The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 4, The Final Frontier

Wales. It’s where we’re going. As you can see above, it’s spectacularly beautiful and just might be one of the best places to cycle on the planet. However, we don’t know that yet, because we’re still lying in bed in Bristol.

It’s my birthday and I’ll lie in bed after cycling 55 miles if I want to.  Now that we’re on Day 4, I will begin to bestow upon you some key things we learned after 4 days in the saddle and here it starts.

Words of Wisdom #1: Assuming you are not completely broke or a total masochist, go B&B over camping, 100%. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciated a comfortable bed, a great night’s sleep, and a hot breakfast after a day on the road. Nothing’s worse than biking for hours on a hard saddle, then trying to fall asleep on the hard ground. Unless it’s waking up the next morning with a sore everything, taking a cold shower, and eating energy goop for breakfast when you could be having this:

Obviously, we continued on our 4 days straight of Full English Breakfasting, cooked to order by the wonderful Rich of Colliters Brook Farm. Go to Bristol and stay there and tell him Mei and Leo sent you. You won’t regret it.

He gave us excellent directions to get our asses over to Wales via the beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge.  Apparently the symbol of the city of Bristol, it’s a beautiful place for cycling, running, walking, boating, or just enjoying the view.

We followed alongside the picturesque waterfront for miles, the river on our left and the immense sheer rock face on our right, cruising past the old Clifton Rocks Railway built into the side of the gorge (a secret transmission site for the BBC during WWII!)…

and crazy people who can juuuuust be spotted trying to climb this insanely large wall of rock.

If you go to Bristol, make sure to visit the area. Gorgeous.

We meandered up the coast along the water, bypassing beautiful stretches of countryside…

as well as the old industrial estates of Avonmouth, trying not to get hit by large trucks hauling shipping containers while taking photos of the amazing old flour mills.

We both really loved getting to see so many different areas of England, from some slightly rundown city centres to the tiniest of villages to the crane- and truck-clogged industrial byways to the wildflower-laden country roads to the golden corn-strewn farmlands. Which leads us to:

Words of Wisdom #2: It’s old news to some, but a new truth to me:  cycling is by far the best way you could possibly travel. You get to see so much more than traveling by car or train, but you get to fly along the roads so much faster than walking by foot. You breathe in the sea air and the earthy farm smells as well as the truck exhaust fumes and really feel connected to the land and the places you pass through.  Cycling for 8 hours is definitely tiring and at some points exhausting, but you feel a sense of accomplishment every time you pull in for the night and you’ll sleep better than you ever have in your life. Best of all – you can eat as much as you want. I consumed three massive full meals a day – which always seemed to include chips – and fueled the cycling by sneaking quite a lot of chocolate bars in between.

Speaking of which, we stopped at Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach for homemade apple cake and candy bars. Oh, the joys of touring.

Soon after, we found ourselves approaching the Severn Bridges between England and Wales – victory in sight! 

There are two Severn Bridges, but it’s the ‘old’ crossing that you can walk and cycle across.

We met friends Danny and Tim (aka our Welsh guard) halfway across the bridge and they took celebratory photos…

continued with us along the bridge…

then escorted us off into our ultimate destination….WALES!

And off to Casnewydd we went, panting in the wake of our Welsh guard, zooming through tunnels…

down country lanes walled with green…

past cows and sheep and horses and my first glimpse of stoat roadkill…

back onto National Cycle Route 4, which we had first encountered 2 days and 130 miles ago

past some of the Roman ruins for which the area is famous…

and on down the Lon eiciau, 200 llath ahead

It’s amusing, in hindsight, that we celebrated upon crossing the bridge to Wales, because some of the roughest times were once we were in the country.  I had been told it was a 40 minute ride to Danny’s home in the historic and picturesque town of Caerleon – but that’s 40 minutes in Danny time and he cycles at minimum 20 miles a day. That’s not much though – he used to commute 40 a day and has done 80 a day touring, all of which means that he scampered up the Welsh hills like a happy bunny while I put my head down and sweated, groaned, cursed, and battled my way to the top. It was worth it for these views though…

And then, finally, Newport! My knees and back and crotch and shoulders were thankful.And even better, just a few minutes later….our final destination of Danny’s gorgeous back garden, where we were welcomed with an enormously large hunk of beef ribs in its 6th hour of slow cooking on the grill. Massive amounts of cycling + even more massive amounts of food = massively brilliant. 

And to top it all off – surprise birthday cake and champagne, all arranged by my amazing boyfriend and the best touring partner-in-crime a girl could ask for. Which brings me to my final takeaway:

Words of Wisdom #3: Tour with someone you really, really, like. It’s constantly hard work, both emotionally and physically challenging, and you need someone who you trust to support and push you through it. If you’re extra lucky, it might be someone who will carry your heavy lock and fix your fidgety gears, keep you fueled with chocolate and gross electrolyte drinks, share the beautiful sights and difficult times, give those much-needed words of encouragement when you’re on your last legs at the top of a very very steep hill, and laugh with you at the amazing and the ridiculous moments you find yourself in when biking across a country.

And of course, you need someone to take cheesy congratulatory self -photos with when crossing the border. Couldn’t have done it any other way…

… and cannot cannot wait to do it again. Can we leave tomorrow?

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8 responses to “The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 4, The Final Frontier

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