So, I got back last night from a mostly fantastic two day bike ride from north to south Wales. Two days, 150 miles and almost two miles of climbing. I took the train on Saturday from here to Bangor, on the north coast of Wales. I spent that day cycling down through Snowdonia National Park to the town of Machynlleth (pronounced Makunthlith). I bought the train ticket quite early, so managed to get a first class seat, which is nice, as it tends to keep out a lot of the riffraff. I had the great privilege though of sitting across from two trainspotters, a small child and their dog. Dogs apparently aren't allowed in first class, but the train conductor was a weenie and didn't press the issue after his first complaint. The dog was actually fine. The trainspotters though- my god what a boring conversation they were having! I'd never eavesdropped on a trainspotting conversation before, and I don't think I probably ever will again! This was the first trip I'd actually seen trainspotters - people on bridges and along the tracks, peering at the train with binoculars. Wow - things really must be a bit boring in Wales (though there are a lot of sheep - can't be that boring! ;-) One of the more striking things about the coast of north Wales, besides the landscape being quite beautiful, is the number of trailer parks. I'd actually never seen so many trailer parks in my life!
Anyway, I got off the train at Bangor, then spent the next half hour or so trying to find a place that sold water. I ended up in the centre - lots of vaguely lardy people wandering about, several people that seemed to be sharing a rather shallow corner of the gene puddle, and a number speaking in Welsh, which is a language that consists mostly of consonants, and a dangerous number of Ls (for example...).
Not much to see in Bangor. So I set off towards Snowdonia - lots of very old, rounded mountaintops - I think it may, technically, be considered an extension of the Appalachians, though that might actually only pertain to the Highlands. I'm too lazy to Google it just now. Lots and lots of wind - lots of wind. And then I had a minor little potential disaster - I discovered that the increasing creaky noise around my seat was actually from a crack in the frame - the third frame with the same crack in the same place. I felt very alone in the world and very upset at that point, as there was just about dipshit I could actually do if my bike decided to fall apart out there, out in the middle of nowhere. So, after feeling sorry for myself for a while and texting David a few thousand times, I decided I wasn't going to allow it to ruin my trip and kept on going, though I was now pretty obsessed with the loud creaking noise and observed the size of the crack pretty constantly.
The rest of the day I cycled down the coast, past Harlech (the first place in the UK I ever visited on my own, 18 years ago). Last time I went there, you didn't have to pay to visit the castle (as there is actually nothing inside). Apparently, they realized they were missing an opportunity to make money. Oh well. It's still very pretty. From the outside. The last bit along the coast was heading east, along what is essentially a fjord, into an absurdly strong headwind, and then there was the slight matter of the 900 foot climb, followed by a pass, and then a long and quite beautiful descent to Machynlleth, a cute b&b, and a really tasty lamb dinner. I was very very very happy to get there, just before the sun set, bike still in one piece, and heinie, more or less, still attached.
The next day was approximately the same length, with a much earlier start, as I didn't have to take the morning train. I thought about shortening it slightly by cheating and taking the train part way, given the perilous state of both my bike and my posterior, but I "accidentally" missed the train, which forced me to do the entire 70 miles. The second day was through rolling farm country, whereas the first day had been mountainous. The funny thing is, the second day was actually much harder, because at least, in north Wales, they seem to understand the concept of a mountain pass - road follows a stream, more or less, over the lowest point in a range of hills or mountains, but in south wales, no, it's much more fun to put the road straight up and down the hill, even if there was a perfectly good valley alongside. It's a bit like England that way, and, to be honest, it looks much more like England - green and verdant grazing country. They speak less Welsh there as well, though I'm pretty sure they still hate the English as much. Everyone seems to hate the English in the United Kingdom. Even the English aren't always too keen on themselves, unless it comes to a sporting event or the royal wedding.
So I made it to the end without the bike collapsing in a big pile. Took the train back in first class, and had my own train car for quite a lot of the way! The bike is in the shop now. The next one is supposed to be the next size up - maybe that will keep it from breaking? I suppose this is my secret plan to get a new bike every year, or something. Sigh.
Oh, btw, just for the record, I watched the royal wedding - the whole thing, from start to finish. It was fab. The British do some things very well, and pomp and circumstance is one of them. I'm not a royalist - I think the whole notion is archaic and absurd, but the whole wedding was, as at least one announcer put it, "quite nice". How very British.
Less nice, I think, is the current reaction in the USA to OBL's supposed recent demise (I say supposed b/c I think the whole affair is steeped in enough bullshit to start a fertilizer factory, but that's another story). Standing on streets, shouting "USA, USA, USA!"??? How utterly revolting - if Americans were shown people in, oh, I don't know, Pakistan, doing exactly the same thing (but, obviously substituting for "USA"), how positive would the reaction be? Hmm. Anyway, I think the whole thing is suspicious in the extreme, but I suppose my suspicioun isn't going to change anything in the world, so I will just gripe about it and be done with it.
Oh, I almost forgot - photo location for Wales...
And a tiny bit of (very rare!) British patriotism...