Welcome friends. This humble blog is about the simple observations I discover whilst cycling through lovely Wales.
I hope to offer you dear reader, cheerful reflections upon the days and miles I pedal, along with encouragement to get out and explore by bicycle yourself! Perhaps too, if I attempt a bit of amusing anecdotes along the way, I may invoke your readership as well. Thanks for stopping by... cheers, muse

Sunday, 1 May 2016

55 FOR 55 EVENT 
Smiles Not Miles

Quite simply, I was stunned. Your enthusiastic support caught me completely off-guard. I had no idea that I would receive such encouragement. And in a word, it was fabulous! Thank you everyone. Your efforts - from kind words, cheering emails, joining along for a ride, and of course, your very generous donations - all made my efforts a wonderfully fun adventure. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Brian, Dean, C'est moi, Ivor, and John in Usk.

Christine inside the Green Flute in Usk.

Fay et moi outside the Green Flute.

(You know who) and Jo outside Fanny's Rest Stop Cafe in Newport.

Eric at Gypsies Tump

John and Ivor at Gypsies Tump

Jean, Kurt, Sian, et moi in Sirhowy Country Parc

Knucklehead #1, John, Graham, Phil, and Brian back at the Tump...

Margaret and me along the Newport Riverfront.

The lovely (& handsome) walking group I met up at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
(so sorry I didn't get all your names!)

Squinty, Barnaby, and Tim in Caerleon

Ya boy, Adrian, and Dean in Caerleon again.

Yo!, Margaret, and Jan at the Tump.

Phil, Chris, and his mates looking bit very much like cycling DEVO... 

Bill, Rose, and Sparky in Newport.

Phil, (knucklehead #1), and Dean at Tredegar House.

Me and Eric in Caerleon

Myself and crazy Graham along the M&B canal.

And with Gwyn in Waunfawr Parc, Crosskeys.

With Jean and Chris in Sirhowy Parc

Bill and myself at the WWI Memorial in Newport

Myself, Tony, and Margaret in Sirhowy Parc.

Tim and myself at Tredegar House reception.

With Fay at Tredegar House reception.

Kate, myself, and Tony again at Tredegar House...

and with Bethan from Parkinson's UK at Tredegar House.

You know who, Bethan, Fay, Margaret, Tony, Jan, Paul, Gareth, and Chris.

With Christine again outside the Green Flute

Leaving the Green Flute in Usk one last time...

Brian, myself, Ivor, Dai, and john

55 miles every day for 55 consecutive days
3,025 total miles; 01 March to 24 April, 2016.

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And that's about it for now. It's been a week since I completed my little cycle adventure. I think I've got everyone here with the exception of Kerry (my apologies). I've got loads more photos and stories to tell, so stay tuned. Thank you everyone for all your wonderful support and encouragement.

Cheers! - cm

Sunday, 3 April 2016

55 FOR 55 EVENT - DAY 19 
Breaking Down the Route - Part 2

Today's ride simply flew by. The weather was fine; cloudy but not too cold and my mind was elsewhere. Before I quite realized it, I was on the last leg home.

SATURDAY, 19 MARCH - Let's now continue the description of my route...

Section 2
Starting/Ending Points: Usk to Newport
Distance: 15.5 miles
Travel Time: 1 hour 30 mins.

Usk to Caerleon: I head out of the car park turning right onto Maryport Street and continue out of town going past the old prison. This part first part is also NCN Route 42. It is lovely and flat and perfect for warming up after having sat for a few minutes in the cafe. The road snakes along side of the River Usk for a couple of miles and then veers left as it heads up into some slightly rolling hills of Llanllowell and past the quaint Greyhound Inn.

It's nice to slow down a bit at times to catch the details. You can see more in 20 miles on a bicycle than you can in a thousand miles by car.

Further on at the fork in the road the cycle route continues straight toward Wentwood, but I turn right and drop down the fast little hill, ducking under the A449 and cruising into Llantrisant.

From here it's an easy cruise past the turn off to Newbridge on Usk, down the "Llantrisant Mile", and up over "Gypsies Tump". Then it's a short glide looking out across the Usk before going back under the A449.

It's a short slow climb followed by another longer slower climb, but then I turn yet again under the A449, drop down a speedy little hill and as the road narrows, I cruise easily alongside the Celtic Manor Golf Course. At this point I've now cycled 28 miles... my halfway point for the day!

Next I head across the golf course by the driving range using the little white suspension bridge over to Usk Road. I turn left and head up into Caerleon.

Caerleon to Newport: Unfortunately dear readers, I haven't any photos of Caerleon because of all the turns, but I'll get to work on that. (And to be honest, it's an interesting notion to look back over the route and realize what I have and haven't photographed.)

Essentially, I snake my way around through the village to join NCN Route 88 by the Roman Amphitheatre and Barracks. It's a lovely traffic-free route that winds and rolls along the Usk all the way to the Riverfront in Newport where it joins NCN Route 47.

It's amazing to see all that Newport is developing along this section. The housing and shopping are coming together nicely. And it's a great urban panorama to cycle through.

I usually stop at the WWI memorial (just past the A48) to have my lunch looking out toward the Transporter Bridge. This is where NCN Route 47 ends at the junction of NCN Route 4. After a quick bite to eat, I'll scoot down the dual-use pavement a short piece to pop into Fanny's Rest Stop Cafe for a quick hello.

I know it took a while to get this one posted... I'll try to get the next one up sooner "Section 3; Newport to Oakdale".

cheers! ~ cm

Thursday, 24 March 2016

55 FOR 55 EVENT - DAY 18 
Breaking Down the Route - Part 1

I must admit that my mind is still a bit frozen from the end of yesterday's ride, but through the frosty haze I thought you might be interested in reading about the route itself. So today I'll start a three-part guide on my ride - providing some specific details.

FRIDAY, 18 MARCH - I designed this route with one main priority; I wanted a 55-mile circular route as flat as possible. Having ridden a large portion of this route in several 50-mile training sessions, I modified the Newport section slightly by adding a few extra miles going around Tredegar House Park and up through Bassaleg to Rogerstone.

Section 1
Starting/Ending Points: Oakdale to Usk
Distance: 20.1 miles
Travel Time: 2 hours.

Oakdale to Pontypool: The start of the route begins in Oakdale near the entrance to the village playing fields. I first cycle up through Oakdale and Croespenmaen. Then dropping down through Treowen and Newbridge, I continue on through Crumlin to Llanhilleth. These first six miles of the ride are mostly downhill and/or flat. It takes me about 30 minutes to complete. It's a good little workout and I generally feel pretty warmed-up by the time I reach Llanhilleth, which is good because at this point I enter NCN Route 466 and encounter the steepest climb of the day.

Looking out over Crumlin from the Swffryd Slog...

From Llanhilleth I climb up the "Swffryd Slog". It's only one mile, but I get the pleasure of climbing 150 feet in elevation gain. It definitely wakes up my thighs and opens up my lungs. But the good thing is that after that brief struggle, I get seven miles of ease and joy!

So, From Swffryd I zip through Hafodyrynys, cross the A472 (pedestrian controlled), down past the terrace houses and re-enter the traffic-free NCN 466 cycle path. This is just a short section that takes me down to where Old Crumlin Road joins the A472. Which I will then cross back over! It's a terrible crossing that can take several frustrating minutes... and I cannot emphasize enough "use EXTREME CAUTION". The traffic whizzes through this area at well over 50 mph and it can be quite busy. There are no pedestrian controls. (Note: Many cyclists race down the A472 to avoid having to cross the road twice. I, however, prefer to avoid the cars, buses and speeding lorries... even for just a mile!)

Abandoned spaceship along Old Crumlin Road...

Once across, I then cruise along Old Crumlin Road all the way into Pontypool. It's a great road. Not the best surface in places and cars can come along rather quickly, but it's marked for cycle use AND I'll generally see other cyclists along the way. Often too, I can ride the entire three miles and not see a soul. Brilliant!

In Pontypool, I snake down the High Street to the bottom roundabout where I enter the city park at the entrance to St. Alban's School. I go down through the park to exit at the far end by Usk Road. I then zig-zag through the back alley of Fountain Road to Pontymoile Boat Basin and enter the Monmouth & Brecon Canal Path. WooHoo! It's scenic cruise time. At just under a mile, it's a lovely section to just slow down, catch my breath and relax. It's not the most direct route, but it's a great way to continue moving and enjoy the views.

Because... the next section is CRAZY FAST!

Pontypool to Usk - Normal Route: I exit the canal path by the small lay-by at Usk Road. This is commonly called the "Horse & Jockey Hill". I generally pedal like mad down this fairly steep hill reaching speeds upward of 30mph so that when I get to the bottom roundabout I can enter the A4042 as fast as possible. It's crazy fast and such a rush after the lazy ride along the canal, but I love it. WooHoo!

Traffic is generally very light at this time of day. The road is quite wide and smooth, while the visibility of merging traffic is excellent and open so that it's an easy merge onto the 50 mph dual-carriageway.

It's literally a straight-forward run - pushing the pedals down at 20 mph down for one mile to the next roundabout, then straight across for another 1/2 mile to exit right onto Berthon Rd. (A472) at Little Mill.

From there it's straight on for four and a half miles into Usk. Traffic is generally okay. You do get a few lorries, but I think so many cyclists use this road that most other traffic are aware and prepared to see folks on bikes.

Pontypool to Usk - Weekend Route: Road construction on the train bridge at Little Mill and subsequent temporary road closure forced me to find an alternative route from Pontypool to Usk on the weekends. Yet as I discovered; it's a better route! It's pretty much the same length, but has a few more climbs... however, the payoff comes from quieter lanes, fantastic scenery, and a wonderful two-mile descent into Usk. Aren't those the kinda things we all look for in a great ride?

So, instead of cycling along the canal, I come out of Pontypool City Park and turn left on Usk Road, head up the hill to the first roundabout and turn right onto Highway Road. This leads me out past the "lovely and modern Pontypool Train Station" to Golf Road, where I turn left into the housing estate.

From here it's straight up to the junction of Jerusalem Lane. I turn left again and head into the countryside! Now it gets wonderful. I sit back and roll along this fabulous little lane to Glascoed. I cross straight over the junction at Wern Lane and head up toward Woodlake Park Golf Club.

Gotta love the cute little Mt. Zion Baptist Church... This entire area has the kind of rural charm I recall from when I was a child and living in Davidson County, North Carolina. Even the junk yard on the right has a certain look that I recall. Spooky and wonderful memories.

Looking very much like the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina...

At the next "T" junction check yer brakes. Is everything fastened down? Then turn left again and hold on tight cuz yer gonna race down the mountain! It's narrow at first, but then the landscape opens up and you can see far ahead down the lane as well as across both sides. It's spectacular. And FAST! WooHoo!

I bottom out at Llanbadoc junction just across from the lovely church (interesting story here... must revisit!). I then turn left and head into Usk crossing the bridge and cruising down the high street - wind blown and grinning ear to ear.

Either way I come; the first stop is at the Green Flute Cafe at the Rural Life Museum. Time for "hellos" to Christine and all the gals, a latte, and perhaps a peanut butter cookie!

That's it for now... I'll try to get "Section 2; Usk to Newport" posted soon.

cheers! ~ cm

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

55 FOR 55 EVENT - DAY 17 
Winter Returns!

THURSDAY, 17 MARCH - It was a beautiful day... but as the day progressed it became increasingly cold and windy. What happened to the lovely warm temperatures from earlier this week? Although, I am reticent to complain... at least it's NOT raining or snowing. I've had eight days of glorious sun and I should be very happy. I am happy.

I've started leaving around 9:15 in order to let the "Mommy bumper-cars" dissipate. Traffic is comical around the neighborhood as the parents scuttle about dropping their ragamuffins off to school. It's a parade of sleepy faces behind foggy wind screens.

So, I was pretty relaxed riding out and decided I'd take a few photos along the way between Little Mill and Usk. It's a lovely section, but I often race along there because it's slightly downhill or flat and the road is rather sweeping along through the country.

Each day I try to focus on one or more of my themes as I document my rides. Today included: Landscapes, Architecture, Roadside Details, and "Critters". Sometimes though, I just take photos of what I fancy. I am so lucky to cycle through such a lovely and diverse landscape. I think it will be interesting to review all the images once I've finished. (At least that is what I'm hoping!)

How many stories were told in these old abandoned pubs, sitting along roadsides sinking into the past? When I first moved here I would occasionally see cars parked about this place... but no more. I guess the folks that ran the place decided one day that it was just too much of a bother and packed it all in. C'est la vie. And this too shall come to pass...

I continued into Usk, had a latte and went on "as ya do". The day became shockingly cold though. I was sitting in Newport having my lunch when suddenly I noticed that I could see my breath! I checked the temp gauge on my Garmin and it registered 2°! WHAT?!?!

I was freezing. I quickly packed up my things and got on my way. I stopped briefly in Fanny's, said my hellos and raced off. It never ceases to shock me how changeable the weather is in this tiny little country! No more photos today!

I made it home in fairly good time, flushed and in need of a hot shower. Brrrr... what a day! Thanks for stopping by, but bring some warm weather with ya next time! HA!

Cheers ~ cm

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