Day Five…

…is being written about a year later! This has accidentally become somewhat of a tradition. The last day, the arrival day is always just too exciting to then stop and write a blog post about it. I end up doing what we went there for and the journey stops being important, perhaps? So here are my memories of that day almost a year ago (30th Sept 2016)…

Day Five was wet, but fun. The campsite owners description of the route totally under-estimated the climbing; there was a lot more than he said! I learned yesterday that Jonny understood from my ‘complaining’ that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I am finding some the cycling difficult, but that doesn’t mean I am not enjoying myself. I am just expressing the difficulty I am feeling, where Jonny hides that away. So today I am trying not to express any negative thoughts or feelings. This does change the dynamic quite a bit and makes it quite a lonely experience. Jonny enjoyed the quiet, whereas I was suffering in silence, which I am not used to!

We hadn’t planned lunch and hoped to find somewhere to stop, but lunchtime came and went and we didn’t spot anywhere. We reached the top and started what promsied to be a long fast decline into Dollgellau. Not far down the hill we saw signs for the Forest Visitors Centre with a cafe, so we detoured.

Slightly damp and cold, we appreciated the food and warmth of the cafe. We also discovered that the forests were littered with Mountain Bike routes. One of the routes seems to head down the hill in the direction we were headed so rather than go back up to the road we chose to follow the Mountain Bike trail. Fully loaded on our touring bikes this was eventful. We probably took some of the jumps slightly slower than most, but the switch backs were no problem. It was a delightful decent through the forest and before long we were at the end of the estuary.

It was still raining but since our destination was soon within sight that didn’t matter. We were quickly along the old railway line and across the bridge into Barmouth and to our destination. My wife and another freind were meeting us there for a weekend of fun, but they were arriving later in the evening. We had time to shower and have a walk around looking for some entertainment! We found something like entertainment!! The small local theatre had an ‘entertainer’ calling himself ‘The Funny Man’. It was one of those performances that make you slightly embarrased to watch. Obviously a skilled performer, but from a different time; about 100yrs ago. Jonny got volunteered to go up on stage which made it slightly more humourous, but only slightly!

Barmouth was a great host for the weekend, and a great destination.

 

 

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Day Four…

…has been remarkably similar to yesterday; we can’t resist a castle atop a hill!! Our campsite was above Llangollen, half way up the hill. At the top of the hill was a castle ruin, so this morning before setting off, we walked up to see it. Spectacular views all round and interesting remains of a 13th Century castle which was only used for 17yrs!!

The cycling began late morning with a steady jaunt along the canal before carrying our bikes up some steps and starting to climb. And climb we did for pretty much the rest of the day! Thankfully it was at a manageable incline, although there were a few bits where my legs just hurt.

There is not much more to report on the cycling.
It was windy and therefore quite cold, so when we stopped for some lunch by the lake in Bala we got blown around like crazy!

I was expecting a bigger climb out of Bala, but actually we carried on following the gentle incline of the river. That is where we camped, right by the river.

Ty Cornel is by far the best campsite we have stayed in. As we arrived the owners were so thrilled to have ‘proper’ cyclists staying. They had done some touring so we got chatting about that. The showers are hot and free, everything is clean, everything is well organised and the area is beautiful; surrounded by Welsh hills!!

We pitched the tent and headed up the river for a walk. The river is fast flowing white water used by the water sports centre, up stream, so kayak gates hang above the rapids. We saw another dipper!

It was cold, and the campsite offered wood burners hire, so after cooking tea we sat by the burner enjoying the stars. Turning around occasionally to warn our backs up.

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Day Three…

…was both shorter than yesterday and less hilly than Monday, which is just what I needed!

There is a fine line to be had between holiday and endurance event. I suppose this line only appears when you choose to go on holiday by bike but that’s us!! It can get to a point where the hard work of cycling is no longer enjoyable, but thankfully we have not yet reached it. Good planning and good company both account for that, I think.

We started the day with a bit of a climb and then choose to do an optional big climb up to two castles, which we saw in the hills!! The first castle, Beeston Castle, turned out to be English Heritage and Closed. The second was Peckforton Castle, a luxury hotel and home to the Land Rover experience. A spectacular castle, but we are not sure it is a real castle, it looks very new!! [Research after getting home confirms that it is a ‘A FORTIFIED HOME IN THE STYLE OF A MEDIEVAL CASTLE’ built between in 1842 and 1851, and lived in till 1939]

The villages round here are very well kept and have huge houses. Much of the wood finishing is painted red, perhaps part of an estate, like all the building in the Chatsworth Estate have a certain blue.

The hills rolled and I climbed a bit slower than yesterday but enjoyed it, apart from the wasp sting. As we got closer to Wales there was a ridge of hills ahead, would we have to cross them?

We were looking forward to talking pictures beside the Welcome to Wales signs, but we got to where the line is on the map and nothing. Very disappointing. I began to wonder if the map want quite right, but then the road signs started to include Welsh instructions so it seems to have been correct!

Before that, though, we did have to cross a picturesque Bridge over the Dee in Bangor-is-y-coed. It it a one way bridge coming into the Village, but we opted to go against the flow and anger some drivers!

We continued to head straight for the hills, but then just as we started to climb our course veered left and instead we went down, towards the river.

The maps I printed from Google are not that detailed so we had some trouble finding out way from the main roads into the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. An amazing structure carrying the canal across the valley. I have been before, but it is no less impressive. A shame we didn’t actually have to cross to go where we were headed, but good to visit.

The last stretch was along the canal, just in a different direction. And what was meant to be a final dash turned out to be a push against the wind! Once in Llangollen mistaken route planning meant climbing a huge hill twice, but again worth it for a delightful campsite in the hills, with sheep sharing the field!!

This is the first day that I remembered to turn on my bike computer at the start, so the first day that I have accurate stats…
Total time cycling 3:38:32
Distance 34.67 miles
Average Speed 9.5 mph
Max Speed 33.2 mph

We then had plenty of time to head back into town for a look around and some food by the gushing river, before the best nights sleep yet!

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Day Two…

…was not wet, but looked like it would be all day. It was grey and it had obviously been raining all night. When carrying few clothes the only thing to do is put the wet ones back on- either it’ll rain again and they’re already wet so it doesn’t matter, or they’ll dry out in the sun!!? Actually what happened is that we ended up still damp because although it didn’t rain, neither was it sunny.

The plan was to do more miles than yesterday but the terrain was easier. This proved to be the case, although my legs still feel sore.

We also leaned that Google maps counts bridleways as cycle paths! Quite soon after coming out of Leek we turned into a muddy path through a field. Thankfully this turned into a proper path after a while, and followed the river! Then we turned onto the canal, again marked as a bridleway, but with a locked gate at the start!? We lifted the bikes over, and we are glad we did because what followed was a few miles of well kept canal tow path, through beautiful woodland and glimpses of the river below us. This was only interrupted briefly by the path coming to an end! Thankfully a dog walker directed us to another canal just a couple of hundred metres down the road which went the same way and meets up with the original one further down! We rose and fell with the locks along the canal, trying to avoid puddles but usually failing. A kingfisher flew along with us for a few bursts!!

After the canals came the country parks. Today is very urban, passing Stoke and Crewe, but more often than not we were following a brook or woodland through a country park. Delightful.

It seems we have timed our trip with Hawthorn cutting season. Almost all the way there have been thorns scattered across the road by the hedge cutters. Jonny succumbed today and got two punctures!!

After passing the cities we were back on country lanes and starting to climb a bit. Only a bit, but at the end of the day it feels worse on your legs! We soon made it to the Shady Oak campsite just behind the Shady Oak pub, which looked like it served good food. It did!! We enjoyed the warmth and comfort of the pub, as well as their food, before heading back for our first night in the tent. Poor Jonny.

We travelled about 43 miles today and overall dropped by about 250m

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Day One…

…was not long, but was hard enough work for me after not riding for a couple of weeks!
Jonny and I set off from home a bit later than planned, in the rain. It had been raining all morning and showed no sign of stopping.

We stopped by the Eisner’s to say Happy Birthday to Mark, but they weren’t in. We found out later that they too were cycling and we almost crossed paths.

Then we headed North. Our final destination is actually SWW of home, but we have five days so thought we would use them by following a Northern arc.

The ride to Ashbourne was quite familiar, although I have never done it in this direction before. A steady ‘up’ most of the way, with a few steep ups and downs, like the one under the A52. I also realise, now, that this section didn’t seen too uphill because I wasn’t yet tired!

The rain had not relented and so we entered the Tissington Trail wet and with no obvious chance of drying out in the near future. I had planned a scenic route, knowing it would be hilly, but always worth it for the views up here in the Peak District. Thorpe Cloud was looking as spectacular ever, even in the gloom.

Had it been a warmer day we would have stopped in Ilam, a place I haven’t been to since coming on a school trip. Instead we had a quick game of Pooh Sticks, are a bit if flapjack and carried on, in the rain.

Then the climbing started, or at least I started to feel it more! As predicted, though, the scenery was well worth it. Just before Grindon there was a massive decent into the Manifold River valley, with a couple of switch backs and everything! The inevitable climb out of the valley was tough, and the wind at the top didn’t help, but great scenery!

The last 8 miles were a slog, but after the long incline out of Onecote the decent into Leek was fantastic. Straight roads with good visibility, so fast!

We were staying in a camping barn, which is very much as it sounds. An old barn, with the original stalls in place, and sleeping platforms between. Basic but lovely. Also very ‘eco’ which Jonny was less keen on, especially the compost toilet and milk churn urinal!!

It was still raining, so the walk to the pub meant getting wet again, but after a hard day it was necessary, if only for warmth!!

We only traveled 31.7 miles, but climbed nearly 1000m, so a good day.

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Day Nine…

…is my last day at the Olympics. I don’t know if you have ever written any kind of diary but if you have followed my previous travels you will know that I struggle to maintain mt writing till the end. Not because there is less to say. Maybe because the process is less exciting so I feel less compelled to tell the story? And not because I don’t want to go home. I do, there is much to get back to!

The day had many decisions. None of them important outside the Olympic bubble. How do I make the most of my last day? David and Shirley were ill, having been poisoned by the over attentive chef at the skeleton track, it seems. Adam had suggested going skiing, which I was keen to do. But with my last session of physio this morning is that sensible, and since when did I become sensible?

Well, I was today and decided to stay down in the park for my last day. So I headed off for my last physio and massage, from another strong looking Russian man, this time very round! Without this care my Olympic experience would have ended on Thursday so I am incredibly grateful. The whole time I felt like I was taking advantage a bit but no one ever treated me like that. I am clearly no athlete, yet they seemed to treat me with as much diligence.

Then to Speed Skating in the Iceberg. Elise was racing again and could do well, but I arrive too late and missed her heat. It was sad to look up the results and find DNF! After DQ the other day she will be gutted. I am not sure she deserves the abuse she has received via twitter and Facebook, though!

I didn’t stay for the rest of the heats and instead headed to the Ice Cube to see our Men curling against the Canadians. A good match, but another lose at the end.

Then I had to decide if I was going up to the mountain for the Men’s Skeleton final, or staying down here for the Women’s Skeleton Medal Ceremony. I decided that since the Men’s final was pretty much sorted, for gold and silver at least, I wouldn’t miss much by staying down.

When I looked around the media centre the other day I did not find the broadcast units. Well, last night I met a guy who had found them. So I followed his directions and what a spectacle!! A purpose built gallery of multiple editing suites and sound booths and server rooms and equipment rooms and news rooms and more editing suites!! Apparently 14 venues all covered with cameras and all being streamed to this corridor. And this is just the OBS Suites. In addition to this will be all the regional broadcasters like BBC. They have their own section!

Then back to the hotel to change for the medals ceremony. My sister had made me a Union Flag tie and I had only had one opportunity to wear it, so I thought this would be a good second opportunity. I also needed to pack! I did most of my packing and got dressed and headed out to get a car. Where there were usually a line of T3 cars, today there was one, thankfully a minibus. We had timed it just wrong to coincide with Putin leaving the hockey game so all the roads were closed and all the cars stuck out there on the park! Then when the minibus left, just as we approached the park we joined a queue, which had formed for the same reason! So the six of us heading to the Medals Plaza got out and walked the rest.
We made it in plenty of time and squeezed into a spot where we could see other Union Flags. It turned out to be Mr and Mrs Yarnold and their family and friends. What a privilege to be with these guys at such a moment, Mr Yarnold was rather emotional! There were about 20 of us in total, including the GB curling team, so we sang God Save The Queen with aplomb!!!

After the ceremony I hung out with the IOC guys from the bus for a while then as they headed off for more hockey I went for one last walk around the Olympic Park. I used my invitations to some of the National Houses… Norway, Italy, USA, Switzerland, Russia, and picked up a few more pins too.

As I walked back to the hockey stadium to get transport I passed the BBC veranda where Lizzie was being interviewed. I was expecting Claire to spot me and invite me over but she didn’t!

And so back to the hotel. Final bit of packing and to bed in the shower!! My snoring has been keeping Adam awake, but we found a solution. His Dad had discovered that the long, firm cushion from the sofa fitted perfectly in the shower stall! And there is the added bonus of a door to separate us too!! If only we had discovered this before the last night!!

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What Day Am I On? Eight?…

The alarm went off at 745 much to Adam’s dismay, and I was a bit more sore than when I went to bed. But not too bad to change plans and after doing my physio exercises it was pretty good again.

I was up early to catch the Mountain Express for the Men’s Combined Downhill at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, the furthest away venue. No snow in a few weeks means the conditions are deteriorating and so they moved it an hour earlier to get most in before it got too hot.

I grabbed some breakfast, but need nit have because there was breakfast available in the venue lounge. It was great to eat porridge and muesli on the veranda overlooking the alpine track!!

The event was great too, with a mix up in the expected standings. I won’t be able to stay for the Slalom part thus afternoon, but this was a good start. It was also good to see the last 20 runs were for development guys to have a go. I am guessing they would not have shown it on telly, but it was fun to see the crowd getting so enthusiastic for these young guys.

I then had four hours to kill before the Skeleton. I did try to go further up the mountain at the recommendation of a Russian volunteer friend, but pass did not allow it- the first time!!!

Instead I headed down to the mountain hub and looked out a souvenir shop. There was a Souvenir Fayre just by the station, but prices seem to be even more than in the Olympic Shop! To get there I had to go out of the accreditation zone and thought I may as well stay out and make my way to the event by public transport. Oh Boy do the public have to go through even tighter security than we do! I had my bottles of water and orange juice taken, and my bag thoroughly searched! I eventually made it onto the bus and up to the next venue.

This is the last venue that I have not yet been to. The Sanki Sliding Centre is the venue for Luge, Skeleton and Bobsled. Tonight was the Men’s Skeleton first two runs and then Ladies Skeleton final runs.

Yesterday one of the GB sliders had done well and was currently in the lead by a good margin. Unless she crashed she would reasonably easily keep the lead and win gold!

The GB men are less competitive but with a chance if top ten. However, when I first started watching Adam in Skeleton it was the early in the career of Alexsander Tretiakov, a Russian slider. He had a great start with a fast push, but then lost time all the way down! He was invariably last. However, a naturally good push is a great asset. Good driving comes with experience, and so with time he would be good. Here we are eight years later and his driving has gotten good!! And he has the home advantage of extra track time! So, it was no surprise that Tretiakov is in the lead after today’s two runs.

Then the Ladies final two runs. After the first it was still looking hopeful for Lizzie Yarnold. We watched the first run from the start, which is always exciting as they explode onto the track. For the second, though, we wanted to be on the stand at the end. That is where the celebration would happen!! We managed to work our way to a good spot close to some other Brits and not far from Lizzie’s family and friends.

A few good runs mixed up the order, particular one from USA. But then Team GB did not disappoint. The crowd went wild, partly because Russia had also won the bronze, but that didn’t matter. We all had a great time. Lots of GBR/RUS photos on the stands. Lots of jumping around behind Lizzie’s parents as they were being interviewed. Great fun.

David and Shirley had said that the food at this venue for was better than the others! Then whilst there the chef seemed to take a liking to Shirley and gave her personal service. It was sad then, that they became sick on the way home, it seems with food poisoning! Not such a great end to their day.

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