Page 53

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Wales to Ireland   


DAYS 169-178

Off Route – London Layover   

DAY 179

Barmouth, Wales to Dublin, Ireland 

This was the last day of my ten day holiday from the Odyssey in the English countryside. I had had a wonderful time and felt rested and restored, but now I needed to rejoin the Odyssey for the ferry ride to Dublin. Len, my English friend and host, and I drove to Barmouth on June 26 where we met the group at the campground. It was the night before the ferry trip and I needed to stow my bags in my locker in the gear truck. I did that and then we went for a walk to enjoy the seaside community of Barmouth and to find a place to have dinner.

Before leaving the B & B for Holyhead the next morning I sent my e-mail and received many too, including birthday greetings from family and friends who had remembered that this day was my birthday. That was very nice! Thank you! 

Then we drove to Holyhead following the route on the DRG. That was fun because we got to see many of the riders pedaling their way to Holyhead. We’re a pretty sharp looking bunch! The countryside was spectacular. Hilly, Wales is really very hilly, but also green and beautiful. We were along the sea coast much of the time and in the countryside or quaint villages the rest of the time. There were castles in Harlech and Caernarfon to investigate, but that would require more time than we had. There were hundreds and thousands of sheep and these Welsh sheep are the lucky ones, they get to keep their tails! There were plenty of cows too of several different breeds. The farmhouses and barns are big and substantial, built of stone with slate shingled roofs. It was a bright and sunny day, perfect for a bike ride.

The Stena Ferry Terminal in Holyhead was easy to find and all too soon I had to say goodbye to my friend, Len, and walk onto the ferry with my bike. A surprising number of riders who had actually ridden the 80 miles to the ferry that morning were there in time for the 1:45 p.m. sailing. Everyone who didn’t arrive in time would take the 6:25 p.m. ferry. That would have been me for sure if I hadn’t done the 80 miles in an automobile.

Odyssey riders were scattered all over the ferry. Some like Trueheart and Dr. Gary were taking naps. Many were eating, having patiently stood in long lines at the McDonald’s on board to get a burger or maybe in another line for fish and chips. People were chatting, reading, and doing Pocketmail. The ferry trip was only one hour and 35 minutes in length, not enough time to do everything. There were shops and duty-free shops, a casino and a bar, and plenty of soft cushy chairs for everyone on this deluxe, clean and new-looking ferry, the Stena Explorer. It was a smooth uneventful ride.

When we docked in Dublin we cycled in a large group the 5 miles to the University College Dublin where we waited to check into rooms in Merville Hall. After some delay we were told that there had been a change of plan and that we should cycle to Belgrove Hall. Once there we stood in one line to check in with TK&A and then another to receive room assignments. I was given a room on the top floor but luckily for me Denis W. offered to carry my bicycle up the stairs as there was no elevator.

All that had used up the afternoon and  soon it was dinner time. We walked just next door to the Main Restaurant, a campus facility, for dinner. There was no line! The service was cafeteria style which is very efficient. The cooks had learned that we were coming to dinner only 10 minutes earlier but they had scrambled together enough food for everyone. Fortunately not many of us were there, most of the group would catch the 6:25 p.m. ferry and arrive too late for dinner.

Goodbye! Alice 

DAY 180

Dublin Layover Day 

‘Alive, alive oh! Alive, alive oh!’

Molly Malone’s statue in Grafton Street was one of several interesting stops on the historical walking tour of Dublin. Our guide was Michael, a history professor at Trinity College, and we listened with great interest as he  related and unraveled Ireland’s long and sometimes complicated history during our two hour tour. We didn’t walk far or see many places but we heard a lot of history and Michael made it all make sense. Molly Malone, it is now believed, never lived but was a folk character created by the Scots! How outrageous! (The Irish have chosen to ignore that bit of intelligence.)

On a more serious note, we learned that a well-preserved Viking city had been found when construction for new city buildings was started about 20 years ago, but it spite of the vigorous protests of the citizens of Dublin, the construction continued and the entire Viking city was excavated and demolished. Today those city officials are known to have taken bribes from the builders and are being prosecuted.

Michael covered all the hundreds of years of Irish history to the present, and foresees a time when the North and South will be reunited. For that to happen the English will have to leave Northern Ireland but he predicts that they will and before long because it is just too expensive for them to stay. After the tour six of us walked to a bike store which was across the Liffey River, then recrossed the river on the pretty Halfpenny Bridge to the area known as Temple Bar where we wandered while trying to choose the perfect spot for a light late lunch (it was almost dinner time) from all the many options. We were happy with our final choice of restaurants for the food was good. I had a ‘starter’ size serving of Murphy’s Stew which was made of beef, root vegetables and dumplings. I was hoping for parsnips and rutabagas but the root vegetables turned out to be carrots and potatoes.

In the evening we went to the city again for another walking tour, this time a literary pub tour. Michael, our history guide in the morning, had recommended it. Three talented people, two actors and a singer-guitarist, kept us entertained for hours. The actors acted out scenes from plays written by Irish playwrights and the musician performed Irish ballads. We were fascinated and delighted. Our pub visits lasted about 20 minutes and inbetween pubs, enroute to the next one, we stopped in a relatively quiet place for another performance. I was not keen on the pub visits to tell the truth. They were extremely crowded, maybe because there was a major soccer game on TV, and suffocatingly hot and smoky. In the one where there was space enough for my friends and myself, I had a lager and lime, my new favorite drink. At all the others I just waited outside in the fresh air, entertained by the activities in the streets.

For the first time on the Odyssey I was able to spend the layover day having fun instead of doing housekeeping chores. That was because I had just arrived from a ten day holiday in England, all my clothes were clean and my bike was ready to go. I was even caught up at last with replying to e-mail messages. Having fun!

Goodbye, Alice

DAY 181

Dublin to Athlone 

This was my first day back on the bike in two weeks. A bicycle seat is hard! I’d forgotten about that. But I soon grew used to it. Getting used to being on the wrong side of the road was harder. In Ireland the left side of the road is the right side, while the right side of the road is the wrong side, if you get what I mean. I also had trouble with my rear view mirror which did not like being on the right side of my helmet and refused to stay in place.

At breakfast Joan and I decided to ride together and as usual she led the way. There were a dozen rotaries on our route out of Dublin plus lots of lights and rush hour traffic. It wasn’t fun and seemed to take forever. I was bulldozed by a car but somehow managed to stay ‘shiny side up’ as my son would say and wasn’t hurt. The offending car was stopped at a stop sign on a side street waiting for a break in the traffic so that it could turn left into the left lane of the busy main road, a simple maneuver. I was cycling in the left lane of the busy street, near the curb. As I approached the side street I saw the car stopped at the stop sign waiting so I continued cycling, assuming that the driver had seen me. After all there were no cars beside or behind me so why else would he wait? I must have been just in front of him when I realized I was moving sideways, a very strange sensation on a bike. I only had time to wonder what in the world had gone wrong with my bike when I looked down and saw that the car was pushing me sideways! It was such a gentle nudge that I hadn’t felt the impact. I thought, ‘Oh no! I am going to fall!’ But then realizing that I was still upright, decided to try to stay that way. Amazingly, I did and finally the car stopped. I got off the bike and hurried out of the middle of the street where he had shoved me, to the sidewalk. He apologized profusely, explaining that he hadn’t even looked before starting out! And was my bike okay he asked. I thought the bike looked all right, I tried the wheels and they still went around so I rode down the road to where Joan had stopped to wait when she realized I wasn’t behind her. We had another look at the bike and saw that the car had knocked my tire pump half out of its holder and changed the position of the odometer equipment on the front wheel so that they were colliding with each revolution of the wheel. Forty miles later, at Checkpoint, the mechanic looked at my bike and found that both wheels had been slighty damaged but he was able to fix them.

Joan was too tired to continue after Checkpoint so I finished the ride, 95 miles, by myself. The second half was far more hilly but also more interesting and more scenic. It was dairy cow and sheep country, green fields and hedgerows everywhere. For the most part we cycled on narrow country roads which were often very bumpy but had little traffic.

There is an amazing amount of new home construction. All along today’s route new houses were being built, many of them very big and expensive. The finished lived-in houses had beautiful yards and colorful gardens. Two things are clear, these are prosperous times for the Irish, and they all have green thumbs! I wanted to take a photo of a typical Irish home but couldn’t seem to find one that would do because nearly every house had a car parked right in front, an eyesore I thought. Finally I realized that that is the way it is done here. Typically each house is surrounded by a wide concrete  sidewalk, maybe as a barrier against termites. Next is a wide paved or gravelled area that starts at the gate and continues across the front of the house. Sometimes the entire front yard is pavement, asphalt or gravel but more often, the rest of the yard extending to the substantial wall in front, is lawn and flowers. The car or cars are parked on the paved area right at the front door, maybe so that the family can make a run for it when it is raining? I don’t know. Even houses with garages had cars parked at the front door!

Finally we rode into camp, it had taken nearly nine hours of pedaling to do the 95 miles. It was 6:30 but dinner was delayed an hour so there was a chance I could get my tent up and get my shower, both before dinner. My tent went up without a hitch but when I went to the shower tent I learned that they had run out of water and there would be a half hour delay. So I sat on my stool just outside the shower tent to hold my place in line and worked on the web page while I waited.

Guess what was for dinner! Yes! Chicken! And believe it or not, hard boiled eggs! Oh my gosh. 

Goodbye, Alice 

Day 182

Athlone to Strandhill (Sligo) 

Tonight I stayed home for dinner. I had a new tape, “Welcome to Ireland”, that I couldn’t wait to hear, it was windy and sure to rain hard at any moment, and I had Irish brown bread, Irish cheddar cheese, mixed peanuts and cashews, wine, cookies and an orange in my bike bag. What more could anyone want? It was a feast and I am still happily listening to the tape. By staying home I thought I would make time to not only hear the tape, but to catch up the web page, and avoid another chicken dinner. Besides, it is peaceful inside my tent! I love it!

Today’s ride was fun and beautiful! It was a big improvement over yesterday’s ride, the first half anyway, for there was something to see every mile of the way (80 miles), it was hilly with thrilling downhills, and plenty of challenge in several road construction areas. After leaving Dublin we’ve been on rural roads, riding through remote areas where there are no services available for hours, all of the roads have been paved but are oh so very bumpy, sometimes so jarring that I can feel my brain bashing against my skull! There are potholes and patches and gravel but the roads are also intrinsically rough, I wonder why they were made that way?

I rode with Joan again but today she went like the wind even up the hills and I struggled to keep up. She gives credit to the WD-40 she used to clean her bike and lubricate the chain. Sadly, on arrival in camp tonight we learned that her 91 year old father has died, she will be leaving for home in the morning. Today we saw more sheep and cattle and fields of hay and wheat. We saw two beautiful lakes, in one of them every island we could see was perfectly round! How did that happen? We rode through a forest that looked like a natural forest rather than a tree farm, complete with ferns, mosses, and salal, reminding me of home.

We are camped on the beach tonight, I have a windy view of the Atlantic Ocean from the front door of my tent. I met a beautiful young Irish woman here this evening, I think her name was something like Ola, who was fascinated with our bike ride, ready to drop everything and join us. She had come to this campground, Strandhill Caravan and Camping Park, to go surfing. As windy as it is (I had two friends hanging onto my tent until I could get it staked), she said that this wind is nothing and there is no surf.

Now it is POURING! I haven’t brushed my teeth but I may not leave my tent tonight. I have water, I can brush my teeth right here inside my tent and   spit the toothpaste onto the grass. My tent has two doors and each has a vestibule. When the rain pours I can unzip the back door and use that dry grassy area for any watery purpose. We were lucky to have had three sunny days in Ireland but I think that is the end of that. Oh well! It is beautiful here, the people are friendly and everyone speaks English. It’s a great place to visit. Having fun! 

Goodbye, Alice 








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