edge of Llangollen. It's only small but with our limited budget we'll not be getting large dimensions with sprawling gardens. Sharon likes it a lot but I make what I consider an important point. It's below the north face of a very steep hillock. This being mid February and close to midday it's clear this property won't receive any direct sunlight through winter. No thermal gain, frost all day and cold. It'll be lovely in summer.

We see the sun in the sky but the houses are in the shade of a hillside
1147, Feb 10. That sunshine ain't gunna reach the houses behind the bikes.
The sun pokes through mist and trees causing a dramatic artistic scene
Sharon get's all artsy with the conditions.

Another phone call is made as I wander the estate. It's not looking good, Peggy's stomach tumour is doing it's worst.

Back on the A5 and heading back to Corwen I stop at The Tollgate cafe for a brew and a bit of a warm. Sharon wanders off to make a call while I get the brews. I chat to a couple of other bikers, this being the weekend of The Dragon Rally a few of them are coming and going from there, another chap is doing an off-road coarse this weekend. I find Sharon and give her her brew. 

Tears. Peggy's gone. All agreed it was the right time. No matter how much she enjoyed her later life Peggy suffered enough before she came to Beth, there's no reason to put her through more. It's still going to hurt those who cared for her. The only solace is they've all done their best by her.

clear skies, rolling countryside, trees, fields and hills along the A5 through Wales
Beautiful scenery from the cafe, and a tinge of sad.

I was planning to take some back lanes to Llanuwchllyn at the south end of Llyn Tegid. Sharon is upset and I think it best we don't accidentally find some muddy back lanes, random angular switchbacks, or challengingly steep junctions. I think we'll keep to the main roads today and keep the pace sensible. I ask Sharon if she'd rather go back to the digs - no - there's no point wasting an otherwise quite lovely day.

This area of Wales is stunning, particularly when the sky is clear, the roads are quiet, and the bike is feeling good. Llanuwchllyn is a tiny village with a small church and even smaller school. The property is not exactly stylish but would suit our practical needs well, especially with a fair garden suitable for an extra large shed. There's a but, there's always a but. 

It's remote. Not Scotland 45 miles to the nearest shop remote but remote. You know I hate cities, I'd enjoy the peace here but if you want ANYTHING it's 5 miles to Bala which only has local shops and 35 miles to the nearest large supermarket. I want a quiet cottage in the country with no-one to disturb me, but within 15 minutes walking distance of a major town centre with all mod-cons, several motorcycle shops, easy access to fabulous mountain passes, good connections for public transport, oh, and good broadband.

A scant few houses and leafless trees, fields, and mountains
Wow! Better than the view from my house.

I want all this for less than 50k too. Life just ain't fair is it.

But the scenery here, oh my, yes I could get used to this. Hang on... Is that a problem, getting used to it? Would we appreciate just how lovely it is here if we're here every day of the week? The whole point of coming to these places is to not be in our gritty grimy town dwellings, if we lived in a place like this why would we feel the need to go elsewhere? I'm overthinking this aren't I.

On our way back to the digs I take a left just north of Bala to grab a brew at Manon's Riverside Café. Hmmm. The price of the food is quite reasonable so rather than cooking a meal tonight how about we have an early tea here? Sausage chips 'n beans for me, chilli baked spud for Sharon - sorted. Back at the digs we lock the bikes up as the daylight is just beginning to fade. 

We purchase additional snacks at the Spar shop for later then wander into the pub for a glass of pop. It's definitely a local pub for local people. There's no silly mirrors or plastic plants, a mish-mash of assorted tables and random seating, there's a TV on one wall but it's mostly ignored and the clientele mix and match their Welsh and English as easily as they breathe. It's not at all unwelcoming, there's smiles and hellos, a dog is politely pulled out of our way and no-one bats an eye at our presence, but it is their pub.

There's a TV in the bedroom so with a brew and our snacks we settle in to watch TV. It's been a sad day for Sharon and her daughter and yet Sharon's not let this spoil the day. If, and it's a big IF... if you're lucky enough to find good weather in winter then I can strongly recommend North Wales. Without the summer tourists and with the snow on the hilltops its been wonderful.   

Advertise here - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Dodging Weather To Wales Ren sets the scene, faces impending disaster, has some luck and then gets lost. All in a day's muppetry for the dynamic halfwit.
Sunshine And Sadness Striking lucky with the weather the dynamic muppets are having a look around North Wales' properties. It's not all glorious though with a bit of bad news.
Not A Lot To Say In The Best Possible Way Walking and some motorcycling with not a lot to report, which is a good thing. Ren is pondering the disadvantages of going to nice places.

Reader's Comments

Henrik said :-
It can be a very nice time, full of dreams, looking for a house, also you are forced to face priority, and reality. To hit for a remote location you need to agree 100 pct. Fortunately me and my wife did. There is a social aspect also to consider. For most people its not healthy with total isolation. Not even for me :-) We found a ruin, saved this old wooden house in Sweeden, but it will take us 10-15 years in slow-motion, we thought it would be maybe 3-4 years, the house did steal the picture, instadt of being a frame, but, you know, there is a point of no return, just something to keep in mind, if you consider a DIY-house to bring down the price. But then again, it removes a lot of stress just to pay cash, and forget the loans ;-) For our part we partly retire in 1-2 years time, to only work part time, or season. Using the house as a base for travels all over Scandinavia also. We keep our flat in Copenhagen at the same time. Your situation might be diffrent. Despite the struggles we dont look back, love the place, the forrest, the few good neighboughs, and the peace,.. when we pull the plug we have plans for a puppy obviously, sad to hear about Peggy
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06/03/2024 22:16:45 UTC
nab301 said :-
I vaguely remember passing through Bala many years ago , I seem to remember the surrounding roads were excellent.
Don't worry about living in a remote property , go all in for self sufficiency and you won't need to travel! (Which would be difficult anyway when you've had to hook your bike up to drive a generator for those overcast days when the solar panels aren't producing any power and drought means the millrace generator isn't working either..)
Or live the good life and do it all in an urban setting.
Sorry to hear about Peggy but great to hear that she had a happy later life.
@ Henrik , that looks like a long labour of love from the photos , let us know when it's finished and we'll get Ren to organise a BAT meet up!

07/03/2024 17:21:31 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Just sayin.
07/03/2024 18:01:10 UTC
Henrik said :-
@ Nigel ,.. Good idea, though its a litle ahead, maybe 3-4 years, I know Ren have had some wishes to maybe visit Scandinavia one day, but also that it has become a little troubeled due to a certain ferry-line from UK to Norway being closed down some years ago. Summer 24 already scheduled, Summer 25 we will be gone for a longer trip maybe 2-3 mounths, to celebrate that we stop working fulltime, it will be Norway as usual, with special attention to see the Norselight. After that it loosens up. Houses are never totally finished, but at a certain point you have to declare that they are, haha, :-)
07/03/2024 22:09:40 UTC
Henrik said :-
Upt´North ,.. I am a Norseman ,.. love winter :-)
07/03/2024 22:16:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You're a braver man than I Henrik.

While I'm "handy" with the DIY I would not trust myself to attempt a total renovation or a property - nor would Sharon. You've seen my bike - all my bodges work effectively but they never look nice, as such my DIY house would be functional but ramshackle.

As for self sufficiency. I can barely grow my nails let alone food, I'd starve to death! Sharon's better with the green stuff but I don't think you can grow your own peanut butter or pot noodles? Nor can you grow motorcycle parts or tyres. Or petrol, well you can grow diesel, or veg oil to use as diesel. Veg oil powered motorcycle?

They are wonderful images Henrik but alas - I reckon you must have a "motorcycling season" and a period of the year where you simply must put the bike away. That would drive me crackers. I struggle in the UK when we have the odd few days, maybe a week where riding is too dodgy even for me. I couldn't handle several months without the bike. If it weren't for some stupid Brexit disaster I'd seriously look at somewhere warmer for myself.
08/03/2024 07:57:05 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
If you love it that much can you have my winter then please.
I need spring, I'm not asking for summer just yet, but 60f and sunshine would be nice, preferably without 40 mph winds. A man can dream can't he.
Nice pictures Henrik, but brrrrrr.
08/03/2024 09:17:32 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Brexit disaster?
Have you read about Germany lately?

08/03/2024 09:20:50 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Germany's "problems" are nothing compared to the doom loop we're in here.
08/03/2024 10:36:36 UTC
Bigngreen said :-
Dog dad to two rescues. I'm so sorry for your loss. Nothing fills a dog shaped hole like another dog, but it takes time. They give without taking and only ask access to your cupboard and fridge, but man, they dig a hole in your heart.

09/03/2024 18:29:42 UTC
Bogger said :-
I still haven't got over losing my dog 46yrs ago.

10/03/2024 14:12:24 UTC
Glyn said :-
We lost our dog 12 years ago and still feel the pain. Of course, like Japanese motorcycles, dogs have much shorter life than most humans. My lovely wife and I did 6 DIY rebuilds on old houses before building our current home. Strangely, it was completed quicker than any of the rebuilds and we consider it finished. Nice write up Ed, I enjoyed it.
11/03/2024 09:35:05 UTC
Sharon said :-
Thanks for all the comments about Peggy.
We had her for just 4 years not 7. Ed needs to go to maths school. But that was amazing given her initial prognosis of 3 to 6 months to live when Beth first took her in.
I still get a lump in my throat and my eyes seem to get scratchy when I look at photos of Peggy.
She was my daughters emotional support dog and due to Peggy having seizures wherever Beth was so was Peggy. She came on our holidays and well yes for the smallest of dogs she has left a big hole.
Rescue of oldies and the sick is a brave thing to do because you knows you will get your heart broken sooner rather than later. But you break yours so as to heal there's. It's a fair trade for the love they give back.
Peggy truly had the best of lives with my daughter Beth.
For all of you you have loved and lost any beloved pet, be the fured or featured, scaled or shelled I give thanks for your understanding and gentle hugs back for your own losses.
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11/03/2024 23:50:01 UTC
Sharon said :-
So much of me longs for solitude and space and room to breathe. The photo of your home just brings me such a feeling of tranquility, well apart from the scaffolding and the work involved in the renovations etc. etc. Well done on taking on the challenge by the way, hats off to you both.
However I admit I am scared to make the leap, so many what ifs. Yes I have read feel the fear and do it anyway but it was a long time ago and well I am very practiced at overthinking. Much yet needs to be considered.
But as Ren said we are having much fun in the looking. Maybe the right one will let itself be known maybe not but as there is no rush we can currently enjoy the process of seeking.
12/03/2024 00:41:59 UTC

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