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 it...you'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)?


video




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

5 comments:

  1. Shane, Can't let this go with o coments. What a trip! Hope you have a safe return across the pond. Looking forward to the stories in person and the wine. Love Mom & Dad

    ReplyDelete
  2. Slan abhaile
    Eddy & Selina

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Eddy and Selina - used google to translate. Again, it was a treat meeting you, thanks for taking an interest in my blog. If you ever find yourselves on the east coast of Canada (Nova Scotia) please look me up.

    seno@staff.ednet.ns.ca
    902 624-0081 (home phone)

    Shane

    ReplyDelete
  4. Alex (in his best Irish accent): How's a Kerry woman clean her knickers?

    Shane: How?

    Alex: She puts 'em on the line and beats the shite out 'em.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome stories!! See you should be teaching English!!
    Fiona

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting!