A Welsh Odyssey I

Sometimes, the only answer is to change everything.

I had the idea of starting a new kind of bike shop (in Marin county, actually). To do this, it seemed important to create a baseline story that could be referred back to, or as a way to discover things about equipment, and myself. The shop coming together now will be like no other, just like my last shop was. This one will be in St. Helena, in the heart of Napa Valley.

The reason Wales was the target has to do with my love of Dylan Thomas, and how I wanted to try to find the very spot where he stood when he wrote the lines:

“It was my thirtieth

Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon

Though the town below lay leaved in October blood.

O may my heart’s truth

Still be sung

On this high hill in a year’s turning”

Poem in October by Dylan Thomas

Poem In October is the source of the name of High Hill Cycles. The intent in borrowing this flourish from literature is to conjure up a pre-Strava image of a person taking stock in his life, in the analog-tech of his personal introspections. This is what we do every time we climb into the saddle – we take a measure of ourselves. We measure ourselves on, against, and with the high hills in our lives.

Cycling is a test, every time. Cycling makes the rider take a measure of her meddle, and of how life and the intertwining activities of a life play out. Ultimately one’s grasp is ever-growing, and one’s reach is being ever-pushed over the horizon. But, we do always have to make a measure of where we stand, and how we got to this spot, living.

Wales is very beautiful to the Kansas eyes of your humble author – the steep hills, narrow roads (which in many places seemed like runs between warrens), the way the bay in Laughrne breathes the sea in and all-the-way-out of the bay by the damp green Welsh peninsula, hanging off the left side of England like it is trying its hardest to lean away from London. And the folks I met in London are just fine with that.

There are a few people around that know the name Dylan Thomas. There are plenty of people who are familiar with his work. There is a very dedicated cohort of DT fans that the words affect more strongly than they do for others. I am one of those last people. I have met people who get lost in thought the moment Dylan’s name comes up. His writings, for those that feel them deeply as they read, get caught up in very special almost vortex of feelings and emotion. Dylan Thomas’s words hit us special people so differently; so strongly, that we feel a veil is pierced in the cosmos as we read along.

Because change was in the air for me, and Dylan Thomas so affects me, I decided to bikepack my way from as north as one can go in north Wales, all the way south to #5 Cwmdonkin Drive, in Swansea – his birth home. It was important that I change my head. So, I went to a country where they speak a language other than English and met people in the pubs, and asked them where I should go next, on my voyage to discover that high hill, around my fiftieth birthday, where I could relocate my voice in cycling, through the spirit and stories of that most powerful Welsh bard. 

There will be many installments. There will be many photos. There will be many many words. Love them. 

“Love the words.” ~ Dylan Thomas