First of all, I know it's been some time, 3 months in fact. A lot has happened since but this last day has been the hardest to put together. I think not least because it was the winding down of something that had been planned for a long time and had taken a lot out of us in the doing. Although there are elements that really stick in my memory, I'm sure there are other parts that have been omitted.
I'll begin at the beginning then.
Up for breakfast after a lovely meal and reasonable sleep in Rhayader. The memories of yesterdays' hysterical ride through the middle of Wales seemed to be dulling. With a little back twinge at breakfast, unfortunately more of which later, and a good plate of cooked meat, yoghurt, fruit and cereal under our bibs it was soon time to be away.
Third time was the charm and we were rolling on time, and for at least a minute before we stopped at a shop to buy some flapjacks for the rest of the day. Pedal on!
The morning was still warm despite us being out earlier than we had managed the previous days. It always takes me a half hour or so to get into the swing of pedalling first off. Pete took the lead and swung us through shadowy tree-lined roads. The surface still exuding that slightly sweet yet musty smell. Lovely.
After a brief respite in the bushes we carried on as the road really did buckle and unfold in front of us.
We knew that we had to head to Painscastle on our way to Hay on Wye and the road was lovely as the countryside passed us by. There was a fantastic monument to love in the form of a large stone painted white, carefully daubed with the message 'Angharad Loves John' and with an array of hand painted hearts floating around the message. The stone was placed against a fence and was really a heart-warming thing to happen across. I hope Angharad and John love long.
The turn for Erwood and Route 8 came and went as we carried on towards Painscastle. Almost immediately it seemed, the road was lifted up and climbed.
It kept on climbing.
Up and up we went.
Through a series of switchbacks and happily written road messages proclaiming 'Painscastle Fun Ride'.
It was anything but fun at this stage.
I waited for Pete at the top, or what I thought was the top. Cue the ever amusing false flat and further climb, and it always, always helps when there is a warning sign stating the gradient at 15%.
After what seemed like far too long, and definitely with too many 'Fun ride' signs the road began to roll down towards Clyro and Hay not long after. Pete had told me a tale of a cake shop where there were many many cakes to be had. I was very much looking forward to this.
So with his lead we carried on to Hay. My back had done a lovely twang earlier and was now giving me quite a bit of grief as we came through the streets of Hay. The street market was in full swing and we leaned our bikes against the cafe wall to look out over a vendor of CDs and tee shirts of the country and western flavour. That's right, he had both types of music.
With a quick trip around the cake counter done and paid for we sat down to consume the pile of delicious calories in front of us. In an attempt to calm my back down I carried out some of my stretches on the pavement. I try and relax whilst doing them and close my eyes. I hadn't realised Pete had snapped photos whilst I lay there. Git.
Back on the bikes with cake in our bellies and we took the really rather pleasant lanes towards Talgarth. New roads for me but Pete took over the navigation. The warm weather had left the tar surface soft and it whispered at us from the tyres. The sound similar to that of riding through standing water but without the splashing. Interesting and quite nice. Soon enough we were on the long climb from Talgarth to Pengenffordd and then the downhill run. I have memories of this road as I managed to clip a white line in the wet on my motorbike and then slide down the road on my side and into a hedge. It is a nice road though. The trees present themselves as a tunnel which is always pleasant to pass through and their shade was welcome today.
From the bottom of the road then it was back towards Abergavenny after Crickhowell, a town that always reminds of friends, but for different reasons. Cutting off the main road and along the lanes there is a great steel bridge that seems very incongruous to find outside of America.
I suppose that's the message we've been fed by the media.
Abergavenny followed on a few miles after and there it was a time to part ways. Pete staying home and me with another 11 miles to go. They always seem like mixed miles, those at the end of a long ride. Part of them are tinged with relief and gladness at coming close to home, the other part is that of regret at the ride being over and the final cap is that of tiredness.
I coasted down the drive to home with the sheen and smell of the roads coating my legs and arms. My face dusted with sweat and sun. It was the end of a really great trip, and certainly one I'll remember.
Thanks Pete for the company.
3 weeks ago