Confessions of a Welsh Rally Virgin

Q. Please define Welsh Rarebit?
A. A Cardiff Virgin

Famous quote "You'll enjoy this, its different from the National Rally" - Dave Coomber
I fancied doing the Welsh Rally last year, but unfortunately missed the deadline for entries. Dave Coomber encouraged me in that so familiar relaxed manner that he has. So I got my entry form in very early.
The Sunday before the rally, the four of us (Adrian, Alan, Dave and myself) met at Daves house for the planning exercise. I took along my laptop along with a copy of Autoroute 2003 to assist with the route planning.
For those who are not aware, the Welsh Rally is different from the English National Rally. It has a number of manned checkpoints and even more treasure hunt checkpoints where you collect the answers to clues. There are two sessions, a daytime and a night-time which combined qualify you for the Gold Award. Nothing less than Gold was going to be good enough for us.
The planning exercise took us from the start at Welshpool, down through mid Wales to the Gower peninsula, out to Haverfordwest and then up the West coast for the end of day time session at Aberystwyth. Autoroute calculated this at 351.4 miles. We (or rather Autoroute) calculated the journey time at 10 hours and 9 minutes. Ho Ho Ho.

The Day Section Map is here and the Night Section Map is here

The night session started (obviously) at Aberystwyth, headed North through Snowdonia to Abergele and then across the North coast to Flint and then zig zagged down to the finish at Castle Caereinion. Calculation 220.1 miles and 7 hours 8 minutes. Three of us assembled on the Saturday morning at Grocotts Garage, filled up and headed off, meeting Ade just outside Whitchurch. Got to Welshpool at about 9:30, signed in and got a cup of tea. I think we actually left at about 10:15 - loads of time.
Welshpool-Start
Ready for off at Welshpool

Initially progress was good after about 3 hours we were about 25 minutes ahead of schedule, the sun was mainly shining and the Autoroute printed routes along with Dave's uncanny sense of direction were getting us from checkpoint to checkpoint. The afternoon came and we stopped for out first break (at Llandovery I think) for a cup of tea and bite to eat.

Overheard converation in the café;

You heard about Bethan Davies?
No, what has she gone and done then?
She has only got herself married you know
No, I didn't know she was pregnant
Oh no, she's not pregnant
What, getting married and not pregnant - that is rare for you

We left the Café for the first bit of rain - nothing excessive, just the usual soft wet stuff the Welsh like to throw at you. But it came and went and came and went and we didnt bother stopping to put waterproofs on. As we got farther South, the weather improved again. We were still making reasonable progress, but slowly and surely fell back behind schedule as the traffic intensity got worse. Some very nice highlights though, riding through the Welsh National Parks was especially stunning. Eventually, we got to the southerly point on the Gower Peninsula and the weather was glorious. I could have happily stayed there for a couple of days. Unfortunately, all the cagers thought the same and the very narrow access road was fairly heavily congested.

Gower-Peninsula
Sunshine on the Gower

The delay was getting longer. Off to Haverfordwest, nice clear skies as dusk fell it was also getting colder and darker and we were now about 1 hour behind schedule. Near Haverfordwest, we lost an airport for a while, unfortunately, this was another manned mandatory stop adding more to the time.
Eventually, we got into Aberystwyth at about 11:30 pm, about 1 hour 20 minutes later than expected and settled for a quick (40 minutes) meal and a well earned cup of tea.
We departed Aberystwyth just after midnight (we refuelled as we arrived) and headed North. No real problems except that we were all ready an hour late. At Mallwyd, we were warned that the Police at Porthmadoc were unaware that about 300 motorcyclists were riding into town and were unhappy and looking for booking. Be on best behaviour. (I think that we were so late demonstrated that we were on best behaviour anyway). So the next rest at Porthmadoc and now we were getting late. But we werent really concerned this stage was only a couple of hundred miles and we had all night. We hit Blaenau Ffestiniog at about 3:30 and the heavens opened. None of this soft stuff that was used earlier. This was the stuff that could get you really wet! On with the waterproofs and finding the price of an hours car parking at Blaenau Ffestiniog railway station and then on up to Betws-y-Coed to get the telephone number of the phone box outside the toilets by the railway station. It was at this time I realised how crap my eyesight is and how good modern tyres are. I had spent most of the rally at the back of the group checking the route as we went along. Also how much happier I am riding at my own rate
Dawn breaking as we rode up the A548 and signed in for the 3rd mandatory checkpoint at about 5:15 am. At this point we realised how late we were, we had to get to the last checkpoint in 45 minutes at Ruthin. However, our route was supposed to take us along the coast to Mold before heading south again. A quick route change and blast to Ruthin to sign in at 6:00 am and then back up to the north again to pick up the clues. At least now it had stopped raining and the roads were quiet . So back up north and heading along the A55 at 69.9 mph officer. Just happened to glance down at my tank bag as my Control Card was about to disappear into the blue yonder. My torch had already gone. Talk about a panic attack. Imagine spending 24 hours doing this with no proof. I've never had a cold sweat on a bike like that before
So onwards and Eastwards and Southwards we travelled, eventually signing in at Castle Caereinion at about 10:00ish (my memory is getting a bit hazy now). A well earned breakfast and off home, getting in at 12:30. For me that was 28.5 hours riding and 764 miles. A good bit more than I did on the National Rally last year. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Brilliant fun! Roll on the English National Rally in July and the Scottish in September.

The-End
Finish at Castle Caereinion

The mind blowing moment was arriving at CC only to see Janet Burgar who had ridden an ex police Velocette 250 and got in before us.. mumbling something about tortoise and hare.