Wednesday 21 September 2022

RogueRunners Wales '22 Epilogue

 So what did we learn?

We learned that doing the same stretches of road three times in a week isn't dull if the road's as good as the Elan Valley.

We learned that in spite of being "old & set in our ways" we can welcome new folk onto a road trip.

We learned that in spite of some ludicrous speed limits, Wales still has good tarmac to offer people who enjoy driving.

We learned that "Mysterious Tony" is probably a little too trusting of strangers.

We learned that Robert has a great deal of stamina & that his car is properly mended now.

We learned that Wales can be dry in September- certainly drier than Devon.

We learned - as if we could forget - that the Rogues are a great bunch who will help each other out & keep their chins up no matter what - I salute you all!

Oh & we learned that if you ever need to hide from Neil, a castle's a good bet. 😉

RogueRunners Wales '22 - Day 5

 The last day is always a bit sad. We took quite a while over breakfast in the slightly odd Bessemer Hotel, then those who’d parked at the back moved round to the front to all get ourselves organised. Some were heading straight home, others were following the route initially but heading off at convenient points.

Linda had already noticed that a waypoint on the “Head of the Valleys” road was on the wrong side of the dual carriageway, so that got corrected, but as we approached that road we were immediately mired in traffic at a roundabout. The first two cars got across & turned right, then just as I got out, the first two re-appeared & came round the roundabout to head straight on. The roadworks had confused the SatNavs – Oh how we laughed. 

Having sampled Wales’ newest road we retired to our natural habitat – the lanes & re-entered England. Somewhere towards Gloucester we were on another dual carriageway & I noticed the route was heading back on itself so deleted another errant waypoint, but one of our number ended up turning right instead of left, but his carer chased after him & bought him back to where we’d gathered for fuel & to say farewell to Linda. Around the M4 two others departed eventually I left the route to travel the A303 along which I’d started over a week before.

And there it was finished. Another road trip successfully undertaken. The routes worked well, no-one went home on a truck, no-one hit anything. So that’s a success in my book.

RogueRunners Wales '22 - Day 4

 For a reason I've never understood, Day 4 of a road trip always seems to be the best day & so it proved again this time. However - there's a thing to be said first:- It was the day of the Queen's funeral, should we be having fun? It was a question that went round the Rogues as soon as the date was announced. Some wanted to watch the ceremony (which was, it has to be said - spectacular), so contacted the inn & asked if they could watch it there. That was no problem, so the route was re-written into three routes, short, medium & long & people chose. Brian, Linda & myself chose the full fat version on the basis that honouring the regent of a free (ish) country by doing something that celebrates a country being free wasn't a bad thing. As ever with the Rogues we each took the path that suited.

So, a group of us set off from the Roast Ox & headed out of town. After about a two miles there was a call over the radio:-

"My SatNav said left there"

"so did mine"

"mine said straight on"

"mine too"

 - pause - 

"what route are you on?"

"the middle one"

"we're on the long one"


And so it was that three of us sallied forth towards the Elan Valley, but as we approached the good stuff, suddenly - WHOA! COWS!

About two dozen head of cattle with very large bells round their necks had got themselves onto the road where the armco was, so couldn't get over it & couldn't work out that they needed to walk back to where they'd been to walk round it. One or two bellowed at me as I approached.

Having circumnavigated the prime beef, we headed off up the valley, I flagged down a couple of old ladies in a Golf to warn them as they would've approached the herd round a blind corner, then we lit the after-burners.

We got a completely clear run along the Elan valley & stopped towards the far end for photos by "the arch". There didn't seem to be a good reason for "the arch" other than to commemorate the Jubilee of George III, reason enough I suppose, but why an arch in the middle of nowhere? It made a nice backdrop to the cars anyway.

 After that we dropped into the Devil's bridge cafe again for coffee & cake (yes again - what of it?). this time there were no musicians & even the wasps were few & far between.

Refreshed we walked back to the cars which were being admired by a Belgian (possibly Dutchman). We set off once again & in almost no time were on the Lake Brianne road, but a call over the radio brought us all to a halt. The cycle wing that was partially severed yesterday had now detached properly. This was a good thing really, had it detached in one go it would've flown off the car & in all likelihood scraped down the road at best, at worst it would've gone under the rear wheel. In the event the self amalgamating tape held it long enough for the car to come to rest & it was placed in the car with no harm done - result!

After a clear run along the spectacular Lake Brianne road we headed south & I realised we were approaching the Black Mountain road - BRILLIANT. But sadly it was not to be. On the wiggly approach road we came up behind a car that was clearly not in a hurry, managing 35 in the 50 limit road. In an attempt to gain some clear tarmac we pulled into the nice little lay-bay at the foot of the mountain, for another photo opportunity.

After a few minutes snapping away, we mounted up - just as another car came past. I gave it as long as I could (there was other traffic coming) & then headed up, but as we approached the hairpin there was a bunch of yoof loitering on the apex & an M3 came round the bend sideways & carried on sideways until a small turn off. I let the car ahead go round the bend & accelerated, but the moment was spoiled. We stopped again in the upper car park where more yoof were herding while front-wheel-drive hatchbacks screamed up & down. Not really surprising they put a 40 limit on the road if that's what the locals do.

We did at least get a more or less clear run down the other side which is another fantastic road - no hairpins though.

About now we got an apologetic Whatsapp from our illustrious leader saying he'd arrived at the hotel & was very very sorry. "Ah" we thought "that good eh?", we set off. The rest of the route was mostly empty winding A roads, very satisfying to drive, but I couldn't tell you where we were. I did once see a sign to Bala, so I guess we went somewhere near the Evo Triangle. I do remember coming off a roundabout & finding the road went up quite a long steep hill in three lanes (one down, two up) & as I accelerated up a mile or so of absolutely empty, wide smooth tarmac I though "this is going to go down to two lanes & there'll be someone doing 35 just after it does. Which was EXACTLY what happened, the moment it was down to two lanes there was a grey Volvo in front doing 35 - 40 & either double white lines OR traffic coming the other way - for five painful miles!  

The hotel - hmm - what can I say? The hotel was actually very nice, much nicer inside than the first night's hotel, it was a bit of a mish-mash of styles with a 1980s outside, almost Victorian corridors & modern bedrooms, but it was set in the middle of a vaguely dodgy looking estate & the clientele looked very much like they'd called in for a swift 8 pints on their way home from the match.

HOWEVER, they were all perfectly well behaved & actually left pretty early in the evening - by 9:00 we had the place to ourselves (we were watching Paddington Bear on the TV - ROCK & ROLL!). A cynic might suggest the terms of their parole meant they had to be home early, but you wouldn't catch me making such wild assumptions.

So really that was pretty much it. tomorrow would see us heading east & splitting up to head home. But day four had been very very good.

Tuesday 20 September 2022

RogueRunners Wales '22 - Day 3

 Day 3 is a bit of a blur to be honest.

I'd hardly slept at all having had FAR too much to eat the evening before. I remember it began with two of our party turning the wrong way at the first set of lights – less than 10 yards from the hotel - this often happens as the SatNav's haven't sorted themselves out in time for the first junction.

I can also remember a certain amount of banter about one of us not seeing Harlech Castle – like “hey Neil, can you see this pub on the left?” “What, THE CASTL ….. yes, yes I can see the pub”

One of our first destinations was Lake Vyrnwy - where one of my first road trips had come to grief on a corner I hadn't anticipated & the Fury went home on a lorry. On this occasion there was clearly something going on. "Something" turned out to be 1,200 people running around the lake - I'm led to believe this was a choice they'd made, though I find that difficult to believe.

Initially all went well, we couldn't turn across the dam, but the SatNavs sorted themselves out & redirected up the other way round the lake, but on arriving back at the dam from the other direction we were told we couldn't cross because the 1,200 mad people were due & would take 1/2 hour to come through.

And cross they did, some of them immensely fit looking, cruising easily as we were only about a mile from the start. Others - erm - less so. After a while we were allowed to cross the dam, thinking we were all clear, but NO! On the far side of the dam was a lollypop man who insisted that every last car from the other direction went before us (sigh).

Next stop was another favorite, Devil's bridge station on a narrow gauge steam line. The car park has always been "awkward" to get out of, being on a corner, so they have moved it a little further up the road. Unfortunately we'd all driven in before we found out. once in & seated it was a pleasant as ever, we were visited by wasps in their droves while a group of musicians appeared to play a number of tunes all at the same time. But a steam train arrived & that's always a good thing

Following that we headed up over the Elan Valley road (again) where the rough roads claimed a victim in the form of a Se7en cycle wing stay coming adrift. As is usually the case at these times, tool & spares kits appeared from hidey holes around cars & the traditional cry of "right, what have we got to fix it with then?" could be heard. A temporary but well executed & secure fix was made & we carried on. At the next fuel stop we found Robert, who hadn't been able to come on the tour but had made the Herculean effort of driving four hours to meet us mid-route, driving with us, having tea, then driving four hours home. Good effort that man! So he was with us when we hit the Lake Breanne Road (again).

At the end of the day we pulled into the rather small car park of The Roast Ox Inn at Painscastle.

The place itself was excellent, fantastic food, friendly hosts - we couldn't fault it. But there was strangeness. The landlord was said to be called Tony & was heard once or twice, leading to someone describing him as "this mysterious Tony" - a phrase which immediately took on a life of its own & within minutes we had constructed a whole persona for Mysterious Tony, involving a black wide brimmed hat, a red-lined cloak & a maniacal laugh.

But more strangeness was to come when all the staff & management went home & told us partially drunk complete strangers to "help yourselves from the bar, just write down what you had & put money in the honesty box"

Fortunately we didn't want anything else.

RogueRunners Wales '22 - Day 2


Another brilliant day.

EPIC in fact.

It was cold & autumnal when we set off, heading for the mountains, but the forecast was good & so it turned out to be. After some very good roads we arrived at the excellent Ffestiniog railway café for coffee & cake just in time to join the queue before the train full of passengers puffed in & the queue got a lot longer.

After negotiating the exit – it’s an oblique junction & can be a problem for cars with less steering lock than the Stylus (round in one 👍) – we wended our way over the moors stopping for an occasional photo opportunity before arriving in to Harlech, an early example of military stealth technology as at least one of our number completely failed to see the enormous stone thing, just off the road. After a refuel we headed south to Barmouth, where we re-fueled opposite the "all Wales & North Wales Sausage Champion"  before turning inland. The roads were excellent, but one or two were marred by folk driving at half the posted speed limit & not in a way that allowed overtaking. Go slowly if you want to, but don’t obstruct others.

Then suddenly were were at the equally excellent Conwy Falls café for more coffee & cake. I ordered the Victoria sponge & went & sat with the others. After some time a perplexed young waitress appeared saying “I was told this was for the man with the hat?” we looked round & all of us had hats.

After that it was back to the hotel along some more fantastic roads, almost free of traffic, there was a little, but we also had 20 mile stretches with nothing ahead of us at all.


RogueRunners Wales '22 - Day 1

The last car arrived for breakfast after a very early start & after all getting reacquainted & ensuring everyone was up to speed with the latest banter, we set off - after I'd found my car.

Getting out of Newport was a trial by traffic, average speed camera & humps, but we broke free & found a lane. Now the route writer had been under strict instructions to NOT put green lanes in, two of those most opposed to the narrower roads had checked the routes & still one slipped though. I sat in the Stylus laughing like a drain.

Next was some dual carriageway – part of the "Heads of the Valleys" road & therefore a building site with a 40 limit & a traffic jam. Then the next road was blocked by an accident & we had to re-trace our steps, which split us all up. After some radio chatter, some of us pulled onto a side road to re-group, I saw a couple of the others & ran towards them like a man possessed waving my arms but wasn't heard - "because Whitesnake". 

After that it got better.

We had a clear run up  & down the Black Mountain road stopping at the top for a group photo, in fact we all re-grouped there so had a proper group photo (just the cars obviously) for the first time ever. We then  did the Elan Valley & the Lake Brienne road – every bit as epic as last year when we discovered it & both of them almost traffic free. EPIC!!

We had coffee & cake (some had real food) at the Two Hoots biker café – were we are tolerated because of our inadequate weather protection & by & by we arrived at our hotel, wrapped up the cars (those with production cars merely locked them) & went in for some tea. New hotels this year (our choice not theirs I hasten to add), the Beaufort Park Hotel was "a little tired", but the food was good & the staff were helpful & friendly. Though by this time we had driven on minor roads from the south coast, to very nearly the north coast so anywhere with a bed & beer was wonderful.

Devon Blatt Day 3


I woke up at about 5:00, but breakfast wasn’t until 8:30, so I dozed, but having packed up the car & taken off the roof & side windows – because it was DRY, I headed out straight onto the hairpins on a A39. A good start to the day. I've decided that a steep uphill hairpin taken in a high-powered rear wheel drive car is a thing of beauty.

I then followed the route along a left fork & my eye caught a sign saying “private road” & “scenic”, but most importantly - “toll”. I backed up & the toll was £3, so I carried on on what I guess is the original route of the A39. It had good hairpins & was in one or two places scenic.

Paying the toll was a challenge as gaining access to one’s trouser pockets while strapped in is not easily accomplished.

Next on the agenda was Porlock Weir where I had intended staying, but the hotel was full. The hamlet was a bit of a disappointment, pretty, but not much going on, so I headed out along some stunning roads, good surfaces, overtaking opportunities, hair pins, flowing corners, proper speed limits. It was joy on wheels.

Eventually I pulled into quite a posh place for coffee & cake before deciding to delete way-points & head direct for the helicopter museum, which was OK, but had way too much stuff crammed in, so photography wasn’t really possible. Also it was kind of sad, all the projects that were undertaken in the ‘50s & ‘60s, all those teams, all those companies, all gone.

by now I was getting messages that the other rogues were arriving at the hotel, I pruned the route right back & arrived after almost everyone else. But a very good day’s blatting had been had.

But there was just one more thing to do. As the Euro Blatt folk in the SKCC do the Stelvio pass (which looks EPIC) each year I had to stop here for a photo.

I know - it's just not the same.

Devon Blatt Day 2

 Up with the lark because my friends had work to go to, but I had a problem. The SatNav was advising “NO ROUTE POSSIBLE”. It does this when a waypoint is placed on a closed road - & we are VERY fond of closing roads in the UK at the moment. Fortunately the route was a simple one, so I set the SatNav for Torpoint, that took me to the ferry, but through Plymouth’s rush hour. It wasn’t to bad, but the car was steaming up, my glasses were steaming up, there were 30mph average speed cameras, rain & constantly swapping lanes in an unfamiliar town to contend with, But I managed & boarded the ferry.

Disembarking on the Cornish side I re-set the SatNav for Looe, where I bagged a roadside parking slot & had a stroll & a coffee before re-setting for Polperro. There’s no-where to park there (OK – there’s no-where to park free), so I re-set again for what I thought was my next point. Only when I realised I was headed due west did I work out I should’ve set it for Launston, not Liskeard.

However, correcting that sent me along some very entertaining roads, so it was not a bad thing.  Next was Bideford, then Barnstaple – where the man from the hotel called while I was in a carpark & asked if I wouldn’t mind checking in after 16:00. 

After that I went to Coombe Martin, which was so nice I paid for the parking! I spent a couple of hours wandering, climbing, looking into rock pools – that sort of thing. 

Next on the agenda was Lynmouth with another very entertaining road down into the town. Again I had a good wander, a couple of folk asked me about the car & I had a very good & very large fish & chip supper on the beach.

I then returned to the hotel to find that not only was the restaurant closed for the evening, but so was the bar. I must’ve looked very much like a man in need of a drink, because they held the bar open for me while I had a pint of cider, then took another back to my room, had a well deserved bath in my luxury up-grade room, then sat & wrote this.

Tomorrow I would meet up with the other rogues.

Devon Blatt Day 1

 After the long wait, the Tuesday finally dawned. There was no point setting off early early because the Fleet Air Arm Museum – my second Port of Call (see what I did there?) didn’t open until 10:00. I emptied the fridge into a lunch bag & put some cold water in a thermos, bleached the sinks, put the dish washer on, wheeled the car out & set off – into the traffic.

It wasn’t too bad as most of it’s going into London so I rumbled down the M3 / A303 until the SatNav told me to leave, then wended my way across to the A30 until I arrived at “The Udder Farm Shop” were I had coffee & cake – I like cake.

Because all my luggage was in the passenger seat, I put the roof & side windows on, just as well because it was raining when I came out. So I wrestled my way into the car & set off. After not very long it was getting a bit “tropical” very high humidity & temperatures steaming up the windows. I stopped & took the side window off, which helped - note to self, fit window vents over the winter. After a while I arrived at the FAA Museum. I covered up all my belongings, put the side window back in, latched the windows & made for the entrance – which is up a long divided staircase. I got to the top, the automatic doors opened, the wooden doors inside were shut fast. “This must be the exit” I thought, so went back down all the divided stairs & up the other side. The same thing happened except that the automatic doors closed WITH ME STILL INSIDE. I consulted Google to see if it opened at 10:30 maybe. No, it opened Wednesday because HRH had died. Why open the car park?? Why not put a sign at the bottom of the stairs??

So now I has three hours to kill between my ETA at my friend’s house & them arriving home from work. I took the ferry across the Dart as I had with the Fury at least ten years before & loitered around Dartmouth for a while, I had an excellent ice cream from “The Good Intent” near Bayards Cove, I walked along the prom & took some photos, but with my allotted free parking almost up, I went back to the car & followed my route out of town along the lower lanes – which were closed. I ended up driving up one of the very VERY narrow, cobbled, 1 in 4 streets to the top of town, being very grateful for lots of power & rear wheel drive.

I stopped again at Bigbury & walked on the beach, looked at the “Sea Tractor” that takes you to Burgh Island when the tide’s in & had a coffee, then again wended my way to Wembury. I was still early, so parked up near the beach & had another walk around, arriving at my friend’s only about ten minutes early. I was wet from the outside in & the inside out, but I dried out & we had a very pleasant evening.

Road Trip '22 The Second

 The Rogue Runners partake in two road trips each year, a long one & a short one. September is the time for the short one - generally around Wales. I've mentioned the pre-tour a couple of posts ago & as I'm now back home, this post sets the scene for both halves of the Autumn Adventure.

It started off wet & miserable, but improved with each day until it achieved the full measure of EPICness  associated with these things. There was a thought before we left that HMQ's funeral might scupper at least one day, but with a little forward planning we were fine - I wouldn't want to be disrespectful to HMQ, I want to be disrespectful to the media who managed to fill 10 days with meaningless drivel. I understand it's the changing of a head of state & the passing of a fantastically devoted leader, but I really didn't need the entire 6 hour convoy from Balmoral to Edinburgh televised from a helicopter. Above all things it's a funeral for a mother / grandmother / aunt etc. There should be private moments.

Enough of my ranting. As you'll read in the forthcoming posts the trip was spectacular. I really wasn't sure about the first bit in Devon, I wasn't sure the roads would be any good, I wasn't sure if they'd be full of caravans, I wasn't sure if going on my own was a good idea. But in the end I all worked out fine.

Sunday 11 September 2022

What Should You Never Do......

 ....just before a trip?

Take the car apart of course!

The handbrake on the Stylus has always been PANTS. This I feel is to do with the disc conversion on the back. I have no idea why people do it, the drums are far superior, but there you go. In my efforts to improve it I've been making it easier for the cable to move, first by taking out a really short balance bar, that really wasn't doing anything, whichever brake came on first took all the tension, so I put in a long cable from wheel to wheel & put a pulley in the middle to balance the tension.

That improved things, but the brake still wasn't good. Because the the lever works backward & forward rather than up & down, the cable passes downward from the lever, then round a pulley & back to the balance mechanism. My attention fell on that pulley - is was plastic & kind of soft. I suspect that when the lever was pulled the wheel deformed as the cable bit into the outside surface & the screwthread bit into the inner one. I looked through the Ebay "Aircraft Parts" section & found a small control cable pulley with a proper bearing in the middle & dismantled the plastic one.

The pulley was indeed soft plastic, PTFE or similar with a 10mm hole over a 1/4" cheap (& bent) screw, two nuts to stop it being clamped, then another nut holding it all to the chassis. It worked but "free running" it was not. I've assembled the new pulley & it seems much better, but when the car comes off the road for the winter upgrades, the mounting of the pulley will be something I look at. It may well need a couple of spacers turned up to keep everything in it's proper place.

Another Adventure

 It's September, so that means RogueRunners Wales - though this may be the last time if the threatened blanket lowering of speed limits happens, we'll spend out money somewhere else.

This year is a little different for me as I've soorted myself a "pretour tour". I'm going to south Devon to stay with friends, then to north Devon across the moors staying in a hotel, then a trip along the coast, over the bridge & meet the others in Newport for the proper tour.

On the way I'll be calling in at the Fleet Air Arm Museum - one of my favourites - before heading down through Torbay & Dartmouth, then through the lanes to a village on the coast near Plymouth.

Day Two takes me just into Cornwall before heading north, wending my way towards the moorland roads around Lynton.

Day Three sees more traversing of the moor - one or two of the UKs best driving roads - before heading towards Wales via Cheddar Gorge & the helicopter museum at Weston-Super-Mare.

It almost mirrors a trip I did in the Fury about 12 years ago - the first long distance run the Fury had done. Should be good.