October 1st, 2013

Mallory Park

Weekend: Saturday

At dinner on Friday evening, some of our Observers stood up and advertised the rides they would be leading the next day so we could attach ourselves to our preferred group. Fast ride suitable for sports bikes? No thanks. Gravel tracks suitable for adventure bikes? No thanks. Luckily, one of my favourite Observers was offering what he described as a 'fluffy' ride, so Howard and I went for that one (although I did tell him he was welcome to go on fast and/or gravelly rides without me).

Everyone took turns to ride at the front, following signals from our leader in position 2. Everyone, that is, except me, as I'd cunningly volunteered to don the orange bib and be Tail End Charlie. So I sat happily at the back, observing without being observed and under no pressure to go faster or go for overtakes, as we swung out of Presteigne heading for the Elan Valley. We stopped at the visitor centre to drink coffee and to learn about the dams and the wildlife, then we were off again.

Up the mountain above the lake, across the bridge, along a road lined with tall straight firs, past sheep with coloured eartags and sweet, smiling faces. It is unwise, among bikers, to comment on how pretty the sheep are, especially in Wales, but I did it anyway. Sausage rolls and steak pasties at Devil's Bridge, where we felt the only spots of rain of the weekend. To avoid the incoming weather, we decided to go north on faster A roads rather than south into the mountains again. I pointed out a red kite, with its distinctive forked tail, as it hovered close beside the road. Later, we stopped for supplies in a village and saw more than a dozen circling above the streets; a local farmer puts out raw meat to attract them.

Our group of seven was the first to arrive back at the hotel. Four of us set off again immediately for petrol, and I was finally forced to take a turn at going in front. I surprised myself by enjoying the chance to view the open road unimpeded by other people's bikes. Other things I enjoyed included seeing some sort of small mustelid whisk across the road just before I flew over a hump-backed bridge; a cracking overtake; and a village rejoicing in the name of Titley.

At the petrol station in Kington I used my powers of forward observation to spot a tea shop two doors down. The woman running it said she needed to close promptly at five to catch her bus, which gave us twenty minutes for tea and, in some cases, a cake to tide us over until dinner. We managed it.

Although it was a day of stunning scenery, I didn't take a single photo. All the best moments flashed past at speed, and I probably couldn't have captured them even had I stopped, dismounted, grabbed my camera from the topbox and walked back, which would not have endeared me to the rest of the group. Words, and memories, will have to suffice.
Mallory Park

Weekend: Sunday

Dispersal on Sunday morning, after a final full Welsh breakfast, was a less regulated affair. As Howard had to get back to Dorset, we'd planned to take off on our own and part company somewhere after the Severn Bridge, but somebody was offering a route via Cheddar and Stonehenge, which was reasonably convenient for him, so we tagged along. At eight bikes, our group outnumbered the previous day's, but we moved quickly when we weren't getting sat-navved down single track stuff. Coffee in the sunshine at Tintern Abbey, a diversion to drop in on the ride leader's sister (who had presciently gone out), and a ride through Cheddar Gorge, which was, as usual, pretty but too crowded to be really fun.

We halted near the A303 to get our bearings, and Howard headed off. The rest of us joined the dual carriageway and pushed north to Stonehenge, filtering and overtaking at the many slow bits where two lanes are siphoned into one. After coffee and farewells at a Little Chef, with hundreds of miles done since we'd left the Wisley branch on Friday morning, I set off up the M3 for home.

Although there was a lot of riding involved, an element of training, and some fantastic roads, the company was really the most important thing: being among bikers you trust not to crash into you on the road, and are just as enjoyable to hang out with in the bar that evening. I've been in LAM since 2005, but this is the first time I've made it to the annual Wales Weekend; it won't be the last.
Monocle Husky

Trick? Or Treat?

Trick or Treat coverI have a story in Trick or Treat, a Hallowe'en-themed furry anthology edited by Ianus J. Wolf and available for preorder now from Rabbit Valley. Half the stories in the collection are designed to give you a scare - the Tricks - and half are romantic/erotic pieces - the Treats.

The candy bar I'm throwing into the bucket is 'The Witch Doctor', in which a Shiba Inu single dad is encouraged back into the dating scene. Guaranteed to rot your teeth!
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