Thursday, May 23, 2013

Geographically High, Psychologically Low

Ah what a comedy of errors I have in store for you today! This entry will cover the 72 miles from Llanberis to Coddington (near Chester), which seemed to have everything in them! Again, no photos, and the mappage is in about 5 bits for this day, so will take some surgery to stitch together when I have more time and a road map book! And now a monster day gets a monster write up! Before I get stuck in though, and because I have the resources at present, here is a calming photo to start us off;
Now, doesn't that make you feel better?
So, Monday it was, dawning dry in 'Beris, and I was on the road by 7.50 am. I had somehow misremembered that once I was out of the pass it would be a good, level day, hence the daft distance target. Little did I realise, until much, much later, that I had Monday and Tuesday confused in my mind. Monday was, in fact, destined to be quite hilly. Thinking one thing and getting another dished up - when the 'another' is a tougher deal! - really spoils the mood, I find.

I had thought that the ride out of the pass would be harder than the ride in on Saturday, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd battled my way to the top before I realised it. Well done, Legs, I thought, take the rest of the day off, it'll be  a doddle from here. Pah! Rubbish!!

I'd scheduled a short detour to Betws-y-Coed for first thing, to get the wobble taken out of my back wheel. A fast, largely downhill stage into town brought me in on target, and the local mountain bike hire shop sorted me out free and for gratis. Good blokes! It was as I was reloading the bike (second time today...keep an eye on that total!) that I realised I wasn't wearing my heart-rate monitor, which meant it was either deeply packed in a bag, or left at Dan and Ruth's. No prizes for guessing which. Text message sent, noting to be done but post it on if found. Shrug and continue with the 'easy'/long day. 60 miles or so to go...

Before leaving Betws-y, I indulged in a cooked breakfast (it was about 3 hours since first breakfast, you know), and shot off full of the joys of Spring in the mid-morning sun. The road was initially amazing, quiet etc, but got a bit steeper...until I turned on to a lane that just seemed almost vertical. Hmmm. Where was my 'level-ish' day? Perhaps this was the only other hill...

It went on this hill. And on. And then on some more, and was very steep, to the point of nearly causing me to stop and rest in my pushing. I reached the top...only to find it was a false top, and what do you know, the front tyre was suddenly flat! Small sharp grit is no longer my friend. Bags off, bike upside down, wheel off, tyre off, new tube in (old tube kept for repairs and spares), tyre back on, and now the clever bit! Previously, I'd used a CO2 cylinder to inflate a tyre and it didn't have quite enough push to get the required pressure. Being smarter than the average bear, I used the pump to largely inflate the tyre, before reaching for the CO2 to top it off. Not just a hat rack, my friends. Now, how does this thing work again? This bit screws on to the cylinder like this, and ..... PPPPSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH...Bugger, the outlet valve had wound itself open in the bag! Who doesn't check that?? Well, me obviously. One cold, well aimed jet of CO2 to the groin later, and there wasn't enough left in the cylinder to do any good at all. I'm just glad the padding in my shorts was on the front line, let me tell you!

So, out with the hand pump again, and a very slow process to inflate as much as I dared, bearing in mind the last time I used this pump, I tore the valve off the tube (see Perranporth). Eventually, and after a chat with a concerned looking Welsh hill farmer, it was ready to go back on the bike. Bike upright, bags reloaded (third time), and on with the pushing...through the concerned Welsh hill farmer's yard, on up the road a bit, through a closed gate (huh?) on up an increasingly gnarly track (still pushing), out on to a different Welsh farmer's hillside, and on and on and on...Eventually, a quad bike came down the track with the other concerned and jovial Welsh hill farmer on it, and we chatted about stuff and I apologised for clearly not being in the right place, and he chuckled at the daft Englishman, and all was well.

EVENTUALLY, I hit the B-road and on I went at some speed, making up for about an hour of pushing for about 2 or 3 miles, still no sign of any level bits, and then a strange scraping noise. I stopped, checked the front, all OK, hadn't seemed to be coming from my rear (of the bike, obviously), so in went the clip, down went the pedal, and BANG!! like a gunshot, my back tyre exploded. Literally. The tube burst, and blew the tyre off the rim with the force. No idea why it should have done that, but I'm still trying to work out if the look on my face or the swearing that followed was most funny. Hind sight, eh? Lets you laugh at yourself from the safety of two days later!

So, bags off, bike upside down, back wheel off, tyre off (easy, it was mostly off already), shredded tube chucked in the hedge before conscience made me pack it away, last spare tube on, tyre....damaged. The rim of the tyre was slightly shredded, but with care it went back on, though clearly needed to be replaced as it was barely holding it together. I knew how it felt. Inflate....tyre bulging....deflate a bit...just enough...wheel back on, bike upright, bags loaded (fourth time), mobile out, fingers crossed for a signal...weak, but serviceable! A quick ask of Uncle Google, and Denbigh, 10 miles to the north-east, had a bike shop. I even called them to check it would be open.

Being cautious of the dodgy tyre, I wasn't able to speed to my destination, but made it eventually, and even accidentally went right to the shop...which was about as old-school a set up as you can imagine, with the 80-soemthing year old lady running her 84-year-old-and just-had-a-stroke-so-I'm-doing-it-now husband's cycle...kiosk, really, is all you could call it. She stood at a counter behind a glass window that slid open so she could talk to the customers! Spare tube in stock, but no tyres that fit (I just sold the last two I'm afraid...). Still, with some searching about, she found me an almost equally dodgy second hand, not at all reliable looking, but better than what I had tyre, and fixed me a cup of tea and a Club biscuit (yes, I DO like a lot of chocolate on my biscuit, thank you very much) while I sorted the change over. Bags off, bike upside-dow...I think you're getting the idea by now...

New-old tyre on, inflated with a borrowed stirrup pump from her shop window (the only modern looking thing in it!), bags on (fifth time today), and it was time to re-plot the course to my campsite. It was about 3pm by now, so I just let Garmin do what it wanted and find me the shortest route by this time (which was still about 35 miles or more), and once again it was off up hills and down them again until, at 7pm, I still had 16 miles to go.

I'd barely eaten all day, I realised. A small snack here, a dodgy Co-op wrap in Denbigh there, so this may explain why I was really struggling. I opted for an over-priced-but-did-I-care-nope-not-at-all (£1.50 for lime and soda!!) pub supper of pasta with a pate starter and apple crumble for dessert, that I couldn't finish, and set of for the final leg before it got dark.

Finally, at about 8.45, I rolled into the camp site. Dave the seasonal warden let me talk him into allowing me to just put my roll mat in the games room, as I really couldn't face battling my tent that evening, in the dark, only to wrestle it away, wet, a scant 9 hours later, then invited me to his awning for a cuppa. The kindness of strangers, eh?

I stayed and chatted with him and his wife as short as I could without seeming ungrateful, then made my excuses, went for a shower and turned in by about 10pm, feeling not at all enthusiastic about the 57-odd miles I'd have to do to get to Castleton the next day. But that is a shorter story, as is today's mission, so I'll leave things there and catch you up another time. Its half 8 and I'm ready for my bed!

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