Not gonna lie, that was a pretty miserable day of cycling (albeit with a few non-cycling highlights), but I’m in a dry tent, I’ve eaten, and I’ve got a beer. So what happened?
The real AirBnB
Decided to get an Air BnB last night. No reason other than I knew I would be getting to Cardiff pretty late, there didn’t seem to be an obvious campsite, and wild camping in cities still feels a bit much for me (sorry Adam).
Anyway, I landed a room with Claire and her 10YO doggo, Eddie.
This was Air BnB as originally advertised. It felt like visiting with Claire (and Eddie), not just getting a cut price pseudo-hotel.
When Claire’s daughter moved out 9 months ago, she thought she’d have a go at Air BnB to make a bit of money and have some company. She’s practically fully booked and already a super host. She jokes that she should have turfed her daughter out sooner.
A seasoned social worker who has an eye on retirement, you can see the financial attraction for Claire (although she really does need to up her prices). But I got the sense this was more about meeting people than the money. As Claire put it: “the world comes to me” and she has indeed met people from all over the world. She’s also got a good line in banter and lots of stories.
If you need a room in Cardiff, check availability at Claire’s house.
While I’m in recommendation mode, you should also check out Neighbourhood Kitchen, which was just around the corner from Claire’s place, offering fried chicken and beer. Pretty much my perfect night out really.
Set off early thanks to no tent faff. Headed to the bay for an obligatory photo in front of the Millennium Centre (below) and then west into a head wind and drizzle.
The contrast with yesterday’s sunshine couldn’t have been more stark. And yes, I realise that blogging about how dry the reservoirs were, means that I am not allowed to grumble about the rain, and yet…
Try as I might I just couldn’t find my mojo at all this morning. Even a detour / pilgrimage to Barry Island (location of the wonderful Gavin and Stacey) couldn’t lift my spirits.
The headwind was sapping my strength and there was literally nothing to see other than the drizzle. They route was functional in that it headed in the right direction, but uninteresting in every other respect.
I am not gonna lie, doubts started to creep in as to why the bloody hell I was choosing to do this. I figured I could give you all your money back, make a donation to Llamau myself, delete the blog, get the train home, and just pretend it didn’t happen.
My route took me suddenly off road over a golf course and through a thicket of thorns and gorse bushes. It started to descend at a scary rate and I was seriously cursing my route planning. This was a low point.
I popped out near a pub that had what initially looked like a pancake van in the lot opposite. On closer inspection it turned out to be Chimney Cakes. Intrigued, I got chatting to the owner Graham, who explained that this had all started when he had been laid off from his role as a sales manager when the first lockdown happened.
In his mid-fifties, he struggled to find work and decided to take a risk and set up a Chimney Cake business, inspired by a trip to Prague where he first encountered them. I tried one and am happy to report that they are amazing!
Graham was the real star here though. He has become an entrepreneur in his mid-fifties, taking a risk and a loan. Learning tough lessons, but seemingly finding happiness. A bit like Claire, I got the sense that what he really likes is meeting people and he’s found a way to do that while making a living.
When I told Graham what I was doing cycling around Wales, he immediately made a donation to support Llamau. Legend.
Spirits buoyed by meeting Graham and aided by the sugar high, I set off again and quickly hit another routing fail, a set of pebbles across a stream where a path was meant to be.
The detour was large and just as my spirits were starting to flag again, a chap called Alex came alongside and started riding with me. We got to chatting and it turns out he is a Raspberry Pi fan. He is Welsh and has just returned to live in Wales after studying his undergrad, masters, and PhD in England. He has a viva and a wedding in the next few weeks, and a new job in life sciences. Mazel tov.
Alex and I cycled together for maybe 15km. Enough to see me on my way to Port Talbot. the ride from here on was pure grind. Cycle route 4 tracks the M4 and is adequate enough, segregated from traffic for the most part, but only just. It rained constantly and the headwind was unforgiving.
But a combination of Claire, Graham, and Alex got me through.
They each seemed to offer a glimpse of a new economic story for Wales. The soon to be retired social worker who leverages her house to generate income and connection. The ex-salesman who has found a unique product and entrepreneurship late in life. And the bioinformatician who has returned to Wales to start a family and a career in a high tech industry.
As I cycled past the steel works in a Port Talbot, which physically dominated the landscape of the town, I wondered whether it would be enough. Then I stumbled upon Ffordd Amazon. I kid you not. This was one of those mega-distribution centres like we saw in Nomadland.
From Swansea to Gower was flat and fast, which offset the wind and rain a little. Gower was hilly, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Sad that I won’t see the Gower in the sunshine though. Abandoned my attempt to get to Rhossili beach and pitched my tent in the rain at Three Cliffs.
Ask me anything (for money)
Clennell from Cambridge asks: Five days in, what is your favourite luxury item?
Great question. I thought about this a lot today. First we need to define luxury. I think that luxury items are things that would not be necessary in order to safely complete the ride. that narrows it down a bit.
My answer is therefore my travel aero press. For those who don’t know this is a device for making filter coffee. Bulky rather than heavy, it takes up a lot of space that could be used for more essential items, but it does mean that I am guaranteed a great cup of coffee (provided I have coffee and boiling water off course).
That’s all for today. The weather looks equally grim tomorrow and I have my toughest day of riding yet ahead of me, to Tenby.
Keep the donations coming – Just Giving link here. Send me your questions. And keep up the messages of support. They are honestly keeping me going.