Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Wandering Around Wales

Has it really been a month since I sat here and told you about the MancRiders Café Racer Challenge Ride? How time flies.

Lake Vyrnwy in all it's glory

After a great holiday out at Casa deLilieRosa Jeannie and I were both feeling refreshed and raring to go. I’d already taken a cheeky little ride mid week up to the Scottish borders picking up the two most Northerly English Cafes and was buzzing at the prospect of a full weekend in the saddle.

Hartside Top Cafe

Kielder Forest - Cafe on the water

      Well when you are so far north, be rude not to.

My original plan was to head right to the top of Scotland on my own and bag the five locations up there. Starting with John O’Groats and working my way back into England but the weather was against me. After a quick look at the map and with Jeannie deciding to join me for the full weekend there was only one real area that stood out, Wales.

With a total of 8 cafes, 1 biker meeting location and the Bike4Life Event all within easy reach of Wales it was a no brainer.  A quick search using ‘Google’ for Biker Friendly B&B’s in Wales, up popped ‘The Biker Guide’ website.  I opened their mini map and spotted Ceredigion, which is over towards Cardigan Bay and mid way down, just where I wanted to base our stay. There were two places to choose from and as YTalbot in Tregaron had won the 2015 CAMRA Award for real ale, I booked the family room straight away. As fate would have it, Y Talbot is located just a few miles south of the Devil’s Bridge biker meeting location on the Challenge Ride. Something both Jeannie and I where very pleased about by the time we had finished riding 225 miles of A and B roads all the way from the Whistlestop Café Rhuddlan in the North of Wales.

So after packing the ‘not so Little Ones’ off to school on Friday we mounted up and headed out on our weekend ‘Wandering Around Wales’

The first 80 miles were quite boring, M62, M60, M56, A494 and then along the A55 to the first stop of the day the Whistlestop Café. As soon as we dismounted I spotted who I thought was the owner Barry but it turned out to be Pete, one of the main members of the Whistlestop MCC and a really nice guy at that. As we chatted about fundraising events, the Café Racer Challenge and a whole host of other events his club were planning this year poor Jeannie was being inundated by folk asking her all the usual GoldWing questions.

“So what do all these buttons do?”
“How big is the engine in that then?”
“Has it got heated seats?”
“Where’s the radio?”
And the one question, every single person asks.
“How much did it cost?”

Thank's for the donation Barry

Pete and I looked over and just grinned. Sorry Jeannie, I know you hardly got chance to take your lid off before the barrage of questions started. Something that as you now know happens every single time we stopped for fuel, a break, a bite to eat and even when we arrived at the hotel 9 hours later.

After a nice Full English for me and a Slimmer’s World Breakfast for J, I had a chat with Barry the proprietor who kindly donated a sew on patch for auctioning off at the end of the year to raise more funds for Red-Aid. We then headed south towards our next destination the Ponderosa.

I knew I shouldn't have eaten that cake!

Coffee, cake and sticker purchased we headed out. Now I didn't want to take all the usual roads down to Devils Bridge and so decided to take Jeannie to see Lake Vyrnwy, which was midway between the hotel and the Ponderosa. As it happened the sat nav decided to take us down what can only be described as a roughly tarmacked dirt track, much to my utter horror!

The ride was interesting to say the least but ‘Wow’ what fantastic road lay ahead.

After a 2-mile detour to see the lake it was off to Devil’s Bridge near Aberystwyth.

Cracking location

Now to say we were greeted in the café by the most unpleasant, grumpy waitress I've ever had the misfortune to meet is keeping it polite! Coffee, loo and away were the order of the day. We won't be calling in there again in a very long time.

The road to Y Talbot was hard work. I was starting to feel it after so many back roads and lanes. Turning the final corner into Tregaron and seeing the huge inflatable marquee in front of the hotel was a shock. Security guards and TV cameras surrounded the whole place. I was surprised we'd been able to book a room in the first place. There was a full-on televised Election Debate going on right in front of the hotel.

The B4343 - 18 miles of Bliss

As we pulled around the back of the hotel I headed to the very back corner of the car park. By the time I'd parked up one of the security guards was stood at the side of Jeannie. My heart sank, what now? I thought. I needn't have worried.

“Nice bike, have you come far? I've got a Kawasaki ZZR1400” The conversation was in full flow with Jeannie now able to hold her own after a full day of being quizzed about the Wing. I was well proud of her and what a nice guy. He even stopped chatting after quarter of an hour when he realized we hadn't checked in yet.

Best Biker-Friendly Hotel we've ever stayed in!  
Get's a 10 out of 10 from the Wandering Waltons

Walking into the Y Talbot we knew straight away we were going to enjoy our stay. The proprietor checked us in once we’d battled our way through the hordes of folks all with mobiles in hand comparing celebrity photos. Even with the election circus going on three stores below in the town square our room was silent.  The bathroom was tiled from floor to ceiling in smooth gloss tiles making it look ultra modern, complete with a glorious bath and huge shower. It was beautiful .

The next morning Jeannie was pleased to hear that our first café the West End Café was just 17 miles away and the second the Owls Nest Tea Room Diner just half a mile from there. The last stop of the day was to be the Oasis Café in Abergavenny just 70 miles east and then back to the hotel for a relax. Well that was the plan; strange how riding plans change en-route.

A Great Biker Cafe and well worth a visit

As we walked in the Owls Nest we were greeted with

“Mr. & Mrs. Walton I presume” by Ian the proprietor. 

“What a great guy” is all I can say about Ian. He has followed the Challenge Ride on Facebook right from the start and has donated t-shirts and stickers all for Red-Aid.  We had a great time chatting with a few local riders and were sad to have to head out but yesterday had been a 225-mile day so I planned to keep Saturday down to 150 miles maximum.

Arriving in Abergavenny the sat nav took us on a merry dance around town only to find the café at the side of the local bus station. Once the staff had found me a bit of swag in the form of a Sandwich List flyer we drank up and were about to head back to the hotel until.

Parking 'When in Rome' Style

“Jeannie, I've just been having a look at the map and if we head back to the hotel we will be riding the same roads as we rode over on. However if we pop up to Dom’s Bike Stop it will cut us straight across Wales from Hereford to the coast. What do you think?”

An hour later we were pulling into what can be best described as a derelict garden centre car park.

Luckily lurking behind the overgrown bushes is one of the best find’s we made all weekend. What a fantastic café. Dom like many of the owners we have met along the way was an absolute gentleman and we had a right good chat and a laugh with him.

J's Favourite Biker Cafe of the weekend

J making friends with Dom & his assistant 

Behind the café area is a full on camping area, toilet block, and outside seating and chilling area. It’s not your usual café layout but we loved it.

Pulling into the hotel car park after the unexpected 90-mile detour we had managed to clock up yet another 220-mile day. Strangely enough after two full days in the saddle we were both on top form.

Yet another superb meal in the hotel was followed by a couple of rather nice brandies and then it was time to pack ready for the 0700 hours early start.  We would be heading back across Wales for the third time, towards the Bike4Life Ride-in location which just happened to be at the side of, yes you guessed it, another Café Racer Challenge Ride café, Dinky’s Dinah’s (and no that is how he spells it).

Sunday morning we were up with the larks and on our way by 0745 hours. The ride across Wales is without doubt one of the best motorbike rides I have ever taken in 35 years of riding. The roads were clear, the weather kind if not a little nippy to start with and being as it was my third time of riding past Devil’s Bridge on those single track twisty’s , I didn't lose any time in having some fun.

I wasn't surprised to find around 35 bikes crammed into the little layby, all heading to the Bike4Life Event. Luckily most them thinned out whilst I was ordering my bacon and egg triple-decker butty. I got chatting to Dinky, as you do, and before long he'd donated a t-shirt to the Red-Aid collection. Now who says businessmen don’t have a heart? I for one can categorically state that all the Biker Friendly Café owners that we have met along the way have turned out to be some of the most kind hearted and generous folk we have had the pleasure of meeting.

My 'Hungry Face'

As for the Bike4Life Event what can I say? It was manic. 3500 motorbikes parked in an area fractionally larger than a football pitch. Bedlam springs to mind. It took Jeannie and I half and hour to find Glen, Lefty, Oggy, Bez, Ella, and Chris and it was great to meet Paul and his wife Jacqueline who were also in attendance.

Say Cheese

Sadly other than a steady ride to RAF Museum Cosford along closed roads we ran out of time. Sat just half a mile from the entrance in a queue of 100’s of bikes I plumbed home into the sat nav. We had just 40 minutes to spare including the ride home before the carers were due to finish work.

It broke my heart as I told Jeannie the news but we had to get back and with a heavy heart we rejoined the motorway and headed back to Wardle.

All in all, I can honestly say that this weekend has to be the best weekend I have spent in the saddle in many a long year. No pressure to get anywhere. Having all the time in the world to take in the sights and sounds of some of the Welsh countryside made for a magical experience. Having Jeannie on the pillion seat just multiplied the pleasures of ‘Wandering Around Wales’ ten fold.

To each and every café owner who has donated their time, energy, merchandise, cash and support to the MancRiders and Red-Aid I extend a heart-felt thank you.

Finally I'd just like to thank to all the MancRiders who are taking part or just supporting the MancRiders Café RacerChallenge Ride 2015. You are all absolutely amazing and I really appreciate all your hard graft and commitment.

I look forward to seeing you all again on the 3rd of July for the ‘Redwood Ride-In’ Cheque Presentation Ride if not before.

Done - Wandering Around Wales

“Ride well and stay safe my friends. It’s a jungle out there’