It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

--Ernest Hemingway

The Plan

I am not a 'touring cyclist' - not that there's anything wrong with touring cyclists. I consider myself to be a 'roadie'--if it can't fit into a jersey pocket, then it doesn't come along for the ride. So when you picture me biking in Ireland don't think about panniers and saddle bags and back packs. There will be no tents, sleeping bags nor camp stoves anywhere near my bike.

The plan is to rent a car so that I can drive about the island and ride in much the same way that I would at home. If all goes according to the vision, my life over the next 14 days will fall into the following routine: drive to an area, ride, hike, eat massive amounts of food, drink Guinness (amounts may vary), sleep, repeat.

The idea for this trip is to be fairly flexible; it'll be a bit by the seat of my bib shorts. Here's the best I can do for an itinerary:

> Fly into Dublin on Aug 13
> Connemara (northwest of Galway)
>Inishmore (the largest of the Aran Islands)
>The Burren and the fabled Cliffs of Moher
>The Dingle Peninsula
>The Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry)
>The Beara Peninsula
>Fly out of Dublin on Aug 28

I've perhaps saved the BEST FOR LAST! From Aug 21-23, I'll be following the three-day Tour of Ireland. I'll watch Stage 1 on the Category One Mount Leinster climb, take in Stage 2 on The Vee, a Cat. 2 climb and watch the last stage in Cork which finishes with a with three-loop city street circuit including the 23% gradient climb of St. Patrick's Hill.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that seven-time Tour de France Champ LANCE ARMSTRONG and 10-time TdeF stage winner MARK CAVENDISH will be riding the Tour of Ireland. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

So come back to this little blog often to read about my adventures with my bike on the Emerald Isle. And please, if you're reading this stuff, leave me a comment; it's nice to know that people are out there checking this stuff out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A few final stories

Well it's past my bedtime, but I've just got to get the last few tales up on the blog. Just spent the last three hours of my life packing - bike and gear. It was a tough go.

Here we go: first I'm going to go back to August 24, 2009 BL (Before Lance). By the way, if this is the first time you've come back to the blog in a while, please scroll down and read my last post - it was duzy.

The Beara Peninsula

This was a great ride - the Beara Peninsula is a rugged chuck of land that juts out into the Atlantic down in County Kerry in the southwest. It's dominant feature are the Caha Mountains. So I left Kenmare under cloudy skies towards a place called Glenngariff. My main goal in this ride was to climb over Healy Pass which heads from the south to north across the peninsula. What I didn't realize was that if I was going to cross the mountains from south to north, that meant I'd have to go over them from north to south as well. And so, the road to Glenngariff took me over the Caha Pass. It was a beautiful road that included three tunnels through the mountains and a great view of Bantry Bay from the top.

This one freaked me out pretty good as I met a truck half way through

Top of Caha Pass

The ominous Irish sky as I descend towards Glenngariff

In Glenngariff, I had to stop for an espresso and let that cloud pass over. Later in the ride I wouldn't be so lucky. I moved west on the Ring of Beara towards Adrigole and what would prove to be my favourite road that I've ever cycled - The Healy Pass! This road was the ultimate Irish moutain pass - infinitely winding upwards among the sheep and grassy hillsides.

On the way up Healy Pass with the sheep

Looking down at the winding road that I just ascended

Last pic with my bike in the air, promise. This road had me really stoked though, big time - and nice to have the sun along for the ride

Once over the pass, this is the view that you're treated to on the descent

And an amazing descent it was

Having skirted all of the rain clouds to this point on the ride, during the last 10k (of 82 for the day) , I got totally soaked. Oh well, I guess that's better than getting soaked at the beginning.

August 27, 2009 AL (you guessed it - After Lance)

After spending the 26th off the bike and around Dublin's bike shops 'de-briefing' from the ride in Phoenix Park with Lance Armstrong, the sun came up on my last full day in Ireland. I had to make it a good one right? Right about now, I almost wish I could go easy on myself, but we know that's not in the cards.

One last epic ride - south out of Dublin over the Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains. This ride was a bit different in that it started from a major urban centre; it went from urban, to suburban, to rural, to nothingness. It was bit daunting as I kept getting further and further away from Dublin - when would I reach the Sally Gap Road and point the bike north again - it seemed it never would come. And when it did, I have to admit I pretty much bonked my way up the Wicklow Mountains praying for the road to turn down. The scenery was among the best I've seen on the whole trip and probably went a long way towards preventing the full on bonk. And mercilessly, the Wicklow's go up and down and up and down...unlike many of the other 'passes' which just go up then down, then that's're done. This stuff was crazy. I was really happy to get back to the city. It turned out to be a 90 k ride and 4 hours in the saddle, which didn't leave me much time for the last adventure...Here are a few pics, but in the wet conditions, I don't really think they do it justice.

A hanging lake seen from the road up Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains

The (first) descent from Sally Gap

St. James' Gate (The Guinness Brewery)

Had to do it, and it was great - learned a lot. Basically, you wind your way up a 7-story pint glass learning about ingredients, the brewing process, the history, etc culminating with your free pint on the seventh floor "Gravity Bar" which has 360 degree views of the city. I felt like a Lonely Planet traveler finishing my trip in such a location. The place demanded video (can you make out the Doors playing in the background (Light my Fire)?

And so, the sun set over the River Iffey in Dublin on my last day of the Blarney Biker Tour as I walked back to the hostel from St James' Gate. I certainly can't complain; this has been a trip and a half. Still, any traveler will tell you that it's good to travel, but it's great to get home. I know I can't wait. I think the perspective that I'm bringing back home is summed up best by the billboard not far from my hostel here in Dublin - it's an ad for the Gaelic Amateur Association. Check it out

A Dublin sunset

GAA Bilboard

May the road rise up to meet you. See you all when I get home - looking forward to it

Blarney Biker out

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A little group ride in Dublin

So ya know all this solo traveling can make a social guy like me a bit crazy after a while. Riding is great, but you know riding with other people, in a group, is really where it's at.

You know as luck would have it, I heard about a group ride taking place today in Phoenix Park in Dublin at 5:30 . But I'm still in Kenmare and Dublin's clear on the other side of the country. Oh well, I'm going to be going to Dublin tomorrow anyway, why not leave a day early and get out for a little group ride for a change.

Here's a picture of the guy who organized it.

Do you recognize him? He's a bit cut off in the face.

Here's another one of him out of the saddle.

Maybe this should be our next Blarney Biker Contest - name that rider...

Ok, enough of the cryptic stuff. Here's how this little travel experience went down.

So, yesterday I had an incredible ride on the Beara Peninsula. It was an 82 k ride over 2 mountain passes (will post about this ride later - today's ride has to take top billing). I was looking to go epic over the last couple of days here, and the thought occurred to me to do a century over two days (160 km equals a century (100 miles)). So, got up, ate, had a couple cups of coffee in the local cafe and just before suiting up, I decided to get online, check email, check blog, and check Lance's Twittter. Bingo. This is what I saw:

"Good morning Dublin. Who wants to ride this afternoon? I do. 5:30 pm @ the roundabout of Fountain Rd and Chesterfield Ave. See you there.."

Wow, ok decision time. Dublin's a 4 or 5 hour drive, and I've got this cool ride planned out (over part of the Ring of Kerry). Technically, I could be there in time and I'm planning on going to Dublin tomorrow anyway. Still, a lot could go wrong, there'll be a big crowd, I could have a mechanical (flat) on the bike, or worse, the car - there'll be traffic getting into Dublin. But you know what, I'll really kick myself if I don't try to do this. The heck with it; the Ring of Kerry will be there forever. And off I went, slicing this country in half once again from extreme west to extreme east. I actually made it to Dublin with a couple of hours to spare. Checked into the hostel, suited up and spun over to the Park, realized half way there that I forgot the camera, turned back, got the camera, and made it to the park with 1 hour to spare. Oh the nerves by this point - I'm tellin' ya.

Promptly, Lance showed up, rolled past me and said, "So, this is the biking crowd." And off we went. I thought there was about 500 or 600 riders, but he claimed on Twitter a while ago that it was about a thousand. What an experience riding with that many people.

So, in the park we had what I would say to be about a 2-3 k (?) loop, and we did countless laps - full on crit style. My heart rate was consistently in the 170's for an hour and a half. I RODE IN A GROUP WITH LANCE ARMSTRONG FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF!!!!!!!

The group was diverse to say the least. Mostly proper roadies, but other dudes on commuters, city bikes, MTB's, a tandem, a few foldables. It was pandemonium. There were crashes everywhere. I had some very narrow misses; like probably three times I thought this is it, I'm going down. One of the proudest moments of my life came when a guy nearly knocked me down (was on the left next to a high curb) and I saved it, didn't go down, then another guy looked at me and said (in full Irish accent), "Good skill." (pronounced skeal) It was really cool; the real deal; you'd see guys go down about 10 feet in front of you and pile up and you get on the brakes and fight for room and avoid it. So so so so wicked.

Now, it's one thing to ride in this group, and the ride would have been worth it in itself (it was a serious ride, really an intense workout), but to get along side the man would be truly amazing.

So, much of the first half of the ride was spent tearing my legs out fighting my way to the front of the group. At one point I took a detour though the woods on a path but had trouble getting back on the road and lost a lot of ground. Fought and fought and fought and eventually got to him. I was riding my bike right next to Lance Armstrong.

So, first I thanked him for doing this and told him that it meant a lot to all of us. Then I spoke to him about the Cabot Trail. There's a connection here - Odessa Leipheimer's (Levi's wife (Levi's a teammate of Lance's) 2nd cousin works at Park View - no joke. So I asked him if he'd ever heard about the Cabot Trail - No he hadn't, then I told him that Odessa is from Cape Breton - oh yeah, he had heard of the Trail. He told me that she and Levi never go there, then upon realizing that he was shattering a dream of mine, he said, ahh but what do I know, maybe the holidays...

Having had my shot, I decided that it was prudent to fall back a bit, but I did ride along side him for about 5 mins and nearby for probably 10. There was a big guy (like a 300 pounder) in a green TdeF sprinter jersey that I was sure was going knock him down and I was right on his wheel - I actually can't believe they didn't go down. That's when I decided that others should have their chance and that I didn't want to have anything to do with a pile-up of riders involving the legend. I considered stopping--many had given up, were dropped, etc--thought about quitting while I was ahead, you know, but really wanted to ride the whole thing. Felt the bonk coming on, and shortly thereafter, we came around a now familiar corner and all slowed then stopped. We all cheered, he signed a few autographs in a Beatlemania-esque frenzy (I had my yellow jersey in my pocket with a sharpie, but just couldn't get in there), and he got into the vehicle and was off.

The signing session

After complete concentration and focus for the duration of the ride, looking at the world after it was over was trippy - ok, what just happened here? Holy crap. As I rolled out of Phoenix Park, on my way back to the hostel, I figured I'd try to capture the excitement on video.

My only regret is that I didn't get video while I was alongside. Taking pics was hard enough - video may have been easier. Still, riding along a seven-time Tour winning legend with a thousand other riders with only my left hand on the bars, camera in the right, heart pumping 180 times a minute, lungs struggling to supply the demand of O2, moving along at 35 km/hr or so, star struck to say the was a challenge. It went well.

Recent Tweat from Lance:

"Thanks Dublin!! What a great park and a cool ride w/ all of you. I heard a 1000+ came out. I'm speechless. Gotta love a good bike ride!!"

Yes, indeed.

He who dies with the most stories wins.


PS Coverage in the local papers the day after:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tour of Ireland (and Kilkenny)

Well hey all you Blarney Biker Studs and Studettes. Thanks once again for tuning in. I have to say right up front that I'm dealing with a bout of home sickness tonight and so I went back through the older posts to re-check the comments - and what a bounty of late commenters. Some big shout-outs: Alex Robar very cool to know you're checkin' this out; Scott and Andrea fun to hear from you; H-MAC (intensely screamed with huge flexed front pecs and two surf signs (thumbs and pinky fingers, like this eh-ch....MAAAC!!!!!) ladies and gents without further ado, the other knower of the movie quote reference - it was North Shore - she's now co-winner of that contest with my young relic - Joffie!; also comments I hadn't seen way back from Rod and Dee - awesome. Yes, can you tell I miss you all?

Ok, now on to the post. The Tour of Ireland!!!

Stage 1 - Aug 21st

I was up and gone from the farm hostel in New Ross post haste. Roll out was 06:30. Drove to Bunclody which is the base town for the Mount Leinster climb all the while second guessing myself (Dude, you're gonna be too late, why didn't you just come here last night and deal with sleeping in the car if need be?). Finally found the right country road to take me up to the climb, drove said road right to the top and was the first car in the lot (like parking spot), indeed the first person on the mountain. Were it not for the Tour truck that showed up shortly afterward with barricades to assemble, I wouldn't have believed I was in the right spot - literally drove up the climb that morning. Now, how to kill four hours until the peloton shows up? Gear up, descend, and climb back up of course. The climb wasn't nearly as hard as I expected it to be - no where near as hard as Connor Pass the other day.

I sometimes meet people in the strangest ways. Some of you may have read a comment from Padraig about nearly running over my camera. Well, the road was so devoid of activity, I decided to sit the camera down on the tarmac and set up the self timer to get a shot next to the Start sign of the KOM (King of the Mountain). As the ten second delay was ticking down, around the blind corner comes Padraig. I waved him down before he demolished the camera and all of its contents. Of course then we got to talking and we took pics of each other next to the sign. One more tidbit about this chance meeting (get a Kleenex, Mom). Check out his jersey; his Dungarvan Cycling Club is sponsored by "Minnie's Pub". Nice to know Gram's got her eye on me over here (Minnie is my late Gram's name.).

Base of the Mount Leinster KOM

Padraig of Dungarvan

Top of the Mount Leinster KOM

There were other cyclist to climb the mountain that day, and if you download this next pic and magnify it, you'll notice a certain 7-time Tour de France winner riding in a Team Astana Kit with his trademark black and yellow LiveStrong helmet. (I'll have to work on cropping this when I get home. :)

The bunch nears the KOM finish 5 or so minutes back of the loan break-away rider

Side Trip - Kilkenny - Aug 21st (still)

By 1 in the afternoon, I was about done with Mount Leinster. The passing of the cyclist, in fact, was a lot like people generally think watching bike racing is - a long wait, followed by a few seconds of activity. On my way to my accommodation I decided that Kilkenny town was not too far out of the way. Having heard that's it's a cool place, and having enjoyed a few Kilkenny Cream Ales over the years, I decided to check it out. I wasn't disappointed.

If you've ever spent time in Tampa Bay while the Bucs are hot, or maybe Montreal and the Habs are looking good deep into the playoffs, you'll know, that you can practically taste it in the air as soon as arrive. This was definitely the case in Kilkenny as the local team will play for it's 4th consecutive All-Ireland Gaelic Amateur Athletics National Hurling Championship one week from today. They will play against their fierce rival from County ____________. I was quite interested in this sport even before arriving as I once met Tony Griffith (Brad will remember him), a former hurler of some renown. In a sporting goods store that day, I was told that the team would be practicing down at Nowland Field in town and that you could watch the practice for free. Stoked! Down to the stadium I went. If fact, look, here's a picture of me at centre field:

The kind elderly field caretaker informed me that, no, the boys were off on "special training" out of town prior to the big match, but would I like to check out the stadium, and can I take some pictures of you frolicking about the turf, and would you like some free posters for your velocave, and here, have a free dvd of homecoming 2006. Ok, thanks. Just another day at the office for another of the countless kind Irish souls.

Random picture of a cloud approaching me.
This is what the sky looks like when it's not raining over here; you know it's coming for you and there's no avoiding it.

Stage 2 - Aug 22nd

This day started out much the same as yesterday. I was the first one at The Vee, wondering where everyone else was; they eventually showed up in great numbers. As you may have read on the comments, my motivation for riding was a bit low that day, having done some major climbing in the past 3 or 4 days. Eventually I woke up, suited up and decided to climb to the summit if nothing else (I was set up to watch at the switch back turn about halfway up the climb). When I arrived at the top, I ran into a group of about 12 cyclists all decked out in Waterford Cycling Club kits. They just climbed up the back side of the mountain from Waterford and were going to descend, then re-climb. Bingo, I had a plan, motivation, and friends. The climb was pretty easy actually - it's only a Category 2 (Irish Cat 2 - in France it probably wouldn't even be categorized). Many thanks to the WCC boys for their comments on the blog. Click play and check out the boys from Waterford.

Climbing The Vee with the WCC.

The switchback where I watched the stage. In the previous post, I put up a link from that shows the riders going over this section of road.

My pictures of the peloton from this point were crappy really, but here's something noteworthy: meet Graham Watson. Graham is arguably the sports top photographer. For you sailors reading, this is cycling's Sharon Green. I saw him set up on my switchback and went over to introduce myself. We met again later then next day on St. Patrick's Hill.

With Graham Watson on The Vee

The bunch, lead by the yellow jersey, approaches the switchback on The Vee

Having become more confortable behind the wheel (on the wrong side of the road), I decided that on my way to Cork for tomorrow's stage, I might as well see if I could catch the peloton again. I made it into Fermoy about 10 minutes before the two break-away riders who made it about 14 minutes ahead of the bunch. Incidentally, I drove right up to the race route, parked the car and joined the spectators. This is not the experience Selena and I had last year at Alpe d'Huez; the Tour of Ireland is much more accessible in terms of fighting crowds and road closures.

The bunch comes through Fermoy

Stage 3 - Aug 23rd

For this stage there was no where else to be but St. Patrick's Hill in Cork. SPH is a 23% gradient and it's said to be the steepest city hill in all of Europe. I arrived the day before the stage and decided to suit up and check it out. It's only about 400 meters; how hard can it be for God's sake? Um, hard enough that on my first attempt, I had to give up half way up. Ok, maybe I better ride around Cork, see the sights, warm up a little more and try again. The second time I had a better idea of what I was in for and made it up, but I'll admit that about two thirds of the way up I thought, "Man, I'm going to fail again." - it's that tough. Anyway, I made it, but it took a little time for my heart rate to slow down and for my thighs to stop quivering. Check this thing out.

The view from atop St Patrick's Hill on the eve of Stage 3

The Blarney Biker, in urban cycling mode, decides to go and warm up
some more before trying out SPH one more time

Now press play to watch some real cyclists go up the thing. Did I mention that after leaning on a barricade for three hours or so in the grey Irish gloom, the sky opened up and Cork absolutely got soaked. Organizers reduced the number of city circuits from 3 to 2 (the peloton originally had to climb SPH three times!). The first video captures the rain, and the second is a good look at a few riders. I think Stuart O'Grady goes by in the second - and perhaps 10-time Tour de France Stage winner Mark "The Manx Missle" Cavendish (unarguably the fastest human on a bike right now). I could be wrong about Cav; will have to try to identify his number later on.

A few footnotes on Stage 3:

  • I was luck enough to meet Torsten a soigneur and hotel manager for Cervelo Test Team. Torsten is from Germany. What a great guy. I just saw his Cervelo jacket and decided to engage him in conversation. He ended up buying me breakfast (he put it on Team expenses, so next summer when I buy my Cervelo RS (bike) I can say that it's 4 grand less the cost of a coffee and bagel in Cork :) He was great, we hung out for about 2 hours, and he gave me all kinds of inside track on his job and life - including the dirt on Bernard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher, the two riders from Gerolsteiner who got caught doping after last years TdeF and everyone on the team lost their jobs. (Torsten used to work for Gerolsteiner.) Check me out in the back of the Cervelo truck with the sexy bikes:

  • Lance Armstrong apparently dropped out of the race sometime during the fridged and wet stage 3, so I never got to see him climb SPH. Seems his back was bothering him. Too bad as that was the best place to get up close to the riders. By the time I got over to the Astana bus, Lance (even before the stage ended, I think) was away and off on a plane from Cork to Dublin. Shucks again. Here's a pic of his bike on the top of a Team Astana car - the best I could do.

  • After staking our claim along the barricade of SPH for hours, you may have noticed the gaggle of photographers in the videos who decided at the last minute that we indeed had the best seat in the house - my buddy Graham was among them.
Ok, I think that's it. If you made it through all that, congratulations and thanks for diverting my attention away from homesickness - I think that was about a 3 hour job.

After being nowhere for more than two days on this trip, and following the tour at break-neck pace for three days, I think I may stay here in Kenmare for a while; there should be plenty of good riding and it looks like a cool town. Please please please let the roads and air be dry. Having not ridden today at all, I'm hoping to do something epic tomorrow or the next day or both, so stay tuned. Four days in the Blarney Tour remain.


Contest: Who won the Tour of Ireland, and what coincidental circumstance made his win extra special? Winners to date: Kirk, Joff, Heather, Cliff, honorable mention to Aaron, and an almost to the International Women of Mystery (IWOM)




Well, can you stand to look at a few more pics and read a couple more tales from the Emerald Isle.? Warning - I seem to have a fast connection here so the pics are uploading quickly (that means there'll be plenty to see).

I set out (by car) from County Clare bound for the Dingle Peninsula on Tuesday (it's been a while since my last true update - plenty to catch up on). It was about a 4 hour drive having caught a Ferry over the River Shannon. The ride plan was simple - Connor Pass and Slea Drive (a long coastal road out around the extreme western end of the peninsula (and Europe incidentally)). Seemed pretty basic, but this was my first real challenge from the fickle Irish weather.

Wednesday morning I woke up to rain - heavy rain - they were calling (not that anyone around here puts any stock in a forecast - they just know they'll get a little bit of everything each day, and whatever the weatherman says will not be all true) for localized flooding if you can believe it. Now when I came to this country, I knew that I would spend some wet time in the saddle - if riding in the rain was going to be a big problem, I would have went elsewhere - Spain for instance. So, a bit leary, I set off on Wednesday morning for the summit of Connor Pass. This was a climb used during last year's Tour of Ireland, so I was quite stoked to give it a go. Probably 50% of road riding on this trip is about scenery and the other 50% is about the challenge of the road. On this day, I had to settle for the latter only. Check the view out from the summit of Connor Pass - a happier rider there never was, but there wasn't much to look at.

Summit of Connor Pass - 456m

It took about 30 mins to get to the top and a chilly 8 mins to get back down to Dingle. Despite the fact that it really only made for a 15-20k day, I decided to call it good at that for the day and hope for better conditions tomorrow for the Slea Head ride. It would have to be an early morning as the plan was to drive to New Ross on Thursday for Stage 1 of the Tour of Ireland.

Well an early morning it was, but the rains kept a comin'. It took some doin', but I got myself psyched and suited up and headed off into the fog and rain and gloom that only the western extremity of the continent of Europe can throw at you. Slea Head here I come.

With a questioning mind (what the hell am I really doing out here?) I took in the wet but thankfully visible scenery. It was a 55k loop clockwise from Dingle proper in just over 2 hours. Here are the highlights:

I can't tire of roads like this...

...and this...

despite having to dismount from time to time to negotiate
on foot the odd river across the road.

Just awesome!

Since leaving Dingle on Thursday after the Slea Head Ride, I've been to New Ross (you've already read about the scary farm hostel), Mount Leinster for Stage 1 of the Tour of Ireland (ToI), Kilkenny (day trip - awesome place!), the Galtee Mountains (another questionable hostel that was gas lit up until one week ago; they were reluctantly installing electricity due to health and safety complaints), The Vee for Stage 2 of the ToI, and (a rip-roarin' drive after The Vee to) Fermoy for another bonus viewing of the peloton during Stage 2. Now? I'm in the southern Cork City awaiting the 3rd and final stage of the short Tour. My next post will bring you the story of the Tour and Kilkenny; look for it over the next couple of days (I think I'll take advantage of this awesome connection to get the pics up). From Cork, I'm thinking about moving back west to either the Beara Peninsula or Killarney/Ring of Kerry, or both. And that's the decision that I must make once this gets published.

Thanks for reading. The outcome of the last BBB (Blarney Biker Blog) Contest is that congrats are due to multi-sport athlete Cliff Warden-Rogers (check Cliff out at - probably my first inspiration to the world of blogging) for knowing that Guinness was first brewed in 1759 by Arthur Guinness. Honorable mention goes to Aaron (sorry Aaron, we needed the year and first name). Cliff gets BBB schwagg upon my return.

Next contest? Hmm. For you internet searching savvy folks, what two teams are set to play in the All Irish Hurling final one week from tomorrow in Dublin? (I'd be able to see this game, on TV in a pub if nothing else, were it not for the fact that it's like the superbowl in that they take an extra week off between the semi- and final games - damn.)

Thanks again.

PS Everyone say a little prayer for the little Kirby named Beatnik about to ride out Hurricane Bill with her owner an ocean away. Godspeed Beatnik, Gregg Little, and everybody around the Bay.

PSS Why are there so many pubs in Ireland? Because the weather drives you back inside. There were pubs and good trad music in Dingle, like these two guys in O'Flarety's.

This just in! I'm in this pic on Velo News' site - my car is the second from the right and I'm a blip of color in there somewhere.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Link for Tour of Ireland

Arrived safe in New Ross. Am in a scary hostel - feeling like the lead actor in a horror film who's audience can't believe he's actually going to spend the night there. It's at the end of a back road out of town on a farm. I'm all by myself out here, except for the scary owner who has the look about him that if he were a character on Scooby Doo, by the end of it, he'd be claiming that he would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their dog. Oh, and I guess there's also the rooster at the kitchen window who's freakin' me out.

Anyway, check this out.

Highlights of all three stages of the Tour of Ireland will be streamed live here on RTÉ.ie each evening of the event. They will also be available on-demand.

Where I'll be:

Aug 21 - Top of Mount Leinster
Aug 22 - Top of The Vee
Aug 23 - in Cork on St. Patrick's Hill

Also, if you're interested, it's fun to follow Lance's Twitter. He's pretty active on Twitter, giving text and pic updates on where he's at and what he's up to (before and after the race obviously). Anyway...

Will get a proper post up about Dingle when I can, but in a word, it was WET.

Good night,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

County Clare Part 2

BoldScroll down to the next post for Part 1 of this epic story

...later that same day...

The Cliffs of Moher

Arguable, Ireland's biggest attraction; and it showed. My hostel was only about a 10 minute drive from the cliffs, and thinking that I'd want to walk around some, I decided to leave the bike in the car and drive. Too bad, it would have been a killer climb. However, it WAS a killer hike.

It didn't start out that way though. At first, I was quite disappointed. The cliffs are huge, don't get me wrong, but they were closely guarded by barriers - you can only approach so close - and after the pure adrenaline of yesterday's trip to Dun Aengus, where you could literally walk right up, this felt too confining. I know, I know, safety first, but really, people can take care of themselves - this is not conservative Canada, it's Europe for chrissakes. And of course, later in the pub, I met the Baby Boomer crowd who'd been there 25 years ago and none of that infrastructure existed. Yeah, and they probably live in a mansion overlooking the sea that they bought for 15 grand back in the sixties as well. That's another rant that many of you probably have already heard.


Just when it was looking like my trip to the Cliffs of Moher was going to be a 20 minute tire kick, I came across this:

Now we're gettin' somewhere

and I was off. I went into Forrest Gump mode - I walked, and I walked and I walked; I walked clear out to the end of that fine piece of God's land, and when I got to the end...I just turned around and walk on back. I walked along those cliffs never further away then 6 feet from the edge, and usually much much much closer, as the sun was setting over the North Atlantic for two and a half hours (we easterners don't get to see the sun set over the ocean, remember). I was battling my obsessive self that you all know exists. You see there is a ruined tower at the end of the point (O'Brien's Tower, I think), and at first I was just walking 'for a while', then I just couldn't stop until I got there. And so, I didn't. As I continued further and further away from the 'tourist trap', the numbers of people dwindled to the very few (only three, that day) who made it to the end.

You can just make out O'Brein Tower on the point

Self-timer gone wrong, but a cool shot nonetheless

Now you can see O'Brein Tower

On the way back from this epic hike, I was pressed for time (as always). There was more to be had from this day of vacation, and I aimed to squeeze the last drop. The goal was to make the kitchen close at Gus O'Connor's Pub back in Doolin and a decent hail mary from the hostel. And make it I did (sorry, I can't stop the Forrest Gump thing). Hunger was beyond. I ordered a Beef and Guinness stew with brown bread, and well, a Guinness. Oh My God. Good? One of the best things I've ever eaten - ever. Doolin in County Clare, by the way, is apparently the best place in all of Ireland to go for real traditional music in the pubs. This is a place were the music is played by old timers, and other locals will 'sit-in', there's no "And everybody sing", and "Farewell to Nova Scotia". In fact, there's no singing whatsoever, the boys play, and they are just a part of the place - not necessarily the focus of attention. The bartender told me that it's not rare to have tree guys (typo intended) start off and have 15 others sit in. As it was on this night, only one other joined the original tree. Good times. I thought the best way to capture the whole vibe was to capture the whole vibe. Check the vid; it tells the story.

Push play and follow me into Gus O'Connor's Pub in Doolin, County Clare

Well, here I sit in the Grapevine Hostel in Dingle, unsure of the weather that's about to pound down on me. I'm here for tonight and tomorrow night before leaving for New Ross and Stage 1 of the Tour of Ireland. I'm planning to watch the stage atop the day's highest climb--the First Category Mount Leinster. Of course, the plan is to drive to the base of the climb and attempt it on my bike. The peloton is scheduled to arrive at 12:28 local time, or 8:28 Atlantic. In case I don't get online between now and then, check out the following site for online viewing options (Eurosport is often good - Rod, if you find a decent feed, put a link to it in a comment the morning of the stage) and then be there (online) at 8:28 Atlantic Daylight Savings Time and see if you can see me.

I think I'll plan on wearing my yellow jersey that day, unless it's torrential (maybe even if it is though), so look for me.


  • Joff has won the second Blarney Biker Contest. Yeh Relic! Where's the other person who should be piping up with the answer - come on, identify yourself to our readers.
  • Selena, they (Joff and Kirk and other future contest winners) will get Blarney Biker Schwagg otherwise known as some tacky trinket that I cart back home - I'll figure something out. But don't worry, you'll still get something even if you don't win a contest :) But definitely keep trying.

So, we need a contest...hmm...what year did Guinness start brewing his famous stout, and what was his first name? As always, previous winners (Joff and Kirk - and Kirk I could just see you reaching for the mouse and being off to wikipedia or google :)) are not allowed to win again. Sorry.

Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.

PS For those inclined to worry about me around cliffs, be at easy as I think that's if for cliffs on
the trip :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

County Clare Part 1

Yo cats! I've made it to Dingle (one of National Geographic's Top Ten destinations if that means anything). Twas about a tree n'a half hour drive from Doolin. Da ferry ;cross da River Shannon saved me bout 2 hours, I'm told. Gotta love ferry's. This post was giving me trouble so have decided to divide it into two parts. So, here's Part 1.

The Burren Ride

What a great time - wo man! I started and ended the ride in Lisdoonvarna. First the loop descended out of town and to the "Coastal Road". This road then took me east along the south shore of Galway Bay and to Ballyvaughn. What an awesome road to ride a bike on--the sun was out, the wind was cranking on my back and the views were unparalleled. From Ballyvaughn the road turned up climbing up Corkscrew Hill back towards Lisdoonvarna. The Hill was about a 6 km climb with a number of "Alpe d'Huez-like switchbacks". Oh it was good good times as the video, I think, portraits. You can see some spray painting on the road in the video that eludes to the fact that this road is often used in bike races over here.

The Coastal Road - check that road out

and again...

and still more awesome road

Push play and ride up Corkscrew Hill with me!

Looking back down at a switchback on c/s Hill

One thing I should add about this ride. We maritimers are no longer allowed to use the phrase "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes." I'm telling you, here, it is not an exaggeration. As I left Lisdoonvarna, I got completely soaked in the first five minutes. Sufficiently saturated, the ride continued under idyllic conditions.

A wet Blarney Biker

Read on ... part two of this epic is next.