I am starting to write this blog on the beautiful beach at Llanddwyn on the South West side of Anglesey. The sun is going down, but it’s still warm. There are a few stragglers, but the beach is quietening. The skies are clear and – to the south – I can see the mountains of the Llyn peninsular and Snowdonia. It’s pretty close to a perfect way to end the day.
I say “starting to write” because several times over the past week, I’ve fallen asleep mid-writing and had to finish the blog in the morning. This isn’t a result of boredom, but rather the product of exhaustion and the intense concentration required to write a blog on a mobile phone (should have brought a blue tooth keyboard).
Let’s start unpacking day 14 and see how we get on.
Update: I fell asleep and am now finishing writing this on the morning of day 15.
The big push for Llamau
Over the next two days – which are meant to be the last of the Slow Cycle Around Wales – I really want your help to spread the word and help me raise as much as possible to support Llamau’s work to end homelessness in Wales.
With your help, Llamau will be able to provide a safe place for young people when they most need it and the support they need to get back to a long term secure home and life.
You can read more about Llamau’s work here or you can take my word for it. This is a great organisation doing vital work.
Here is the all important link (it opens Just Giving in a separate tab so you won’t lose the blog post). Please share it and / or this blog with your friends, neighbours, colleagues. If you haven’t donated yet, don’t put it off any longer.
Research shows that you will feel 86% happier if you donate (% happiness increase may vary, don’t @me).
A lack of convenience
I want to add an addendum to the answer I gave yesterday to the question posed by Ed from Cambridge (which was asked again by Jesse, also from Cambridge). The question was what (other than family etc) was I most looking forward to when I get home.
I gave a considered answer (see yesterday’s blog), but I’ve thought more about it today. A few things prompted the rethink.
- I have run out of coffee and I only have one filter left for my aero press. So while I could probably buy coffee easily, I could only make one cup.
- I have managed to lose my beloved titanium spork. This is my only piece of cutlery.
- Despite my best efforts at washing, my cycling gloves and hat and some other garments have developed an odour that has moved beyond “gym locker” and into “mortuary” (note that my merino wool clothing still smells fresh!)
Each of these is an entirely trivial problem in the grand game of life, but on the road they are deeply inconvenient. At home, they would be solved almost immediately with little to no thought or effort.
That is what I miss: convenience. For me – and I suspect for most of the readers of this blog – we are able to live very convenient lives (for the most part). The things we need are available to us. That’s something I am going to try to not take for granted in future. (Rachel – not sure if this counts as an epiphany, but it feels important.)
Update on the inconveniences listed above:
- I’ve decided to source coffee on the move, which yesterday took until 11.30 by which time my mood was dark.
- I took a 10km detour at Bangor to get to Go Outdoors to replace my spork. Inconvenient.
- I now have a bag of clothes that have been designated for offshore destruction when it is safe to do so. Unfortunately I have to keep using my cycling hat for now.
Lack of coffee made me a big sluggish and grumpy in the morning (first time I’ve felt grumpy in over two weeks actually). Where’s Rob from Shropshire when you need him most? Hit the road at about 10 am knowing that there was at least one tough climb facing me.
Resolved to find coffee before the climb and found just what I needed in Ty Coffi in Nefyn. Second breakfast / first lunch and hot coffee. The staff were absolutely lovely too. Legends.
Just in time. Almost immediately after Nefyn was the big climb of the day, up to 250m on a pretty busy road (which makes it impossible to do that zig zaggy thing that makes steep climbs easier).
As I reached one mini-summit an Osprey swooped right past me (maybe 3m away) and landed on a fence post in the next field. I stopped and we sat silently regarding each other for a few minutes before a car zoomed past and we were both on our way.
Once past the hills, the rest of the ride along the north side of the Llyn peninsula was a joy. Top quality cycling infrastructure, significantly helped by the fact that my direction (east) was ever so slightly down hill for km after km.
Lon Eifion (on cycle route 8) wins the award for best cycle path so far. It has all the attributes of a canal tow path (canalists take note) without the jeopardy of falling in a canal. Generously wide, which was good because it was delightfully busy with parents teaching their kids how to ride.
On one stretch where I was chugging along at about 20 kmph, a bird of prey (I think probably a sparrow hawk, but could have been a falcon) swept out of a tree to my right and crossed into the trees on the left. It tracked alongside me in the trees to my left for maybe 100m and then came out onto the path and flew immediately in front of me (I mean like 5m away) for another 200m before landing on a branch.
I pulled up as gently as I could and we stayed there looking at each other for maybe 3 minutes. I eventually decided to try and take a photo, but the bird was having none of it and flew away. Amazing experience. I guess this is why I should have got a Go Pro.
It was only a few minutes later, after setting off again, reflecting on having had two such experiences today (see Osprey above), that it occurred to me that my cycling cap might smell like carrion to a bird of prey. That’s thought is going to haunt me for a couple of days.
Made it to Caernarfon mid-afternoon and had an ice cream stop by the castle.
Headed over to Bangor to find the Go Outdoors to replace the lost spork and then over the Menai Bridge onto Anglesey.
Anglesey is of course home to the place with the longest name in the world. I almost deliberately stayed there to make the blog title hilariously long, but my desire for the sea was too strong.
Lucy and her family from Cambridge have been following my progress and sent me a lovely message saying that the blogs have become a “gather round family, it’s blog time” moment.
They’ve also been playing a game where they try to pronounce the place names. This one is for you Lucy, Simon and Kyla. I am looking forward to hearing your perfect pronunciation when I am back in Cambridge.
And just in case you don’t believe me, here’s the local co-op.
Pressed on to Llanddwyn where I found a stunning beach and a National park that apparently has red squirrels. Supper on the beach (no red squirrels were harmed in the making of supper).
Only two days to go.
Ask me anything (for money)
Jesse (aged 1 week) from Cambridge asks: after the success of this one, do you have a future bikepacking trip goal?
Great question Jesse. Given you are literally one week old I imagine that your parents (Beth and Pete) helped with the typing. Congrats again guys.
On future bikepacking goals, while I’ve loved this tour around Wales (so much), I am looking forward to some off road / over mountain adventures with friends. I’m also thinking about how to travel from Canada to Mexico, but that will probably have to wait until I have fewer responsibilities.
If I can be so bold as to offer you some advice Jesse? One of the things I have learned on this trip is how different – and valuable – it is to travel on your own. I am only just finding this out and I’m nearly 50.
When you’re old enough, make sure you go and find an adventure to do on your own. Trust me, you’ll meet more people and learn more about them (and yourself) than you will traveling with your best friend. That’s great too, it’s just different.