The hill-country abruptly ended at last; with a misty view of level fields ahead we swept down a narrow dell, the road beneath scudding past alarmingly. The grade was steep; we lost our pedals; a feeling as though we were falling from an aeroplane came over us, and, with tandem out of control we stuck grimly to the bars and waited. Jack, behind, had no front view, and therefore no fears, but I had when I saw a blurred red triangle shoot past, instinctively leaning, to essay a bend as the forewarned corner rushed up to meet us. The next thing that I saw was that we were running along the far gutter, scraping the flying hedge, with the corner behind us. The impetus took us through a village street in less seconds that it takes to tell, and, swaying like a boat, we lapped up fully half a mile of level road before we dared touch the brakes. “Gosh”! said Jack as we regained our pedals at last. That was all, but there was more feeling in that one word than I can put in a dozen pages of foolscap.
The next thing we were in St Asaph; 8.30am by a village clock, and 67 miles by the signposts away from home. We got off here for a stamp, starved through, then pushed along with a roaring wind behind to Kinmel Camp and the beautiful marble church of Bodelwydden, near where we stopped at a hut for a pot of tea. Here, crouched over a stove, and listening to the buffeting wind, we formulated our future plans. We were to carry on towards Bettws-y-coed, however hard it might be when we turned homewards, and hard we knew it would be. We saw an AA scout on a bicycle at Abergele, going opposite to us, and swearing in a heartfelt tone as he ground along. Here, we turned into the hills again, easily climbing over the ridge into Llanfair Talhaiarn and the Elwy Valley. Very pretty is this little valley, with road and river constant companions, too pretty to rush – which we didn’t. At its head we reached the ridge overlooking the Conwy Valley, and though it was anything but clear, we got a view of the nearer mountains above the valley, thinly covered with snow. We wasted a film here, trying to get a photo, but the conditions were unsuitable.
From Llanrwst, we crossed Inigo Jone’s bridge, passing Gwydir Castle, to the old, rough, mountainside road, which is more attractive than the main road, and reached Bettws-y-coed at 11am, 96 miles having been covered. “On, Stanley, on!” muttered Jack as we climbed along the Holyhead road towards Capel Curig. The old charm of Wales was upon me just then, and I felt like going on and on – and hang the run home. The Llugwy was in spate, presenting a fine appearance at Miners Bridge, with the rocks coloured and the water all foamy, and autumn still lingering on the foliage. Half an hour we spent here and counted it not wasted, and again at Swallow Falls we lingered. Swallow Falls without the presence of trippers or the litter trippers leave behind was something to be seen rather than described.
Then we reached our furthest point, the fork-roads at Capel Curig, and simultaneously a blizzard descended upon the mountains and robbed us of the anticipated views of Snowdonia. So we turned back for two miles to Pont Cyfyng, to a cottage known to us, for dinner, a sumptuous affair, for, after over a hundred miles of hard riding, we thought we’d celebrate a little, and incidentally prepare the inner man for the homeward run. We are not given to boasting, but over that dinner we congratulated each other and told ourselves that this ride would make us the talk of local cyclists. But – there is always a ‘but’ …