At The Starting Gate

Greetings all

Well, I am sitting here at MCI all checked in and ready for the first leg. This first part is a quick jaunt down to DFW with American Airlines. I was able to upgrade this to First Class for $42. Major score. I’m trying to upgrade the 9 hour leg with British Airways, but it doesn’t want to let me online because it doesn’t know that I’ve dealt with the seat assignment on American. American won’t let me do seat assignments because it’s on BA. Where’s Joseph Heller when I need him. Hopefully, in the hour and a half I have at DFW I can figure it out.

In any case, I’ve got some time to kill, so I’m going to write a full complete Rhodri-length post.

This past weekend was wonderful and relaxing. There are times when validation and love that normally feels way too much is just what one needs. Eoforwic and Ealdormere have given me way more than I’ve given them, but I do recognize that it’s been a two-way street. In any case, the welcome that they gave me was just what I needed right now. Sitting around the Eoforwic fire singing until late drinking beer that Rattanicus and Gypsy and Mahault and Berend brought me was wonderful. I am out of practice, so I didn’t sing particularly well, but of course I have a set of songs they’re not used to so that helped. I also did Eric St. Leger’s ship song a couple of times, as I’m trying to bring it back to the normal rotation. It was rough, but Hector especially liked it and commented upon how it sort of forms a snapshot of Calontir in 2005.

I fought a goodly amount on Saturday. The main scenario was a steal from the Abbey kind of scenario. It needed some thought on how to do it, but the basic setup of bricks in a haybale Abbey was good. I’m contemplating how to make it smoother. The original idea was not particularly effective, and I broke it. My side won the first round 24 to 1. Oooops, sorry Mordain πŸ™‚

Sunday there was a class on melee tactics. It was extremely difficult keeping my mouth shut. Shockingly, Ealdormere and Calontir have different warfighting styles. Who knew? Still, the class was fun to watch.

The highlight of the day for me, however, occurred at court when Medb got announced for her Laurel. In truth, I thought this was overdue, long overdue. I knew she’d be a Laurel back in 2003 or so when she went to York to look at the back of a piece of sprang and was able to reject the “academic” theory of how her type of sprang was actually done. I was terribly impressed then, and the work she has done since has continued to impress. So, doing as the Romans do, for the proto-Mistress Medb, Wassail!

The trip back on Monday and Tuesday was generally uneventful. We could have pressed on and done the trip in one day, but it was wiser to stop for the night. We made it to Bloomington and stayed at the Chateau. OK, this was a really cool choice. First, the decor is very Versailles-ish. Fleur-de-lys everywhere. Did you hear me Issi and Lyriel? Everywhere. The bathroom even had FdL wallpaper. Second, they actually have a hotel bar and a hotel restaurant. You know, most nights I do just want a hotel room, but I lament the decline of the hotel bar. This one even had a couple of decent beers on tap. In any case, I was a little nervous about the price, but it was only $60 or so on a Monday night. Not bad at all.

Yesterday, Kate, Jenn, and I hosted a 4th of July party. We ended up getting about 20 people and it was about the perfect size. Big enough to have a good vibe, small enough that there was not much pressure. One of the attendees was the neighbor over the back fence, Mike. He seems like a very hoopy frood and he survived being the *one* non-SCA person. Now if I can fix his taste in beer πŸ˜‰

I actually feel a little guilty, because I have thought basically since I moved in 15 months ago that I should host a neighborhood get together of basically the houses that I can see from my house. It took Mike contacting Jenn to get him invited over. I so suck. I think some point in September I’m going to have to rectify this mistake.

So now I sit in MCI ready to go. Another hour and a half or so and I’m on my way. Here’s my overall trip itinerary.

7/5: Leave KC on Flight 1298 at 2:35pm to Dallas. Then at 4:10 Flight 192 to Heathrow landing 8:45am Friday the 6th.

7/6: Arrive in the morning, then make my way to Chepstow. First task will be to get a phone, the second to get to Paddington Station, the third to Chepstow. Not sure when I arrive in Chepstow but I’m staying at the Town Mews there for both Friday and Saturday night. Hopefully I’ll get there early enough and have enough energy to go visit very early 12th century Norman castle there. We’ll see, in any case, a lot of kicking back, relaxing, and maybe a pint or three.

7/7: Technically a rest day, but this is my chance to visit Aethelflaed and Gloucester. It’s a 30-minute train ride and knowing me I’ll get to Gloucester 11ish and spent 5-6 hours there and return. I’m intending to get a good night’s sleep and be well-rested before the actual start of the walk, but I’m not always the wisest of knives in the sea…

7/8: Up on my way, hitting the open trail, there is magic at my fingers, for the spirit ever lingers, undemanding contact in my happy solitude. The first actual walking day, this one from Chepstow to Redbrook. It’s 12.7 miles, but along the way is a slight optional detour of Tintern Abbey so it might end up longer. We’ll see. That night I’m staying at The Florence in Bigsweir.

7/9: Redbrook to White Castle, 14.5 miles. No, I’m not going to try and eat sliders in White Castle. I will probably have lunch in Monmouth though, a place of some reknown. I’m actually really excited about the accommodations on the trip in general, but this seems especially cool. I’ll be staying at the Old Rectory in the middle of Llangattock Lingoed. This sounds like a neat place. I hope I’m coherent enough to appreciate it. This may not be the toughest part of the trail, but I suspect the second day will be the hardest day of the trip.

7/10: White Castle to Longtown Cross Path, about 12 miles. The directions for this day are positively Grimfellish: “When you reach the crosspath descend off the top of the mountain and continue across the base of the mountain until you come to a cattle grid… Turn right and cross over the cattle grid and head down the lane to Olchon Cottage; identified by a row of poplar trees along the drive. Please note that there is no mobile reception here.” No, really? I’ll be staying at the Olchon Cottage Farm this night.

7/11: Longtown Cross Path to Hay-on-Wye, 13.0 miles. So, this will be the final make or break day. If I complete this day, I’ll make it through the whole trip because I have a rest day in Hay-on-Wye. I’ll be staying both the 11th and 12th at the Famous Old Black Lion in Hay-on-Wye. I totally dig this name.

7/12: A “rest” day. Yeah, I’m going to rest a lot in a town known far and wide for it’s booksellers. This is probably the most perilous day on the whole trip. A full day with a credit card in a town full of weird, cool, and one-of-a-kind books? Perilous indeed.

7/13: Hay-on-Wye to Kington, 14.5 miles. Kington is the home of the Offa’s Dyke Centre and is the one part of this whole walk that I saw last time. It was here that I discovered the actual Offa’s Dyke Path and thought, “Wow, wouldn’t this be cool.” I’m staying at the De Lacy House in Kington. There’s also a microbrewery here. Yum.

7/14: For they marched out, to Bastille Day…, and for me I’m marching from Kington to Knighton. I’m totally stopping at the George and Dragon in the middle of this day’s 13.5 miles. I stay at the Horse and Jockey Inn in Knighton.

7/15: Knighton to Cwn, 13.6 miles. I stay at Drewin Farm on this night.

7/16: Happy Birthday to me, as I walk from Cwn to Buttington, 13.7 miles. I actually stay at the Tynllwyn Farm in Welshpool. At this point, by the way, I’ve entered Powys which is sort of where I thought that Rhodri ap Hywel would be from. Conveniently, my trip cost includes a ride from the lodgings to a pub and back. Brilliant!!!! Did I mention that when I contacted the booking agency I told them I like Real Ales. This definitely deserves a self-congratulatory smirk.

7/17: Buttington to Trefonen, 16.3 miles. So, I might regret my birthday celebration as I walk the longest distance so far on the trip. Ahead Warp Factor Trudge, Mr. Sulu. I’ll be staying at the Lynstead Lodge in Trefonen. Well, I’ll just have to console myself that dinner will be at another microbrewery.

7/18: Trefonen to Castell Dinas Bran, 15.8 miles. Another long day, and one made longer as there are castles on this day. I end up at the Plas Hafod in Llangollen for two days as I have a rest day here in Llangollen.

7/19: Another rest day in Llangollen, which looks to have lots of cool stuff.

7/20: Castell Dinas Bran to Clwyd Gate, 14.5 miles. I’ll be staying at Gorphwysfa Guest House in Ruthin. You might have noticed, by the way, that several places that I’m staying are not actually on the path. The trip planners have arranged for people to pick me up at various times and places to shuttle me back and forth from the lodging and the trail. This seems as good of a time to mention that they’ll also be transferring my suitcase from place to place. The total cost for the trip from them was like 1600 pounds. That includes the lodging, breakfast, and all of the basic logistics, including plans for lunches and dinner reservations where applicable along the way. That seems like a great deal, and a ton of work by Anne and Kate at Celtic Trails from my perspective.

7/21: Clwyd Gate to Bodfari, 11.0 miles. Wow, a short day, although I’m thinking this might have a lot of verticality. Tonight I’ll stay at Valeside in Bella Vista (Bodfari, not Arkansas). By the way, a charmingly English note to this day’s directions: “The Downing Arms is a half mile away, on the A541. A pocket torch would be useful for your finding your way home after dinner.”

7/22: Bodfari to Prestatyn, 12.0 miles. I have at this point officially made it. W000000ttttt. This is the last day. I actually stay at the Chester Recorder House in Chester both the 22nd and 23rd.

7/23: The last “rest day.” Rest my ass, I’ve been anxious to see Chester for years. I’m stoked. I’ll also be looking to suck every last bit of fun out of this trip. Yeah, not so much resting.

7/24: On Tuesday I will make my way towards London. My flight leaves Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon, so I don’t actually have to make it all the way back to London. I’m not sure where I’m staying, but I suspect I’ll keep an eye out for one last cool pub. Maybe I’ll take a slight detour and go stay in Oxford near Wychwood Brewery, home of Hobgoblin. There’s got to be a Wychwood pub near there, right?

7/25: At 3:45 local, I take Flight 297 from Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare. I land there at 6:05 Central. Then, at 10:25, I take Flight 5093 from Chicago to KC, landing at 11:45pm. Who wants to pick me up? πŸ˜€

So that’s it. You know, I don’t know as I’ve ever had a period of my life ever be quite so structured. Again, I’m indebted to Kate and Anne at Celtic Trails for all of their work.

My flight leaves in an hour at this point. I am sooooooo ready.

And to quote the immortal Rocco, “I’ll catch you on the flip side.”

11 thoughts on “At The Starting Gate”

  1. I hate you, seriously.

    Or perhaps I have confused jealousy with hate?? πŸ™‚

    Sounds wonderful. Do keep us updated as you can so those of us chained to a desk can continue to hate you. Meanwhile I just bookmarked Celtic trails. A girl’s gotta dream.

    1. I’m…

      very impressed so far with their work. The other two I contacted said it was impossible to do in the time frame I gave them. These guys just went ahead and did it. Impressive.

  2. That sounds awesome! Don’t worry too much about those 16 mile days – they’re toward the middle so you’ll have worked up to them. The worst is probably going to be the third day, when your muscles figure out that the craziness is going to continue! πŸ™‚

    Take so many pictures!!! I am so jealous! πŸ™‚

      1. Re: Wow……..

        So that those of us who aren’t there can become insanely jealous, of course. πŸ˜‰

  3. It sounds like you’re going to have an amazing time! There are several things I would recommend, given the amount of walking you’ll be doing.

    Stay hydrated.

    Wear a broad-brimmed hat of some sort or other, and perhaps a headband/sweatband underneath that, for comfort.

    Keep your feet and legs as comfortable as you can, in spite of the amount of walking. Only 7 to 10 miles of walking per day is a bit of a hike, especially when one’s not accustomed to it (or wearing new shoes), and many days you indicate you’ll be doing twice the low end of that range. Take as long as you need to get where you’re going, safely and without damaging yourself.

    I look forward to your updates! BTW, if Gavan hasn’t actually responded with titles, I’m pretty sure he’ll appreciate anything that seems to be primarily about glass, as long as it’s 1600 or earlier. If in doubt, call him at 816.550.8966, no matter the hour.

    Take care, be safe, hope you find what you’re looking for!

  4. So close, and yet so far…

    We will be landing in Manchester on the 17th, taking a train to Lymington on the south coast of England, then working our way back up to Salisbury and Bath during the part of your trip we overlap. Let’s trade trip stories next time we get a chance. πŸ™‚

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