When he saw that the Porthmadog to Holywell stage was forecast to be in heavy rain, Wille Austin suggested with a wink that I just do a "Garmin Cheat." By this he meant me putting the bike on the roof rack but with the Garmin switched on, and then driving at 13mph to simulate an actual ride! Neat idea Willie but you know how it is for Catholics and conscience! I could also envisage the rage of other drivers crawling behind! Having said this, I had no problem in having Maria giving me a lift out from Porthmadog to Penrhyndeudraeth (Thanks Google Maps ;-) for this) where she dropped me at the junction to the A496 to Ffestiniog. I had already covered this road comng into Porthmadog yesterday so it didn't feel like cheating (No matter that it would have been all uphill on the way out!)
The lack of rain has been so much of a feature of the ride - I estimate that I might have seen no more than 1hrs in total, but today I know from the start that this is going to be a wet one. As always, however, I find that there's so much to be positive about. This is incredibly beautiful countryside. There are two grinding hills which once again have me wishing for that third chain ring, but I can just about stay upright and in the saddle. The mountain tops are shrouded in scudding cloud and the rain falls steadily. A further happy event takes place mid way along the A470 out of Blaenau Ffestiniog where major road works are in progress. These involve long waits for motorists in both directions as lorries delivering stone to rebuild the parapet have to be unloaded, so block the single carriageway for long periods. Looking at this, I venture past the line of cars and ask if I can squeeze by. This request is greeted with a thumbs up from the gent handling the unloading so I get back to the climb well ahead of the motorists feeling smug. The descents on these hilly roads are so exhilarating and I just need to be careful not to go too fast. The rain stings like needles into my face but in these mountains the feeling of being at one with nature is so satisfying.
Betws y Coed - "Prayer house in the wood" if you are interested (thanks for this Tony!) is just as beautiful as I imagined it, but the numbers of visitors tramping around the gift shops tells me that they are missing the point. I share a warming but expensive soup and cake with Maria and leave for the afternoon session along the A470 just as the rain is easing. The compass is pointing almost due north which means that the coast at Llandudno is now not too far away. I also recall that looking at the route, seeing that the A470 runs alongside the Conwy Valley, this is going to be flat country! There is still a 28 mile ride ahead after Llandudno, but with favourable winds and lovely views, I am feeling in good spirits until a BMW driver, obviously not happy to have to share the road, "encourages" me to use the cycle path. Given time I could have explained that the Highway Code gives cyclists a choice, but content myself with bidding him a "Sailors' Farewell!!"
I arrive at St Winifrede's Guest house that is run by the lovely sisters of St Brigit of Sweden close to 1800. Maria is waiting and we are both feeling hungry so after the ever-welcome quick shower and change, we are off! Anyone looking for a restaurant around Holywell should check these out before arrival. We were close to Flint before coming across one that didn't mention Southern Fried, Doner, or take away. The food however made up for the long search!