There and Back Again
In lieu of the Olympics and the incredible success of the British cyclists, I decided to continue with my fitness trend but on two wheels instead of legs. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but Llanelli was one of the worst; a scum hole near the beach and I lived there for two years, but never, ever set foot on the sand. The Millenium Coastal path is 13 miles of beautifully smooth tarmac, and I used to haul my bike down two flights of narrow steps, hiding from the naked man across the parking lot who never shut his curtains. Although now, it was a slightly longer journey. I had to ride the bus for 40 minutes, and apparently bikes aren’t allowed on buses (a rule I discovered standing in front of the driver trying to buy a ticket), and so I had to rent one there.
I treated myself to an ice-cream, I’d underestimated how long it would take me to get there and felt I deserved a reward for doing it anyway. The wind kept blowing my hair into the ice-cream, which started to look like a delicious mistake. Resolute, immovable, I sat and licked and stared at the Machynys peninsula. Mom and I used to go over and view the open houses twice a month and wished we could live there, it was American style, and reminded us of what we’d had. Of course it wasn’t quite like home, but it was more homely than the tiny two bedroom flat with no heating and sporadic hot water. We were only on the second floor but almost every night the woman underneath us would lock herself out of the complex and ring and ring and ring and ring the doorbell until Mom buzzed her in. There was a clan of Polish people who lived above us, seven of them, who may have been ghosts because we never saw them, only heard the heavy footsteps and shouting.
But enough procrastinating, time to get cycling. The coastal path from Llanelli to Pembrey was 7 miles. ‘I got this,’ I said to myself, ‘still have to fit into that dress somehow.’
For me, exercise has always been like cleaning, therapeutic. It’s the only state in which my mind goes completely and totally blank, wind whistling through my helmet, half blinded by the white sky. Of course since I hadn’t ridden a bike in 6 years it took a little bit of rocky riding to get the hang of it. I decided to risk whizzing down the enormous hill, which was a rollercoaster, a rollercoaster I was in charge of, and oh God, I can’t control this death trap dear God no no no no aaaaaaaaand I made it.
I should also say that the day before I had to wake up at 3:30am, get ready for work, and do an 8 hour shift in a leisure centre. Then I spent an hour in the gym, 2 hours getting home, and promptly collapsed into sleep. I mention this because in no way had the exercise bike I’d been practising on prepare me to balance on a real bicycle. After about the 5 mile mark, the novelty started to wear off. The path was pretty flat, flowing around the edge of the sea, so cycling required a lot of, well, cycling. I brought some home-made sandwiches with me, and sat on a grassy hill to eat them. I also brought a packet of Pombears, some cherry tomatoes, a whole lot of grapes, melon, some assorted nuts, and blueberries, and a hot food thermos of pesto tortellini.
I arrived at Pembrey and checked my watch, lay on the ground and swore very, very loudly. Of course in all the passionate cycling I’d forgotten that I had to get the bloody bike back to the rental shop! ‘I am Becky James, I am Seren Bundy-Davies on wheels,’ I never stopped pedalling until I reached the massive hill which carried me almost to the shop. It was here I decided to take my lighter photo. I gave the bike back, glanced forlornly at the shuttered ice-cream vendor, and lay down on a bench. But then I remembered that I live in the middle of nowhere and the buses might not be running for much longer, and after a speedy limp to the bus, I fell asleep and was stared at by an old man and a toddler.
Check out the Lighter Journal instagram for more pictures of the Millennium Coastal Path!
Editor: Joel Emmons