Hectic But Happy

September 2 – Barry to Newport

I think we can probably chalk up today’s ride as a commute rather than a tour. It felt a bit like we were just getting from one place to another because we spent most of it beside roads and it was very, very busy.

I managed to fit in a quick run before we set off, heading down to Barry Island and then zigzagging around some streets. It must have been a fairly new area because I kept running into construction fences around new looking neighbourhoods, so when I ran out of paths, I called a halt. 

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An early morning trot to Barry Island

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We put foot to pedal and wheeled out of Barry under blue skies and it was already feeling warm.

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Pedalling out under a perfect sky

We pedalled up the street and soon had to navigate our first intersection.There were a lot of them from then on. We were trying to keep out of the way of traffic, so kept as much as we could to footpaths, which meant bumping up and down gutters at times. The traffic was full on and we were beside it all morning. Whenever we did find ourselves on the road though, the drivers were brilliant once again, waiting patiently behind until they had room to pass, to make sure they wouldn’t get too close to us, or giving way to us and letting us cross roads, even when they had right of way. It was hectic though. We bumped along paths with broken and bumpy flagstones, then bumped down gutters into traffic, then up and down gutters again to get onto paths.

“There must be a better way,” cried Steve. It seemed the route was taking us where we hadn’t expected to be. At the beginning of the ride Steve said we’d be along the coast and this certainly wasn’t the coast. Something had gone awry! 

“We’re better off just staying on the road,” I said, “by the time we bump over paths and bump up and down gutters, it’d be better just going up the road.”

We took to the road, but then got back on the path when it seemed the better option when the lanes narrowed and the traffic grew thicker. It was very hectic pedalling…in traffic…out of traffic…bump on path…bump on gutter…in traffic…out of traffic…and repeat! 

We were on the road into Cardiff, so it was to be expected that it would be pretty full on and we eventually rode into Cardiff Bay and had some quieter streets along the Cardiff Bay Trail, then across the bridge and along into Mermaid Quay, with a very recognisable skyline, with its big wheel. We rode in on a path by the water and a man above us on the walking path called out, “Where are you from?” We stopped and chatted and he was so friendly, asking about our routes and suggesting the best way to continue north. “Enjoy it,” he said in parting.

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Riding past Cardiff Bay
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That cloud is just biding its time!

As we arrived at the Quay, the big cloud that had been threatening above us decided to dump and the rain came down. We sought out some shelter and sat under a roof, that also happened to have a table so we had elevenses and hoped the sky would clear. A lady standing beside us commented, “It wasn’t supposed to rain today. We weren’t expecting rain. Just watch, that rain cloud will follow me wherever I go today.” She decided to brave it and walked off into the wet. No sooner had she left, than the rain stopped and a patch of blue sky appeared.

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Elevenses

“I’ve done it!” cried Steve excitedly, “I’ve passed on my superpower! She walked away and the sun came out! She has the rain superpower now, I’ve passed it on!” Whatever makes you happy! The rain had at least stopped and the sun had come out, so we continued on.

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A memorial to all the merchant seafarers who were killed during the war
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A memorial to commemorate Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. It overlooks the point from which his expedition ship, the SS Terra Nova left Cardiff on June 15, 1910

The hectic ride continued, still beside or on roads, still very busy. It seemed we had spent most of the ride either on the outskirts of Cardiff heading into the city or the outskirts of Cardiff heading out of it and those outskirts flared out indeed, because the city busyness went on and on and on, with us beside it or in amongst it. As we pedalled up a hill, there was a boy on a bike across the road. He was about thirteen years old I’d guess, riding his BMX with his cap turned backwards. “Good job!” he called out. See…friendly people in Wales, even the kids give us a bit of encouragement!

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Just when I thought Sneem in Ireland had one of the best names a town could have, I discover there’s a place called Splott! I think I’d love to have an address where I get to write Splott!

We made it off the road and into a park. The path weaved its way along, past playing fields and playgrounds and then we had…the barriers…again! Not to worry we thought, barriers shmarriers, we’ve done enough of them that we can zip through no worries at all. We hadn’t banked on these ones though. These were doozies. It was a barrier bonanza! In fact the first one was the dooziest of doozy barriers because it was a supersized, double whammy, two for the price of one. This one was a slanty squeeze through barrier INSIDE a lift-and-turn barrier! So…in we go with the front wheels, lift and turn the back around to get it past the rails, then squeeze through the slanty bit and then lift and turn to fit between the rails for the exit on the other side. If this were an Olympic sport we’d be on the podium by now singing the national anthem! 

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One inside the other, whose idea was that!

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Then when we came to the end of the path, we had another squeeze through barrier, which wouldn’t normally pose a problem, except…this one was so narrow even our handlebars wouldn’t fit through. Steve rode up, put his handlebars against the rails and there he could lean, with feet off the ground, held in place by that extra super squeezy barrier. When I went up to it, even with my smaller bike it was too narrow for my handlebars to go straight through too. It did take a bit of sideways manoeuvring and lifting and bending to get the bike through that super doozy of an obstacle.

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Aaaaaand stuck!
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It took some deft manoeuvres from both of us to get through that one!

After a bit more road riding we made it onto another path. Pedalling along, I saw a man and a woman up ahead walking their dogs. The woman had a little Golden Retriever pup and it was happily chasing a ball, but the woman saw me and hurriedly grabbed the pup and put it on a lead to keep it out of our way.

“No, no, it’s fine,“ I called. The ball had rolled to the side of the path, so I bent down to pick it up. “How about I get it for you,” I said to the smiling little dog, “I’ve interrupted the game haven’t I.” Then the man came up with his snuffling, elderly Pug and they stopped for a chat while I happily continued patting the pup. 

“Where are you from? Australia?” the lady asked. We told them where we’d been and I said we’d just been in Wales for a few days.

“A few days too many?” asked the man with a laugh.

“No,” I said, “we’ve been loving it and you’re all so friendly, it’s lovely!”

“Well, that’s nice,” they said and told us what we were doing was brilliant. They were so nice and so friendly.

“You enjoy your trip,” they said as they walked off.

“Thank you.”

“Travel safe now.”

“Thank you,” I said again.

“Take care,” the man added.

“Thank you.”

I mean…I’ll say it again…the people maketh the  trip. It makes all the difference when we come across friendly people and we’d had more of them today and these two were simply delightful. 

Finally, the busy road turned into a quiet, single lane road, almost as if we were riding through he countryside again. It was lovely. Then we had a track to bump along, with reeds either side rather than hedges, but we were away from traffic and the quiet lanes and the tracks were a top end to what had been quite a noisy, busy time on the wheels. 

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We rode into Newport where we stopped, for the only reason that it had somewhere for us to stay. It had only been a short ride, but now we’re heading towards the big bridge that crosses over to England, with all the interchanges and traffic up there, so places to stay started to get thinner on the ground. Newport gives us good reach to keep going and cross the water, while having options for accommodation that we didn’t have further on. Having said that, where we have ended up, on the dodgy scale of 1-10 would score about a 9.5. The area and the place itself is quite the capital D for dodgy! Still, it’s a place for one night, on the route that will take us up and over the water. 

It had been a very hectic ride, with traffic and performing the on-road, off-road dance for most of the day. Hectic or not, I was as happy as could be because in the end we had a lovely ride along the quiet roads, through little neighbourhoods, then along the grassy track and most of all, we met some more lovely, friendly people. I’ll take days like that any time. The traffic and busy route, the barriers, the rain, and the dodgy digs all go phut in a puff of ‘who cares’ because the enduring memory is the lovely surroundings and lovely people and they soundly trump all the tricky bits. Hectic it was, but happy I remain. Thanks Wales, we’re having a blast!

TODAY’S STATS

Distance ridden: 36.5 km

Time in the saddle: 2 hours 51 minutes

Distance run: 7 km

Weather: in a word…contrary! Sun, then grey, then rain, then sun, then grey, then sun, 18C

Our route:

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