Rick Steve said to forget about Killarney and stay in Kenmare, as it is well situated between the Dingle peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, and you avoid the throngs of tourists waiting to board their busses. that’s what I did.

I Reverently decamped from the convent and drove the rental car from Tulla to Dingle and hung out there for an hour or so. It was bloated with tourists. Felt like Gatlinburg on the sea, only a bit more charming and lots older.

A quiet side street in Dingle

I took the more scenic route off the peninsula, crossing Connor Pass with dramatic views to the water on both sides. The pass is the toughest climb for a bicycle on the Wild Atlantic Way. I did it by car.

I made my way to Kenmare where I checked into the hostel (private room). Clean, orderly place, but no soul. I wandered the two main streets, found dinner and retired.

The next day, I decided to go for a ride. The original plan was to drive the Ring of Kerry, but I just felt like driving was not giving me the buzz. So I did a 20 mile loop with a steep climb, then a gradual climb to Moll’s Gap and back to town. It was a beautiful ride. A great way to finish the riding portion of the trip.

Tarn tootin’ on the Ring of Kerry.

Back in Kenmare, a Guinness, some shopping, and dinner at the hostel.

The last day on the road, I drove to Cork. I did a small bit of wandering, found a great market, and decided that, instead of going to Waterford, I would just proceed north towards Dublin.

After a night in Abbeyleix, I drove to a Dublin. I got into my room at the b&b by noon. By 1:00 PM, Frida was packed. So I walked downtown and did some more wandering. Visited the Famine Ship that is moored on the river, wandered back.

Out of 28 days in Ireland, I biked for fourteen days. I covered about 500 miles, with about 30,000 feet of climbing. Not a particularly tough tour as adventure cycling goes, but enough for me.

A 17 hour day of travel brought me home to Cathy.

Frida remains in her suitcase. Mmmnfff!

I think we end this tour with an enduring friendship, but no love affair.

As I finish this post, I am finishing. Guinness at The Dubliner, a DC Irish bar. Gotta cash out those Guinness in the bank.

Until the next adventure, a few parting shots

The Windswept Hill

So I stayed a night in Galway. I arrived by noon, checked into my B&B and walked to the city center. Galway has a several block stretch that is devoted to pedestrian traffic. It is quite lively with loads of tourists, buskers and performing bands.

I relaxed at an outdoor table in the beautiful weather with a Guinness or two while listening to some very good music and chatting with a retired, German tourist.

The next day, I retrieved Frida from her secure parking area and found she had gone lame. I changed to tube, patched the damaged tube, and set off in a southerly direction.

It was about 5:30 PM when I came to a village called Tulla. It has definitely had better times. I saw no signs for a b&b or hotel, and I was miles from the next likely location for accommodations, so I went into a tiny health food shop and asked the proprietor, Trish, if there were any place to stay.

Trish got on her phone and made several calls, trying to find a place for me. – slow day in the shop – She finally connected with Brida, the person responsible for the community building – a former convent which is now used for various events, and which has about six beautiful, en-suite rooms for rent – typically for people involved with the event.

(The English translation for the name of the convent is “The Windswept Hill” – but I believe that’s also the town’s name for itself. The mountains to the north were definitely windswept as I was crossing them.)

Brida met me at the place, showed me around and gave me the keys. For 20 Euro per night. Sweet! I was the only person in the building.

So I decided to stay 2 nights. I rode to Shannon airport this morning and picked up another rental car so I can use the few remaining days seeing the south coast- Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Kinsale – before heading home.

So Frida is in a bag in the back of the car. I’m off to Dingle tomorrow. I have a room booked in a hostel for two nights. Then I’ll stay in Waterford, then a final night in Dublin.

The wind at your back on a bicycle is a glorious thing.

I drove the rental car to the north coast. It reminded me of why I like to tour by bicycle. Locked in a car, pressured by fast drivers trying to get somewhere, navigating unfamiliar roads, you don’t get to see anything. Or you have to be very intentional about what you expect to see and make it a destination, along with all the other tourists in cars. It all fills me with anxiety.

And driving on the wrong side of the road was surprisingly difficult – particularly on these Irish roads that were not made for two cars to pass. It’s easy enough to get used to being on the left side. The hard part was knowing where the edges of the car are. It felt like a fifteen year old with a learners permit. So I did what my brother Bill taught me then, “just look straight ahead and drive.”

After Sligo, I wandered around until I decided to stay at an HI hostel at the base of a mountain. Nice place. I stayed for two nights in a private room. It was nicer than a number of the B&Bs I have stayed in. I was able to prepare my own meals, which I shared with an Italian backpacker. I later gave him a ride back to Sligo.

View out of the dining room window at the hostel.

Saw some sights, had some more anxiety filled drives, and returned the car and cycled back to the B&B in Charlestown where I had stayed after Frida went lame.

While I was there before, I had spoken to the owner/chef about baking. He was interested in learning how to make sourdough bread. So, while I was away, I emailed him and suggested that I could give him a sourdough lesson. He loved the idea, so I booked two nights so I could have a full day for instruction.

It was a great time. Everything went wrong. His starter was weak, he hadn’t refreshed it properly, then, through miscommunication, I diluted it further; the flour was weak. But all of this gave us great opportunities for teaching/learning. While waiting around for the dough to ferment, I figured we could also make straight dough baguettes. Problems with that too.

Anyway, we had a great day. He learned a lot. We made some passable baguettes and some very tasty but flat sourdough boules.

I would have preferred to have stayed in Charlestown and baked, but that wasn’t happening. So I hit the road this morning. i decided to go south. Maybe I’ll reach Dingle. I don’t know yet.

This time, I decided to try an N road. It had a wide shoulder and the traffic wasn’t too heavy. Man, what a difference! No hills! Those tertiary roads I have been riding on were all designed by sheep, cows and asses. They never saw a hill they didn’t want to go directly over. Those roads are a painful chain of steep climbs and steep descents on rough pavement. But the downs never carry you over the ups.

It’s a trade off. The small roads have no traffic. They often go through beautiful, pastoral scenes. But they are steep and often quite rough. The N roads have traffic, they are noisy, and they are somewhat removed from the landscape.

At this point in the trip, I’ll take the easy ride.

And to make today’s ride even better, I had a tail wind. 22 mph, fully loaded, on a flat straightaway, on a Bike Friday. I was Superman.

Tomorrow I go to Galway. Will probably stay one night and push on south.

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.