Cycling to Ponderosa

Having given up the cycling in the latter part of my marathon training I realised, post Manchester, that I’d not been in the saddle for probably nearly six weeks, and looming very close was the expedition to Shrewsbury. With life getting in the way, there was only one last ride with PROBs (Pensby Runners On Bikes) to practise for it.


I don’t know why this café, on the horseshoe pass in Llangollen, Wales is called Ponderosa. Was it after the ranch in that TV show of old, Bonanza? Or the North American Pine tree? Whatever it is, it’s exceedingly high up in the hills (or mountains). And under normal circumstances, I would have chickened out of using this trip as my first ride back. But as Shrewsbury is next week, and I’m an inveterate crammer, I had to do it.

In preparation, I made three short (half an hour) rides around my neighbourhood last week, in order to temper the buttocks. This was a good thing. If I hadn’t done that, my undercarriage would have required one of those ring cushions now. As it is, I’m only needing to do half a John Wayne walk.

Gary called for me at ten past nine, yesterday, on a dry but gusty day. It wasn’t too bad in the sheltered towns of the Wirral though. We rode to the regular starting point in Willaston, the old railway station at Hadlow Road, and now a fine café. There were loads of PROBs riders there, but when I asked if they were doing the official ride, the vast majority of them said no. It wasn’t just a ‘I haven’t got the time today’ kind of no, it was more of a ‘I value my limbs and my heart’ kind of no.

Ever the encouraging sort, Gary, who happened to be ride-leader that day, told me he’d make sure I wouldn’t be left behind, and told me that it would give me great confidence for next week, so I pulled my big girl’s pants on and made the decision to carry on with the seven or eight who were heading out.

The first twenty miles or so, to The Old Stores Motorbike Café, in Pontblyddyn, was fairly comfortable. We went the usual way, through the Burton Marshes and over the bridge into Wales and although the wind was still giving us company – I needed to keep my mouth closed quite a lot as the last of the blossom bombarded me – it didn’t feel too overpowering. The birds were twittering and the sun was on us, and it felt great to be in the saddle again.

This biker’s café was the coolest. Alongside us, the regular clientele consisted of old white bearded guys with classic (or so Gary told me) shiny two-wheeled machines that probably would not be allowed out in the rain (the bikes, not the blokes). The café, a bit of a rabbit warren inside, was covered from ceiling to floor in motorbike memorabilia, that I have absolutely no idea about, but it looked great. The tea was hot and I was pleased to have a little sit down, and partake of a jaffa cake or three, courtesy of Sue. We all sat outside in the sun, under a pergola with a little brook running alongside us. It was lovely.

Part two of the ride, only around ten or eleven miles, was where we went up. Not all in one go. No, sometimes we went down, which of course meant going back up, but between the bikers’ café and Ponderosa we gained a thousand feet.

Just go nice and steady, were Gary’s sage words, but I failed at the first hurdle, as my chain fell off on a small steep bit. Luckily he helped me get it back on the cog, or rather, I held the bike while Gary put the chain on. After this, I didn’t mess around with the front gears, but did my best to keep going on the little back ones. I had thought that I was on the lowest gears, but turns out I wasn’t, so that makes me feel even better.

I had managed to get myself in the second-to-last team of me and Gordon. He was following the ‘steady’ mantra as we rose higher and higher, and kept a rhythm regardless of the degree of incline. I, on the other hand, huffed and puffed on some parts, and went ahead on others, until in the last half mile before the café, I had to get off the bike to walk. At least it gave me a chance to marvel at the scenery of the hills around me. Gordon, and most of the others were well ensconced inside by the time I leaned my bike against the wall. Gary and Sue were cycling in as I went inside. The gusts, by this time had joined together into a general hooley; so much so that the pole holding up the Union flag, was straining at its foundations. Not quite sure why the cafe wasn’t flying the Welsh flag but they did serve up a good hot dinner which was good, as I was ravenous.

I had, albeit with a little walking, managed it. I tried to forget that there were over twenty miles still to go to get back to the Harp Inn near Neston, as I was bushed. It was a ride that I wouldn’t have been able to do at the beginning of the year, but I think my marathon training has helped to give me a little more stamina, and that was a great feeling. In fact, the food and the tea and the short rest did their thing and I felt okay to carry on. The rest of the crew went on ahead, as first, Gary helped Sue tighten her breaks, as there was a fair bit of downhill on the way back (sometimes harder than the uphill!) and second, the three of us decided to sample the wares of Rosie’s Cider Shop, a nearby farm that made their own liquid refreshments. We each bought a litre of cider or perry, and then made our way back home

I was feeling tired now, and before we got back to the marshes I called Anne to pick me up at The Harp. I told her we’d be there by five but it was actually around half five in the end. A long day, but brilliant, with lovely scenery and great company. Despite the lift, I still managed around sixty miles. Am I ready to do two days in a row of around sixty miles each when we go to Shrewsbury next week? I think I am. I am assured that we won’t be ascending a thousand feet in any ten-mile stretch along the way so I reckon I’ll make it.

7 thoughts on “Cycling to Ponderosa”

  1. Good job – best of luck for next week. Very happy to have been reminded of Bonanza – I always liked Dan Blocker as a name (he played Hoss).

    1. I remember watching it as a kid on Sunday afternoons. Anne suggested the cafe could be called this because we would all be walking like cowboys by the time we got there!

      1. I was wondering if it had something to do with being at the top of the Horseshoe Pass (but I much prefer Anne’s idea).

  2. I keep running out of time to ride, you’ve inspired me….and yeah, that butt…one year I rode a 200K event for cancer, I had to ride in areo to keep the pressure off that seal…lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s