On Friday I hopped on my bike (primped and polished the previous weekend only to get rained on all Thursday) and headed down to Salisbury to meet up with Howard and forum member Mike for a leisurely ride across the Severn Bridge. We used country A and B roads, arriving at our accommodation just before 5pm.
Parkend is a pretty village with a serious sheep problem. They wandered up and down the road and lay on the verges, simply not giving a floss. We managed not to hit any of them on our way in. Our bikes were added to the line of assorted maxi-scooters, and we were greeted by the early arrivals. Some of the group were roughing it in the bunkhouse portion of the hotel, and laid on tea and coffee before dinner.
Saturday was the group rideout: a hundred miles, mostly of country roads with few other vehicles. The weather was much better than expected, with blue skies and comfortable temperatures. Lunch was in Hay-on-Wye, which gave me the chance to explore a couple of book shops. Mobile reception, unavailable at the hotel, came back, and I answered a couple of texts inviting me to do stuff with 'Sorry, in Wales' (I wasn't, but it felt like a more definitive excuse than 'in Hay-on-Wye').
The plan for the afternoon was to do the Gospel Pass, but despite sat-nav assistance we missed it. Still, the roads and the views were very pleasant anyway.
Sheep littering the roadside told me we were nearly back in Parkend, in time for a walk around the nature reserve but not, sadly, early enough to get an ice cream before the village shop closed.
On Sunday morning we split into groups and dispersed. I was in a group of five, riding along the scenic river valley for a coffee at Tintern Abbey. One of our number waved goodbye soon after the Severn Bridge, while Howard departed a few miles later. The remaining three of us made for Newlands Corner, a pretty spot overlooking the Surrey Hills, where Dave bought me a Cornetto before we finally parted ways.
It's always good to catch up in person with people who are usually an online presence. Many of us have moved from the X9 to other bikes, and some no longer ride but come along in the car anyway, just for the company.
Tonight I am going to dinner with another pair of lovely friends originally met on the forum, to help them with a Wordpress install. Hopefully we will all still be friends at the end of that.