My first stop was Cheltenham, where I met Paul, a member based in the south-west, and led him through the heart of loganberrybunny country to Telford, where another member, Bob, had kindly offered us lunch. What with a fantastic Indian meal, pleasant conversation with Bob and his wife, and playing with their dogs, it was over two hours before we even thought about hitting the road again. After all, it was only another eighty miles.
Bob took the lead, steering us through pretty Ironbridge along the back roads before joining the A5 and pushing on into Wales. As soon as we crossed the border the road and surrounding scenery became delightful, dotted with sheep and lambs. We detoured up the Horseshoe Pass, the air growing colder as we climbed so when we stopped at the top we could see our breath. I went in front again for the descent, and we rode into the courtyard of the hotel in time for a shower before dinner.
The weather forecast for Saturday had been dire all week, but it dawned dry with even a patch of blue sky amongst the grey. Of the fifteen forum members, partners and friends present, five elected to do some local tourism and reconvene at dinner, so ten bikes, predominantly maxi-scooters, set off for the rideout.
The first part of this ride was my favourite, with jaw-dropping panoramas of mountain and lake. We stopped for coffee and Welsh cakes at the steam railway, and stopped again a few minutes up the line to watch a train go past. The last stop before lunch was Harlech Castle, reached by a steep uphill road with an adverse camber and three hairpin bends. I was shaking when we parked and feared that I might have to stay there for the rest of my life, but down turned out to be easier.
We parked at the beach in Barmouth for lunch. By this time the sky was blue and it was summer hot. We ate fish and chips with the sun beating down on the sea and the palm trees. Paul went for petrol and never came back, to some concern, but he turned up safely at the hotel.
Afterwards it was time for Scary Thing 2 of the day: the railway bridge across the estuary. Motorcycles are allowed on the footbridge but it really doesn't look as if they ought to be, and some of the pedestrians gave us dirty looks as we rattled along. The planks moved and rumbled beneath us in an alarming way; I caught myself wondering how quickly you'd sink with a helmet on. But we all made it across, of course, and travelled onward to Bala for ice creams or coffees (I had rhubarb ice cream, and it was excellent).
I was pretty tired by this time, and the sky was threatening, but when Steve and his son Matt announced that they were taking the long way back I found myself begging to be taken along. So we had the single track B roads through the national park all to ourselves, bar the occasional sheep.
Dinner and subsequent drinks were jolly. I had that last-night-of-the-holiday feeling and didn't want the day to end, going to bed at midnight with the rest of the stragglers. All too soon it was morning and the hour of departure.
Word of Bob's hospitality had spread, and seven of us took the Horseshoe Pass and A5 route back to Telford to partake of coffee and red velvet cake. I left in a group of five, which went down to three at Kidderminster then down to one when I split off to take the M40 south, arriving home in the late afternoon with 600 more miles on the clock than when I left.