My Uncle Charles is there to greet me at the ferry at midnight. We toss my panniers into his car and I sprint behind him the 2.5 miles it takes to get to his and Claudia’s home.
I spend the next few days relaxing and seeing the Isle of Man by car. Not cycling? No, there is a constant 25mph wind, it rains every day, and it is cold. So nice to be indoors with some hot tea, good company, and the internet.
I will catch the Ferry to England tomorrow morning and begin cycling again.
Thanks Charles and Claudia for having me and showing me your dramatic windswept island.
Ireland. I am ready to move on. I feel that if I see one more grey stone wall surrounding a tumbled grey stone cottage lonely against a spitting grey stone sky I will puke.
Conversations are invitations to complain:
Aren’t you tired?
I’m a little tired.
Aren’t you scared?
No, not really. Just cold and hungry.
It is freezing out. More rain on the way.
I expected that. It’s winter in Ireland.
Don’t you get lonely?
You must be daft to be cycling here now.
I decide to go immediately to the Isle of Mann to see my Uncle Charles and Claudia. The ferries have stopped running directly from Dublin to the Isle of Mann, so I have to take a more circumventious route:
I take three busses to Dublin then a ferry through the night to Holyhead Egland. The connecting bus to Liverpool is full. I camp on the frigid floor of the station. On one side is a snoring man and on the other is a double door that lets in cold air every time someone enters. At 4:30 AM I board a train bound for Liverpool, change once, and arrive in Liverpool 8:30 AM. I meet an undercover cop with a bicycle on the train, and he tells me about a hostel. A hot breakfast in the hostel fuels some life in me after a sleepless night. The ferry to the Isle of Mann leaves in the evening, giving me a day to explore.
I am in the land of the pound now, and prices are painfully high, about 50% higher than in the US. The breakfast costs me $9. Fifteen minutes of internet costs me $1.50. I buy the ferry ticket to Isle of Mann, with the return it costs $75. I am nervous about burning money so quickly.
Liverpool surprises and is a pleasure. Best known as the home of the Beatles, Liverpool is a thriving cosmopolitan waterfront city with a rich checkered history. For example, Liverpool was once the shipping center for the slave trade with America and the Caribbean.
The Connemara. Cycling this landscape in the blustery cold rainy weather is a great experience. Yet, when I arrived in town, soaking wet and quite cold, I found that both hostels in town were closed. So was the hostel in my backup town 20K down the road. I ended up staying in a lovely and expensive hotel, and I couldn’t even cook. So I made soup in the coffee pot.
I am feeling it is time to move on. I will take a bus to Dublin (yeah I know, after my little rant about busses) and from there a ferry to Holyhead England. Then I will cycle 90 miles north to Liverpool England and take a ferry back to the Isle of Man. The ferries that used to run directly from Dublin to Isle of Man are out of season.
I have cycled 583 mies, 938KM, in Ireland and now have a good feeling for the land and the people.
For every shower there’s a rainbow.
This is Connemara.
The mystery of peat logs gets a little bit clearer. I was told by Bryan that they burn quite well, like coal. They are not loose like soil but quite solid, requiring some effort to break them apart. I saw lots of areas that had been dug for peat in the Connemara.
I ride to Rosaveel, from where the ferries still run to the Aran islands this late in the year. On the way over I talk to the policeman for the islands, Brian Odonnel, who is traveling with his Tri bike and an older island resident. The islander recalls selling fish for his father:
“Every day me pappy gave me a wooden wheelbarrow with a load of fish to sell. I walked up and down the streets selling em. But there was one hill in my route that I didn’t like to push the wheelbarrow up, so at the bottom I sold the fish cheaply so as not to have to push a heavy wheelbarrow up the hill. When I got to the top of the hill, I figured the fish were worth more cause I had worked so hard, so I sold them more dear.
My father always took the money when I came home. But one day my father said “So fish are cheaper at the bottom of the hill?” He was about to discipline me, but my mom stepped in. She asked my dad if the money was right, and dad said he reckoned it was. I explained I sold them for more at the top of the hill. Mom started to laugh, and eventually so did Dad. Yep, I’ve been working with fish all my life.”
Today the 25th Brian takes me out in the police car to look at his favorite sites on the island. I don’t think I have ever been to two more magnificent places then the Black Fort ruins, and the cliffs below the Dún Aonghasa ruins. I would never have found the Black Fort ruins on my own because only a very small handmade sign on a side street points the way. The Dun Aonghasa ruins, on the other hand, are heavily visited by tour busses. But we went to the cliffs below, where nobody goes.
The cliffs might look stable when you are walking on them from above, but they are often eroded underneath.
Brian when he is not a policeman.
This is limestone Karst, the stone has eroded into rectangles, there are acres and acres of this.
Occasionally there is a round granite boulder amongst all the black limestone. They were carried there by glaciers during the last ice age.
The stone has a precision that defies your sense of reality.
The remains of a wall of Black Fort. It was a medieval walled village.
But there is a surprising diversity of life growing in the fissures.
Here’s my ride.
This amazing rock formation is just like an olympic pool with a ladder on one side. There is a passage to the ocean and the swells move the pool water.
A shot of the corner of the pool.
Another shot of the pool.
The coastline was beyond words.
The power of water and time. This “little creek” flowing across the top of a rock is about as wide as a pencil eraser. Water is trickling gently down it.
I ride to the ferry launch this AM to see if the ferry is going to run.
Hmmm, looks pretty deserted.
A long timer out to walk his dog tells me they have officially shut down for the season. We talk for a while and he tells me I am a very strong man to ride in weather like this. He says he is going to Galway later today and will honk when he passes me.
I set off and ride into the landscape called “The Burren” The Burren is an very old Karst formation. It was written about it that there wasn’t enough land to bury your dead, and that neighbors stole dirt from each other.
Yet cattle thrived eating the mineral rich grass growing in the rock clefts.
I was so excited to be riding through this landscape. Jerry at the hostel who is a hiker reminded me to just switch the rain off in my mind.
This land has been inhabited for a long time. It is crossed with rock walls and remains of cottages.
This is the first peat I’ve seen, cut and rolled to dry for burning. Looks like little soil rolls.
What kind of creatures are these? Llamas? Alpaca’s? They have such long graceful necks.
I look out the window of my unheated empty hostel. It is 8:30 AM, still too dark to cycle. The wind is blowing the cold rain into it. I shiver involuntarily. I check the weather on the internet. 12 degrees C. Gale warning in effect. Rains intensifying in the morning. I manage a mischievous grin. Soon I am going to be cycling in this stuff. Cool!
View out my window at 8:30 AM.
What I really like at the end of the day is to wear my pajamas underneath my clothes. They are so soft and warm. Cycling in rain gear is the opposite. The jacket sticks to my arms as it gets soaked. I feel the cold plastic wrapped around me like chilled cellophane. I am just a little dryer on the inside than the outside because the lack of air circulation means that soon my shirt is soaked with sweat. The wet shirt chills me when I stop.
I now wear the rain trowsers over just underwear. With pants under, they get too hot. The rain pants cling to my bare legs, transmitting the chill and the feel of the rain. My legs sweat going up hills, and the pants get soaked on the inside.
The leather gloves are soaked. The Sealskin waterproof socks do not dry out at night. Heck, I just ran them through a dryer and they are still wet. But even wet they do keep my feet warm, if wrinkled. The helmet cover rain hat works well. The helmet holds the rain hat away from my head allowing air to circulate underneath.
The Arkel panniers keep soaking up moisture. They keep getting heavier and heavier. I chose them because of the myriad pockets. But the truly waterproof Ortleibs would be a better choice in the rain, especially if all your gear is organized into stuff bags inside.
But I’m not the only crazy one. Check out these surfers:
Ok, that kinda makes sense. But this golfer with an umbrella?
Here is the view heading into Doolin. The Island in the background is Inisheer, one of the Aran islands. I’ll go there tomorrow if the weather permits the ferries to run.
Doolin is one of two places to catch a ferry to the Aran islands, and is touristy.
The Aille River Hostel in Doolin. The owners daughter in pink plays in front.
I wake up at 7:30 Am. It is still dark out. The wind gusts and rattles my window. Rain is spritzing down. It is extremely cold out. What am I doing? Am I actually going to ride in this? The answer seems to be yes, for I pack Griboulee and eat a 1500 calorie breakfast. Goodbye to Michail and Fin and I am out the door. I struggle to keep the bike on the road in the gusting wind. I must ride hard to get anywhere. My waterproof Sealskin socks become little warm jacuzzis as my feet sweat. Then I change direction and that blasting wind is at my back and side. Things are looking up. I ride for 115 kilometers (71 miles) with the wind giving me a nice push. I eat an apple and banana for lunch, as anything but fruit takes energy from pedaling. Beside’s it’s too cold to stop for long.
I am warm as long as I am riding. If I stop, I must put on a jacket in a minute or I start shivering. My shirt is soaked with sweat. My legs sweat and my rain pants cling to my legs, then they dry out and get loose again going downhills. It is amazing what the human body can do.
The Irish countryside continues to be beautiful. But I am beginning to feel that I have seen enough. The next few days will be spent in Conemara and the Aran islands, then I may pedal straight across Ireland to Dublin and catch a ferry to the Isle of Mann.
Tralee Bay rainbow.
I take a short ferry ride from Tarbert across the Shannon river.
Today is a day of rest. Fin at the Rainbow Hostel has a car, and is going to drive around the Dingle peninsula. I invite myself along. This is the furthermost western part of Ireland, and therefore of Europe.
This is Fin. She is an art teacher in London here on holiday.
The Irish in the early Christian era created small homesteads and built rock houses and “beehive” huts on their small farms. These beehive huts date from before 1200 and served as food storage buildings. They are very cleverly built. Each successive layer of stone went in a little bit until a single stone could cap the top. The layers of stone sloped outwards directing water outdoors. I like the bush toppings.
The dramatic coastline at Slea Head.
An early homestead pre 1200- but still used.
The Dingle peninsula.
There are several small harbors. This boat is typical of the small boats I see. It is covered with fabric and tarred. You can see several of the patches.
Here is the underside showing the craftsmanship.
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Big thanks to Fin for sharing the day with me and best wishes for her further adventures in south Ireland!
I decide to simply wear my rain gear all day today. It’s a good decision, it starts raining and clears up half a dozen times.
I am riding past a schoolyard and and I hear a young girl burst out laughing. Her laugh is so loud and histerical I look over. She is pointing- at me! Several other kids run and grab the chain link school yard fence and shake it while jumping up and down jeering and laughing. I wave, but I don’t get it. What’s so funny?
And then Leslie creates a scary decoration for Halloween. A punk cyclist has run down and beheaded a hapless pedestrian. Those damn rogue cyclists.
Sing along: “I’m coming to your town, I’m going to tear it down, I’m an American cyclist”
I can’t resist donkey pics. My bike is renamed “Griboulle”, after a famous french donkey. Griboulle looked a lot like this.
I have a half hour conversation with this donkey’s owner. He is bemoaning the lack of work, how there are so many empty houses, what had happened to the neighborhood.
He asks me if I believe in the hereafter. No, I say, I believe in living this life fully and letting the rest take care of itself. He agrees. He asks me if I drink. I tell him No, I need to keep this machine working at it’s very best, and besides, a pint of Guiness in Ireland costs 4.5 euros- that’s $6.25. He wishes he lived in London. Sadly, I have not yet met a content Irishman.
The Dingle peninsula is very scenic. The pic is of Inch Beach. We are looking across Dingle Bay to the Iveragh peninsula.
Cemetery on Dingle Bay.
Cows in momentary sun on Dingle Bay.
Dingle is described as a fishing village. It really is about tourism. It has a lovely harbor…
fun side streets…
and this frisky sheep pony.
Just look at that curious face. Do you know what kind of horse this is?
My sister Stacey wrote me an email in which she says
“There are days when I envy the crap out of you for what you are doing and then there are days I think you are flipping crazy.” She is no wimp. She just went gator gigging, the motor broke, and she and her boyfriend had to paddle the boat two miles though gator infested waters. She calls that “a blast.”
She’s right. Sometimes this is crazy. I am cycling down a narrow road with no shoulder. It’s raining and I’m cycling into a headwind that reduces all my effort to 6 measly mph. I hear the downshifting of a big truck or bus behind me. I glance forward, and see a row of cars coming. Shit, he can’t pass me. My helmet mirror is filled with a tourist bus as it slows to 6 mph. I unclip my left toe clip and lean into a hedge covering a stone wall and pull the bike as close to me as I can. I watch the long body of the bus glide past my bike clearing it by 6 inches. Tourists stare through the glass at me. Cars are close behind, pilot fish stuck to their whale. The drivers turn to gawk at me, shaking their heads as if I am daft. Of course; I am.
Later the sun breaks through the clouds and the same road develops into 4 lanes with a bike shoulder. The human machine is working very well, the legs pedaling briskly with little effort. Suddenly the sun illuminates a patch of golden rocky Irish hillside. It is so beautiful tears come to my eyes. What a lucky, lucky man I am!
Do you see it?? The little patch of gold mountain top to the right?
The terrain as I am cycling northwest has become craggier and steeper. The cows are being replaced with sheep.
Killarney is the loveliest town I have been in. There are streets and streets that look like this:
It feels so good to arrive by bike. I am such a snob that I can’t imagine traveling by Bus. Bus. What a dull sound, like a flat tire.
I feel like a conquering hero when I arrive by bicycle. “Oh man, I actually made it, here I am in Killarney. Wow.” I couldn’t arrive by Bus and feel that way.
I need to eat more. I am losing weight too fast. My cooking is simple, but, simple. So I have dinner out, the first meal I haven’t cooked. It is a lovely, warm, delicious, vegetarian lasagna served with- fries!
It’s hard to be with new people all the time, knowing no-one, no-one knowing me. As friendly as I am, few are interested in a guy cycling Ireland. In the country I am a wierdo, an obvious tourist. Farmers in tractors wave because we both go slow. In the city I get little patches of conversation with roommates, hostel clerks, the occasional pedestrian. This blog helps me balance. I feel like I am talking to all of you.