Nearest Town: Clun
This morning gives new meaning to the phrase, “I could really use a day off.” I’ve cycled for 8 days straight, a couple in light and hard rain. The longest day was yesterday, 58 miles. The shortest day was about 25, all days with a bike carrying camping gear. One of the most common comments is “You sure are carrying a lot.” I’m still satisfied that I am, as I described in my “irony of carrying a lot” posting. Youth hostels are not always nearby, unfortunately, and I’m trying not to stay in a hotel or B&B, trying to live simpler and cheaper. That’s when I need my tent, stove, and stash of groceries.
The part that’s on my mind right now is just how good it feels to have one day off. I’m writing in quiet valley in Wales, near the town of Clun. The only buildings I can see are made of old stone, and there’s a relaxing view of a meadow and nearby hills. The birds are much louder than the rare car that drives by. The sun is out, and there’s a gentle breeze. Sometimes, we all get lucky. This a wonderful place to relax and restore my mind, body, and bike. (A family riding horses just went by, fun sight.) My mind and body are tired from the long hills, especially when they surprise you after a turn. My legs have been tired before, mostly when I was training for marathons. Based on the way they feel now, I really do think they’ll be at their strongest ever after a day of rest.
Of course, my bike doesn’t need to relax, but it does need repair, one I can fix and one I can’t. The one I can fix is a slow leak in my rear tire. The one I can’t is a small wiring cluster on the front well, which transfers electricity from the dynamo, in the front hub, to the light and battery. I can’t fix the wiring cluster because it’s gone. When I put on panniers, adjust something, or look for something, I have to lean the bike on hedges, stone walls, the ground, or anything else strong and vertical. I imagine the wiring cluster was lost somewhere in that process. This winter, I’ll buy another one and build a protective cover.
This place is so relaxing, it just about forces you to contemplate, so I’m going to go with that flow. I think one of the reasons I enjoy endurance sports is the occasional moment like this. Sometimes, after a challenging workout, it’s into the shower and out to work. And sometimes after a challenging workout, it’s a long limp home—and then into the shower and to work. But sometimes, it’s a moment like this. You can rest in ways that only happen after working your body hard. Some folks get the same feeling by working in a garden, cleaning the garage, or going to a health club. The recent sweat and muscle aches seem to bring out the importance of simple things. One simple thing I enjoy is writing. Another is a pleasant walk, time for one now.
I’m sitting in the ruined remains of Clun Castle right now, built in the 11th Century. Minnesota and Wisconsin have a decent rivalry. This castle was built to address a more intense rivalry between the English and the Welsh. This is the boarder country between the two, so this castle saw some action, brutal stuff. The stone walls next to me are at least 6 feet thick, and they’ve taken a pounding. I read on a nearby sign that the farmers in this area were given more freedom when they volunteered a few weeks a year to fight for the local Duke, or something like that. Even my short time in the Air Force Reserve makes me appreciate how cozy I had it compared to those local troops.
Another irony, I’m sitting here eating strawberries’ and cheese. At the risk of diminishing what happened where I’m sitting, about 8-900 years ago, I have to say the cheese was wonderful. It’s stilton cheese made locally.
I better stop having fun and go work on the flat tire on my bike. Unfortunately, it’s the rear tire, and due to some fancy engineering, all 24 gears in my bike do their work in the rear hub. And, this is the first time I will take off the rear tire. I downloaded some instructions about an hour ago, when I was working on my website and checking mail, in a pub that had wifi. Surely, nothing will go wrong since I have the instructions. I hope it goes well because, if it does, I can walk around here again tonight.
I’m back at Clun Castle. I’m happy to say my rear tire if fixed, in only 45 minutes. Then, it took me 15 minutes to mess up one of my shifting systems, and another hour to fix that. One of the hostel managers, Trevor, gave me some very good help in the process. I also want to add that the other hostel manager, Tony, gave me a great tour of the hostel earlier today. This hostel used to be a mill. Parts of the old mill are displayed almost like artwork in the hostel, except it’s not art you hang on a wall or put in a box. It’s a display of the working parts of the mill as they were, behind a window and in a lit space to show the millworks. Tony told me a few times to read the signs nearby, but he gave me so much good information that I probably won’t.
Back to the castle. I’m here alone right now, so my overly-active imagination can wander. I’ve always like well restored ruins. There’s still enough of a castle here to see that it was a respectable power in its time. In our time, power comes in the form of missiles, jets, and aircraft carriers. (If you haven’t seen the PBS special “Carrier”, stop reading and watch it, now. The whole thing is on YouTube.) But, 800 years ago or so, this place was the power of the land. This place is what made people stop and think before challenging the people in charge. How many missiles, jets, and aircraft carriers will still be around in 800 years?
There are many other bits I could ramble on about, the guys who laid the big stones this place is made of, the guys who died on or attacking those stones, the leaders who dined in the posh rooms of the castle. I just noticed the outline of a fireplace and chimney above me, so many things to write about. I’ve already written more today than I should, since I still need to finish entries for past days. These are just the things I ponder when I’m sitting alone in an old castle.
Changing topics, Tony mentioned to me that he and Trevor usually “go out for some milk” every night at The White Horse Inn, at the local pub. I’ve moved from the Clun Castle to that pub right now. I’m enjoying my first pint in 8 days, Clun Ale. What wonderful places to write.