Descending to Bettws-y-coed again at 2pm, we climbed Dinas Hill, with the Autumn Glory of the Lledr Valley on our right, and the winter splendour of Moel Siabod’s snow-white crest above. Then, as Pentrefoelas and the open moors were reached, the fun began. Jack swore I wasn’t pushing, and I was equally voluble in stating that he was playing the ‘old man’. The coldest wind I had ever felt blew right through us, defying every effort to make progress, reducing us to alternative walking and slogging. It was actually easier uphill than down, owing to the shelter (little enough) gained. More than once we literally fell off and ran up and down, almost crying with the cold, for the harder we pushed, the colder we seemed to go. On the exposed moors near Cerrig-y-drudion, a blizzard came, and our troubles added to with biting sleet that froze to our clothes after soaking us.
Two more miserable tandemists never existed. We laughed about it for a time, but it got beyond a joke, and our faces felt too frozen for the ghost of a smile. After 18 miles, darkness came on – and we had a slow puncture. One of the kind that needs a bucket of water and a little patience. All our patience had by now evaporated, and we daren’t have put our hands in a bucket of water for all the punctures in the world. We pumped it up two or three times during the last four mile stamp into Corwen.
The sight of Corwen railway station was too much of a temptation for the starved and weary flesh and blood of Jack and I, especially I, for it was my suggestion, and after wandering all over we came upon a signalman who informed us that no train would leave Corwen that night, but there was one from Llangollen to Chester at 6.30pm. So we collected up all our remaining strength, pumped the tyre up again, and carried on. It was a push, too, for though we had one and a half hours for the 11 miles, we had a solid, ice-borne wind ahead and a troublesome tyre beneath. And a tired body within. We just arrived in comfortable time.
Never catch the 6.30 from Llangollen to Chester. From an artistic point of view it would make a fine study in ‘still life’, but as a means of rapid, or even ordinary transit, it is a wash-out. It started late and stopped at every wayside cabin. At Ruabon it settled down for nearly an hour, then we had to change. At length it rolled placidly out of Ruabon, and after sheltering under bridges out of the rain, it toddled serenely into Chester. A Warrington train was waiting, so we jumped into that, which travelled more speedily and soon…….
Two weary, disillusioned tandemists remounted their machine outside Warrington and slowly concluded the last 18 miles to Bolton, who hardly spoke a word until, when the bike was berthed, one asked “Was it worth it?”. The other smiled. “Is it not always worth it?” he replied.
Yes it was worth it. We had attempted a double century, we had to be forced to buy ‘home rails’, we had made a hectic thrust into the heart of Wales, and we had been beaten down by a gruelling combination of winter elements. A hundred and sixty odd miles we had ridden…… was it worth it?
Go down to the heart of Wales in mid-winter and see! Feel the leap of a speeding tandem when ‘captain and crew’ are as one man. Know the thrill of effort when wind and cold are striving to anchor you down. Did we fail?