Friday, 8 June 2012

Day 8: Rhoscolyn to Chester

So this stage was meant to take 10 days- 7 days cycling then a rest day in Rhoscolyn, followed by 2 more days of cycling.

We were meant to have a rest day today- to put up our wet and weary feet, enjoy the warmth of the pub and go fishing in our kayaks so we could smoke mackerel on the beach. Both Nick and I were really looking forward to today.

The reality is that severe weather is predicted for the next 3 days across the whole of the UK but primarily west Wales. Great.

The idea of spending an entire day inside, with wind and rain lashing at the windows might seem a good option, but we'd be sitting there thinking "We both know we're going to be cycling in this tomorrow and the next day so there's not much point feeling smug now."

UPDATE- April 2013 : We can now inform our readers that the real reason we decided to skip the rest day and combine the next two days of cycling was because Nick and his wife found out they were expecting their first baby, Ella, who is now 3 months old! It certainly was an exciting end to the trip!

So, having got ourselves dry last night had a delicious supper at The White Eagle we set our alarms for 6:15am. This proved to be as painful as expected and after scoffing some muesli and packing our panniers, we were pushing on our pedals by 7am sharp.

Why the early start I hear you ask? Well, we planned not only to sacrifice our precious rest day, but also do both Saturday's ride and Sunday's ride in one day. That's 190km of fun. Rhoscolyn to Chester in one day- not a small days riding by anyones measure. Judging by the fact we finished most days in the late afternoon, in addition to our early start we'd have to ensure breaks were kept to a minimum and all under 5-10 minutes long.

So far, this doesn't sound much fun, but I've yet to explain our reasoning... the storms that were scheduled were all Westerly winds gusting 25mph. We were heading East. This meant that for the majority of the day we should have wind on our backs...or if we were going 25mph have no wind at all!

Heading North from Rhoscolyn, we arrived at Treaddur Bay by 7:20am and took a photo in about 45 seconds and were back on our bikes as if our lives depended on it. From there we continued North to Holyhead, the gateway to Ireland by Ferry, where there was another RNLI station.

The undulating terrain of Holy Island was more than I remember and as we crossed the 4 mile bridge (not actually 4 miles long) onto Anglesey we were beginning to feel 7 days of cycling accumulating in our legs. The rain was just starting but the wind had yet to appear... I was almost wanting it by now.

We got into a steady rhythm of 2 minutes each at the front taking the brunt of the wind cruising along at 35km/hr along empty 2 lane A-roads. If this kind of progress continued we'd have no trouble getting the 5:40pm train from Chester that would take us both back to our loved ones.

We had our first little break at Moelfre, enough time to wolf down a couple of Welsh Cakes and a few sips of gatorade. We sheltered ourselves from the rain (poorly) in the doorway of the RNLI station but it was a rather pathetic effort by anyones judgement. Buoyed on by the fact we only had one more station to visit before mainland Wales we set off for Beaumaris with a bit more spring in our cycle.

I think we were both deciding not to mention to each other that the weather was essentially utterly miserable and that it's days like this that make the beautiful days of sunny weather that much sweeter.

Beaumaris, a pretty town on the East coast of Anglesey, which draws plenty of tourists was practically dead. The wind and rain kept all but the mad inside and the best we could find for our 5 minute break was sheltering under a bus stop- although it did have a fantastic view of the Menai Straits. We absorbed the warmth of a bacon and egg bap and a chocolate bar and felt alarmingly good considering we had 80km under our belts and it was only 11:30am. It's amazing how psychological these things are- if we only had another 20km to do (which was initially the plan for Saturday's ride) we'd probably be feeling much more tired. But we just couldn't feel tired when we had another 110km to ride!

It was over the Menai Bridge (which up until that point I had always confused with the Brittania Bridge), through Bangor and onto Conwy before we stopped again. By now our tailwind had arrived but for 15km of northward travel it was hitting us directly side on- not fun.

By now, unless we were cycling, we were cold. If we got cold we got tired. If we got tired we cycled dangerously. So we just decided to keep cycling, keep warm and make that train in Chester.

With this in mind the journey from Conwy to Chester become somewhat of a blurr. The primary events of which that stick out was our route taking us onto a coastal walking path that is completely incapable of being cycled. Our only way out was to backtrack through a farm covered in slurry carrying our bikes. This sounds horrendous but actually we were only concerned about getting cold and wasting time.

We then had a rather horrific section of A55 (triple lane A-road) to cycle in the thick rain with poor visibility with cars going past at 70mph! We got off this as quick as possible and tried to find a better route to cycle. After getting directions from a local carpenter to "the £1 million cycle route that no one used!" we found ourselves making progress a little slower but far more safely.

This cycle route took us from just before Conwy all the way past Rhyl to Prestatyn not straying more than 50m from the sea! It was epic. We headed due west for over 20 miles on a dedicated cycle path with wind slapping our backs. For over an hour we averaged about 40km/hr! It was fantastic!

The string of rather grotty towns came and went on our right hand side. We try our best not to bad mouth certain areas of the UK but Rhyl was probably one of the most horrible places we'd been to yet. We were 'welcomed' to the area by a rather bedraggled looking man in a long leather coat. 100m behind him was a employee of a local ASDA on the phone to the police, asking us if we saw the man in the long black coat carrying a knife! We had clearly not known how lucky we were. It was fair to say we didn't wait around long at the lifeboat station.

Veering inland and heading further south took to wind from our backs and deposited it on our sides again. We had another 30 km to cycle and there was only one way to do it, get our heads down and cycle hard. Which we did and apart from a brief stop at Flint RNLI station we barely looked back.

We arrived at Chester at 4:15pm, an hour early! We hugged, celebrating a tough day in the saddle and boarded the next train to London. We went to one end to deposit our bicycles in the appropriate carriage and found the seating area to be empty. Our desires to be warm and dry were so great that we both started to get changed there and then.

We were in such an odd state of tiredness and delirium at our achievement that once we had dry boxer shorts on we almost thought it completely fine to be wandering around the aisle of a train virtually naked. As soon as this dawned on us we got ourselves dress and packed our wet clothes into a bag. By Crewe we were warm, dry and fed and celebrating another fantastic year of our adventure.

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