WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

June 28, 2013

A Day in the Clouds...


Day Two. Cloudy, humid... looking like rain. We had a vague sense of what lay ahead. We knew there would be some hills... possibly more than what we had climbed the day before. We knew we were heading for Llyn Brianne and that it's the tallest dam in the UK and it's on top of a mountain... AND we would have to climb the "Devil's Staricase" to get there. We knew it might be hard... we hoped it would be cool.

Missing photos; Builth Wells (where we had a lovely brunch and charged our cell phones) plus Tim sitting on the giant bull.

Yes... I spent 30 minutes in the shop looking for just the right food... question tho... Did I get the right food?

The lane heading up the mountain looked promising... kinda steep in places...

But then... sweet jeezus!... We popped out of the woods and into the magnificent Afon Irfon valley.

Here's a hint: Be sure to look back from time-to-time to see from where you just came... the views can be surprising.

At the base of Devil's Staircase we could almost see the 2.5 miles we had just cycled. With a 500 ft. climb included, I'd say that's not too shabby. However, the real fun was just about to begin...

The map above shows a quick glance of the route ahead... 412 feet climb in .7 of a mile. (uh?... what?) You can do the math... I'm still dizzy. (Also: here is the link to Tim's very funny animated .gif showing his metal and climbing this beast with a full set of loaded panniers. Very impressive, indeed.)

I didn't get but this one photo on the Devil's Staircase because I was too darn busy pushing my infernal bike up the mountain. Yes... I said it. I pushed my bike. Judge me as you like, but it was posted 25% grade! (It's worthwhile to take a moment and read Tim's blog about our day too... Mr. Squeaky Wheel)

At the top looking back into the valley... I didn't need no stinkin' vista to take my breath away, thank you very much.

I'm going to take a moment to pause here. We've just climbed almost 1,000 ft. to the ridge above Llyn Brianne Reservoir. The following photos were shot riding down and around the reservoir for 7.2 miles. By the time we reached the dam we had climbed another 1200 ft., yet overall we dropped a total of 1300 ft. (Note: ups & downs on elevation chart...)

So here's the route...

It was misty at times... then raining slightly.

Essentially, we were in the clouds.

and here's the photos...

So there ya have it. 10 miles of glorious cycling through Afon Irfon Valley, the Devil's Staircase, and around Llyn Brianne. It was completely unexpected and with the clouds and rain; it was crazy, crazy, crazy spectacular.

And also the thing is this... (something impossible to capture)... it was quiet. You could hear the sheep bleating over the valley... you could hear the horses running across the wet grass... the cycle tyres scratching on the pavement... and in this quiet, this lofty, secluded quiet... there was nothing to be said.

You stopped... you looked... you rode on.

There is much of this days' ride that I didn't discuss and if you look at the map below you can see that we totaled over 53 miles and climbed almost 6,000 feet for the day. That is; we rode a helluva-lot. It rained and it rained and we were two soggy dogs when we finally pulled into the campground around eight that evening.

It was awesome.

Stay tuned... We've got one more day of adventures to this trip. I'll keep you posted. Also... I highly recommend visiting the Lewis to my Clark at: Mr Squeaky Wheel for more info on our adventure...

June 27, 2013

A Dramatic Afternoon...


I had only just heard of the mysterious "Gospel Pass" a few months back and immediately it seemed intriguing. Everyone raved about it as a "must do" ride for it is the highest road pass in Wales (459m above sea level).

Names like Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins were often dropped when describing the route... advertisements from Rapha alluded to "legendary". Tim had mentioned it casually back in May as part of a micro-tour... so when the weather finally forecast a week of warm & sunny weather... well... we were off.

I left Oakdale early Wednesday morning for Pontypool. It was warm and sunny and simply fantastic to finally have decent summer weather after the coldest Spring Wales has had in 50 years! 

I cycled NCN Route 466 from Crumlin to Pontypool where I joined the Monmouth & Brecon Canal; NCN Route 49. (see: A Quiet Beginninng...). 

After 2 1/2 hours and 27 lovely miles I met up with Tim at the train station in Abergavenny. With our bikes loaded we began the slow climb out of Abergavenny and up NCN Route 42 on Old Hereford Road.

The road soon narrows and turns up the valley of the Afon Honddu (River Honddu).

First stop was at this well known church... one of the smallest chapels in Wales; Capel-y-Ffin. A good place to catch your breath before the serious climb.

There's not much else after that but sheep, wild horses...

and scenery.

Here's Tim just before we go over the top...

Now before I continue, I want you to pause a moment and think back to my previous blog entry; "A Quiet Beginning". Did you see that one? I only ask to emphasize the variety in landscapes that I have cycled through in less than five hours. It is something I could not have ever imagined having lived most of my life in the big ole US of A.

Wales is a tiny place, but there is so much diversity packed into this lovely little country. So take a moment and look back... consider this: I have cycled just over 30 miles. Now... let's move on.

Do you see what I mean?

Am I conveying the dramatic impact clearly? 

How about I toss in some more wild horses? (note: little sleeping ponies!)

And there my dear readers... you have The Gospel Pass. I didn't get much photographed on the ride into Hay-on-Wye because it's just over 6 lovely miles down the mountain... and well... it's not often that you get that kinda ride.

Looking out across the campground before crawling into our tent...

We stopped and had a well-deserved pint at the first pub we saw in town. (And it was mighty tasty too!) Then we headed out a couple of miles to the campground where we wasted little time pitching our tent, making dinner, and falling fast asleep, tucked in our sleeping bags.

Stay tuned... cuz there's even more to read about our adventure.