Surgery for Frida

I left Leenaun heading east, along the south edge of the fjord, then, reaching the end, doubled back, heading west along the north side, until cutting north to wind my way along river passages through the mountains.

Pretty barren and mountainous landscape. Quite beautiful. It looked like American westerns could have been filmed here.

Eventually, I came to the mountain that I couldn’t go around, so I had to go up and over. Very steep climb. I was going so slowly that my bicycle computer went to pause because it thought I had stopped pedaling. But I made it without walking, partly assisted by the fact that a car was behind me for the final push, and I couldn’t let them see me walk.

I rode into Westport, a very touristy town – not particularly to my liking, and stayed for the night.

In planning my route for the northwest if the country, I became discouraged by the lack of small, country roads in the scenic areas along the coast. It seems that, in most of that area, the only road is an “N”, the National Road, where drivers travel at high speeds and there are typically no shoulders.

I don’t find riding on those types of roads to be particularly enjoyable. And, as I am not doing this to suffer, I decided to rent a car for four days to do a quick tour of the north.

So I headed east from Westport to the Knock airport where the rental cars are located. About a 35 mile ride.

This was a very hilly ride. That wouldn’t bother me so much except for the fact that I had a deadline to get to the rental company before they closed and the hills were really slowing me down. And the routing app at one point took me on a dirt farm road. Mercifully, that didn’t last too long. But the ensuing roads weren’t much better. Very bumpy.

When I was about 12 miles from the airport, I noticed a heavy drag on the rear wheel. I pulled over and discovered that a bolt that holds the rear rack to the frame had sheered off. The bike was unrideable.

So I searched for a cab, but this was a pretty remote place. Miraculously, there was a cabbie within a few miles of me. I sent him a picture of my location from Google maps, and he was there in ten minutes.

After the cabbie was on his way, a woman emerged from the house I was parked in front of. We chatted, I explained the dilemma, and she offered to take me to the airport. As the cab was already on his way, I declined. Since Frida folds, I was able to put her in the cab’s trunk. Made it to the airport in time.

So I found a B&B in the nearby town of Charlestown. It looked a little dicey from the outside, but it had good reviews. It was great.

After a great meal prepared by the talented chef/proprietor, I went down the street to Finan’s, the oldest pub in town. Really authentic, located in the rear of a hardware shop.

The next morning, I went to the tool rental/bike shop for help with Frida. He had the bolt, but couldn’t help with the bolt extraction. So I went down the road to the auto repair shop. He dropped what he was doing and was able to drill the bolt out without damaging the threads – practically impossible to do. So then I went back to the bike shop for a repair stand and tools and fixed the problem.

So that occupied the morning. The rest of the day was spent hiking to Neolithic burial megaliths.

At Foley’s pub in Sligo for the obligatory pint before dinner.

The Connemara

Yesterday, Monday, I had a lazy morning at theB&B, then rode down to town for a bit of poking around before boarding the ferry to Inis Oirr, the smallest and least developed of the Aran Islands. With 20+mph winds, the brief was rough.

I had a few hours before continuing on another ferry to Rossaveel, back on the mainland.

First order of business, of course, was to find the pub and have a Guinness. After an interaction with a maddeningly impenetrable guy from Doolin on a busman’s holiday at a pub, I left my panniers with the bartender and toured the island.

Then back to the pub for another pour before the ferry ride.

At Rossaveel, it was a short ride to the Air BnB. The only place open was a pub a short walk away. Worst bar food ever.

This area, west of Galway, is the Connemara, a rugged land with loughs and mountains and very few trees. Gaelic is the primary language. In most of Ireland, the road signs are in both Gaelic and English. Here, they don’t bother with the English.

So you may think I’m developing a problem with Guinness. But by my reasoning, I earn one Guinness for every 10 miles I cycle. So for most days, I’m not even consuming my quota. Some days you have to try to catch up.

Today was a pretty good day. I set out with sunshine and a 10 mph wind at my back. What could be better? The scenery was stark and beautiful. The pictures can’t convey the beauty.

Frida in the Connemara

Finished the ride for the day in Leenaun, a small village at the dry end of Ireland’s only fjord.

Took a great tour of the Sheep and Wool Museum where I learned how to spin wool and how the weaving machine works. Very interesting. And of course, a visit to the pub for a Guinness before going on to dinner.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy. On to Westport.

Until next time, Sláinte

Toolin’ Round Doolin

Friday, I waited for a while in the morning before setting out for my ride from Ballinakill to Kinvarra, hoping the rain would stop. It didn’t. So I put on full rain gear and hit the road.

Not much to say about the ride. I arrived early in Kinvarra, a small town on Galway Bay. Since it was too early to check in, I had a pint of Guinness. Then another half.

When I got settled that night, I noticed that I didn’t have internet service, even though I was connected to the WiFi. Turns out they had not installed a WiFi booster correctly. The next morning, before leaving, I installed it properly for them.

I’m not covering a lot of ground these days. Friday was 26 miles. Saturday was 30. But that’s OK. It’s a small country and I’m not out to prove anything.

Saturday, I went over the Burren (pronounced Burn), an area of extensive limestone, to Doolin, a coastal town known for the Cliffs of Moher and traditional Irish music. I was feeling the Burren on the many steep climbs.

Frida in the Burren

My B&B in Doolin is 2 miles and 400′ up from town. Problem is, most of that 400′ occurs within about half a mile. B&B host took me to town. Took a cab back.

Today, I took a hike, led by the B&B owner, from the town of Doolin to the visitors center for the Cliffs of Moher. Great hike with a knowledgeable local who grew up playing at the cliffs. He is responsible for getting the farmers along the route to open their land to the trail.

Pat Sweeney, our guide to the Cliffs

Back in Doolin, after the hike, I went to O’Connor’s pub for a Guinness, a meal, and some traditional Irish music. I couldn’t load the video. Take a look on Facebook.

Tomorrow I take a ferry to Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands, for a brief stop, then on to Rossaveel, on the north side of Galway Bay, the beginning of the Connemara. From there, I head north.

Equanimity

The weather is generally overcast, with the occasional, brief glimpse of sunshine. The threat of rain seems constant. It is a bit cooler than is comfortable. There is quite a bit of wind. And there are lots of hills. And they are often steep.

The people are generally friendly and helpful, the scenery is wonderful. I’m not getting overheated. I don’t need sunscreen. The Guinness is great. I speak the language ( but can’t always understand it).

Cathy recalls an irish cyclist she met many years ago who said, to paraphrase badly, Cycling is all uphill into the wind and rain. Anything else is a gift.

So I have been endeavoring to view these conditions in a neutral way. It is a cloudy day. That’s an observation, not a complaint. This is a steep hill. Same thing. This is the nature of the place I find myself at this time. I suffer if I react with aversion. I am in Ireland. That’s the way things are here. Accept it. Embrace it. And consider sunshine or wind at my back a gift and be grateful for it.

That’s what I am attempting to do, anyway. I am not going to be successful all the time. But when I fail, I can eventually see the aversion and come back to centeredness and equanimity.

The ride yesterday was pretty easy. The day of rest allowed my thighs to recuperate. It was hard to leave the warmth, comfort, and friendliness of Mary’s Wild Food BnB. The night before, Mary prepared a delicious meal. I made a pear and almond frangipane tart, using Mary’s canned pears.

Today tested my equanimity. It was 50 degrees, deeply overcast, with a fine mist in the air. Even though it wasn’t “raining”, I needed full rain gear to stay dry – even the booties. The ride was on small roads through an area of small farms. The hedgerows came right up to the side of the road. There was usually no view, just the road ahead. And I am still feeling the ongoing conditioning of my body. I go slow.

Oddly, a few people I encountered today commented that it was a nice day. I think they were referring to the weather. I struggled to agree. Talk about adopting a positive outlook in the face of challenging conditions!

I stopped in Portumna for a full Irish breakfast, (because the Air BnB provided no food and there were no restaurants open at 8:00 AM when I left) then went to the Irish Workhouse Centre. http://irishworkhousecentre.ie/

Very well done. They have restored parts of a 19th century workhouse, and the tour guide was outstanding. It was a bad time to be destitute. Deliberately cruel and inhospitable conditions that only the most desperate would tolerate. The 160 workhouses were filled well beyond capacity and turned away a million people. Vacancies occurred because of deaths – at the height of the famine, 2,500 per week.

After the tour, I secured a reservation for a couple of nights in Doolin, where I will be arriving Saturday, then pressed on to Ballinakill where I am spending a pleasant evening at an elegant and comfortable B&B

It turns out that there is a folk festival in Doolin for the weekend I will be there. That meant it was hard to find a place. Instead of the hostel in the center of town, I’ll be staying at a B&B 3 km south of town. Doolin is known for its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher, and it is known as a traditional music center. So this should be a fun weekend, if I can make it there on the coastal road.

Wild Food Mary

Yesterday should have been an easy day. Frida and I traveled about 20 miles to Roscrea, the small town, outside of which my great grandfather was born.

Main drag in Roscrea

Not a particularly charming place, though the tour of the Roscrea Castle and Damon House was interesting.

Roscrea Castle

From there, I rode another five miles through lovely countryside to my home for the night.

It looks so much better in person

Even though the mileage was short, and the terrain was gently rolling – and quite beautiful – I struggled to cover the distance. My thighs were feeling the heavy climbs of the three prior days.

I found Wild Food Mary on Air BnB. Her description of her place sounded great. She has an acre of land where she has various gardens, ancient ruins, and a cottage.

This is a snippet from her web site, www.wildfoodmary.com:

“Hi I am Mary Bulfin and my specialty is wild food.  I hold Foraging workshops, guided School forages and nature walks throughout Ireland.

In addition I also host individuals and small groups at my venue for fully immersive experiences over two days with accommodation included.  Join me and learn just how deeply Irish culture is connected to the land and its wild abundance. You will:

  • Find your personal herbal healer
  • Make your own infused oil
  • Receive private Reiki treatments
  • Reconnect with nature
  • Gather under stars by firelight
  • Enjoy organic & wild food for deep nourishment

So we had a lovely evening, along with Kevin, another guest, with great conversation until late. So I wrote no blog post. My legs were still sore, and I was enchanted by the place, so I decided to stay another night.

The view from Mary’s dining room

This is a great advantage of traveling with no fixed itinerary. I’m able to plan my days as I go along, according to what suits me in the moment.

Today, I shared a lunch, prepared by Mary, with Kevin, Elaine, a foraging student, and a film crew from Dublin who were filming an episode of a new TV program on her property. All homemade with fresh ingredients from the gardens, the forests, and neighboring farms.

If you are interested in an interesting, comfortable, and edifying segment to your Ireland vacation, I recommend a stay with Wild Food Mary.

Tomorrow, I resume my wandering. I’ll probably go to Bir, a small town that was highly recommended for its charm – Georgian architecture – and its castle. From there, I expect to go to Nenach, where the genealogical records for County Tipperary are kept. I’ll see if I can find some records about Irish ancestors.

All plans subject to change – until I make a non-refundable reservation.

Until the next post….

OK. I have to confess i doubt that I can keep this up. I don’t want to bore you, and I can’t find enough interesting things to say to amuse you.

Nevertheless, as long as I’m here:

Last night, I stayed with a very nice family. They prepared a full Irish breakfast- including blood pudding – a black sausage patty-looking concoction that was quite tasty.

As seems to be an emerging pattern, the day began with a grueling, endless climb, resulting in panoramic views of this part of central Ireland. Guide books dismiss this area as not of much interest, but I find it to be beautiful and charming. Lots of old, small villages surrounded by farmland – most, it seems, raising sheep and cattle.

Not a potato in sight. But I guess they are hard to see even if they are there.

I passed clear cuts and peat bogs and windmill farms.

Rain came and went a few times. I am so glad I brought good, proper rain gear. The fast changing weather creates challenges, though, because it takes some time to put on all of the gear. You really have to keep an eye out for that particular, rain laden cloud – in contrast to all of the other dark clouds swirling through the sky.

I tried to get to Roscrea, the homeland of my great grandfather, but once again, everything was booked. Who knew it was such a popular place. So wile I waited under a gas station canopy for the latest downpour to subside, I found a B&B about 15 miles south where I sit writing this post. Tomorrow I expect to go to Roscrea. I was informed by my host that the best place to find info on dead Irish ancestors is at the local Catholic Church.

Don’t know where I’ll head from there – possibly Galway. Then north along the Wild Irish Way. But man, there is some rugged land out there.

The wind in my face

Has it only been since this morning that I left Glendalough? Seems like days.

The morning was cool, overcast and windy. You know, normal Irish weather. I set out from the hostel heading west, to the Wicklow Pass. It was a steady climb of 4-9% grade for five miles. The 15 mph wind was directly in my face. Quite a challenging climb. But I made it.

From Wicklow Gap

Due to the wind, I didn’t have to brake going down the other side. Top speed was 18 mph. That was on a 12% grade.

Once I got to Hollywood, I decided to head south, through a long, wide valley. Pocket Earth routed me on some lovely country roads with very little traffic.

The bad thing about country roads is that they are ancient. And since the Romans didn’t spend much time in Ireland, they weren’t really engineered. They evolved from sheep trails. Lots of ups and downs. And these are often very steep ups. I spent much of the day in first gear.

Staying tonight at an Air BnB in the country. Lovely hosts. Charming place. Full breakfast in the AM.