Cycling Ireland

April 20th

    We are together again, after what seemed like a long winter.  We are here in Bozeman with only 4 days left until we leave.  I feel disorganized, but I’m sure I’ll get motivated to put the final affairs in order soon.
Everone I’ve spoken to about Ireland comments on how narrow and dangerous the roads are.  It’s not helping my nerves.  I was able to get out on a few rides in Steamboat when the weather was nice enough, but I’m not feeling extremely confident about either of our biking endurances.  I’m sure we’ll find a rhythm when we get there, but for now we need to get in at least 2 more good rides before the trip.
When I got to Bozeman, I started looking over the Ireland guide book that McKayla has and it got me really excited.  There is so much to see.  I have a couple things that I really have my heart set on seeing; the rest will be nice if we get around to them.  There are several campsites along our way, which should really help our tight budget.  There are also several hostles throughout Ireland that would be good for rainy nights or sore backs, and I’m sure there will be a night or two at a hotel or B&B to get a nice relaxing break from the norm.
Well, I’ve got to pry McKayla away from her “Hunger Games” so we can go for a ride.

April 27, 2011

    GALWAY!!! We are here on the Emerald Isle.  It took 2 days, 3 plane trips, and a few bus rides here and there, but we made it.  Leaving Bozeman on Easter Sunday, we flew into Seattle where we enjoyed a 6 hour layover by watching airplanes take off and land, looking at ‘art’, and reading.  Then we flew on the red eye to hit New York at 7:00 AM.  Because we weren’t leaving NY until 10:00PM, we decided to leave JFK and visit the Big Apple for a day.
Our shuttle took us to Time Square where we had breakfast at the Hard Rock Cafe.  After our breakfast we couldn’t find anyone to pay or that seemed to care.  So after looking at some of the rock attire, we took to the streets.  Thanks for the breakfast, Hard Rock.
After wandering aimlessly for a while we decided to hop on a tour bus.  It’s not like either of us are planning to come back here so we thought we might as well see what we could.  The Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, The builing where the U.N. meet, Rockafeller Center, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Central Park were all on the tour.
There, I’ve been to N.Y, probably never again.  Seeing al the buildings both old and new was very impressive, but it was loud, smelly, and there was no grass to be found (other than Central Park which was way more beautiful than I imagined).  The most memorable thing about New York was probably our tour guide, he was an old Jewish guy that would’ve been jsut like George Costanza’s stand up – loud and whiney with no one laughing.
So, we left NY at 10PM for Shannon.  Three minutes into the international flight the entertainment screen in the seat in front of us goes black.  No big deal, we’ll miss trivia, but good books and sleep killed the time just as fast.  At least the meals were good, both dinner and breakfast.  Right as we were getting off the flight, the flight attendants handed everyone on the plane $100 Delta Vouchers as an apology for not having entertainment.  If I could choose between movies or $100 gift certificate, I’m gunna pick the gift cert. every time.  Thanks Delta!
With an hour to spare, we made it to Shannon in time to catch the bus to Galway.  Customs was a breeze because there was no customes.  Something to declare -> red lane,  nothing to declare -> green lane.  That was customs.  I like Ireland already.  At this point, we’ve had 2 red eye flights and lost 7 hours of daylight.  My jetlag is so heavy I feel like I’ve already spent a few hours at the pub.  As soon as we get on the bus, McKayla, bless her heart, is as excited as ever, but I need a nap.  She wants me to stay up and look at the country side, which was gorgeous and green and covered with new and interesting sites, but I need a nap.  After a little while, I start talking about the shoulders on the roads for biking – their width, their curves, their cleanliness.  Within five minutes, McKayla is sleeping from boredom.  Aaaahhh nap time.

4/28

    When we first arrived in Galway, we were blindsided by DK who nearly tackled us in excitedment.  Since we’ve been here it has been truly amazing, but it’s begining to live up to its nnickname of “The Graveyard of Ambition” only because of how easy it would be to stay here and take in all of Glaway.  Right as we got here, DK tood us straight through Town Center, the heart of Glaway.  I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.  The architacture alone has been worth the trip.  On our way through town, we stopped to have a Guiness.  I’ve always heard they were better here and I’ll have to agree; they are soooo smooth.  The pub we were in was from the 1600s, the King’s Head.  Soo far all the pubs we’ve been in have had the stone walls with that cave-like feel to them.
Since we’ve been in Galway, we’ve explored a few pubs, toured a cathedral, walked through the university campus that has a castle in the middle of it, ran along the bay, jumped off a pier tower, saw some local music, enjoyed local food, and of course re-tested the Guiness theory a few times over.  Not bad for two and a half days, walking all the while.  Honestly, I’m ready to get on the bikes so these two will stop making me walk everywhere.  I’m suprised DK can still walk considering yesterday after our run she took a jump off the pier and landed “SMACK” on her ass.  She has bruises covering the backs of her upper thighs.  At least she got a nice “oooooo” from the crowd as she splashed in.  In her defense that tower was a lot higher than it looked.  After jumping I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m still falling,” I’m guessing it was about 30 feet.
The Cathedral today was pretty incredible.  The ceiling had to be over 80 ft, and everything was very illaberately decorated.  I’d never seen a layout like it, it had four sections looking to the center where mass was given.  Above the alter, the dome reached even higher than the ceilings.  At the end of each set of pews about 40 feet tall, were beautiful stained glass windows in the shape of flowers.  The marble floors were impressive and they made the acustics of the place sensitive to a pin drop.
The castle in the middle of campus was no less of a structure.  I couldn’t believe they were using it for classes!  It was amazing and seemed fragile, but I guess they were built to last.  As you walked in there were 4 small areas of grass making up the courtyard that was about half the size of a football field.  The detail in each arch and window was unbelievable.  I’m pretty satisfied with my first castle and I can’t wait to conquer more (get it?).
Today was the day we were supposed to pick up our bikes, unfortunately they got us mixed up with another reservation that wasn’t due until May 5th.  Lucky for us, the owner of the bike shop, Liam, was more than accomodating.  He was so excited that people wanted to spend 3 weeks cycling, most of the time “peeple spend une weeek oot ther an try to see it oll, tay ton’t get it.” (That was my attempt at writing an Irish accent). Anyhow, Liam had some really good ideas.  Rather than bike down to Killarney with no real goals other than to bike a few of the penninsulas and see what happens from there, he gave us a little more direction.  He helped us decide that it would be best to start in Killarney, tour the penninsulas, and if we have enough time, which we will, head north, island hop around Galway and continue north into Connemara, with is supposedly gorgeous.  I gotta say, I’m a big fan of using the local’s knowlege, biases or not, this guy runs a bike touring company.  Soon after suggesting the route, he insisted on talking us to Killarny rather than relying on the bus which was more expensive and less timely.
After figuring out the bike situation, we went out to an early dinner at the King’s Head where I had fish n’ chips on a bed of mashed peas, delicious.  Then it was a night in, resting for the big day.

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4/29

    Biking Ireland begins!  Yaaaah!  After frantically panking to meet Liam on time at the shop at noon, we waited for Liam until 1:30.  Tardiness aside, he was true to his word and because of it, McKayla, Danika, and I are sitting in an indoor campground dining room eating cheese and drinking wine.  It took a little extra effort to come up with the 500 Euro in cash that West Ireland Cycling told us about at the last minute, but we were able to get it and settle everything right there, no deposits, no charges for panniers or better bikes; it sounds steep, but it was a better deal than any other company and he gave us a deal on top of it.  It was probably because he thought our plan was “brilliant” and wasn’t shy to say so.  Brilliant might be taking it a step far, but thanks Laim!
Packing up our bikes was an easy task but aparently Liam didn’t like the weight of the other bike that was being rented out to the swiss guy catching a ride in the van with us, Michael.  Liam has been one of the nicest guys I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with and I know he truly liked us because he openly loathed this Michael guy.  I couldn’t blame him, the guy was wearing his bicycle shorts backward and packed 7 text books for a three day ride, no wonder his bike was so heavy.  On top of that, the guy didn’t bring an ounce of water or a single bottle or camel bak.  Thankfully he got dropped off about 10 miles from Galway.  Good thing ’cause if that guy would’ve gotten into trouble, he’d be doomed.
The drive ended up taking about 4 hours, but between Liam’s chattering and the interesting countryside and towns, the ride went by fairly fast.  Upon arriving in Killarney, we went straight to another bike shop so DK could rent her bike, which she’ll be using for the next 3 days or so while she accompanies us through the Ring of Kerry.  I’m not sure what it is, but I can’t decide if the Ring of Kerry sounds more like a lost iconic jewel or an erotic VD.  Getting back on topic, we are about 30 miles from Killarney on the Ring of Kerry.  Considering we didn’t start until at least a quarter after 6:00, we made some pretty good progress.  We even stopped along the way to take pictures of the stunning mountain wayside, enjoyed an old church, gathered a fine dinner of cheese, crackers, fruit, and wine, all while taking in the incredible scenery around us.
There’s no mystery why it’s called the Emerald Isle.  I could never imagine a place so green, so bright and vibrant, and of every shade imaginable.  In the 30 miles we rode, there was one brown field and it stuck out like a fat chick at a meeting for anorexia.  This place is truly amazing and we’ve only had a taste.  I can’t describe how happy I am to be back on a bike and sharing the experience with McKayla.  I was, as always, a little stressed out before we got underway, but I am truly happy with what we’re doing.  This trip is going to be once in a lifetime, righteaously kick ass.  Sorry, I had to get that out.

4/30

    The Day started slow.  We took our time eating breakfast and packing up, which is the way it should be, I suppose.  Early on we decided to try to find the bog village, which was supposed to be a half mile or so away.  Now, in the country there is a sign for seemingly everything, but the Bog Village is a mystery and has no sign that we could find.  Can’t say we didn’t try.
So the signs here have a symbol to show there’s a castle coming up.  Oddly enough, the beaches are indicated by a sand castle.  We went for the former and ended up finding the latter.  Can’t complain since it was a short and nice side trip to a pretty stunning view of the ocean.
Luckily we could make up for our mistake in Caheersavine  there were ruins of the Ballycalberry Calstle.   On our way there, we rode on some hilly ocean view roads.  After one of our stops we got back on the road to see a semi being followed by some tractors.  Apparently we stumbled on a “Tractor Ride Fundraiser, 200 km in 24 hours for cancer.”  I thought, “well, at least we’re not the only country with rednecks.”  Tractor after tractor rode by and most gave us a friendly little honk (some customized with little tunes) and gave us the same look we gave them: you’re missing some marbles but a least you’re having fun.  Anyway, they were from the Irish Cancer Society, way to go tractor guys, hope you made it!
Sorry, back to the castle.  It was 3 km outside Caheersavine and we found out the ferry to Valentia Island rand all day and often.  “Let’s go see a castle!”
I was pretty incredible.  On arrival there was a barb wire fence 50 or so yards from the castle itself.  After getting a few pictures I was content, but McKayla really wanted to get closer.  We didn’t want to trespass but we shouldn’t have worried; I’m pretty sure that the rule is if there are sheep behind the fence, it’s fair game.  Sure enough, just as we were about to leave a family arrived and a fat kid jumped out and ran strait up to the castle saying, “Mind the wire,” while hopping the fence nonchalantly.  How many people get the opportunity to use a castle as a jungle gym?  I’m not sure but we’re now on that list.
It was truly incredible, it was about 5 stories high with winding stairwells, arrow slits, 360 degree views of the port and mountains beyond.  At over 600 years old, for whatever reason, the back half was missing… but it was still amazing.
We got to the ferry around 5:00 or so, just enough time to grab a Guiness in K____ town.  The woman working the ferry was very helpful, she gave us a map of Valentia Island and an idea of where to camp.  After our exhausting half mile ferry ride we made it to The Royal where we had a round and ordered some dinner.  I had the fisherman’s stew, yum, and both McKayla and DK got these tasty chicken bacon wraps with a sweet and spicy thai sauce.  Good food, good beer, great view, and even a little rugby on TV (making the crowd go nuts).
There was a place to camp on the opposite side of the island so we decided to take a route that led us near a lighthouse and the cliffs of Fogher.  The road up to the lighthouse is what I imagine most of Ireland would look like without all the grazing.  A lush overgrowth of all things green, growing as fast as the roots will allow while moss covers any spot untouched.  After getting to the lighthouse road we decided it wouldn’t be worth the climb back up (its okay, it was a newer looking lighthouse if it were old stone, we would’ve gone) so we were content with seeing it from a distance.
The cliffs of Fogher were pretty impressive.  Unfortunately, they were fenced off so you could only get one angle of it, but in all fairness, it was a really nice angle.  the cliffs themselves were big, black, and sheer.  The really interesting part was watching the huge waves crash against them with such ferocity it was amazing the cliffs were still holding their ground.
Our campsite had a view of a smaller cliff, the main land, and the Skellig Islands.  The Skelligs were small harsh looking islands that appeared as mountain tops judding out of the ocean.  Just around sunset, McKayla spotted some seals playing in a bay.
I can’t imagine seeing more in a single day, I feel like we saw a week’s worth of awesome in one wonderful day.

May first, 2011

    One of the hardest things to do in Ireland is to find a place to shit.  Today, right off the bat – public toilets!  It’s going to be a good day!  In fact, this was the Nationally Awarded Toilet of Portmagee.  I didn’t know there were such awards, but in 2002 they were the Kings of the Camode, Lords of the Loo, Champs of the Shitter…anyway, it was a nice little town on the coast but we were don’t with coasts for a while.  It was time to hit the mountains.
I thought this strecth was going to be a lot of hilly areas with at least one or two pretty tough climbs.  Well, as it turned out there was only one climb.  One rediculously steep climb that I didn’t even know could exist on an island.  This route was another of Liam’s suggestions and while we were cursing his name on the way up, after we crested Ballaghasheen Pass we were singing his praises.  It was easily one of the most beautifully scenic rides I’ve ever been on.  This seven mile strech of heaven was surrounded by impressive green peaks and in the middle, an expansive meadow with a small river winding its way through the open pasture.  You couldn’t have smacked the smile off my face, it was unbelievable.
After a fairly intense day on the bikes, we made it to the small town of Glencar where we stopped for a pint at the Climber’s Inn.  A nice Polish guy, a drunk Irishman, and a few Guinnesses entertained us until we made our way to the “campsite” in the backyard.  After two nights of 3 people in a 2 person tent, no one was looking forward to a third night but 5 euro for a campsite versus 75 euro for 3 spots in a hostel made too much sense.  Besides, McKayla and I are planning to stay at a B&B after we drop off DK in Killarney tomorrow.
We were able to stoke the trash fire that was already going in the “campsite”, eat our dinner and pass out by about 8 o’clock.  It started raining at some point in the night but the tent held true.  Little did we know the rain wouldn’t stop for another 18 hours or so.
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5/2

    So here is the famous Irish weather we’d been hearing about.  Rain, constant rain, with a touch of wind.  We’ve been very fortunate with the weather until today.  Normally McKayla and I would just stay in Glencar or wait for the storm to pass, but Danika needed to be back in Killarney by 3:00 so she can return her bike and catch a bus back to Galway.  The idea of a Bed and Breakfast is hanging over my face like a carrot on a string as we push our way through head on winds that are whipping pea sized rain drops.  Within a few miles, hands and feet are numb and anything not covered by rain gear is soaked to the bone.  We chear on each new sign of Killarney carrying a smaller distance.  For how nasty it was, the views were still pretty spectacular.  Mountains shrouded in light clouds, a quiet mountain lake, and of course green.  You couldn’t have all this green without all the rain so I guess it’s a fair trade.  It was kind of nice to see this area in it’s natural state – drenched.
Deciding not to stop for fear of hypothermia, we arrived in Killarney around noon.  We were tired, we, cold, and hungry but we made it.  We quickly made our way to the first B&B we could find, got a room, and set to drying and warming.  That shower was one of the better ones I’ve taken in recent memory.  Danika returned her bike and caught her bus.  Afterwards, McKayla and I went for a long overdue nap.
Awake and feeling good we set to drinking.  Fish and chips with a bottle of wine got us revved up to hit the town.  Within a block, we found a pub playing some classic Irish tunes.  We met a family from Georgia.  The girl, an Auburn alum, was teaching here since January.  It seems no matter where we go, we can find an Auburn alum.  Dallas from the Bahamas and here in Ireland.  We had a pint and danced in the middle of the motionless bar, laughing almost the whole time.  Then we made our way a few blocks down to O’connor’s pub where an older couple was playing some music.  We shared a beer with a father and son from New Hampshire while enjoying the couple’s music and watching what can only be described as a leprechan fresh out of retirement, dancing by himself.  When the bartender put down his hot toddy and guiness his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store then he took his drinks near the band and told them how beautiful his drinks looked.  After egging her on, McKayla went and danced with Patty the leprechan.  I think that made all of our night.

5/3                    (M)

    Yesterday’s bike ride was pretty rough.  And by rough, I mostly mean cold and wet, but tired legs added to the definition as well.  We only had to go 30 KM but it felt like it took forever.  My body was fairly dry and warm thanks to my rain coat and rain pants but my hands and feet were frozen.  They were so cold and wet that I couldn’t even shift gears.  I kept repeating in my head, “please stop raining, please stop raining…”  and then I paused to wonder, who am I asking? God? The Sky? Ireland itself? Maybe I just needed a rhythm to cling to even if it wasn’t addressed to anyone.
We showed up at the Tatler Jack’s B&B drenched and shivering.  My feet were so cold that whenever I stepped on them, it stung up the soul to the ankle.  We got a room, changed into dry clothes, and walked Danika to the bus station.  I’m glad she could join us for the amount of time she did.
Back at the B&B, Nate and I took naps, got drunk off wine, then went out for a night on the town.  I had a wonderful night!
The first pub we went to was Sheehan’s.  There was an Irish band playing and after a pint of Guiness, Nat and I decided to dance.  We must’ve disguised the fact that we didn’t know what we were doing because soon a crowd was gathered around us and I could’ve sworn some were even flashing pictures of us.  Either way, I had fun.
The next pub we went to for a pint was my favorite of the trip so far and will hopefully stay in my memory for the rest of my life.  O’Connor’s Traditional Pub.  There was an old couple providing the music, him on banjo and her on vocals.  They weren’t the most musically talented people but they sounded authentic, rustic, genuine.
The night got even better when Paddy walked in.  The cutest old man I have ever seen.  He was about 4’8″ and as skinny and frail as ever.  He had on a green jacket with tails, grey pants, and a grey Irish tweed cap.  Paddy got up and started dancing, the happiest person I have ever seen.  I wanted to dance with him and thankfully Nate pushed me through my momentary bashful barrier and I asked him to dance.  He didn’t make very big movements and I did my best to follow his tiny steps; I had a great time.  I think he did too.  He told me I’m a beautiful person and gave me a big hug.  Thank you, Paddy, for a wonderful dance.  I felt all the luck of the Irish surging through his frail hand.
Dance with a leprechan – check.  

5/3

    Ahhh….waking up well rested in a bed with breakfast waiting 2 doors down.  There are very few ways better to start a day, and I found one.  The Irish breakfast is four types of meat, an egg, toast and/or brown bread and tea.
Before we left Killarney, we needed to find a way to send our Mother’s Day postcards (Don’t worry mom, I didn’t forget) and laundry needed to be done.  As it turns out, one would be much less time consuming than the other.  Apparently in Ireland, at least in Killarney, you cannot be trusted with doing your own laundry; you must hand it in to a dry cleaner who will clean, dry, and fold your clothes properly at neither a reasonable price nor in a reasonable amount of time.  In our case, 12 euro for a load and a six hour wait.
Wandering aimlessly around killarney eventually led us to the library where we spent a good portion of the seemingly nasty day indoors readying and writing to our hearts content.  Once laundry was done we were on our way first to Ross Castle, then through Killarney National Park and with weather permiting down south to Kenmare.
We got to Ross Castle (just outside of Killarney) in time to join the last tour of the day.  It was a recently referbished castle on the northern tip of the Lakes of Killarney.  There was a full lesson on castle defense, architecture, ediquite, and culture.  Allwere very interesting and with suttle details I wouldn’t have thought of at all.  The castle itself, along with the referbishment and 60% of the park was bought and donated by an Irish American named O’Shea.
After the tour we rode through Killarney National Park.  The ride itself may have been the best ride I’ve ever take.  The nearly 20 mile ride was filled with views of lakes sprouting small green islands that were so lush they looked like fireworks bursting beyond their boundaries.  And, as always, the lakes were surrounded with beautiful green hillsides with some very unique rock formations throughout the hills themselves.    Along the way we stopped at the Muckross house, an old mansion with a great view and some unique folliage.
3583247We also stopped to hike up to a waterfall and even saw some local wildlife.  I didn’t know this but there is some sort of wild goat in Ireland.  The horns were at least 2 feet long and as wide as a softball at the base.  We even got a chance to look out at “the Lady’s View.”  Apparently it was the place in Ireland where Queen Victoriea liked best, or something along those lines.  I gotta say, she had pretty good taste but honestly in this park you couln’t miss.
After we got through the park, we made our way up and over Molls Gap before descending into Kenmare.  By the time we got there it was very close to dark.  Besides, the clouds had been threatening a downpour all afternoon and I was sure sooner or later it was going to deliver.  We wandered through Kenmare trying to find the Hostel when we ran into Claire.  She told us about a campground that was just a mile or so out of town.  Claire was determinded that we find a place and if we didn’t that we stay in her spare room.  She even drove out to the campground to make sure we got there okay and to find someone to help us out.  As it turned out Claire knew Susan, a woman who lived in a nearby trailor park who showed us around.  The people here are so friendly and hospitable it is laughable.  Everyone wants to give us directions whether or not we ask for them.  All are very welcoming and wish us good luck and even a few stop to tell us a story or about the area.  Overall they might be the nicest group of people I’ve ever come across.
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May 4th

    This campground looked more like a summer camp than a campground.  We finally me the owner, Jack.  He is an old man in his 70’s who moves pretty slow but still knows whats going on.  We paid him 10 euro for the night and we took off.
In Kenmare there was an old Druid rock circle dating back over 3,000 years.  When we found it, it was exactly as it described: a circle of rocks.  I don’t know why I expected more, but I did.  The stone circle was a disappointment but the market was not.  They had a stand with at least 30 or 40 kinds of cheeses.  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.  We just had to pick one and get out of there before I made the poor lady behind the counter give me samples of everything.  We also picked up some mackeral tomato dip and three different types of sausages.  McKayla picked up a nice bracelet from a gypsy who tried to lift 50 eauro off of me.  Nice try, gypsy, your dark magic doesn’t work on this tourist.
Well, since we’d already conquered the Ring of Kerry, we were off to the Berra Peninsula.  As it turns out, however, the Berra is pretty much closed.  Since tourist season doesn’t start until late May, most everything was closed and appeared desolate.  Since the Berra was Bare, in more ways than one (no people, bars, nor real attractions)  we decided to take a short loop over Healy Pass, camp for the night, then make our way back towards Killarney and the Dingle Peninsula tomorrow.
The Healy Pass was tough but offered some really great views of the ocean, mountain lakes, and rolling green hills.  Just as we got to the top, we stopped to take a picture in one of the pull outs.  A guy that was parked in the pull out got out of his car and offered to take pictures for us, which McKayla gladly accepted.  Afterwards he started telling us about a pirate who hid his gold in a nearby cave.  The pirate forgot where he’d hid it and years later a local man found it.  On his wedding night, the guy’s wife found where he’d hidden the gold and took off with his findings.  Ouch.  Nice guy, good story.
We made it to Adrigole where the campsite, you guessed it, was baron.  The owners were gone and I didn’t have service to call the phone # on the door.  Luckily a gas station down the street was open so we could get a pie and a bottle of wine.  Sweet dreams and thanks for the free site.

May 5, 2011

    Today is going to be a big day.  The ride will include 3 passes and somewhere between 50 and 60 miles.  At least we’re starting our day with a healthy portion of apple tart.  I told McKayla if we finish this planned route tonight we would camp near Killarney and tomorrow we would take the day off to rest in a B&B.  We will have both earned it if we can get through today.
McKayla has been doing an excellent job; she seems to be getting stronger by the day.  We’ve been working well together complimenting eachothers strengths and picking up the weaknesses.  As usual, we’ve been making a good team, keeping things upbeat and enjoying each others company along with this amazing country and its people.
We took off from Adrigole around noon or so, it was rainy all morning so we waited out the weather in the tent.  Although later in the day was supposed to be tougher, the ride north to Glengariff was no picnic.  Once there, we stopped in for a quick sandwich and were told how steep and tough our climbs would be, thanks random citizen for being so uplifting.  That’s one thing about this place that is both a blessing and a curse, whenever you’re lost, anyone will be more than happy to give you directions and if you’re not lost, someone will come upl to you and tell you where you need to go.  I guess its better than gas station attendants who tell you directions only so you’ll leave them alone.
Caha pass was going to take us over the Caha Mountains and into Kenmare.  As it turned out, Caha was my favorite pass of the day.  There was a fairly steep climb at the base but as we reached the top, it turned into a very gradual ascent with a great view of the surrounding mountains.  The only thing I didn’t like was the sign that read Caha Pass when we still had about three miles to go.  To the sign placers of Ireland: “the top of a pass is the high point of a road or trail which is followed by a descent of the pass.  It is a cruel joke to play on weary bikers to place it before the top.”  Fortunately there were three sweet tunnels to ride through on the downhill, which helped make up for the poor sign placement.
A quick strech in Kenmare and we were headed back up Molls Gap and this time the wind was at our backs.  Smooth sailing.  Topping Molls Gap was pretty easy but now we had the tiny bumpy road to the Gap of Dunloe.  It turned out to be a beautiful ride next to a river into The Black Valley.  The Black Valley was a well hidden little town surrounded by grazing pastures and waterfalls all around.
I think we siked ourselves out a little for the Gap of Dunloe thinking it would be next to impossible with tired legs.  Sure the climb was steep but it was short and mad did it pay off.  Two mountains parted ways just far enough to fit a road in between and beyond was flat pastures and more hills in the far distance.  The road itself was bumpy, uncomfortable, and so narrow that we had to stop to let oncoming cars pass.  The views were so nice we didn’t mind pulling over.
We made it to the campground outside Killarney just in time to pitch the tent and go into the kitchen before it started pouring.  Our luck with the weather lately and pretty much this whole trip has been phenomenal.  It rains nearly every night and a lot of times during the days but when we’re riding we’ve been getting really good breaks, or stopping just as the rain starts.  We can only hope our luck holds out, but we’re realistic; this is Ireland and we will have shitty weather eventually.

May 6, 2011

    Well, it looks lilke today is our day of rest.  Considering the day we had yesterday we’re both feeling really good.  After some morning yoga, our spirits are high but after eight days on a bike its time for a day off.  We went into Killarney around noon to search out a B&B which we found close to downtown.  After booking our room we discovered that our host was quite eccentric.  He was a nice guy I just don’t think he was playing with a full deck, ya know?
We’d both been craving McDonald’s so we headed out to find it.  It was twice the price for half the size; how the hell are the Irish going to catch up in obesity rates with food like this?
I feel kind of bad going back to Killarney when there’s so many other places we haven’t seen yet but its such a nice town and so damn convenient.  We went back to the B&B and rested up for our “big night out” of attending the new Thor movie (only because I won the coin toss and got to choose the flick).  A pub, another drunk Irishman from Glencar, a descent comic book moive later we found ourselves at a nice Italianish restaurant in downtown Killarney sharing a small pizza and a sundae, ahhh this is what life is all about.  A good days rest and relaxation was exactly what we needed; now we can bike somewhere else to rest and relax.

May 7

    Dingle, not just a place but a frame of mind.  That’s where we’re headed today as soon as the rain lets up.  Unfortunately its past noon and the rain hasn’t stopped tapping since we woke up.  Thanksfully the library was practically next door to our B&B so we could decide when the best time would be to get wet.  Apparently it was around one or so in the afternoon.  Before we got out of town it really started coming down so we were able to get under an awning.  Finally, rain or not, we were going to make it to Dingle.  While we did hit some rain here and there, we got pretty lucky on our ride.  That and we stopped in Inch for two hours to get out of the rain and have some tea followed by a few rounds of Guiness.
After another break in the rain we took off to finish our ride to Dingle.  The route was incredible, about 5 miles of it streched along the Red Cliffs overlooking the Dingle Bay, the cliff, and, of course, the rolling green hills beyond.  What suprised me most was the surf school off the beach of the Dingle bay.  I’m not one to talk – I’ve never surfed, but the waves seemed a little small.
According to our map there were two campgrounds right near or inside the town of Dingle.  Our map was wrong, or that bartender I asked for directions didn’t know what she was talking about.  The only signs for camping in town led us another ten miles or so towards the coast to a town called Gallarus.  Those ten miles came close to putting us over 50 miles for the day.  By the time we got to the campground we were tired but felt accomplished.  We had no idea that the ever increasing wind would play such a large roll the following day.  Even as we were eating dinner and getting ready for bed, we knew we were in for a long night.
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May 8

    Leaving right where we left off, I completely forgot that storms rock me to sleep like a baby.  It was McKayla, not “we” that would have the long night.  Although it’d been raining all day, it was definately the wind that was the real bitch.
Being that is was Sunday we thought we’d attend an Irish mass.  The churches here are so intricate, even if I were to get bored there would be so many carvings, designs, and stained glasses to admire, it would definately be worth the experience.  Since the only directions we got were “that way”, we figured we would have more clues as we got closer.  The two mile ride took us five minutes since the average windspeed was around 50 mph and was at our backs.  Long story short, all churches here have signs, even 1,200 year old churches but rather than finding an ancient church or a modern church we found an 18th century school house (which was still kinda cool) and never found where mass was being conducted.  Now we had to bike back into the 50 mph wind.
We realized there was both a castle and an oratory right next to our campsite, so we figured “why not stop, at least it’ll shield us from the wind.”

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The Gallurus Oratory turned out to be one of the best preserved oratories in Ireland.  An oratory is a stone structure that doesn’t use mortar, all the rocks align to create a beehive-like structure that can stand on its own.  They think it was used as a church.  Thanks, educational video.  The oratory was pretty cool, it had a door and a window that alligned with the sun so that there was always light coming through.  It was very impressive that a 1,200 year old sturcture with no mortar could handle these winds.  The “castle” was fenced off and surrounded by houses – not as cool as the oratory.  With the wind only getting worse, we decided that we’d seen enough and that it was time to get off this peninsula.
The ten miles back to Dingle were ten of the toughest miles I’ve ever biked.  If you weren’t pedaling, you were moving backwards or literally getting blown off the road.  I’ve been in hurricanes with less gusto.  We could actually see Dingle when the rain started, it couldn’t have been more than a half mile away.  Well a lot can happen in a half mile.  So now our 50 mph winds are accompanied by huge raindrops.  Oh what’s this? A bridge with ocean water blowing over it?  Hooray.  By the time we made it across the bridge I couldn’t see out of my sunglasses but I didn’t dare take them off and risk getting sea water and rain pressure washed into my eyes.
At this point I was yelling and cursing into the storm as loud as I could looking for the first pub I could find to take refuge.  When I looked back to check on McKayla she was as miserable as I’d ever seen her and with a sad desperation in her voice she yelled, “Let’s stay in that B&B!  I’ll put it on my credit card!  Let’s just get out of this.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, she was absolutely right and the sincerity in her face told all; it was time to get out of this shit.
The woman at the front dest answered and very quickly and sympathetically lowered her price to 30 euro per person.  They took us in and got us a room immediately even though we had no cash on us.  Which was the only form of payment they accepted.  “You can pay me in the morning, no worries.”
Within ten minutes we were signed in with everything inside but the bikes.  They’d given us a lower level room with a terrace so I could pull the bikes around, unload, and hop inside.  Hot showers, hot tea, sandwiches, and Irish Harry Potter.
By the time we were ready for dinner the wind was still kicking but the rain had mostly given up.  We split a shepherds pie and an order of mussels with a white garlic sauce, mmmmm…   Afterwards we went out for a pint and saw the same couple we sat next to in the restaurant.  Leeanne and Jake from D.C. were on a week long vacation.  We had a few pints and talked for a while.  I think McKayla and I convinced them to take a trip to Glacier National park but you never know.
Dingle’s been nice but hopefully the weather will be nice enough to get the hell out of Dingle.  Get it?

We highly recomend Harbour Nights B&B of Dingle

5/8                      (M)

    We should have known.  The day was calm when we arrived yesterday.
But the trees and shrubs grew slanted.
Frozen in eternal wind.
Just trying to grow up
when there is sheer force pushing them east.
Now as I pedal into that same force, I think about those trees.
We’ll never make it
traveling inch by inch
This must be a hurricane.
Then the sky opens and my face is being pelted by water drops.
My mouth is open, panting as I push my foot down again,
water flows in.
It tastes salty and wild.
I realize, the sea is accompaning the rain in the beating.
There are waves, big white caps emerge as the water curls over.
There should be no waves, this is a bay.
We turn left down a hill.
The wind is now to my side, trying to pust me into the ditch.
not trying,
success.I begin again and see Nate crossing a bridge.
Now I am agraid.
I beg the cross wind to allow me to cross.
I place my fingers ready at the breaks as I propel my bike onto the bridge.
a big gust
I break and crouch.
the gust subsides.
I’m still on the bike.
I’m still on the bridge.
I continue forward.
another gust.
I repeat.
I make it across and begin around the round about.
It spits me out to face the wind and rain once again.

Where is Nate?
My tired legs carry me to catch him.
Then we hit a wall.
Another gust forbidding us to pass.
And yet, we continue.
He’s not going to stop I realise.
He thinks we can make it over the pass in this.

I yell, “Nate!!!”
He can’t hear over the howling.
“Naaaaaate!”
He stops.
“Let’s just get a B&B!  I’ll just put it on my credit card!”
My voice must’ve had more pleading in it than I had intended
because he laughs and agrees.

May 9, 2011

    As soon as we left the B&B I wanted to get on the road.  The weather was nice.  Our legs were rested. Unfortuneatly our clothes were wet and dirty.  Since yesterday was sunday, no laundromat was open.  Thankfully the guy said it’d be done by noon.  A stop at the bank, a trip to the grocery store, and a look online at the library, and then it was noon.
Before leaving I spoke to a guy for a while who swore by biking in Ireland.  He had a good saying, “By car its too fast, walking its too slow, but cyclin’s just right.”  Then he told me about a holy mountain in Connamara, where we’d be headed, called Creau Patrick.  It used to be a Pagan place of worship and then was made into another holy site by St. Patrick.  It sounded like an interesting hike, which is also a pilgrimage for a lot of worshipers every year.  He also warned us we’d better eat a good meal before going up Connor Pass.
As soon as we got out of town, the climb up Connor Pass began.  It was a long slow climb up, but the road down may have been one of the fastest I’ve ever been on.  I mean, we were flying, even with a good amount of brakes we were cruising around 35-40 mph.  We stopped for tea at a very uniquely decorated pub.  They had a lot of old signs, license plates, and even a monitor of a sparrow nest just outside the building.  Interesting place.
As soon as we got to Tralee we knew that we wanted to get out of Tralee.  Neither of us felt good about the town, just bad vibes I guess.  According to the map there was a campground just a few miles down the road.  After seeing an Abbey in Ardfert we made it to Sir Roger’s campground.  It was too bad the Abbey tour was clossed for the day, it looked pretty interesting but we were still able to walk around and take pictures.
The campground was simple and mostly empty except for the vacant caravans and mobile homes on the lot.  McKayla and I had Nutella and raspberry jam sandwiches for dinner while we shared a bottle of wine and watched the birds play in the fairly harsh winds that were thankfully at our backs today.

May tenth

    By the end of the day we should be in or across the ferry town of Tarfert.  Taking the ferry will allow us to skip the city of Limerick, which we’ve been told would be a wise choice.  On our way to Tarfert we’ve got some site seeing to do, two castles and a tower to be exact.  Skipping the Banna Beach that was near by turned out to be a good decision because the first town we came across, B_______, was located directly on the beach.  It was a short and windy stay, but I’m sure the sand felt great on our Keens.
The Rattoo Round tower turned out to be exactly that, a round tower.  Strangely it was in the middle of nowhere, but it was intereting enough for the extra 2 Kms of biking.  We stopped in Ballybunion for lunch and tea while the rain was coming down.  Full and cold we went to Ballybunion castle.  It was more like a wall than a castle but the ocean is pretty unforgiving when it comes to erosion.
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Just outside of Tarbert was Carrigafoyle Castle, which turned out to be McKayla’s favorite thus far.  Besides the gaping hole in one side, it was in really good shape.  Unfortunately the tours of the castle wouldn’t begin until June but there were very descriptive diagrams of what it used to look like.  When we first arrived it was raining so we made our way into a structure on the outskirts of the castle.  McKayla and I were trying to figure out what the small storage spaces around the top of the room were for.  Out of nowhere I suggested carrier pigeons.  McKayla laughed at the idea but after reading the history, it turned out that I was right about it holding pigeons but they were for eating, not messaging.  I’m still pretty proud of that one.
Rather than pushing on to the busier town of Kilrush for a hostel, we assumed correctly that the hostel in Tarfert was a little more secluded.  Our first hotel stay was a quiet one.  No one else checked into our room. three bunk beds all to ourselves.  Tomorrow we’ll get a good jump on the day, cross the ferry, and make it to Doolin where we’ll camp two nights so we can spend a day riding around the Burren.  The burren, apparently a large outcrop of limestone is covered with interesting churches, castles, and a cave.  If the campground is nice enough we could probably leave most of our stuff and make it a light weight trek.  The gear hasn’t been too bothersome but it’s always nicer with less weight.

May 11, 2011

    Shoveling in as many Corn Flakes as we could before leaving the hostel, we prepared for a fairly long day.  We got to the dock just in time to see the ferry take off.  Not worries, it left every hour on the hour so we bundled up on a bench for our wait.  Again the wind was blowing and air was a little cooler than usual.  Still, the wait went by fast and so did the tourist packed ferry ride.  Three tour buses crammed onto the ferry creating chaos on the viewing docks.  There was so many cameras, you would’ve thought that both Obama and the Queen were already here.  Okay, that was a lame joke but they’re both coming to Ireland next week wo it was appropriate – or make it that much more lame.
So… I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned the event yet, but on the second day of the trip, we had an incident.  McKayla stopped quickly to take a picture and Danika stopped abruptly behind her.  I was busy looking around and missed the brake lights.  When I hid DK’s tire, my back end lifted and somehow the rear derailer got caught in the trailor (the 3rd wheel that’s attached).   Somehow a piece called the dropout snapped in half and a part of the derailer got bent out of position to the point that we couldn’t get it back on track.  I was able to use the quick release on the tire to fasten the remaining portion of the dropout into place and the derailer would just have to make some extra noise as the chain dragged unprotected against the medal.  In the last week and a half, it has only popped out once.  The only downside is that I can’t use the highest gage on any of the three main rails or eventually the peice on the derailer will give out.  So I probably haven’t written about this problem yet because I didn’t want to think about it.  My jimmy-rig could give out at any time and the trip could be over or we could be stranded for an unknown period of time.  Well, that time has come.
Today, our luck and the bike’s derailer finally wore out.  With a quick pop we were stuck in the middle of nowhere.  There was an abandoned building where I spent a half hour or so trying to will the bike back together, but it was no use.  Just in case these moments ever be forgotten, McKayla made sure to document to whole experience via camera.  One of the pictures looks like I was pissing on the bike; I may as well have been because there would be no way for me to fix it.
We called Liam to explore our options.  In that rough Irish voice he said, “Get some accomidations for the night and I’ll get another bicycle out to you tonight or in the mornin’.”  Good hearted, kind, and the savior of our vacation, Liam you are the man!  Unfortuneately since we were in the middle of nowhere with a bike that could only be used as a scooter this bean another B&B, which at this point we could hardly afford, but what choice did we have?
The town of Creegh was just 3 KM away, so McKayla rode ahead to see if there were any beds to be found.  By the time I scootered, the wind was picking up and the air was cooling down.  We went into the post office to get directions to a fabeled B&B out in the pastures.  After hearing one of our bikes was broken, Jack at the post office put everything on hold, including his customers, to find and call us a B&B owner that could come into town and pick us up.  As it turned out, Nora from Golf View B&B was available and would come grab us.  Jack, you are just one more example of the extreme hospitality, patience, and helpfulness that has been the people of Ireland, thank you.
A European sedan is like a Honda Civic that has been squeezed fromthe front and back.  In order to get the bike and everything into the car, we tood it down to the frame and still had to bungee the trunk.  I followed on McKayla’s bike to the supposedly 2 miles away B&B.  On a side note, the Irish folk try to do us a favor by translating kilometers into miles.  Unfortunately, the Irish seem to believe that is mile is an insanely long distance, only to be used in single digets because of course, ten miles to anywhere would undoubtedly lead you off a cliff and into the sea.  Okay, that was slightly exagerated, but you get what I’m saying.  Eight miles later, I got to the Golf View, which was neither close to a golf course nor had a view.
We spent the rest of the day watching TV while the weather raged.  Some bad news to the situation: McKayla’s feet have gone to hell and neither of us know exactly how it happened or what is causing it.  They’ve been itching, burning, and generally hurting for the last 2 nights.  We tried tying them up using an interesting towel and rope method, we tried soaking them, we tried a cream that Nora had, but to no avail.  Hopefully by tomorrow both her feet and my bike will be under control.

May 12, 2011         (m)

    We broke down yesterday.  Officially broke down.  Not like last time when Nate could ghetto-rig the bike back together.  We were in the middle of no-where, on a road with no name, between two towns that are so small, even most Irishmen have never heard of them.
Broke down, middle of nowhere, foreign country.   Suprisingly, I am calm.  Not that Ireland is a scary country, in fact, everyone’s so helpful its probably better to break down here than back at home in the states.  Still, you’d think I’d be a little worried.  Nope.  I knew we could call Liam and he’d bring us a new bike eventually.  I did not know, however, how we were going to get from our current location to anywhere that’s anywhere, but what’s an adventure without a temporary stranding?  We still had at least 8 hours of day light and feet to walk us.
The bike shop told us that if we could get to accomodations then Liam would bring us a new bike late that night.  So we walked to a town called Creegh and inquired at the post office about accomodations.  Jack, the Post Office worker made about ten phone calss and thats how we ended up drinking tea all day at the Golf View B&B, two miles west of a town called Creegh.

May 12, 2011

    The bike has arrived and all the gear has been transfered from the old to the new.  Today we’ll continue on to Doolin.  The new bike is a little different than the last but I’ll get used to it.  The handle bars are a little further down making for more of a bend in my back and forcing me to crank my neck a bit more.  It has more of a road bike feel to it than a touring bike.  The gears are nicer and it rides more smoothly but I think I liked the touring bike better (corratec X-vert cross).  Then again I’m just happy I was able to get another bike.
Along the way we stopped at Joe’s Cafe in a small oceanside town.  The coffee and sandwiches were really good and we sat around for a while talking and writing.  The closer we got to the cliffs of Moher we saw more and more tour buses and more people stopped on the side fo the road taking pictures.  It aws crazy how many people were walking up the trail from the parking areas.  Because of the people, the cost, and the stories of fences, we decided to keep on riding and skip the Cliffs of Moher.  The Aran Islands are supposed to have some equally stunning cliffs minus the fences and crowds, plus we’d be able to see the Cliffs of Moher from our ferry ride in a day or two.
We followed some signs as we got into Doolin that led us to a campground, after stopping for a pint of course.  I need to interupt myself for a moment: at the pub, I tried a different beer, a Smithwicks.  I’m glad I tried another Irish beer but now, it’s back to Guiness.  There is something in the Guiness here that makes it addictive, delicious, and extremely powerful at the same time.  I almost felt like I was cheating on Guiness with the Smithwicks, which is ridiculous t the point of concern, but honestly while I’m in Ireland, I’ll never stray again.
Anyhow, back to the campground.  Wait, one more thing.  The bartender at the pub decorated McKayla’s Guiness by pouring the top of the froth into a clover as if to say, see this, you could’ve had this too but you missed out by ordering your “variety is the spice of life” beer.
Okay, this campground was a plot of grass in the backyard of a hostel.  But this hostel was GREAT!  Inside there was free washer/drier, a computer with free internet, free showers, and best of all, a kitchen filled with pots, dishes, and free tea.  Oh, and a dining room with a cozy little fire place.  I was just thinking today about how great it would be to cook rather than eating our or eating cold sandwitches.  I made some cheezey eggs and McKayla made grilled peanut butter, nutella, and banana sandwiches, mmmm….
Sadly, McKayla’s feet are still terrible.  They don’t bother her much during the day but at night they flare up and give her a grab bag of itching, burning, blistering, and more misery.  We tried hydrocortizone cream, benodryl, and ibuprofin.  Since none seem to be working, it looks like wine and Guiness will have to help put her to sleep.  Last night she had difficulty sleeping from the pain.
If all goes as planned, and McKayla’s feet don’t fall off, we will bike around The Burren tomorrow and either stay here another night or take the ferry out.
We ended up going out to the pub to listen to some music with Megan from Wisconsin.  She had been studying in London and was staying at the Aile River Hostel.  The music was good and believe it or not, McGann’s pub served Guiness.  It was a nice night out and we decided catching the ferry after a 40 mile bikeride would require us to wake up too early so we decided that tomorrow night, we would be staying at Aile River Hostel again.

May 13, 2011

    So, the Burren is a large block of limestone filled with historical sites.  It should be a nice day trip considering we left all of our gear back at the campsite, so at least we can ride weightless.  Our route should take us by a few cathedrals, a castle or two, a stonehenge looking thing, and a cave that we may or may not take a tour of.  Part of the ride should keep us by the coast for a dozen miles or so.
We finally got moving around noon or so and quickly started moving in the wrong direction.  My bad, guess we’ll take the route counterclockwise instead of taking the coast road first.  In Kil______ , we saw some crucifixes that were carved in the 1200’s, and they containted some very intrinsic designs on them.  There were tombs dating back to the 1600’s, some had old English phrases on them that were still somewhat legible.  McKayla and I spent some time trying to decipher the inscriptions, it was pretty interesting.
Today was one of those days when the Irish weather truly showed its duplicity.  It would pour for ten minutes and clear into pure sunshine and repeat that sequence a few times throughout the day.  Never really we but never completely dry either.
On the route we stopped at a crumpling old church that had a fairly big cemetary and some entertaining history to it.  Apparently the priest was a little paranoid and as some point had built a “bunker” of sorts with a gun hole.  It seems strange but a lot of the old churches we’ve seen have people buried in the floor.  The tombs have become the floor in a lot of them.  Usually they date back from 1850’s to the present.  An intereting practice that I’llhave to look up later.
Another site for the day was the Poulnabrone Portal tomb.  Its a 6,000 year old structure that was honestly one of the most impressive structures of the trip.  It was the Irish version of stone henge.  The way the top piece balanced on the other four stones, barely making contact, seemed to hover.
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Ballyvaughan was our planned lunch stop and by the time we got there we were both very hungry.  The ride wasn’t tough but it wasn’t easy either.  We hit another little rain pocket just after lunch.  Lately it hasn’t been a question of whether or not it will rain, but how many times.  The coastal road back to Doolin had a nice contrast between ocean and rocky hills.
When we got back to Doolin we were both exhausted, and again, McKayla’s feet were killing her.  No one we talked to seemed to know what was causing it.  Carl, the guy that ran the hostle thought it could’ve been an allergic reaction to stining nettle.  A few different people around the hostel offered different creams and remedies, but to no avail.  The Aloe seemed to sooth it somewhat but not enough.  However, I did get some more wine so she wouldn’t be totally miserable.  She was almost in tears as we walked up to the convenient store to pick it up.  Poor thing.


5/13/2011    (m)

    The Aille River Hostle is possibly the most refreshing environment I’ve been in.  I mean, all hostles are peaceful and a wonderful cycle of communal living…but there is just something about Karl and the way he runs it that makes it extra special.  Its no wonder it has won the best hostle in Ireland award the last three years and an award from Hostle World itself.
Karl loves what he does. You can tell.  His passion for his hostle beams from his welcoming smile.  And he somehow objectively listens to and loves every traveler that comes through there.  He gives a personal tour to each guest.  “Here is the wash, you can use it for free but the drier is 2 pence, here is the kitchen you are welcome to use anything just please clean up after yourself.  Here is our computer, you can use the internet but please take a break after 20 minutes to give others a turn, here are some showers, they are free, there are more upstairs if you need…”
The walls were made of wood, the floors linoleum.  We sat in the common room.  The fire crackled. At one table, a group of Irishmen welcome home an old friend and they share travel stories over some beer.  At our table, Nate and I play cards and drink wine, a girl journals next to us.  Two people read by the fire.  We make friends with Megan from Wisconsin and decide to go out together to a pub called McMan’s.  The music was traditional and Megan is a really nice girl.  It was a wonderful night.

5/14

    Today we got up early, ate a quick breakfast, packed everything, and raced to the ferry.  As we got to the ticket office, just in time, we were told that it was low tide and the ferry would be 15 minutes late.  Then came 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and finally the tide had risen enough for the ferry to approach the dock.
Okay, I was planning on waiting for a seperate time to rant about this, but its on my mind and the ferry tale leads in well.  Get it, ferry tale?  To get back to the point and away from the story, the Irish have a different ‘sense of time’ to say it politely.  The cafes don’t open til 9:00 and no one seems to be functioning before 10:00.  If they say they’ll be somewhere at a certain time, push it back a half hour, expect a short wait.  On the other hand, no one is in a rush for anything and if they are, we’ve noticed, they’re not Irish.  It’s not quite the same as island time, but as a bigger island, it somewhat fits the mold.
The moment we boarded the ferry, the rain picked up, followed shortly by the wind.  I know what you’re thinking, “good timing” right?  The “ferry” was just that, a tiny little boat that barely had the capacity for 30 people.  I did my best at getting as stable a picture I could of the Cliffs of Moher as we pulled away, but as I got back to the cabin, McKayla had another request.  “Can you grab me a sick bag?”  After I did, I suggested she went outside for some fresh air.  As soon as she left, 5 more people went to get barf bags.  The boat was rocking, hopping, and in a constant state of woozy.  As you sat in the passanger seats, all you could see was sky followed by a dip with allowed you to see land, followed by a lift which again brought sky into view.  Luckily, McKayla held down her Frosted Flakes.  A few others weren’t so lucky.  Eventually the sea calmed, the rain stopped and we found our way to Inish Mor, the biggest of the three Aran Islands.
There were at least three bike rental places within a hundred yards of the dock, but we were ahead of the game.  Even though we were told Inishere was the best of the three islands, Inish Mor had cliffs and after skipping the Cliffs of Moher I thought we’d see what I’ve been told were the nicest cliffs in Ireland.  The ride to Dunangus (the dwellings on the cliffs) was a nice island ride, which included a lovely two minute downpour.
Dunangus turned out to be a really fascinating site.  There were three walled semi circles around the edge of the cliffs.  Each wall was added about 500 years apart.  It could’ve been for last line of defense or for rituals, probably both.  The cliffs themselves were insane, a 300 ft. straight drop, no fences, just space.  The waves hitting were clear as a bell beneath us.  It was easy to see why people used this as a place to worship.  All your senses seemed to be heightened, you could even feel the soft grass on your feet as the wind beat your face.  Being so close to the edge can really make you feel alive.
The ride back to the dock was really nice, we took the coast road rather than the main path and even though we had to dodge more horse shit from the carriage rides, it was better than the main road.  It was hard not to notice all the walls on Inish Mor. There were so any walls you think they would run out of rocks, but no, there were still more in each wall.  We were told the walls on this island could go back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean seven times.  “What are you doing this weekend Pat?” “Mmmm… I was thinking about building another wall.” “Yeah, the wife’s getting on my nerves, I think I’ll build another wall.” “Hey, you know what would look great, another fucking wall.”

1319816133We got back to the dock a little early so we went in for a Guiness.  We decided it would be best to take tomorrow off in Galway in order to rest up for our final push and to get McKayla’s feet checked.  Now, there are a few ways that anyone can make me their friend, one of them is by offering me the other half of their BLT because they’re too full.  Emma was celebrating her graduation from her school in Seattle and her new job in Portland with a vacation to Ireland.  Half a BLT and she has a friend for life, a good deal for both of us.
Since there was no ferry going straight to Galway, we would have had to either bike or catch a bus from Rossaveal.  It was getting late and we were both tired from the Burren ride yesterday so we opted for the bus.  When we got to Galway, DK cooked us a big fajita dinner.  Afterwards, we drank whiskey to ease McKayla’s foot pain; this foot rash is starting to take its toll on my liver.

Seasick            (m)

    As soon as the boat left the pier, I knew I was doomed.  I’ve never been sea sick before but then again, the ratio of boat size to wave size has never been so great.  The ferry was small, only big enough to fit about 50 people inside.  I picked a seat in the back and lowered myself onto the cold, white, plastic bench.  I should have just started outside in the fresh air but it began to rain.
The windows were high, or the benches loa, but when the boat was still you could not see the horizon.  The boat moved its way out to sea.  The waves came.  All of a sudden there is water out the left window, sky to the right, then water out the right window, sky to the left.  The world began to spin.  We’re rocking from side to side, no, front to back, maybe both.  Is that possible?  Yes, we’re spinning, I’m spinning.  “Nate, please get e a sick bag.”  Four more people follow que.
I try to find an anchor, something, anything to look at that’s not moving.  There’s nothing.  The boat and everything in it are moving, the sea is in seasures, even the sky is  in route – at least the clouds are.
I begin to lose it, reality.  I’ stuck inside my head, the room is whirling, I’m so dizzy.  A voice in the distance speaks in slow motion, “If she’s not feeling well, fresh air is best.”
I pull myself back down into my body and stand on my legs of jello.
You have to keep your feet wide apart to keep from being thrown into someone’s lap.  I make it to the door and hold on, sucking in the cool fresh air.  Then I see it, a lighthouse.  It’s not moving.  That is my anchor.  My eyes cling to that light house as my hands cling to the door.
I begin to feel better, much better.  A man runs past me and lets his lunch fly off the back of the boat.  The sound threatens to bring my Kellog’s Frosties up, but I hold them down.  My stomach settles.  I survived.  I am able to go back inside and sit next to Nate for the rest of the ride until my feet welcome the solid earth below them.

5/15 – 5/16

    We ended up taking two days off in Galway.  Sunday we went to mass at the beautiful Galway Cathedral.  The architecture kept me entertained for most of the service, but the speaker right in front of me made it difficult to get too far into thought, which was a good thing because I really liked the homily.
On Monday, McKayla was able to get her feet checked out at the University using DK’s ID.  Theough the nurse was unsure, the doctor took one look and said, “It’s Hogweed.”  Hogweed is an invasive species in Ireland that, when cut, produces a sap that can cause phytophotodermotitis, which is a skin irritation that makes it super sensitive to light.  It reacts to sunlight, which might explain why McKayla’s feet were worse after being outside all day.  The treatment would have been to stay inside and out of the sun, whoops.  It was clear tht it got in through the holes in her Keens and that is where most of the rash/burning occured.  If left untreated you can have permanent burn scars and discoloration, which has probably already set in, but we got her a Sudocream and were told the worse should have been over after the 72 hour mark.  Thankfully we think she’s over that mark because it was painful just watching her face.
We ended up going out Monday night to the Front Door to say goodbye to one of DK’s friends who was leaving the following day.  Instead of hanging out with her friends, DK, McKayla, and I met a nice Irish couple and had some interesting talks about football and beer.  The guy, Matt I think, had studied in Kentucky and was a Giants fan, while his wife, Mary, seemed to be very interested in American beer.  I tried to explain that Budweiser and Coors Light wasn’t all there was to offer, but it was difficult trying to explain the importance and taste of microbrews.  No matter, any conversation about real football and beer other than Guiness is a true rarity to talk with an Irish couple.
McKayla’s flip flop broke on the way home and that, along with her Hogweed burns, she was walking at the speed of a snale so we decided to get a cab home.

5/17

    Knowing that we’d be hungover this morning I created a new plan while still in bed.  If able, we would take the bus to Westport, making a bigger four day loop, but cutting our the middle section that probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable.  This way we will have the opportunity to climb Crough Patrick, a pilgrimage hike for many faiths.  The only downside is that we will miss the town of Cong, which we were told by a scary little bartender was an amazing place.  Slow moving doesn’t begin to describe our progress this mornign.  We missed the 1:30 and the 2:10 busses and now have to wait for the 6:30.  I know, I don’t understand that schedule either, but it looks like we’ll be camping or getting a hostel in Westport.  Fortunately, between places that serve tea and pubs that serve Guiness in town square, it’s easy to waste a few hours inside and out of the rain.
The ride to Westport was a mix of rain washed windows and pastures, already I’m thinking taking the bus was a good decision.  We got to Westport with about an hour or two of daylight.  The overpriced hostel pointed our way to the underdeveloped campsite just out of town.  The Westport house was a large mansion set up on an even larger plot of land.  The area had attractions for the whole family: pirate ship, paddle boats, horse riding, tennis courts, even a bar next to the campground.  As it turned out, none of that was open, except for the mansion which charged 12 euro per person to walk through.  They didn’t even have picnic tables in the campground so we had to make our PB&J’s on the floor under the bathroom awning, which was the only roof available and it was raining.  While we paid good money for the plot of ground at least we took advantage of our “free” showers the following mornign.
The town of Westport was nice to ride through, but this waseasily the worse campsite we’ve been at so far.  At least the constant rain seems to be keeping the nearby sheep at bay.
I’m pretty excited about hiking tomorrow.  It should be a nice change of pace, and we’ve been told nothing but great things about Crough Patrick.

5/18

    Since we were already here we decided to take a look at the Westport house.  Going in was too expensive but the woman at the front was nice enough to let us see the library and the dining room which were both pretty impressive.  Well, time to climb a mountain.
The next three days are all going to be fairly long rides; probably 245 miles and 55 miles on the last, and today we’re going to trow in a 4  mile, 2500 ft hike – here we go legs.  We got to warmup for our climb witha 10 Km bike ride, which gave us a great view of the cone shaped Crough Patrick Mountain.  St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights fasting on top of this mountian.  The pagans also used the mountain for rituals and whatever else.  People from all over the world come to take this pilgrimage.  Thousands gather each year on Reef Sunday, late July, to hike the mountain barefoot.  There are is a church up top that holds weekly services and St. Patrick is burried up top as well.

Hearing that thousands hike this point every year, I figured it would be a fairly easy walk.  It was no Sunday stroll – it wasn’t the longest hike, but it was steep.  I was really impressed with some of the people doing this hike.  There were some pretty difficult skree / rock fields and nearly the whole thing was done on your toes.  The views during the huke were very nice, and we lucked out with the weather.  To the north the small islands dotted the bay and back to the south there were, as always, lots of rolling green hills.  To the west, wich we could only view from the top for a moment becaus of the gale force was a great view of the ocean and nearby islands.  It must’ve taken a lot of effort or at least a lot of donkeys to get the supplies to build the small church that stood at the peak.  One thing I thought was really cool was there was a big barrel of holy water that had been carried up there by a local soccer team.  I couldn’t imagine trying to get that thing up there no matter how many people you had.  They weren’t the only athletes to have their strength exercises at Crough Patrick.  There was a club that was planning on breaking the record for amount of climbs in a day.  Currently the record is 8, but the guy who I talked to and recognized from earlier because we’d passed him going up and now again going down, was set on reaching 12 summits in one day.  He called it the Reef Challenge and said they had a page on Facebook I should check out.  Personally, I think they just need to find some bigger moutnains because doing the same one, especially that one with all the people and terrible footing, would get old fast.  Hopefully they make St. Patty proud.
Once we got down we stopped for fish n’ chips before hopping back on the bikes for another 40 kms or so.

Thursday, May 19th            (m)

    40 miles is a long way on a bike for me.  30 miles is a good comfortable day for me.  Anything more than 40 gets to be difficultly long.
Nate and I were drinking tea 5 miles out of Clifden.  We had 30 miles under our belts and 20 left to go to Roundstone (we had been told that Roundstone has the best seafood in Ireland).  I was tired.  It was time for a plan change.  We decided to cycle to Clifden and get beds at a hostle, drop our stuff off, and cycle the Sky Road weightless.  Roundstone was regretfully cut out of the trip completely but my legs just couldn’t do it.
We found a hostle, dropped off our stuff, ate a big dinner to refuel, then headed out on the 10 mile Sky Road.  It was gorgeous!  You push up and up the south side of a peninsula.  When the hill ends, you’re at a breathtaking viewpoint, looking out at the sea that is dotted with islands.  When back on the bike, you fly downhill, surrounded by million dollar views and you are shot out around the tip of the peninsula wound back inland, and it all happens so fast that you have to stop and jolt yourselft out of the shock it put you in. The shock from tasting heaven.
Giddy from the awesomeness, we locked up the bikes, changed, and headed out for a pint.  We chose a pub that was to have live music playing but we didn’t know we chose the jackpot. 
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Giddy from the awesomeness, we locked up the bikes, changed, and headed out for a pint. We chose a pub that was to have live music playing but we didn’t know we chose the jackpot.   The bartender immediately started talking up the musicians.  Two of them play in a very famous Irish band (Ragus) and they travel all over the world on tour but since they are from that area, they play at that pub for free when they are home, just because they like to play. We decided it might be worth staying for TWO pints.
The bartender was super nice – offering up lots of information about the band and the local area.  We also got to talking to some people from Florida for a while.  They liked our spirit for travel and gave us some pointers on what to see while in Dublin.
The band finally started an we were immediately blown away.  The third member was an adorable old man – Mick Macnamara- who played the spoons and made jokes between songs. He was my favorite, he also was the main singer when they played songs with lyrics.  The bartender had mentioned that there was no way the bar could afford to have theyse guys play if they weren’t willing to be there for free.  The man on the fiddle and guitar – Fergal Scahill – ripped at both instruments, especially the fiddle.  The third member played the banjo – I didn’t catch his name unfortunately – and he was also marvoulously talented at the banjo.  They tore the bar apart!
It was a lot of fun and a great show so we decided to stay for a THIRD pint… and thats when we met Pierce and Harper.
These two Irishmen were hillarious!  We couldn’t stop laughing.  In fact, after the show, they were headed out fishing for stingrays – in the middle of the night!  They were from Dublin and they came over to the west coast because the fishing as better.  They could not get over the fact that Nate and I were engaged even though we don’t have kids – so they bought us each a pint.  “You don’t have kids? but you’re getting married?  but you don’t have kids? Congrats – that deserves a drink!”
And that is how a one pint night turned into a four pint night at the T.J.’s bar in Clifden.
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