Friday, 25 January 2019

Big Vern Goes to Shetland 2: Chester Draws us in

Without anywhere near enough planning, one Tuesday lunchtime we headed off. 

Ready for the off

The auspices were not great. Despite our intention to only use A-roads, the only way north was across the Severn Bridge to Chepstow, and that meant the first 30 miles would be either a horrid ride through the chemical flecked wastelands of Avonmouth, or up the M5 and along the M4.
Not having ridden the Bonnie along a motorway yet and having a pathological hatred of riding motorcycles along them anyway, I didn’t enjoy it. We stopped briefly at the first services to make sure all our luggage was staying put, then progressed at a steady 65-70 up the M5, onto the M4, stopped at Aust, rode over the decidedly pockmarked old Severn Bridge, with a considerable crosswind and the threat of a shower, and passed Chepstow into the Wye Valley.


This experience was better. I hadn’t ridden the Chepstow to Monmouth road in an age, but it was as good as I remembered, though it did also seem to have quite a lot of cliffs falling onto it. We stopped briefly at Tintern, then headed onwards, blatted through Monmouth and kept going. 
Like the rebels we were we had not, at this stage, considered a first night stop off, intending to find “somewhere near Shrewsbury”. 
Sean’s speedometer snapped it’s needle and seemed to seize. We got to Hereford, which turned out to be a horrible place to navigate. This was especially the case as we hit it at school run time, in a city that had just the one bridge over the River Wye and is a massive bottleneck.
Halfway across town my clutch started playing up and was slipping badly. We pulled over in the car park of a closed-down pub opposite a run down Pizza Hut. I have to be honest, Hereford wasn’t as pretty as I remembered it. In fact, it was so ugly I didn't take any pictures.

After giving the bike half-an-hour to cool down and tweaking the cable a little, we were back rolling. We had actually broken through the worst of the traffic and the road to Leominster is a good one, though the time lost waiting for things to calm down meant we had to forego the recommended stop at the OK Diner. The road stretched northwards, and after the Bonneville's little tizzy, there were clear and delightful roads through the Welsh Marches, through Church Stretton,  where I forgot to take any pictures here too, which was a shame as the area is stunning. We whizzed and clattered around the Shrewsbury bypass and on to an old school transport caff outside Whitchurch where we had to decide what to do next. 
Maps were studied, and websites perused, and we decided to head for Chester, for no more good reason than it possessed a cheap Travelodge. 
Old ruins in Chester...
Vern marks his territory, and not for the first or last time

Here we found our promised twin room had been given to a trio of angry Japanese tourists, So we got one with a double bed and a put-me-up single. Dinner was had in the inevitable 'Spoons and Sean had his first experience of my snoring. The hotel was indeed cheap. Sadly the overnight NCP parking wasn’t and swallowed up all the savings made... 

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