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Welsh Waltz I

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September ’05

Team Orson mounts a cross border expedition into Wales. Wales most definitely lives up to the hype in British bike magazines. We came away thoroughly chuffed about the Welsh roads.

On the first day, I left the Shropshire town of Whitchurch and promptly crossed the frontier into Wales. Before long I was into the Cambrian Mountains with its picturesque towns of Llangollen & Betws-y-coed. From there, I veered north towards the coast to the seaside town of Conwy and its massive Conwy Castle.

Here is a shot of the north coast of Wales. Conwy Bay looking west towards the rugged Isle of Anglesey.

The following day, I had made arrangements to meet some of the lads from the v11lemans.com forum for a tour of some of northern Wales’ finest tarmac. The appointed meeting place was the Ponderosa Cafe at the summit of Horseshoe Pass just north of Llangollen.

The view on the road up Horseshoe Pass to the Ponderosa Cafe.

Parked up before the ride…

After wolfing down a full English breakfast, we made our way with local rider Baldini taking the lead. These blokes don’t dally! They rode quickly but not recklessly, taking good lines through the corners and none of this knee out histrionics 😀 It made things easy for me as I could see their braking points as well as which way the road was turning. We blasted up I-5 towards the Snowdonia peaks. Nearing the coast near Caernarfon, we turned inland through the spectacular Pass of Llanberis.

From there we headed towards the western coast of Wales, stopping for a spot of tea near a classic railroad station. Wales was full of turn of the century locomotives. Here, a flotilla of Guzzis park up for tea (or is that a gaggle of Guzzis?). The sight and sound of 4 Guzzis roaring through the Welsh valleys really made my senses tingle. Whether the Guzzis or the locomotive have the most torque is certainly debateable.

Pious Guzzisti don’t like to make much of it, but the more devout amongst us kneel and pray in the direction of Mandello del Lario 5 times a day. Either praying for the speedy delivery of spare parts or praying that they avoid having one of the Guzzis built on a Monday morning 🙂

Actually, the lads are poring over a map and plotting our route after stopping in the seaside village of Llandfendigaid for another dose of fish & chips. From the coast inland, the terrain really reminded me of the hills of Marin county in northern California. The roads were mostly smooth, fast sweepers which was good since Guzzis & fast sweepers go together like coffee & cream…like Lennon & McCartney…like Godzilla & Tokyo city buses…like…well, you get the picture. The A470 coming from the coast. This is the part that sorta reminded me of Marin County.

After continuing south along the coast to Aberystwyth, we turned inland, making our way to the town of Welshpool. As it was a weekday, traffic was relatively light and we maintained our…ahem…”brisk” pace. Guzzis can be ridden at a rapid clip. Don’t let the antique engineering fool you. The v-twin roar only makes it that much more enjoyable…with 3 other Guzzis…it was bliss. We stopped at a pub at about 6 P.M. It had been a long but exhilarating day for me. While nursing a pint, I marveled that the lads kept such a brisk pace without fear of the rozzers. I had read much about the rabid police enforcement in Wales. They said you had to pick your spots and that most of the enforcement came on weekends. From there, we bade our farewells and made our ways home. I returned to Whitchurch and promptly collapsed in bed without food or a shower.

Pulling into the pub for apres-ride refreshments…

The third day, I decided to make an overnight trip to southern Wales. I made my way south along A483. South of Newtown, the A483 turns into a rollicking rollercoaster ride. BIG fun with more fast sweepers interspersed with the occassional tight bend made for a thrilling ride. South of Brecon I was into the Brecon Beacons National Park. I made it as far south as Cetn-coed-y-cymmer before having to turn and head north if I was to make it back to Whitchurch the next day.

View of the Black Mountains. More fast sweepers to your heart’s content.

When I reached Llandovery, I started looking for a place to stay. Everywhere I stopped was full up! I suddenly remembered that it was Friday. On top of that, this was the weekend that the World Rally Car boys were doing their Rally of Wales. I continued north, stopping at every inn along the way with no success. Finally made it to Builth Wells which was far enough north to be away from the rally fans. I found a decent hotel with a pub downstairs (is there any other kind?).

The following day would be my last. I decided to head back to Snowdonia in hopes of getting some better pictures with sunshine. That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately, as I got closer to snowdonia, the clouds moved in. Still there was no rain, so I wasn’t complaining. I continued north along the A470 through tiny quaint villages with names I couldn’t pronounce.

Heading north from Builth Wells…

Another view of Pass of Llanberis.

I came around the backside of Snowdonia. Impressive peaks with more fast sweeping curves. I’ve always rated Northern California roads at the top of my list, however, I’m going to have to list Welsh roads up near the top along with the south of France. Fast, smooth roads with nice scenery.

All in all, the trip was a smashing success. Though the skies threatened every day, I only recieved a smattering of rain. Got to learn some killer roads with the help of the local lads. About a 1000 miles over 4 days with only 1 cop sighting. I’ll definitely have to go back in the spring for a refresher course.