That’s the first day done. Pretty much all went to plan too.
Setting off and all the feels
My sister left for work 5.30 am. Anyone who wonders where I get my work ethic, look no further. I know literally no-one who grafts as hard as this woman.
I was up to say goodbye and targeting a 6.30 departure. My niece Kayleigh DM’ed me over night to say “please don’t wake me up to say goodbye Uncle Phil, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks anyway“. Wise beyond her years.
By 6.40 I had made it to Splash Point on Rhyl beach, which I had chosen as the official start. This is a special place for me. My Nan used to bring me here when I was a kid. We’d buy sweets and pop from the corner shop on the way. The dog would run around like a loon. I would collect crabs in the rock pools. Some of my happiest childhood memories.
The last time I was here was the day of my Nan’s funeral in 2019. I miss her more than I can coherently explain. Growing up, her house was a place that I always felt happy and safe. I haven’t even begun to come to terms with the fact that she’s not there anymore. Fair to say that I was feeling all the feels at this point.
I turned right and enjoyed the wind at my back headed east along the beachfront. I remember Prestatyn felt like a long way away when I was a kid. It took about 10 minutes to cycle there today.
Going to Wrexham, again
I left Rhyl aged 17. I had been working in a record shop and DJing nightclubs since leaving school, it was good fun, but I was living in a shitty bed sit in west Rhyl and I felt stuck. A job came up with the same independent record shop in Wrexham and I put my hand up.
A week later I hitchhiked down the A55 with a bag of clothes and a box of records. I had been to Wrexham a few times for gigs, but I knew no-one and nothing about the place.
That move changed my life. I found a much nicer bedsit, still with a shared bathroom, but more agreeable people to share with. The owner of the record shop took me under his wing and insisted that I went to night-school. That led eventually to university.
I also made some lifelong friends, including a chap called Pete who proved what a legend he is again today. He saw on Facebook that I was having lunch at Ty Pawb in Wrexham and ran across town to meet me. Judging by the sweat, he really ran.
Now that’s impressive, but Pete didn’t stop there. He also wanted me to know that if I got into trouble anywhere on route, all I had to do was call and he would come and find me. Legend.
It was odd being back in Wrexham. It felt familiar, but everything was different. It felt run down, sadder; maybe that’s just all town centres now.
Pete told me how he’s been inspired to support Wrexham’s football team since it was bought by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. I heard optimism in his voice and I think that’s what places need. Made a note to watch the Wrexham FC documentary which comes out in August.
The ride report
A great ride today. Decent distance, not too much climbing. Mostly cycle paths and tow paths, apart from a few horrible roads in Flint. The section along the River Dee to Chester and the canal path to Llangollen were highlights, although I realised that I have an irrational fear of falling in water when I cycle near it.
One bad route error led to a couple of stiles that I had to lift the bike over and an overgrown nettle and thistle track for a km or so. Tom would have been proud of a route like that.
Feels like I am in the mountains proper now. The views are amazing and I wish my phone camera could do them justice (spoiler: it can’t).
The weather was… Welsh. Overcast. With a couple of downpours that justified my packing waterproofs and tested my bikepacking bags (all good).
A couple of minor mechanicals, including a problem with gears that I’ll need to fix in the morning. My granny gear (the one you need for hills) is currently unavailable to me. That isn’t going to work.
My favourite NPC interaction was with an old boy stood at his door when I was putting on my waterproofs.
“Just from Rhyl”
“Got far to go?”
“I’m actually heading back to Rhyl”
“You’re going the wrong way then.”
“No, I’m going the long way round, down to Cardiff and back up the West coast.”
“You best get a move on” shuts door.
Abbey Farm campsite
Made camp at a lovely campsite in the grounds of the ruins of an Abbey just outside Llangollen. These superstars gave me a free berth because I am raising money for charity.
Bustling with holiday makers, great showers and loos, and has a bar. The heavens opened just as I was making camp, which was good practice.
Keep the donations coming
If you’ve read this far, you must surely be planning on making a donation to support the wonderful Llamau.
Every dollar, pound, and euro will help to end the scourge of homelessness in Wales. There is also compelling evidence that it will make you happier and live longer. Do it now before you forget.