Foto's: Morgan 3-Wheeler Wales Roadtrip :D
Vorig weekend heb ik een Morgan 3-Wheeler gehuurd bij de Morgan fabriek in Malvern, UK. Dit is een verslag van de drie-daagse roadtrip die ik heb gedaan in Wales. In het Engels, omdat ik te lui ben om het artikel dat ik op Pistonheads heb gepost te vertalen in het Nederlands :)
Het is een aardig lang stukje geworden, en om het te vertalen kost te veel tijd en moeite ;)
Op Pistonheads heb ik wel veel meer foto's kunnen plaatsen, 10 foto's is eigenlijk een beetje te weinig :)
September 2018 I wanted to indulge myself and tick off the Morgan 3-Wheeler box that has been empty for far too long! Watching videos of it on Top Gear, EVO, Autocar and Chris Harris having far too much fun in it in Wales has really whetted my appetite for some S+S powered fun, so I booked a weekend hire for the first weekend of August, 2019. A bit of time between booking and the actual hire, but I have a very strange work roster which gives me a 6 day weekend several times a year, and surely the beginning of August the weather will be nice in Wales? The fact that friday 2nd of August was my birthday didn't hurt either. ;)
Time to start planning the itinerary! As some of you might remember, the initial plan was to drive to the most northern point of England (Marshall Meadows Bay) and the most southern point of England (Lizard Point) but after multiple posters pointing out that that route might be overdoing it a bit, and myself recalling a 1400 km stretch in 14 hours I did with my mate Christiaan in a Peugeot 106 Rallye returning from the Barcelona Grand Prix, doing alternate driving shifts in a rather comfortable car instead of solo-ing it in a car a bit more rudimentary, I decided that indeed that route was a far too enthousiastic plan for 3 days in the Morgan 3-Wheeler!
So what to do now? Being an avid EVO Magazine reader, their "EVO Triangle" always has stirred up interest in driving in Wales. A quick google search "Best driving roads Wales" led me to an article of Top Gear and a webpage by the Welsh tourist board:
Later on I watched the Welsh Rallye and the setting of the final stage in Llandudno, The Great Orme, looked very great as well!!!
So combining the routes on those two websites, including the Great Orme and AirBnB's that were booked in accordance with said sites and locations, led me to a itinerary leading from Malvern to Llandudno, from Llandudno to Builth Wells, and from Builth Wells back to Malvern again, avoiding motorways as much as possible!
Routes included the EVO triangle, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and many narrow, steep, rather scary mountain roads!
Day 0 - Ferry, Stafford, Malvern in a mundain Berlingo
Wednesday 31st of July I had the night shift until 22.00 hrs. After finishing work, driving home, taking a shower, preparing some food for the trip and stuffing the company-issued Berlingo with far too much gear to ever fit in a 3-Wheeler, I left home 1st of August at about 1.00 am to catch the Dunkirk to Dover ferry at 8.00 am. Plan was to take a kip at the ferry terminal before departure, but when I arrived at the terminal, I was asked if I would like to take the 4.00 am ferry instead? I obliged, so planned kip did not happen! After landing in Blighty, I visit my friend Simon living in Maidstone, Kent, who kindly offered me his spare room to sleep for a few hours, which offer I happily accepted. After Maidstone up to Stafford to meet up with another friend of mine, James, who I hadn't seen since 2013. It felt like 6 days since we met instead of 6 years, so that was a very nice evening catching up, playing pool and having a few pints!
Day 1 - Malvern to Llandudno
The big day! Collecting time at the Morgan factory in Malvern was 9.30 am and with paperwork and pedal fitting to be done as well, I wanted to be at Pickersleigh Road at 9.00 am, so I drove off from Stafford at 7.00 am to arrive a bit excited at Morgan's premises at 8.45 am to find two cars readily waiting in the "Hire Cars Only" section of the parking lot. A British Racing Green Plus Four, and a 3-Wheeler in a very lovely shade of gold with black wheels and accents. Numberplate was cool too! Not really a Christmas present, but a birthday treat, but still ;)
Was this my car for the weekend? I really hoped so!
As I wanted to enter the reception area at Morgan's I came across a very nice gentleman who confirmed that the gold 3-Wheeler was indeed my ride for the next three days! Cue Happy Days theme song! :D
After doing the paper work, I started moving my gear from the Berlingo to the little Morgan. Not much of luggage hauler, I can tell you!
In the footwell of the passenger side of the car went a box of selected Belgian beers for another pal of mine, Rick, and a 5 liter emergency can of petrol (I had been warned that the petrol gauge of the Morgan might be a bit unreliable and I didn't want to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere of Wales), my bag full of clothes catering for all sorts of weather ranging from Siberian to Saharan and Monsoon went on the passenger seat, a rugsack with map of Wales, the itinerary marked with fluorescent marker on it, my passport, wallet, camera and water etc, topped it off. Empty camera bag with long lense, and heavy duty rain gear went under the back cover which can hold a little bit of luggage as well, keeping the right side of the tonneau cover company. The left hand side of the tonneau cover was clicked in place to protect my belongings, and a metal bendy octopus was put in place using paper tape to act as my satnav holder.
After a guide around the car by William (I really don't know his name, but let's call him William) and no pedal fitting, as William said the settings were fine for him and he and I were of similar height, I set off in the M3W! First impressions after the few 100s of yards of driving: Oh the noise! The glorious noise! The S+S engine and exhausts cracking and bubbling really sounded wonderful. And the feel! The glorious feel! You feel everything in this machine. All of the information of the road you're driving on is transmitted through the skinny front wheels and the beefier rear wheel, and meanwhile the engine vibrations, the vibrations of the belt drive and it's whine are entering your sensatory system undiluted. All of which would be a bit of a downer in a regular car, but this is not a regular car and it really enhances the fun here!
After a few miles of driving around Malvern with no planned route on the satnav on my phone distracting me from drinving, to acquaint myself with the car and its perks, habits and downsides, I parked up to set the satnav to Llandudno.
The route led from Malvern to Leominster using the A4103, B4220 and A44, then up to Shrewsbury via Ludlow using the A49, the A5 passing Oswestry, Llangollen up to the EVO triangle, the B5113, B5427, and A470 up to the final destination of the day, Llandudno.
William has 'warned' me about the fact that it only takes a few minutes or even seconds to start smiling in the M3W and he was right! Even the most ordinary and mundain roads become a pleasure when you are driving a Morgan 3-Wheeler!
Me and the satnav were not always great friends these three days, so I somehow found myself near Hampton Court Castle which was not on the planned route, but it looked like a nice place to take my first few photos on route, so I decided it was rude not to!
After the small detour at Hampton Court Castle it was northbound to Shrewsbury and beyond on the A49.
The M3W is not the car for you if you are shy! All the time people were looking at me, well I mean the car of course, pointing, waving, thumbs up and even taking pictures! I have (been) driven (in) nice cars before, Porsches 911, a Ferrari 599 and a Dodge Viper spring to mind, but the Morgan by far caused the most stir, and got the most positive and most frequent reactions! During a fill up at a petrol station later on the first day a McLaren in a very nice vibrant shade of red was also filling up, and my car got more reactions and attention than the Macca! Amazing!
All people seem to like it, children, their parents, non-car people and bikers, you name it! Especially the bikers seemed to like it, I think because the M3W is half car, half bike. It certainly sounds like one!
On the A49 I found myself stuck in a queu which seemed to last forever. The Morgan did not like it all. It is not made for congestion/traffic jam driving. Being belt driven it often stuttered at low speeds. What was the cause of this misfortune? After half an hour or so, when enough cars had passed the source of the delay, it turned out to be an Edwardian steam roller probably lossed its way to Brighton. The A49 is a bit too twisty, providing not enough view to safely pass an ancient vehicle towing a covered gypsy wagon, so when finally being the first behind the steam roller, I spent several minutes to be able to pass it. The Morgan has plenty of torque to be able to do the passing, but as said, the view on oncomers is a bit difficult on the A49!
Next part of the route, the A5 towards the EVO Triangle, but first a stop for some lunch! Driving the M3W is a very physical experience, much more of a physical effort than I've ever experienced in any car.
Place of choice for a bite was the White Lion in Whittington (did the drug-dealing, Le Mans-winning brothers' family originate from this pretty village?).
The Morgan was the talk of the town again, of course. Pub landlord and fellow customers alike, all immediately fell for the charmes of the gold chariot.
Now it was time to hit the A5 and the EVO triangle. It sure was a nice drive, but sometimes a bit too twisty. It turned out that I like my twisty driving, but I also like looking at the scenery, and when you are wrestling a steering wheel connected to skinny, little grip-giving front tyres combined with a belt-driven rear-wheel, you have little time to enjoy the views! But it sure was a fun route to drive!
As I had plenty of time left before arriving at my AirBnB in Llandudno (actually Penrhyn Bay, but that is just semantics) I decided to pay Caernarfon and its Castle, which was the location of Charles' inauguration as Prince of Wales, a little visit as well.
Then up to Llandudno to drive along the Great Orme, the setting of the final stage of the Rallye of Wales. The Great Orme is a peninsula and the route along it is a counterclockwise one-way road, with high cliffs to your left, and a steep drop to the water and pointy rocks to your right. During the day you have to pay toll, but after 19.00 hrs it is free to drive it. Very pretty, and much fun!
After a nice dinner in a nearby restaurant, it was time to go to the AirBnB, as I was completely knackered! The M3W is not a great highway muncher, shaking and rattling all the time, and provides no place to rest your feet, only a beam across the footwell to lean your left foot against when not engaging the clutch. My legs did not feel very well, although they had a lot of fun ;)
As I arrived at the place to rest my head, my landlord Tim also had just arrived and was in absolute awe of the Morgan, so I took him for a (not so) little spin. He was a local of course so knew about nice places to go to. He guided me back to the Great Orme, but this time up the mountain/hill, instead of driving alongside of it. Much fun was had again!
After this, it was time to hit the sack as I was rather a physical wreck! Tired, aching, bursting with adrenaline, and smiling and grinning from ear to ear, it took mere milliseconds to fall asleep!
Driving distance this day: 221 not so quick but wonderful and very enjoyable miles :D
Day 2 - Llandudno to Builth Wells
Early bird catches the worm, so early breakfast and off again.
Itinerary for the day leads me and the Morgan to Conwy Castle, the A470 towards Betws-y-Coed, A5 to Capel Curig, A4086 to Pen Y Gwyrd, A498 passing and stopping at the Snowdon Viewpoint, passing Llyn Gwynant, through Beddgelert, and when in Garreg, hit the A4410. Then A487, A496 to Ffestiniog, B4391, A4212 to Bala, A494 passing Llyn Tegid to Dolgellau, A487, B4405 to Tywyn, A493 to Machynlleth, the B4518 passing Aberhosan and Dylife towards Llanidloes. Continue on B4518 to Rhayader, then A470 to Builth Wells.
The engine of the Morgan, and especially the two exhausts popping and cracking, taking turns in giving my ears a sound massage, is loud. Although very enjoyable, the sound is a bit too much for 10+ hours. Last few hours of driving on the friday, it all became a bit too much, so today, I used the personalised earplugs with special "motorbike" filters I had made for this trip. At 149 euros the pair a bit expensive for what came down to two days of use, so in order to soften the financial blow a little bit, I guess I have to do a roadtrip in a M3W or similar more often! Man Maths at their best at work here!
First stop, Conwy Castle next to Conwy harbour. No good setting for pictures, so down to Betws-y-Coed now. I was still a bit stiff from last day's driving, but the Morgan immediately made me forget my bodily sores, and put a smile on my face before you could say "open top driving fun" :)
When driving on the A498 I came across the Snowdon Viewpoint. It has a stone (granite?) table on which you can see what mountains you are looking at, their names and heights.
Passing Beddgelert, which is a very pretty village, but also a bit too crowded for my liking and it was not yet time for lunch, so I carried on driving through Garreg, Ffestiniog, Bala. Weather was a bit miffy this day. Friday I enjoyed sun in abundant quantities, so my skin started to turn a lovely shade of red. Saturday I was less lucky. Mostly overcast, I encountered a few showers as well. At 25 mph or above, the tiny "windshield" do an excellent job in creating a boundary layer which leads the wind and therefor the rain straight over your head. Only part of my body that got rained on was my spikey hair. But as you have to stop for junctions, red lights, making turns etc. I did get wet a little bit. But not more than 10 minutes in a row, so I think I really dodged a rain bullet this day. Looking at this weekend's weather forecast (9, 10 and 11 August) I was extremely lucky during my 3 days of driving delight in Wales!
Passing Llyn Celyn and Llyn Tegid, I stopped in the village of Dolgellau, having lunch in T.H. Roberts Teahouse. This particular building is the setting of the first Welsh parliament (according to the couple sitting next to me, don't shoot me if this turns out to be untrue) and later became a hardware store. It is a listed building, so nothing can be changed to the exterior and interior. All shelfs and cupboards of the hardware store are still present today, and it is still named after the owner of the hardware store, mr. Roberts.
Next waypoints Tywyn, Machynlleth, and then the B4518 passing Aberhosan and Dylife towards Llanidloes. The 4518 was a bit narrower than roads I'm used to in Belgium, but still massively wide compared to roads I was to encounter the next day ;)
After crossing the A470 in Llanidloes, the 4518 continued towards Rhayader. There I decided against driving the B4574 and the A4120 towards Aberystwyth, missing out on a passing called "Devil's Bridge". I guess I really was in for a treat there, but it was getting late, and the lack of sleep wednesday night, and yesterday's driving effort started to get to me. As the Abergwesyn Pass was on the planning for tomorrow, I headed towards Builth Wells using the A470. After a well deserved pint of Indian Pale Ale, I parked up at the (Air)BnB's private parking lot, took a shower and went into town for a Lamb Shank dinner. When in Wales....
Today's driving distance was 185 marvellous miles :)
Day 3 - Builth Wells via Usk to Malvern
Sunday I had an appointment for Sunday Roast Dinner (at lunch time!) with my mate Rick at his local in Usk. As Usk is located southeast of Builth Wells, it seemed no more than logical to hit the roads North north west towards Treganon, climbing the Abergwesyn Pass. This particular route turned out to be the summit of the driving I did all weekend. Much fun was had, and very pretty views were seen! After Usk, it was back to Malvern, as I had to return the M3W to its rightful owners and builders early monday morning :cry:
As mentioned before, me and the satnav were not always good friends, so instead of driving on the A483 towards Beulah, I somehow found myself on the B4520 to Upper Chapel and then back on the B4519 towards Garth on the A483. This turned out to be a real stroke of luck, as this is the area surrounding Mount Eppynt, which is very pretty. It is also the location of the Ministery of Defence's Sennybridge Training Area. The Drovers Arms is an abandoned pub which is now used as a traing location by the military.
After Mount Eppynt and the Sennybridge, it was time for the drive of the weekend, crossing Abergwesyn Pass from Beulah towards Tregaron. Very narrow roads, most of the times not more than a hiking path and often very steep, I drove on inclinations of 25% upwards and downwards. This stretch of road is not used by locals, only the very few people that live! here. If you want peace and quiet, this is the place to go, I guess. Although, it is quite known for its driving perks, so I did pass plenty of bikers who all adored the Morgan. Got plenty of thumbs up and leg kicks of them. Never stopped to amaze me how well received the M3W is. I also passed a car being towed by the AA. Not the most fun way to do the Abergwesyn Pass! After the Pass, time to stop for a pint at the Talbot Hotel and Inn in Tregaron. Square in front of the Inn was crowded with bikers, who were also very interested in my car ;)
Time for the Roast Dinner/Lunch with Rick. Google maps gave me an ETA of 13.30 hrs which kept getting later and later as I progressed towards Usk. Roads include B4343, an unnumbered road called Sarn Helen, which was also a bit narrow (read: a lot!) leading to the A482 towards Llandovery. Then the A40 passing Trecastle, Sennybridge (sounds familiar), Brecon (Aberhonddu), Crickhowell, the A465 towards Abergavenny and finally the 4598 towards Usk. The route from Tregaron to Usk was not the most inspiring of the day, but as I had to make a good speed in order to make it to my appointment "in time-ish", it was OK. But every road driven in the Morgan is a fun road to drive, so I didn't mind too much.
Arriving at the The Greyhound Inn, and walking from the parking lot towards the Inn itself, a Morgan Plus Four entered. Naively tinking to myself "Cool car, nice coincidence" it turned out not to be a coincidence at all, of course! Rick had organised for his mate Roger and his daughter Emma to meet up with up us and taking his Morgan along for a little Morgan convoy in the surroundings of Usk. I used to think that being a member of a car club is something not for me, but driving with the Plus Four in tow or in front of me really changed my opinion on the matter! I definitely see the fun in joining a car club now! So after a lovely Roast Lunch, time to hit the roads again, I can't really tell where the roads led us, as I was merely guided this time around, instead of setting the route myself, but I do know that we visited Chepstow Castle. After saying goodbye to Roger and Emma we crossed the river Severn using the Chepstow Suspension Bridge towards England. Heading back to the Greyhound Inn unloading Rick out of the Morgan and loading my belongings into the Morgan again, I headed towards Malvern, using the A449, A40, M50, A417, B4208 and A438. I spent the night in a very lovely old historical farm 9 miles away from the Morgan factory, as I had to return it at 8.00 am the next morning.
Handing over the Morgan did hurt a lot! I really am missing this car, as it is a hoot to drive, to listen to and to look at. Every yard driven in it brings a smile to your face, and the reactions of people to it only adds to the fun. Yes it is rather expensive, a harsh drive, loud, even painful to your ears when driving too long and dare I say it, uncomfortable, but the fun had in this car simply cancels out the downsides. So where did I leave that Euromillions ticket?