Over The Hill

Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 8

This morning, we were up at 8 am, ready for early breakfast and a quick get away. Although we were able to order coffee before the cafe’s official opening time, there were unencouraging sounds emanating from the kitchen. Evidently, one of the hobs had packed up. Disaster. Would we have to set off on empty stomachs?

Community Hub

Of course not. The heroic staff managed to feed us with minimum fuss. And, although the place wasn’t yet actually open, there was already quite a gathering inside. You see, The Cellar is more than simply a cafe and music venue.

Like the Yeoman, The Cellar functions as something of a community hub. And many of those it serves aren’t properly catered for by the local or national administrations. Both the Pembroke Yeoman and The Cellar stand as examples of why we should all celebrate and support independent ‘businesses’. I put that last word in parentheses because, although they obviously need to turn a profit, this is clearly not the driving motive in either case.

Differences in Temperament

So now, grateful for our full bellies, we said farewell to Steve and his team. And set forth for Haverfordwest. This meant – as previously mentioned – crossing the Preselis. Our original plan had been to visit Pat and his wife Verity at their home in the area. But that would have to wait for another time. Now we had a train to catch. And hills to cross.

Not surprisingly. this was a serious climb. It was, however, steady. So, whilst a challenge, the ride was both enjoyable and rewarding. Rob and I have differing approaches to tackling hills, largely due to the differences between our bikes (but partly down to temperament). Rob likes to attack and go at them hard. Whereas, I’m more inclined to pace myself.

Quite Something

This meant that, with the hill rising continuously over a couple of miles, Rob disappeared into the distance, while I plodded along – getting steadily further behind. Which was fine. I knew Rob would wait at the top. So, I took the opportunity, part way up, to stop for a banana and to take in the magnificent views.

At the top, there was a parking area, where Rob was waiting. From here you could see for miles around, with views to the coast, both to the North and South of the headland. A couple came over to commend us on our efforts. We told them about our tour and they pointed out the spot from which – recent research has ascertained – the sarsen stones of Stonehenge were transported. Quite something when you think about it.

Quiet Journey To Bristol

There followed a lovely, long, downhill stretch. After which, there wasn’t far to go until we reached Haverfordwest. Here, we killed some time with coffee and cake at the lovely library cafe by the river, before making our way to the station. This time, mercifully, the train wasn’t overcrowded and we were able to stow our bikes in the allotted space. We settled into our seats and prepared for a quiet journey to Bristol.

Until – that is – a couple of stops later, we were joined by a convivial, very camp and slightly tipsy gentleman. Who was clearly intent on conversation. Up until his arrival, Rob and I had been happy to sit in companionable silence. Which was practically a first for the trip. Rob had taken the opportunity to switch off a little, now that we were no longer under the pressures of touring.

Unwitting Counselor

Our new friend took this to be grumpiness on Rob’s part. So, he probed and provoked until Rob, too, joined our chat. He was actually a sweetheart but going through difficult times. And, although neither Rob nor I really wanted another drink at this stage, we graciously accepted his rather persistent offer to join him in a can of lager.

Hopefully, our counselling was of some help. Our friend was clearly in need of a sympathetic ear. And, although he was facing something of a dilemma in both his professional and private lives, it sounded as though he knew – really – the way forward. As we got off to change trains at Cardiff, we saw – looking back through the window of the carriage – that a new, unwitting counselor had been quickly recruited. Good luck to them both.

A Triumph

At Bristol, a train for Bath was imminent. So we decided to forego the cycle back from there. We both had quite a bit to organise before our respective onward journeys. And there was little to prove in cycling the remaining 18 miles or so back.

So that was that, for the time being. As a first run, cycling and performing together as a duo, it had been a triumph. Musically, socially and logistically, we’d established that we make an excellent team. Though interrupted, this was not the end of the tour. And, once it does end, there will certainly be more to follow.