May 18, 2017


To avoid a busy road, we started cycling on the outskirts of Oswestry and soon crossed the border into the second country of our Five Countries Tour: Wales.

Yellow gorse in bloom on the hillsides near the English-Welsh border.
Sunshine, albeit patchy, at last!

Three-directional road sign in Wales with looming gray clouds, near the English border.
With luck, we'd leave the ominous clouds behind.

View of the main street in Llangynog, Wales, looking toward the Berwyn Range.
We enjoyed another lovely tea break in the town of Llangynog before our big climb started.

Tea break picnic in Llangynog, Wales.
We have magical water bottles on this tour: Whenever I return to my bike after a tea break or lunch, my bottle is full. (If I pinch myself, will I wake up and find that this has all been a happy dream? Our guides are fabulous.) Though there is a slight downside to this, as the electrolyte mix that sustains me on long rides gets diluted.

Starting up the climb out of Llangynog, Wales.
The climb started right outside of town, as we would pass through the Berwyn Range.

Sheep in a valley outside Llangynog, Wales
It wasn't bad, gaining about 1,000 feet over three and a half miles. Somewhere, though, I met a 15% grade (must have been short); that's probably where my heart rate peaked at 184 bpm.

View down the valley toward Llangynog, Wales
It wasn't long before I was way off the back, the rest of the group no longer in sight.

View of B4391 and the valley, toward Llangynog, Wales
Which suited me just fine, because (at last!) I was eager to capture some photos of these peaks and valleys.

pep at the summit with Powys sign,view toward the southeast, Wales.
I've been feeling bad that people have to wait for me, though they're politely saying they don't mind. We were excited to snap photos at the summit, especially as we could see blue skies ahead.

pep at the summit with the Denbighshire sign, view to the northwest, Wales.
A couple of our riders have been breezily passing me on the hills. They'd opted for hybrids instead of road bikes, and those were equipped with lower gearing (and disc brakes). I briefly wondered if I should have done the same, but even if I'd inquired about the groupset I know I still would have chosen the road bike. I wouldn't be comfortable at speed on the downhills, otherwise.

Snowdonia National Park Monument, Wales
Oh, and about that. We crossed into Snowdonia National Park, with broad vistas and an enticing roadway—dry and smooth. Only because it leveled out a bit, and the park's logo was beautiful, did I stop [on a descent!].

View to the west-northwest, Snowdonia National Park, Wales.
We regrouped at the bottom, having reached an intersection. Our leader is mindful to keep track of us, although they're trying a new routing solution this year: each bike is outfitted with a Garmin. Every night our guides collect the units, load them up with the next day's route, and charge them. [More magic!]

Not being a Garmin aficionado, I'm leery of accidentally resetting the thing. After some teething pains the first couple of days, things began to run more smoothly. It's reassuring to get advance notice of turns and to see that you're on course, but some tricky bits (parallel roads, or cycle paths) can confuse it. And since the route is statically loaded, we need to be alert about being off-course whenever we do make a detour. The Garmins handle the miles vs. kilometers challenge nicely, as they can be set up either way.

Bala Lake, Bala, Wales
We caught sight of Bala Lake on our way to lunch at a fun place, Gorwelion.

Flowers, fields, and trees at Gorwelion, Bala, Wales.
There was more climbing after lunch, but with the sunshine and the views, everyone was smiling.

View along Arenig Fell Race toward the west, Wales.
Just look at that ribbon of road! [Okay, maybe I smiled more broadly than my companions.]

pep with a waterfall in the distance, on the road to Ffestiniog, Wales
We did stop to admire a waterfall. And even though we climbed some 3,740 feet over 47 miles, we arrived at our hotel in Ffestiniog with time to enjoy the environs,

Alert sheep in the late day sun, Ffestiniog, Wales
and a colorful post-dinner sunset for a beautiful close to the day.

Pink and purple sunset with trees, Ffestiniog, Wales

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