Hello to everyone from beautiful Dublin,
It seems like only yesterday we were writing to you all from London and here we are having traveled through, England, Wales and landed in Ireland. Before we left London we had a great time sightseeing, going to a play and meeting up with some fellow tandem riders we met in Carcassone, France. The play was "Blood Brothers" and the folks we were lucky enough to break bread with were Malcolm and Heather Hodgson.
The departure from London on the TK&A route was supposed to cover about 180 miles in two days and take the troops south to Winchester then north to Bath. Since we had seen the area to be traveled decided on a more direct 130-mile route more direct to Bath. This decision proved to be a wise one as it eliminated a few miles, got us into Bath before a torrential downpour and allowed us to navigate the back roads of England that we discovered are not as well signed as other countries.
Must get a compass on the bike as we got completely turned around going back east which helped to push up our anxiety level a few points. All in all we got an A- score for navigation, thanks to Malcolm for his recommended route.
The first part of the trip got us to Hungerford (not our original plan) where we stayed at a little B&B enjoyed an evening meal of fish and chips and a nice sane breakfast over a few cups of fresh coffee.
Hungerford to Bath,
This was a nice ride in overcast conditions, with the rain holding off until we reached our B&B. We had stopped in a Tourist Information office in Marlborough where the folks arranged our accommodations in Bath. This is an excellent service and costs you nothing. The staff was great and we had a super discussion regarding out trip.
We stayed to the main roads as we wanted to get into Bath at a reasonable time and we were successful in spite of a flat tire along the way.
Riding in England is super; especially along the smaller back roads. Overhanging trees trimmed to give you the effect of traveling in a tunnel, lush forests and even some killer hills make for great days, throw in some super talkative locals and you have the fixings for a beautiful day on the bike. As usual the tandem gets everyone's curiosity up.
We arrived in Bath a little wet but not drenched and the B&B owner invited us for tea and biscuits before we showered, a welcome treat. Did not ride out to the camp ground some 4 miles from town as the sky's opened up and, since we did not know what kind of meal to expect, decided on staying in town for a great Italian dinner. We did hear the evening meal was good but cold and the seating was less than needed for the size of the group.
The day was a tough one for the riders as there were 6 falls due to wet and rough roads, (luckily no serious injuries as we are still without the promised staff DOCTOR) a severe 25% downhill and some real bugger's of a climbs. We could not figure out why riders on a long day were arriving from the north when the ride originated in the south, we were surprised to be passing riders as we rode in.
Bath to Bath,
This was a layover day and it was appreciated, as Bath is a neat city to visit and spend time. Rode the bus out to dinner and enjoyed a new way to prepare chicken in the form of a chicken stew served with new potatoes, a good meal ate outdoors (a wee bit cold) followed with a great desert.
Bath to Cardiff, Wales,
After a super English breakfast at our B&B it was off on our own route to Cardiff. Ours was not much different than that of TK&A, but being what they call off route gives you more flexibility to do your own thing. Had a discussion with a taxi driver who inquired as to the route our organizer had chosen and when I read him the directions he commented, "That chap sure doesn't like you much" interesting unsolicited comment from a local.
Our route took us along a beautiful bike route across a long bridge into Wales along relatively flat rolling terrain. We had an opportunity to cross on a transporter bridge, which was a suspended bridge built in 1906 and the bridge deck moves from suspended cables. A neat ride that should not be missed. The weather cooperated and the sun actually shone and the temperatures were agreeable.
We stayed at a nice B&B close to camp and had a nice meal prepared by the Welsh Sports Center. One of the riders had their car broken into while we were eating and everything they owned was stolen. They lucked in and the police recovered most overnight.
Cardiff to Bulith Wells,
After a nice breakfast at the sports center we took off on the Taft Trail for a scenic 30-mile ride with some rough sections thrown in for good measure. This was an off route experience organized by one of the riders and a large number of riders chose this route over the official one. We stopped for a great pub lunch then were off again.
The afternoon ride saw us stick to the main roads for a beautiful ride along lush greenery with more sheep than one would care to count, Mary got lots of practice making out like a bleating sheep, we hope no one was listening obviously the sheep were not.
Camping was at the Royal Welsh Showgrounds and once again we decided on a neat B&B. Went over for dinner but it looked like the hamburgers would be slow in coming and may in fact not be of sufficient quantity to feed the hungry masses, we also felt like a little different fare that be in order after 77 mile ride. The owner of the B&B was an 80 year old who made our stay a super experience.
Bulith Wells to Barmouth,
After breakfast at the B&B it was off on an 80-mile ride to Barmouth. We started on the TK&A route but since we were officially off route decided to go our own way when what was described as " excellent climbing" turned into some serous 16% grades, the next turn was listed as "challenging" so decided to forgo the experience. This decision resulted in our doing some beautiful down hills along scenic yet slightly more traveled roads, we were even treated to an air show by the RAF as they did low level maneuvers with jets, a neat thrill especially in light of my flying background. Just when we thought we had it made we were subjected to a 2 mile long 20% grade climb described by a road side farmer as "a hell of a climb" truly an understatement. The last 8 miles were along a bike path that followed the river then into camp.
We stayed at a unique B&B some 10 miles away thus we had to miss dinner, it was billed as awesome but reports varied from those who had dinner, awesome was not a word used but sounded like it was an OK meal. The theme of late notice for the vendors seems to haunt us still and we feel sorry for the local vendors who are obviously doing their best to feed a hungry group of cyclists.
The weather has continued great and the tan is actually starting to return, temperatures are super.
Barmouth to Dublin,
Today was billed as an 85-mile ride to Holyhead to catch either a 1:45PM or 6:25PM ferry to Dublin with a 5-mile ride to the University College Dublin campus. We cheated big time and drove the route with fellow tandem riders Steve & Al Tarkington. There were numerous other riders who found alternate methods of getting to the ferry as it was a long ride before a 2 hour ferry ride, some took trains, others buses, others cars etc. Our hats are off to the diehards who were on the rode at 4:40AM. We were thinking of them as we counted sheep (lots of them) and enjoying a spectacular breakfast.
We arrived at the campus around 4:00PM to find accommodations had changed from the route guide but we were in single rooms with three people sharing a pod complete with shower, toilet, kitchen and bath a nice set up. We were some of the lucky ones who got to sit down to a hot meal in the cafeteria. They did run out of food and the poor women were upset and kept apologizing stating they had only found out 10 minutes before that we were coming, they did great all things considered. The late crowd who rolled in around 8:30PM got pizza and pop, some had eaten on the ferry.
Dublin-to-Dublin, Layover day,
We have had a great day following doing a walking tour of Dublin (worth every penny), viewing the Book of Kells at Trinity College and just relaxing. The weather has been great and we are hoping it holds as we travel west then north.
We have thoroughly enjoyed riding in England, Wales and soon Ireland. The people are great, very helpful and enthusiastic about our adventures. The tandem elicits many a comment and smiles from young and old alike. We are at times reluctant to stop for food, drink or relief as it usually ends up in a long and amusing discussion with locals.
Stay tuned we are off to other parts of Ireland and are looking forward to the experience.
Dave & Mary