Welsh Rally - May 2004

Q - What has Marti Pellow and the 2004 Welsh Rally got in common?
A - Wet Wet Wet

Well it wasn't really that bad, but it was wet at the start, the middle and really wet at the end.
There were 5 of us this year, Dave on his veritable 120,000+ mile GPZ1100, Alan on his newish Bonnie, Richard on his Beemer RT1100, Ade on his Zephyr and yours truly on my trusty FJ1200. As usual we met round at Dave's for the planning, the Saturday before the off.

Following some bad press from last year, the Clive M/C Club had simplified the rally and made it shorter. Last years was very long timewise and there were a few complaints. So for the daytime section we had a choice of either a Northern run dodging the North Wales Police or a Southern run round less familiar roads. No contest - down South we went and as it happned the weather was better!
For those not familiar with the concept of the Welsh Rally, the objective is to visit a number of manned checkpoints (2 this year) plus a treasure hunt type event collecting answers (12 of) to clues provided at the start. The night stage is similar, but used the bit of Wales in between the North and South (Mid Wales?), but with four manned checkpoints and a fewer number of unmanned treasure hunt stops.
There was also a new (I think) event called the Dragon. Ralliers has to choose 4 private railway stations from 8 and crack clues to identify the answers.. So we did the Dragon as well.
This year I was in a bit of a rush, the Thundersprint was on the next day and I wanted to be home in time so that I could go to the Thundersprint as well.
We followed the established practice of letting Dave lead - he has an Autoroute Chip planted into his brain, and I would be at the back checking that his inbuilt version of Autoroute matched the official Microsoft product.
The routes we took (or at least planned to) are here for the daytime section and here for the night section.

Whilst we were waiting for the off, a young lady called Rhiannon took our picture. She was lookig a bit nervous and on further investigation we found that this was her first rally. Even more, she is a Learner doing the Rally on a Yamaha Custom 125. Excellent - more power to her elbow and may she do many more.

The Day Stage

OK - so we got off at about 9:40 am after riding down from Crewe. The start at Welshpool was full of bikes as expected - I think there were about 400 starters - nice. The first stop was actually the Welshpool light railway station (all of 1 mile away) identifying the wording on a sign...
Then following the route down through official Wales and honorary Wales (Shropshire west of the Severn!) and yes - it was raining... Dave knows his 'B' roads better than Autoroute and it wasn't long before the bikes were totally covered in sh*t.
Nonetheless a bit of rain wasn't going to dampen our spirits. So heading south then west, just north of the Cambrian Mountains along the A40. Not the most exciting road, but making good progress in the conditions.
A stop for Lunch at Llandovery, then on. The rain had stopped now, but the consensus was that removal of Waterproofs would be just tempting providence so off we went. A missed turn at Carmarthen meant a detour through the town and then up an interestingly slippery road to Cynwyl Elfed to find the name and the colour of the local pub.
By now the sky was definitely clearing so off with the waterproofs and into gentle sunshine. Still making good time and onto the second manned checkpoint at Efailwen. Here we had to answer the usual 10 questions and have a cuppa.
However there was still scope for it to go pear shaped. Heading for Ciliau-Aeron we spotted Rhiannon and Ian (her riding partner on a Blackbird) turning up a 'B' road. We dutifully followed them and into a 10 mile detour as we started heading south again!

How many Windows?

Is is 46 or 47?
A final diversion to Devils Bridge Railway Station to find out how many blocks of wood hold a shelf up and then to the end of the Daytime stage at Aberystwyth TA centre. And yes, it was raining again
For posterity,our route was:
1 - Welshpool, 2 - Welshpool Station (Dragon), 3 - Mongomery, 4 - Clun, 5 - Presteign
6 - Clifford, 7 - LLyswen, 8 - Erwood (Dragon), 9 - Sennybridge, 10 - Llandovery
11 - LLandeilo, 12 - Cynwyl Elfed, 13 - St Clears, 14 - LLandissilio, 15 - Efailwen
16 - Teifi Valley Railway (Dragon), 17 - Ffostrasol, 18 - Ciliau-Aeron, 19 Devils Bridge(Dragon), 20 - Aberystwyth

Arrival Time 20:40

The Night Stage

Following a very nice meal (one of the nice things about the Welsh is that the food is there for you at the half way stage and at the end), we checked out at 22:05 for the ride back.We had completed the Dragon and received the very nice slate plaque so the ride back should be fairly straightforward.
Back to Devils Bridge for the first clue - no problems, but at the second clue stop at Eisteddfa Gurig to find the purpose and price of a car park, we were accosted (along with about 50 other bikers) by the owner telling us that we were on private property, they certainly wern't expecting us but they did give us the answer to the clues. Very nice people..
We got in at Rhayadar at about 23:00, had a quick cup of tea and took a few photos and the very nice people there let us escape early. We wern't supposed to leave until midnight.
Rhayadar Car Park - nearly Midnight and a Tea Break
The rain has stopped, but it was quite cold so we kept the extra layer of insulation in place. It was all abit of a haze for the next couple of hours, we were part of the procession of bikerz, identifying the colour of a pub sign, the name of a factory, the name of a cafe, and whose head is at the pub? The night progressed quite well and what seemed a remarkably short time we arrived at Oswestry as dawn was starting to break and the rain started to fall again.
Oswestry Services on the A5 - Janet Burgar on the right with her 1956 Velo LE

It was now a fairly short ride back to Welshpool for the final clue (which we nearly got wrong - fortunately Ade spotted the correct fish bar at the last moment!)
The last few miles to Castle Caereinion passed quickly and we got in at 5:10 am. Nearly 5 hours earlier than last years rally! And 5 minutes later a very pleased with herself Rhiannon and Ian arrived. Dave got his cooked breakfast - strangely none of us could manage to eat anything and we checked in officially at about 5:50. Back on the road again for the run home - landed at 07:30. Door to door mileage 599, Rally mileage 480 miles.
Breakfast at 07:45, Head down to sleep at 08:30, up again at 09:30 and off to the Thundersprint. Ahh - the joy of Biking - pure heaven.

And the return route was:
1 - Aberystwyth, 2 - Devils Bridge, 3 - Eisteddfa Gurig, 4 - Rhayadar, 5 - Crossgates
6 - Llandabarn Fynydd, 7 - Newtown, 8 - Carno, 9 - Mallwyd, 10 - LLangadfan
11 - Meifod, 12 - Oswestry, 13 - Welshpool, 14 - Castle Caereinion