Seven members turned up in uniform at the Gallery Tea rooms. Kate was there in mufti as it was the last day for paying for our Christmas meal. However, only four declared themselves for today's ride, the other three having only cycled to the start before returning home, a fledgling third category for the club I mused.
The promised rain had duly started as Dave H, Clive, Ray and myself retraced my route through Ewloe and Northop Hall to enter my home village of Northop crossing for the first time today the A55, a road which dominates much of our lives in North Wales.
Leaden skies surrounded us as we steadily climbed up through Pentre Halkyn and on to the "Mountain". I was beginning to regret my throwaway comment as we left Northop that it seldom rains all day in North Wales. Crossing the Mountain the rain eased but we noticed for the first time the strong south westerly wind, which was forecast to increase in the afternoon. Something to look forward to then.
After recrossing the A 55 we scooted down past Pantasaph Priory, home to the Capuchin Friars, and free wheeled most of the way to Whitford. However, what goes down soon has to go up, or certainly in N Wales. We climbed out of Whitford on narrow lanes festooned with leaves and mud. Clive pointed out the remains of a Roman lighthouse (a pleasant walk from Whitford and worth a visit ) and we passed the early Celtic cross near Berthengam. Our final descent of the morning took us through the village of Llanasa where I noticed a pub we have used regularly in the past, the Red Lion, is still closed. We followed the valley floor for the last two mile run in to Gwaenysgor. Uneventful apart from encountering two motorists driving 4 X 4s (what else) hammering it along these narrow country lanes. What can you say that hasn't already been said about such crass driving.
The landlord at the Eagle and Child offered us his usual friendly welcome, no doubt glad to see us as customers were a scarce commodity on such a day as this. Over lunch we discussed whether in our collective experience there was such an item as a truly waterproof cycling glove, boot, overshoe, sock etc. The consensus was that having road tested ours for two hours that morning we still have to find such an article of clothing. We walked out of the pub to find that as forecast the rain had blown away and blue skies were on the horizon coming our way. The bad news was that I had a slow puncture on the rear wheel. New Gaterskins and inner tubes two weeks ago, would you credit it. Dave finally located the offending sliver of metal and Ray finally wrestled the new tyre back on to the wheel. My thanks to all three of my companions as I would have never got that stiff new tyre back on. We retraced our steps to Llanasa where we hung a right, just before the village, and began the long climb over to Trelawnyd. A right and left through the village and another long climb out of the valley to recross, yet again, the A55 at the top of Rhuallt hill. We had lost 20 minutes on the puncture and conscious of a few hills still to come we turned for home at this point. Running down the well surfaced track at the side of the duel carriageway we accessed the lanes heading east towards Babell. North of Lixwm I decided to give the legs one more challenge. We took the route through Rhes-y-cae which gives you a big pull, at least for me, Clive and Ray made light work of it, out of the head of the valley and over the ridge to Rhosesmor. A gentle run down through the lanes brought us to Northop where I left Dave to cycle back to Hawarden at his own pace. We had let Clive and Ray off the leash at the last climb.
So a little more challenging than most of our club rides at least for us "moderates" but a sense of satisfaction after a hot shower.