It is July 4th and I have now been living on a bike for 48 days, have taken maybe 15 showers, interviewed 5 planners from 3 countries, climbed too many hills to count and eaten a dinner’s worth of bugs going downhill. Every now and then I am approached by older ladies who lean in as fellow conspirators, whispering with raspy tones, “I’ve done that before. It is hard work!” or “I used to do that, but now my sons say I am too old.” Those who have never done it tell us we are “lucky” or to “have fun,” but those that have tackled the hills and nights of uncertainty talk to us with the wisdom of fellow travelers – yes have fun, but the point is really to grow as a person, to see the unfamiliar and make friends with those who see things differently. It is hard work to travel the world on a bike, and they know that. However, when you climb that hill, that mountain, and feel the wind against your face as you fly down a hill into the most gorgeous scenery existent, the rush is something a traveling cyclist would never trade.
Wales has been wonderful to us. People told us the Irish were friendly – well come to Wales! We’ve been approached numerous times by people all too eager to help us find a camping spot for the night or fix a flat tire. Our first night in Wales, a gentleman helped us to find a campsite at “one of the most beautiful spots on Anglesey” where we discovered a fabulous beach next to the Irish Sea. Quite breathtaking, though the weather kept changing on us (Welsh weather is just as unpredictable as the Irish weather). Our second night we spent at the seaside alongside Felinheli, arrived just in time to enjoy a local festival and a beautiful sunset on the beach. After drinking some Cabernet and eating a delicious Indian food dinner, a local gentleman approached us with ideas for camping. At first he jokingly suggested we camp on the beach if only we could “mind the partying,” but then just a few minutes later he came back and pointed out a field in front of the town’s health center that he said didn’t seem to be owned by anyone. Discovering a path from the field down to our own private beach, Kyle and I couldn’t believe our luck! On our third night, we made friends with some college students eating at a picnic table next to ours, and they had a jolly good time (hey, we are in Great Britain) laughing at our word for our “youth exhibiting antisocial behaviors,” “punks” and helping us to find camp for the night. While we didn’t end up taking their suggestion, we sure enjoyed the company. Later that night, we pedaled into the town of Penrhyndeudraeth where we encountered a bunch of boys that had been playing in the local fields. Eager to help us out after hearing of our adventures, they pointed to some trees at the back of the field declaring it a good place for camping. We set up our tent just in time for a storm that had been just dying to let loose. The next morning, Kyle was having all kinds of trouble with his tires when we met Tony, a gentlemen that spent half the morning helping us out, offering to drive us to the next town over for parts if we couldn’t get there ourselves with patched tires. Amazing!
Aside from the friendliness of the people, Wales is just simply – beautiful. We’ve been following the coast, occasionally biking into mountains and countryside. If it weren’t just a little too chilly and unpredictable, this is a place I’d like to stay awhile. Our friends we met in Kilkenny, Scott and Sam the touring couple from San Francisco, had raved about the place calling it “hobbit land.” Theirs was a very accurate depiction, though they had explored areas a little more southern. On our third day, we stopped in Caernarfon for awhile, climbing the towers of the castle that once upon a time had been home to rulers holding the title, Prince of Wales. The scenery at the top of these towers was right out of a fairytale and the castle itself was magnificent – just old stone. As Kyle leaned in to kiss his princess in her fairytale tower, I felt like I was in a storybook.
While most of our luck has been relatively good, we did have one of our first massive detours in Wales. Around lunchtime Kyle was crashing so I took charge of where to go. Arriving at a patch of grass with a map next to the trail we were on, I saw that there was a country park next to the trail. Kyle agreed to go to the park, which we though would be not too far off the path. Passing a man who told us that the park was just a mile down the road and “really beautiful,” we committed, cycling more like 2 miles (people who drive cars always underestimate distances) to this park. While the park was beautiful enough, we wouldn’t have thought it worth the detour if we hadn’t met the staff at the Black Cat Café. Refilling our water bottles and engaging us in conversation about the evils of fracking and where to find legal Marijauna in America, they were more than happy to pose for a photo (blurry unfortunately) so they could star in our blog. Leaving the park, I again failed at my task as navigator as I led us up a road that looked like it was supposed to connect back to the trail but instead led us into a field where we came face to face, up close and personal, with some cows. Backing away slowly with our bikes, we backtracked to the road and climbed a monster hill for a mile and a half before finally and joyfully finding our route again. Kyle, I will never yell at you again for missing a turn! (We’ll see how long that lasts).
Right now we are waiting it out in Porthmadog for our first planning interview in Wales, the planning policy head for Snowdonia National Park. Somehow we always plan our interviews in conflict with the weekend. Oh well, it gives us an excuse to catch up with our blog!
Happy 4th of July from Great Britain;)