31 July 2012

Day twenty-seven

Arglshgs. I want to sleep in, but this hostel is all like GET OUT WE CLOSE AT ELEVEN so if I want tea and breakfast I have to get my arse outta bed.

Had a weird dream that we drove my grandmamma to Las Vegas so she could get her gallbladder removed. What is this I don't even.

Today was the most emotionally draining and confusing so far. The morning was absolutely miserable and pushed me to the limit of my mental endurance. The afternoon was amazingly calm and beautiful. My last proper cycling day had all the ups and downs of a long trip like this mashed together into less than six hours...

Started out by going down to see the rope bridge to Carrickarade island, which was of course chock full of tourists. Originally the thing was a way for fishermen to get across to check their salmon nets but now it's just a thing people do to say they did it. I didn't pay to cross and didn't even go all the way up to it, 'cause I realised I wasn't terribly interested, so I cycled away.

I really wanted to get out of the traffic I started out in on the A2, so I followed the instructions in the book and went off onto a third-class road in Ballyvoy. It seemed to make sense; I followed signs for Cushendun and everything. Passed a lot of sheep that absolutely panicked at the sight of me. Passed some llamas too, of all things. Then the road slowly gave up on the whole *being paved* thing. It began lashing rain and I had to get off the bike and push her up gravelly tractor tracks. At some point, I reached a dead end with three sheep gates on all sides. Rather than turn around and go down the rough slopes I'd just pushed BK up, I opened a gate and kept following the tractor tracks south. Then the wide tracks became a muddy path. Then the path disappeared into grassy muck. And that's how I came to be pushing my bicycle thru a bog, too stubborn to turn around, soaking wet and swearing.

I slogged along that way for what must have been two hours. I would tell myself, just reach the crest of the next hill, and you can decide what to do next. My shoes and socks were soaked all the way thru so I made no pretense anymore about avoiding puddles. Several hills were crested. The bog got boggier. Everything was wet and icy cold. I wanted to cry so bad, but I was like, no. You're stronger than that. Keep walking; as long as you head south you can't go wrong. Eventually, I saw a proper road in the distance, and headed for it, hauling BK thru the reeds and rushes and trying not to break my ankles as I randomly stepped into sinkholes. When I was like five metres from the road, I hated all the cars driving past, callously flashing me with their headlamps, offering no help as I was nearly waist high in grass and ankle deep in rain-drenched moss. Reaching the hard black asphalt was like waking up from a nightmare. I then had to pick all kinds of grass and debris out of my derailleur and chain, covering my hands in oil, before I could set off at a decent pace once again.

The sun emerged from behind a canopy of thick dark clouds before I hit Cushendun and I stopped there to get another sports drink and a snack... but I only had euros in cash, and both their ATM and card readers were broken, so I apologised and left with nothing. I had to pee really bad and I hated everything. When a kind young woman asked me if she could help me somehow, I had to choke back tears. I just wanted to quit today. If there was a train or a bus to Belfast there I would've gotten on it immediately--gotten on it and missed one of the best day's cycles yet. But I didn't know that. I did check the map, but the nearest train station to me was still in Larne, which was where I was headed anyway.

I did cry a little on the road to Cushendall, just to get all the built up stress out. When I reached that town I found a working ATM and bought my drink and snack, then begged to use the toilet in a hotel and kindasorta crashed a wedding reception. Outside the sun was quite warm, so I found a place by a little harbour to sit and breathe for a while. Calm down. Ate peanut butter and marshallow fluff out of their jars till I felt a bit sick. (Had an apple too, Mama.) When I was full and rested, I headed for the coast road I would follow all the way to Larne.

If it weren't for the constant annoyance of traffic, this road would, hands down, be my favourite cycling road so far. It was all flat or slightly downhill, allowing me to keep an easy pace of 20+ kph without stopping very often. The sea was on my left, no more than ten metres away, the water clear as a cut jewel and calmly lapping against the mottled black and white rocks. The sea in the distance was a solid blue line against the softer sky, horizon impenetrable as infinity. Sunlight bathing everything. How can one remain angry at life, bitter from a miserable morning, on a road like this? With the wind gentle, sea quiet, traffic polite...? When all your burps taste like marshmallows?

There were sage coastal cliffs, mystical forests, fields full of sheep, town after cute coastal town. I was going at such an easy pace I hardly stopped and took no pictures, but it was beautiful. When I reached Larne, I boarded the first train for Belfast and was on my way.

Whoa. Lady voice on train is a Northern Irish accent instead of a British one. Cool.

Carmel and Ciara came to pick me up once I reached Belfast central. Ciara and her husband Tim are like my Irish parents; Carmel is my Irish auntie. We fit BK into the boot with a bit of bother and some twine. At her house was a nice hot shower, supper (chicken wrapped in bacon!!), plenty of wine. And such good company. I can't forget my sister Nicoletta as well. The surrorogate family back together again. What a brilliant way to end this epic journey.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a rest day in Belfast and I'll return to Dublin on the 30th of July. (this may not be posted till after that due to network problems.) I can't believe this is almost over. I won't know what to do with myself after this.

Pax.

30 July 2012

Day twenty-six

Didn't get rollin' till half noon today. GF pasta leftovers, tea, and four rashers for breakfast. Boiled six eggs to carry with me. I was gonna fry some but had no oil, not enough fat in the bacon either, and didn't wanna burn 'em.

Very sunny day today, but not hot due to a refreshing abundance of breezes. Hills were all smooth and I spent a lot of time singin' jazzy scat for some reason. Nice views of Lough Swilly and pillowsoft green and yellow hills. Seemed to pass by quickly and I averaged over 15 kph, yay me!

Aside from a few busy, potentially dangerous (if you do it wrong) roundabouts, had a nice hard shoulder on the busy N13 all the way to the border. Didn't even know I'd crossed it of course except that the speed limit signs randomly changed from kilometres per hour to miles per hour and the hard shoulder vanished. Had a useless off road cycle path for about a quarter mile, then had to merge with traffic again for a ton more roundabouts. Forgot how much I hate city traffic. It's much more annoying on a heavily loaded touring bike. Dublin seems more manageable than Derry; Derry had practically no cyclists in it to train motorists to look out for us. But once I remembered to take my whole lane, I was fine and felt safe enough. There was a righthand passing lane for folks behind me to use all the way into Derry so no one got in anybody's way.

Guide book I'm using suggests taking a train out of Derry to the giants' causeway area so I got a ticket for Portrush at the Derry sation. It didn't leave for two hours so I cycled around a bit and went to the tourist office to see if the hostel I was aiming for on the map was still running (had found out in Malin Beg that the one I wanted the next night in Crohy Head was shut down, hence the miserable camping). It still exists, so I went ahead and booked tonight over the phone. Makes this the only night I've booked in advance.

After that I cycled to the Bogside and went into the Free Derry Museum. It's propaganda, sure. Mostly chronicles the events of Bloody Sunday and the 13 innocent deaths thereon. And I got to thinking, Damn. Dozens of police opening fire on civilians (after YEARS of unrest and troubles) and 13 die. One dude in a movie theatre in Colorado opens fire for like five minutes and 12 die. Talked to the guy in the museum about American gun laws for a while. Damn do we need to do something about those.

Other than a few political-historical things, Derry seems to consist mainly of huge shops, so I didn't feel inclined to stay long. Back to the train station for a hurried lunch while waiting for the train. Guy waiting in there too gave me an orange, said I needed the sugar for cycling. Thank you, guy. I'll eat it with breakfast in the morning and add some vitamins to my bacon diet.

On the train, I met some girls who'd met my bike in Donegal--that's right, not me, but BK, and they recognised her later. We talked for a bit, then played Boggle. Couldn't help but think of you, Mama. They allowed three letter words tho', not only five and up like you do :P

Had to change trains in Coleraine and therefore didn't make it to Portrush until almost 19:00. Portrush is another seaside resort town, even had a fair going on with all the spinny pukey rides of childhood. And cars parked everywhere in one way streets making me go in a huge circle before I found the right road.

Countryside here mostly feels British. Not sure how to describe it. It's like, the grass is shorter, the hedges more orderly. But then you'll cycle past a house pouring sweet turf-smelling smoke and it's Irish too. Such a weird transitional space.

Cycled up to the giant's causeway--taking a road the little bus for the elderly/handicapped/lazy uses (prolly wasn't allowed but I didn't want to leave BK unattended at the top). I climbed about on the basalt columns for a while and got a guy to take a picture of me with my broken camera (hope the photos are turning out fine...). He asked me something like, "did you walk all this way? You look..." And gestured at my legs. I s'pose that means I look super fit, haha! Makes me feel like a hero. I talked to him a bit about my cycling trip before turning back.

I would've liked to have done the whole cliff walk there, or at least spent an hour or so sitting there and contemplating the vastness of the sea. But as it was, I needed to reach the hostel before its 22:00 curfew, so I only stayed about twenty minutes. Then, onward in the waning light toward White Park Bay.

The White Park Bay hostel is the cleanest and most professional so far, because it is an official Youth Hostel Association place. That also means it's the most expensive (£18) and the most strict about closing and opening times etc. Means an early morning for me... Have to leave completely by 11:00.

Tomorrow I'm going to Belfast, and will stay with friends there for a day or two before taking a train back to Dublin... Bringing this whole saga to a close. It's hard to believe that this trip is almost over. Where have the days gone? Where is July running off to in such a hurry?

I'm not done travelling yet, tho', of course! Or blogging. I hope to keep both up for a long while yet.

Pax.

P.s. -- now that I'm technically in the UK, O2 wants to be stupid and charge me roaming and limit my internet access etc. Which means I don't know when I'll be able to post these last few days of posts since it will depend on wifi access. Fyi.

27 July 2012

Day twenty-five

I'm not even going to try and write today's post until tomorrow. Considering you will exclusively be reading this in the future that might be a bit confusing, but that's only the start of how addled my brain is today. Yesterday. Okay, forget the above and just pretend I wrote this on the evening of the 27th.
--

I was trying to describe last night's campsite when I was so rudely attacked by midges. Basically, the site itself was beautiful. Mossy ancient trees and rocks, evergreen canopy, blanketed in bright green clover. So I set up camp and began to eat supper, marvelling at how magical it was, up out of sight of the main road toward Dungloe. Then, WHAM. The midges found me. I think midges and damp are Ireland's curse because no landscape on Earth is allowed to be perfect.

Anyway, I used up all the rest of my repellent, but still the midges were so thick I was literally *breathing them in*. So I changed and crawled into my bivvy bag ASAP. Tried to write a bit while inside it but the midges poured in thru the little breathing hole I left, flying all over my phone and into my eyes. Basically I had to shut the bivvy bag over my face, leaving only my mouth and nose exposed. Except then they flew into my mouth and up my nose, so I had to pull my kerchief over my face and try to sleep that way. I hardly slept, let me tell you. The ground was rocky and it was a bit warm so I kept wriggling in and out of my sleeping bag within the bivvy bag and of course if the opening shifted from my kerchief'd nose the midges would terrorise me... Basically, worst night so far, and a big mistake. But once I'd already set up camp I was too tired to move it. Of course, this whole island is one big bog so on a warm night like that I doubt anywhere would be better. 'twas the first time I found myself wishing I'd brought a tent instead, something less flexible but with the ability to zip up all the way and shut midges out, allowing me to change or type unmolested.

When I finally got up in the morning I ate nothing, just changed and packed quickly as possible and fled. Pulled some gunk out of my derailleur on the road, some grass and stuff now black with oil, and now I don't think my fingernails will ever be clean again...

When I finally stopped for a small snack, sitting on a rock in the peat bogs, I was attacked by huge, multicoloured bog flies. Aaaaaaaaarrgghghhhgh! I smashed all that dared to touch me and fled again.

Finally stopped for a proper brunch in Doocharry, just eating random food from my panniers. It was lovely in the sun by the Gweebarra river (pictured above) and there were few bugs. The town's only shop had no peanut butter, tho' :( . Got going again toward Glenveagh National Park. Small one lane road, little traffic, so sunny it actually bordered on uncomfortably hot. A lot of the houses I passed were trailers. Poor farmers out this way I guess? The park itself was beautiful, whispering grasses on every side, crisscrossed with running water, lumpy grey mountains bursting at their mossy seams. It was a long, slow uphill, and my sleep-and-bacon starved legs fatigued right quickly. I was slick with sweat all day. The degree of incline was very low but I felt so draggy... I kept checking my drivetrain and tyres but the only mechanical problems were in my muscles. The park was lovely tho', so I just slogged along at a nearly walking pace and enjoyed it. Nice lengthy downhill toward Church Hill (sorta) before the road flattened out again. I hardly remember much past that crossroads (I went toward Letterkenny); I was practically falling asleep at the wheel. (handlebars?) When the sign said Letterkenny in 8 km I was on a nice downhill so I was like, could this downhill last 8 whole km? Please?? And it did! Yay.

Letterkenny is apparently the biggest town in Co. Donegal, and it seems nice. I meant to go on to Derry today, but fatigued as I was, I figured I'd stay here tonight, then cycle to Derry tomorrow, catching a train toward the Giant's Causeway to cut off some of tomorrow's journey. So I stopped at the first hostel I saw, but it turned out to be for the homeless, haha. Guy there directed me to the Port Hostel behind the theatre, and I headed that way, stopping at a health food store first to get some snacks and more non-DEET insect repellent.

This place is very obviously an old house converted recently to a hostel. The owners seem new to the hostel business; very friendly and laid back, but inexperienced-seeming. Good value for money--€15 got me a private double bed for the night. So needed after the fiasco of last night. Ate a whole gluten-free cake while interneting and then made a huge GF pasta dinner to make up for my lack of snacking throughout the day. Long hot shower. I don't seem to have too many bites... One obnoxiously on my stomach, a few on my arms. I guess the repellent didn't keep them from crawling on me but did keep them from biting.

Defo sleeping in so late start tomorrow.

Pax.

26 July 2012

Day twenty-four

I did not want to get up this morning... Could've slept for forever. I mean, I got nine hours of sleep last night so it's not like I've been sleep starved or anything. My digestive system is still on the fritz tho'. To the point where I know I'm not absorbing all the nutrients in what I eat because it's just passin' right thru me.

Didn't burn my breakfast but still managed to fill the kitchen with smoke while cooking it. Gorram it. French folk in the dining room laughing at me. Man this is dripping in oil but I'm gonna eat it anyway.

Tap water here comes from under the bog and is coloured like tea. Hostelman says it's fine to drink it, so I guess I will. Better to turn it into actual tea first tho'.

Cycling here is much nicer in the sun than in the rain. Tons of uphills today tho'. Met a fellow cyclist along the way, him on his holidays too but based in a car. He stayed and chatted with me for a while, distracting and encouraging me enough to get up a pretty significant incline without stopping to rest. On downhills and flat stretches I kept up with him all right, but eventually lost him among the green suede hills. S'all right. I'm quite slow, carrying the weight of my gear. Didn't wanna slow him down.

Reaching the top of the Glengesh pass was brutal. At one point an elderly Irish man in a car stopped to encourage me. I ate a boiled egg and finished all my water by the end. When I reached the top, I strapped my countourROAM to my helmet and tried not to die coming down. Descent did something weird to my speedometer/cycle computer thingy but I think it's working all right again now?

Stopped for lunch in adorable town of Ardara, sitting at a picnic table in the sun by a river. Ate peanut butter and marshmallows on corn cakes. (don't judge me.) While I was sitting there, a little robin came to perch on the handlebars of my bike and keep an eye on me. (Shat on my handlebar bag tho', haha.) She kept coming back, begging for food I s'pose. I crumbled up a corn cake for her and she flew back and forth getting more. Should have a picture of her up there. I did see her stuff some food down the throat of a brown screaming fledgling on the fence.

Wonderful lunch by the river, soaking up the afternoon sun. Glutted myself on the internet I'd been lacking for a while. Finally posted the last entry and all. Lingered for over two hours because I didn't want to leave the warm lawn I sprawled out on.

Relaxing cycle for the rest of the day, past beaches and sunsoaked farmsteads. All subsequent hills were a bit tough on my already hardworked legs, but they were mostly short. I particularly enjoyed crossing the bridge over the Gweebarra delta for some reason. Sandy bay sparkled in the oblique sunlight. After that I passed miles and miles of ugly roadworks, looking for a place to camp for the night. Passed thru a lot of barren, empty peat bog, but then a forest came up on the left which seemed perfect so I pulled on in. Note word seemed.

all right hold on y'all the midges are inside my bag in my eyes ohgodi'll finish thi

technical difficulties

just realised that my last two posts, days twenty-four and twenty-five, haven't gone thru. i'm going to try to re-post them, but if they don't come up or get double posted, apologies in advance.

now that i am technically in the UK, cell phone company wants to be a jerk and charge roaming fees and limit my internet access etc. This will make things difficult.

but i'll be back in Dublin before long and will make sure everything gets sorted by then.

peace.

25 July 2012

Day twenty-three

I don't think my clothes dried out all the way last night, so I kinda smell now... Need to do laundry next chance I get I s'pose. Ah well. Not much longer to go actually.

Typical cycling breakfast again. Huge and lovely. I hope I don't keep up like this after the trip is done tho', 'cause without all the cycling I'd gain 20 lbs a day on this diet prolly. Bought some bananas and blueberries at a roadside stand before setting off. Why are bananas so super cheap--aren't they imported? Makes no sense.

It takes me the first 10 min to get warmed up on the bike really, even up to 20 min, and the first 5 km today was uphill. Blah. Main N road all the way to Killybegs: busy, hilly, and boring. When there was a hard shoulder, and there usually wasn't, it was full of gravel or potholes. A few people tried to pass me into oncoming traffic, either squeezing me or making the oncoming cars slow down/slam on brakes. No one who waited for a safe time to pass was stuck behind me more than 60 seconds... Damn, what's some people's problem? And when is it ever okay to pass anything on a blind curve?? (Most people are okay tho', like I've said before. Just needed another vent.)

Killybegs is a fishing town, and ugly for it. Smells of fishy offal and petrol. Boat-filled harbour, drab and utilitarian architecture. Reminds me of Yokosuka naval base in Japan kinda. Not worth a stop so I just passed right on thru.

Coastal road around to Kilcar from just past Largy was nice, altho' it started pissing rain when I was on it. Secluded sandy beaches, rocky grass-tusseled cliffs. It was quite hilly, but the steep uphills were short and rewarded in turn with decent downhills. There wasn't much traffic until a knot of it randomly appeared, cars all getting in each others' way whilst I hung back, and then no traffic again till back on the main road in Kilcar.

I'd've stopped there for tea or something but I was wet and cold and decided not to stop anywhere till the hostel in Malin Beg. I had sat down for a small snack before the rain started. So, onward thru the grey, saturated air.

Downhill at 45 kph into Carrick and the fat raindrops pelted my bare arms like little stones. Got really cold. Couldn't see anything. Threw on my waterproof (for warmth; was already soaked), ate a boiled egg, and refused to stop. About 5 km after Carrick I took a left for Malin More, leaving the huge loud trucks behind for a smaller road, thru peat bogs and mottled brown and green mountains breathing deeply of the heavy clouds. Sheep chomped on their cud and regarded me with curiosity. I cursed the weather and endured the hills. Then, I finally reached the sea. Grey and formless it was. Fused together with likewise grey sky into a single canopy upon which this ragged coast hung, suspended, dripping froth and foam. Only 4 undulating kilometres to go thru a wind-rippled fissure of a valley until this hostel, this heat and dry and rest.

The hostel is very clean and nice. When I first arrived no one was here, so I went across the street to buy rashers and eggs for the morning. Older mustachioed gentleman in the shop was very quiet and shy. When I left the shop for the hostel again he followed me out and turns out he runs the hostel too.

There is a roaring fire and I don't want to move away from it ever again. There's no wifi tho', and no phone network, either. Which means, no internet. I had to call Aisling on a pay phone to tell her I was safe for the night. Threw in 50 cents and got like one minute of talking time; it cut her off in the middle of saying something... Sorry, Aisling. I didn't want to waste tons of money in the machine for only five minutes so I didn't call back. But when I have network again I'll go back to texting regularly.

It's good for me not to have internet, anyway. While I've been youtube-free this whole time (I had a terrible youtube addiction that was severely hampering my productivity), I have been checking facebook on my phone two or three times a day, and my blogs I follow via google reader, too. I'm more likely to write, read, or do something creative when the internet is off and gone. Altho', tired as I am, all I'll do tonight is prolly write this (to post once I get back somewhere with a network).

I'm utterly exhausted so off to bed with me.

Pax.

24 July 2012

Day twenty-two

Woke up this morning feeling like crap. Bad stomach problems again. Weather outside was absolute shite. So I paid for a second night and went back to bed; didn't get up again until half two in the afternoon. Next time I do a huge cycling trip like this, I need to make some stricter personal rules about CC and stick to them, so that I won't take unnecessary days off for being food sick.

Only five days of cycling left. Whoa.

Went to town with a Canadian girl named Christina in the evening. Nice gentle walk into town thru the woods along the bay. There's not too much to see here... A few churches. Old graveyard admist the ruins of an 15th century ish Franciscan Abbey. We had a nice chat and she kindly bought me a drink. I bought some random groceries and a cream for the burn on my ankle, which is still kinda arrrgh. Then I came back to the hostel to make supper, eat a whole pot of rice/spinach/tomato pasta with red beans and tomato sauce.

Yeah yeah boring day today. But the lady owner of this hostel is like the cutest and nicest so far. I enjoyed the rest.

Pax.

22 July 2012

Day twenty-one

I felt pretty good this morning. Better than expected. But I didn't drink that much last night so. Aiko was gone to Galway when I got up but she had left me a goodbye note. Sweet girl.

Mike was downstairs in the dining room and after I made my breakfast I gave him two eggs and a couple rashers... Then I proceeded to eat the rest of the rashers, some rice, two eggs, and the other half of the GF chocolate cake from last night. Mike was going to cycle the NINETY MILES home today (I think stopping to watch formula one racing in a pub on the way). Going twice as far as me and he barely ate. I think he gets like all his daily calories from beer and alcohol. Didn't return to the hostel unil half past five in th' morning.

Jay came in later and we all three had a nice chat. I was the last to pack up, return my key, and go. This is why the day 20 post is so late, because I had good company in the hostel and so wasn't writing it over supper or breakfast.

Stopped briefly in Drumcliff to visit the grave of W B Yeats. My thesis advisor in university was a huge fan so I took a picture and shot him a note. There was a young man standing there reading the whole poem of what's quoted on the grave out loud, from a thick book of Yeats' collected works. When he was done he kissed the gravestone. Obviously he was a huge Yeats fan. Good for him.

Very windy, blustery day today. Overcast but not raining. Luckily the wind was mostly at my back and there were a lot of downhills or flat spots on the N15 north from Sligo to Bundoran, so I spent a considerable amount of time going 25 to 30 kph. On some downhills I reached 50+ kph. Going into certain towns, that's actually the speed limit, so I took up the middle of the road without a shred of guilt. Mostly there are decent hard shoulders on that stretch of N15 but there are also some pinch points here and there where the hard shoulder disappears and I have to merge with the maniacs. I hate cars so much. All the noise, danger, smells (seriously people, if your little car's arse is belching black smoke you probably have a serious mechanical problem)... I mean, most people give me plenty of space and most drivers are courteous but it's the jerks here and there who take even small risks with your life that ruin it for everyone. Ah well, there's no better road to where I'm going so I have to deal with it today. Wind can be a bit scary when it blasts you out of nowhere. Grr argh. (random reference get: ten points.)

Tea outside the Phoenix Tavern in Bundoran. Interesting sea resort town with more than its fair share of arcades and amusement centres. Seems like the kind of place where people would get bitten by vampires at night. Or, no, get like Jack the Ripper'd. C'mon Carl Kolchak. (did I spell that right? Is it with a K?)

Mama and Daddy called me for my birthday right after I left there and had about 30 km left to Donegal town. I told them to call back in about three hours.

But then I was like, this road is flat enough, I bet I can make it to Donegal in an hour. Challenge set. Accepted. I'm sure the scenery was nice and all but I really didn't notice it. Busy roads aren't conducive to sightseeing anyway. I had a nice, wide, smooth hard shoulder the whole way, merging only at roundabouts, so I pushed myself hard. Wind neutral or at my back helped. I tried for 10ish km on uphills, 20-something on flats, 35-40+ on downhills. Every short uphill was rewarded with a prolonged downhill and I spent a lot of time in my biggest, highest gear. Felt good. With the strong winds, in the 40 kph range could be a bit scary as in slightly unstable, but I concentrated hard and the road was super smooth so it was okay. I did have to stop and stretch a few times... But it took me 59 min to the sign that said "Donegal ... Historic Town" and 1 hr 4 min to the green road sign that said DONEGAL. Another 6 km or so to the hostel tho'.

Found an Australian couple in this hostel that were in the Old Mill Hostel in Westport when I was in there, too. Haha. Then I made supper and had a nice long hot shower, rinsing off my coating of sweat from the hour of pushing faster. About 20 min after I got settled in, it began to rain. Glad I tho't to go fast and miss it.

The owners of this hostel are the sweetest family ever. Good place to spend the night. Not gonna camp on my birthday that's for sure. Even got a dorm room to myself again.

Good birthday. Good trip. Weird to think it's two thirds over. What am I going to do with myself when I'm not cycling three to six hours a day anymore?

No idea.

Pax.

Day twenty

Woke up at about half ten to the crowing of a rooster. The midges weren't unbearable (repellent seems to work okay), but I was still loath to get out of my bivvy bag, change clothes, and expose untreated skin to these creatures. I'll have to find a non-boggy place to make breakfast. Midges aside, this little place was a pretty cool campsite. Unfortunately, the people who own it are home... But I didn't see them, only their cars? I hope they either didn't care or didn't notice I was there. I didn't leave any traces, so. I would've asked permission if they were here when I arrived, but it's a bit too late for that so I'll just leave ASAP.

I didn't stretch last night. Bad idea. Now all my muscles are complaining. Without breakfast (I only had a banana), I hardly made it 3 km uphill without having to stop. So I filled my back pocket with trail mix--a good one, with coconut and cinnamon, yum--and kept on truckin' while eating it. Got passed by several racing cyclists whilst on that hill. Hobby cycling seems to be pretty popular in Ireland. It's a good country for any kind of cycling, imho.

Long glorious downhill into County Sligo thru the beginning of the Ox Mountains. The cycle around north shore of Lough Talt stunning. Racing cyclist passed me, gave me a thumbs up, and shouted "keep the faith!" Saw goslings in the lake. This is m favourite type of countryside: wooded mountains, running water.

After about 20 km I decided it was time for a break and stopped, getting out of the wind in the detached garage of a house under construction. There I roasted some sausages on the near-invisible flame of my camp stove (burnt the outsides of course, but I'm pretty sure the insides weren't raw) and boiled some water for tea. Didn't spill any boiling water on myself this time, yay! Which is good because like all the skin on the front of my ankle fell off a few days ago and I slathered it in ultrabalm and put a gauze on it and haven't looked at it since. ...Dx

I know I said I fell in love with North Mayo but Sligo is my favourite cycling so far. Went left at the fork at Mullany's Cross onto a quiet local road thru wonderful green farmland; we're talkin' dandylions and buttercups and wild strawberries. Traffic was practically nothing. The smell of the sun-drenched grasses... The houses are all really nice too, extensive gardens, homes of the well-to-do. Town after tiny town, Cloonacool, Carroweden, Coolaney, Collooney. Top notch cycling. From Collooney under the disused railway bridge to Ballysadare, a trip which seemed to take like 30 seconds. From there I took a detour around a small peninsula thru Strandhill before touching down in Sligo town. The extra 20+ kms were rewarded with beautiful coastal scenery, cliffs dotted with precarious sheep, lots of hobby/racing cyclists, and an actual cycling lane down an enormous wonderful downhill into the city proper.

Tried to stay at the Railway Hostel but it was full up so I went on to the White House hostel further into town. Right when I rolled up to the door another touring cyclist, whom I'll call Mike, arrived as well. He'd gone more than twice as far as I had today. We got to talking and I think he was a bit sweet on me 'cause we went out for a few pints in our cycling gear and he bought mine for me. Then I had to make supper so back to the hostel. Met a Japanese girl I'll call Aiko in my room. Tried to speak some Japanese with her, but it's been so long... I said silly things like I lived in Japan six hours instead of six years. Her English was fluent tho', thankfully, 'cause my Japanese is nowhere near!

More cool people in the hostel. Cute bearded French guy I'll call Jay. Dude from California with a huge sleeve tattoo of the Flash. We went out for drinks all together that night. Mini pub crawl. I had some cider and a gin 'n' tonic for my birthday after midnight. Some live music, some pints by the river at night. Sligo seems like a decent place.

Aiko, California and I got tired at about one a.m. so we peeled off to the hostel whilst Jay and Mike partied on. On the way back we went to a 24 hour Tesco and I got a gluten-free chocolate cake and some rashers for the morning. Ate half the cake that night while winding down before bed (I don't usually go straight to sleep after drinks).

Happy birthday to me. Couldn't think of a cooler trip to have it on.

Pax.

Hap birfdae

I haven't finished my day twenty post yet because I went out last night and had company in the morning when breakfasting etc. I just wanted to say that today, July 22, my 21st day of cycling, is my birthday. I'm now in this world 23 years.

I will be cycling a reasonably short day today and hostelling in Donegal. I liked Sligo tho'. More on that later.

I won't celebrate my birthday for real until my sister comes to visit, since her visit is my present from my parents. She'll be here for her birthday in August, so this year that will be my birthday, too.

Pax.

21 July 2012

Day nineteen

Didn't get up today until half nine. Only had enough money for the hostel stay (actually was 40¢ short but the receptionist last night was kind and gave it to me), so can't buy typical breakfast. Eating rice, serrano ham, peanut butter, tea of course, and carrot/thyme/linseed crisps from the health food store in Westport. I always try to carry a whole day's worth of food with me in case of things like this. No cash machine or food store for miles. Once I do find one, I will restock.

Will probably camp tonight if the weather stays as gorgeous as it is right now. Then I'll hostel again in Sligo.

Sitting eating GF crackers by a stream of tea-coloured water and there's still no cell phone signal. O2 is useless around here. True countryside.

Today's ride was absolutely top notch. Rolling hills, gentle climbs, undisturbed countryside, a bit of forest coming out of Pollatomish. After Beal Deirg (I spent a decent amount of time today in a Gaeltacht, it always confuses me) the ride was mostly along the coast to Ballycastle. The sea cliffs here are stunning, just as gorgeous as anything you'd find in Clare or Galway, but without the muddy trail thousands of tourists leave in their wake leading up to them. What with the brilliant sunshine today and the ocean breezes and what *seemed* like more downhill than uphill, I fell in love with north Mayo today.

Passed the Ceide Fields museum thingy, and saw some cycle tourists' bikes outside. Went in but only had 4¢--hadn't passed a cash machine yet. Was too proud to ask for free entry so I just used the toilet, filled up my water bottles and kept going.

Ballycastle, the town, was situated on a slope and entirely uphill. Still no cash machine. I tried to go in a shop and buy some things via card but you'd have to spend over €20 to use it so I put my stuff back and kept going. Onward to Killala. Cute town with some history, worth visiting for sure. Had a Centra and a cash machine so I bought some odds 'n' ends and refilled my money belt. There was a good-lookin' cashier there askin' me questions about my cyle and my physio tape. Nice guy. Later I had a sit by the sea and ate some of the snacks I just bought.

Ride from Killala to Ballina was nice but I wasn't paying close attention to it. Lots of daisies and buttercups and queen anne's lace and morning glories. Ballina is a pretty big town and probably worth a stop, but I'd decided to camp today so I only passed thru, anticipating finding a camping spot on the other side. There were too many houses, tho', one right after another till well past 10 extra kms. I finally found a nice-looking field and a spot within it a ways off the road. I went to ask permission to use it, but the people didn't seem to be home? I was super tired so I just rolled out my things in a little hollow in a thorny thicket and collapsed. I hope they won't mind. I won't leave any litter other than, like, an apple core.

The land is a little boggy here so there are a LOT of midges, but I've liberally doused my exposed skin, and the opening to my bivvy bag, in the repellent I've bought, so we'll see if that helps.

Should be an extra short day tomorrow. Onward to Sligo.

Pax.

20 July 2012

Day eighteen

Typical cycling breakfast again: rashers, eggs, rice, tea. Had the whole six bed dorm to myself last night. Especially nice since I didn't drop into bed until about half one, brain fuzzy with cider and good music.

Bit of a late start today: Noon. Bought a small bottle of chain lube for squeaky chain before setting off... The endless rain makes it quite a necessity. That's prolly something I should've started out with in my kit.

Took the Mayo "Great Western" Greenway thru Newport as far as Mallaranny. It was chock full of cyclists enjoying the reasonable weather. Started out wooded and lovely, sides of the path awash in daisies. Slowly the trees dwindled away until I was passing thru sheep and cow fields. Rained on us for about twenty minutes, then cleared up. The path is very flat, since it was built on an old disused railway line, but the wind was in my face all day so I didn't get to go particularly fast. It's always nice, tho', to get out of traffic for a while and only have walkers and fellow cyclists to contend with.

My brakes started squealing something awful after I started off, and sure enough my back brake pads were worn down to almost nothing. Over 1000 kms of cycling in hilly and sometimes mountainous territory will do that to ya. In Mullaranny I found a cycle rental van and a kid who replaced my rear brake pads for €8 (that includes the pads themselves; if I'd've carried spares I'd've done it myself). The front ones aren't in perfect shape but they're not squealing yet.

In Mullaranny I left the Greenway and headed north on the N59 toward Bangor. Mountains to my right; sea to my left. Fisheries, the smell of salt and rotting ocean debris. Flat-bottomed clouds slid along a plate of invisible glass. North north into the wind, peat bog fields sliced into piles of turf, fields meant for burning and smoke. Stopped for tea at Cleary's in Ballycroy, and met some people outside who had passed me in a car back in Mullaranny and were impressed by my cycling all that way. Inside were several old Irish men drunk to the point it was hard to understand what they were saying. One kept telling others I was a nice girl; another kept shaking my hand. I couldn't stop laughing at them.

The road after Ballycroy was a bit lonely once it cut inland thru some piney woods, rolling hills guarded by silent, stoic trees. The mountains in the distance, which the map calls the Nephin Beg range, hulked under thick, roiling clouds, and looked of Mordor in their darkness. The sea, on the other hand, when visible, shone bright blue under cotton fluff.

Bangor is a cute farming town on the Owenmore river and I stopped for a snack there before pressing on via the R313. A few miles out I turned onto a little residential farm road by the Carrowmore lake for some of the calmest, most peaceful cycling yet. I just kept going straight on that road, crossing over the R314, Broad Haven opening up on my left, gentle cliffs, a lighthouse. The trip from Ballycroy onward today was one of my favourites. Hardly any traffic, varied scenery, oblique sunlight, ocean breezes.

About a mile from the hostel I was aiming for today, a guy standing in his door shouted hello and asked something, so I stopped, answered, and asked him how far the hostel was. He then offered me a drink, so I was like why not, I'm almost out of water so I'll get a bit more and keep going. After I was in his house, tho', I realised he's one of those old men that loneliness makes a bit weird. I don't think he was dangerous, but he started to creep me out, insisting I use the loo when I had the chance etc. I took like one mouthful of the flat 7 up he offered me, then made excuses and left. Which was good because I made it to the Kilcommon Lodge Holiday Hostel probably only ten or fifteen minutes before reception closed for the night.

This hostel is definitely the nicest I've stayed in thus far. The only thing hostel about it is the dorm style rooms and bathrooms down the hall. It's super clean and well stocked. Five stars. It's also practically empty at the moment, so I got a whole room to myself again, and I don't have go check out till noon-ish.

I'm kind of in the middle of nowhere farmtown so I don't even have cell phone reception, just hostel wifi. Hopefully I can post this in the morning.

Today was a pretty long day--about six hours in the saddle--but tomorrow will be shorter.

Pax.

19 July 2012

Day seventeen

Rest day again 'cause I felt like it. And also, I don't feel particularly well. But don't worry. I'm not ready to give up yet. I am facing a delimma tho', since this is the last town for a while with an easy train ride back to Dublin. If I needed to bail out due to sickness, now would be the time. I think I'll be okay tho'. If I'm super careful from now on and take it easy.

Last night, sometime after midnight, I heard screaming. Lots of it. When I'd been woken up enough by it I got up, found the door behind which it was happening, and went to knock on that door or something, you know, interfere or help or idk what (remember I was half asleep), but it stopped just then so I went back to bed. Apparently someone called the police, tho'. There's some kind of dysfunctional family drama going on. More arguing and shouting this morning. Father complaining about police and money (fines?) and other stuff in this weird rambling repetitive way. I don't even know. I hope the police get it sorted? Seems like it's kids with some kind of serious behavioural issues.

I've never eaten so much boil-in-a-bag rice. Ugh. Uncle effing Ben's. It's hard to find anything else that's as handy for camping and hostelling tho'.

Besides a swift rain shower this morning, the weather today was infuriatingly sunny. Infuriatingly because part of the whole rest day thing was to wait out the rain. Altho', another part of it was to come see What the Folk perform in a pub here in Westport tonight. (Another part of it was to sleep/use the internet all day and only leave the hostel to buy food.)

Staying to listen to What the Folk, have a few pints of cider, meet O.M. & co (friends to Mickey the Bags)... Definitely worth it. I don't listen to music very much I realise. I don't play it anymore either. I've gotta change that.

Not much to report today other than I don't think I've ever been in an Irish pub without someone buying me a drink, or at least offering. It's near impossible to refuse, so the trick to avoid getting drunk is to only buy yourself the first one (you don't wanna have several in you when someone decides to get you another) and to drink the subsequent ones very slowly. Be warned tho', if you have any less than half a pint left you might discover a fresh one waiting for you.

I hear that Westport was voted by some magazine or committee or something to be the best town in Ireland for living in. I can see why, I s'pose. Good rest day town at any rate. Tons of cyclists passing thru, either on their way to or from the Mayo Greenway (~45 kms of mostly off-road cycleway between here and Achill Sound). I'll be on the greenway for the first half of today, then leave it at Mallaranny and keep going north rather than onward to Achill Island, where I went via the Greenway and explored and camped etc a few months ago. I think it was a three day weekend off from work when I went before.

Yeah. Et cetera. See you on the flipside.

Pax.

17 July 2012

Day sixteen

Didn't burn the rashers this morning! Trick is to get the kind with more fat in them and they grease their own pan. I did kinda burn my eggs tho'. >_<;

Some of Jam's pet peeves:

1. When people don't tell you what the charge is for something until after you've already incurred said charge.

2. When people don't tell you about a rule until you've already broken it, or a preference until you've already disrespected it.

3. When people appear to be in one social category at first, but, once you've figured out a strategy for dealing with them, turn out to be in that confusing social category of people who are too nice to say anything unless it's veiled and politened first.

I still like this hostel and still think the people who run it are nice and it's worth staying in, but it can be socially awkward and confusing for people like me (that is, people with sub-par nonverbal communication skills). And the walls between rooms are paper thin too. But that's the way these things are.

Cycled off into the thickening rain at half eleven. Clouds hanging dark and low between the wooded hills. Passed some French cycle tourists at a crossroads and talked to them for a while. I tho't I'd be much faster than them since they seem to have more luggage than me... But no, guy in green in the lead quickly outstripped me, going faster than 20 kph to my 15. They stopped to rest more often tho' so I kept leapfrogging them throughout the morning. And we were all passed by tons of cycle tourists going the other way--even one big group with several children. I s'pose County Mayo is good cycle touring territory. Even in weather like this...

I seemed to make really good time into Leenaun; that 20 kms seemed to take only 20 seconds. Then around Killary Harbour toward Doo Lough pass. That cycle is majestic, even in the heavy rain, shrouded in mist, next ridge of mountains nothing but a dark outline against the murky clouds. On a nice day, I'd've picnicked by the lake, taken a swim in the clear, inviting waters. But under these conditions, I just put my head down and cycled into the wind, which was sweeping white sheets of water in-between the hills. For a mountain pass, the route was remarkably flat. The French cyclists stopped to picnic in the shelter of an abandoned school and invited me to eat with them, but cold and wet as I was, I wanted to sit indoors somewhere, so I pressed on.

Rest stop in Louisburg in the Westview Hotel. Made it there in just over three hours. Ate boiled carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, plus seasoned potatoes roasted in vegetable oil. And hot tea of course. Dripped water all over their floor. Must have drank like a whole pot of tea. Damn. Filling bladder like that prolly not the best idea. I hate eating but I get hungry so often doing this. Still having some acid reflux and stomach problems, but my body seems to digest faster for the sake of my starving muscles so it doesn't last unbearably long.

TMI warning (poop) for this paragraph: I definitely got got by some gluten over the past few days. Diarrhea this morning and throughout the day. Gluten poisoning also explains the burning, stabby pains in my quads as well, despite the rest day. And how sleepy I feel when I stop moving, and headaches... Stupid hostel tables/kitchens always covered in breadcrumbs. I'll have to be more careful from now on, lest my trip be cut short by a worse poisoning that renders me unable to keep up the pace. I had to stop and shit in fields a few times today, ugh. One time there was a horse in it... I felt bad for pooping by the wall but what else can you do when you have diarrhea on the road? Horse came to check me out and smell my head when I was done. I apologized to her. I think she was just like, who are you??

TMI over. I hate my diet but what can you do? Starve, or stay bedridden and die slowly...? Or avoid poisons as much as possible. Which I do. But laziness or desperation makes me lax sometimes. And I get sick.

Rain never really let up all day. I passed Croagh Patrick and stuff but everything was grey and wet and shrouded (pictured above). Once in Westport, I grabbed a bed for two nights in the Old Mill Hostel. French cyclists from this morning ended up here too. I figure I'll take one more rest day to try and recover a bit from being gluten-sick and also to wait out the weather--thunderstorms forecast tomorrow (?!), but it ought to slowly get drier over weekend.

Really tired now. I'll type more tomorrow.

Pax.

16 July 2012

Day fifteen

Today is my rest day in Letterfrack. Awoke and breakfasted on peanut butter, rice cakes, and a boiled egg with many cups of tea. I love this hostel. The man running it (there's a man and a woman equally), well, he's like an Irish version of my thesis advisor from Franciscan University. Eerie. Makes me feel the same way, like I'm welcome and he likes me well enough but I bother him a little bit too. Same beard. Same face.

Still raining this morning. I'm fortunate to have used the dry Sunday and moved my rest day to Monday. Wouldn't have happened if Galway wasn't full up. I'm very sleepy right now. I'll probably nap most of the morning, then hopefully tool around when the rain clears up (scheduled to this afternoon).

Went to take a nap after typing that and had the weirdest dream... 'twas about a dystopian society in which Canadians had exterminated all of the world's peoples and were using eugenics to repopulate the Earth. Part of this was super fertility, and if a woman wasn't pregnant after 7 days of marriage (begun at the start of her scientifically derived fertile period), she was killed. Men with low sperm counts etc killed as well. I followed the narrative of a newlywed couple and woke up some time after the woman came home from testing on the 7th day, sobbing, because all she wanted was children and she hadn't produced any. But the husband loved her and was going to go down fighting for her. And then there were kids playing real life mario kart on a waterslide. Brain, what is your problem?! Seriously.

Anyway. Before my nap I was scratching my bug bites like mad, so a guitarist guy here offered me some tea tree oil to put on them. I did and it worked like a charm. Strong smell but man did it work, and quick! So I bought some of my own just now, along with some sort of herbal concoction that's supposed to be insect repellent. (I don't like the idea of rubbing things into my skin that aren't safe to eat, since the skin is an organ too and all. The only exception I make to that personal rule is for sunscreen. Even my face lotion is 99% edible... And I even switched from using petroleum jelly for chafing to a balm made from jojoba oil and plant waxes. But I digress.)

Since mosquitoes don't like me, I don't typically wear insect repellent. I'll literally get just one bite to another person's ten. But I guess midges are different. They do live and breed in feckin *clouds* after all. Didn't know the bites would last so long since the little buggers are so small but... Yeah. Tea tree oil is now an item that will always go in my first aid kit. And some manner of repellent, too, I s'pose.

Also bought food for lunch and dinner in the store here. This town is small and adorable, the people are imminently friendly... There are three hostels here, and tons of tourists (I hear a lot of French being spoken), but not the snobby kind like I seemed to find in Clifden and most of Co. Clare. These are more like folks who want to hike in the national forest right near here, climb mountains, take a boat out on the lake. More like me.

Mmmm, turf bricks smoking in the fireplace. I may never get up.

This hostel is so quirky. Lights don't work in the bathroom so blue fairy lights will have to do. Junk and stuff tumbled everywhere. Books. Maps. Animal skulls. Flowers and strings of paper hearts. Radio always on in the bathroom, making for a relaxing shower or a creepy and tense middle-of-the-night potty break depending on what's playing. They did my laundry (I assume; dunno where it's hanging to dry tho') and mended my money belt for me no bother. Some weird social situations I found here, but social situations are always at least a bit confusing to me, so whatever.

Didn't do anything of note or leave hostel for more than grocery run. Chatted to Mama on phone for almost two hours. Tried to eat some vegetables for once. Spent a lot of time reading blogs or facebook on my phone by the fire.

Tomorrow I'm heading toward Westport. We'll see what happens. This was a nice rest at least.

Pax.

P.s. -- b'cause I'm interested: if you read this blog yet have never met me in person, throw me a comment below or at jameverywhere at gmail. I'm curious about my audience. This blog is me stretching out and honing my storytelling skills; while it was originally for Mama etc. to keep track of me, I definitely think it would be cool to watch it grow a bit...

15 July 2012

Day fourteen

Rudely awakened at 0700 by the proliferation of midges eating my face. I was too warm in my bivvy bag to shut them all the way out so I just got up. Light misting rain, too. I picked my campsite well tho' and stayed dry under trees and brush.

Breakfast of rice boiled on my camp stove--I was very careful this time to keep it steady or stay well away from it--and cold ham from the conbini. (Centra? Gala? One of those.) I also boiled water and made tea which was nice since I didn't have any yesterday. Aaaaaand of course I just spilled the rest of my tea all over the place. Damn. At least I got two cups out of it first. I almost wanted to cry for a second there, like I did when the hostel in Galway told me everywhere was full, but what's the point? Easy to be zen and all "what happens happens" when what's happening is wonderful, fortunate things. But I want to be that way about all things. I do enjoy camping, too. The sleep is no less comfortable than on the beds the hostels give you. And I don't mind official campsites, either, as long as there are trees and not just patches of grass.

Aww, a guy here gave me a piece of bacon and two boiled eggs! Thank you guy! He tried to give me bread and milk too... I appreciate the tho't anyway. Always feel bad when I can't take it :/

Mild stomach troubles off and on for the past few days. Know I got a touch of poison somewhere but it's not enough to keep me down. Leisurely breakfasting morning today since I got up early. Haha there are midgey bites all over my face...

Coastal road west from Spiddal seems to be dangerous for cyclists. I got razzed by like six cars in a row when keeping leftish like usual so I took the middle of the lane and held it for safety's sake. I've been trained to feel like a jerk for doing that but the arseholes who pass me leaving like an inch to spare force my hand. I saw a lot of racing cyclists going the opposite direction on that road. Club cycle? I did pull over and let cars behind me pass on slow winding uphills or when there were really long unbroken streams of oncoming traffic. But dang that stretch of road seemed to have a lot of close-passing jerks on it.

Right before Casla I pulled over for a rest, crawled over a tangle of morning glories, and sunned myself on a rock like a lizard. After I got going again, still got razzed a lot, if I ever drifted from the centre of my lane, until I took a left along the sea toward Cashel.

From that turn I was deep in Connemara. This is brown, wind-scraped, rent asunder Ireland. This is Ireland's Wild West, and to be honest it feels like being in Colorado again: I bet I could take a picture of those mountains in the distance and pass them off as the Rockies. It's Colorado but with tidal lakes, people driving on the left, and signs in Irish.

Went off the R340 to take an inland shortcut, and the traffic dwindled to a trickle. The best cycling roads in this country are the little yellow ones on this map that aren't on most driving maps. Often the only sounds I could hear were the wind, the crickets, the whirr of my derailleur and my tyres against the road. Well, and me singing 'cause I do that a lot. Usually songs I make up as I go along. I've been working on one in particular for a while now but only have the chorus and one verse worked out so far.

No food, shops, or anything really for miles and miles. Joined the R342 for a spell, then took another small road shortcut, skipping Roundstone etc. Passed a lot of racing and touring cyclists going opposite way. Wind in my face for most of the day; guess they were on to something. The sea kept turning up in surprising places, too. I guess I don't expect to see it in such a Colorado-like landscape.

Rolled into Clifden just after five due to my early start this morning (eleven or so). Town seemed cute, nestled in a green wooded valley right on the glimmering waters of Clifden bay. I went into the hostel on the main drag to ask about staying two nights... But not only would I have to change beds each night to do so--something about the attitude of the lady in charge put me way off. Like she's the kind of person I'd rather never have to deal with... Felt like I needed to apologise for trying to do business with her. Since this passive-aggressively hostile environment is not conducive to a rest day, I left and pushed on another 11 kms to Letterfrack. Spent a lot of the time trying to calm down because of the things about Clifden that made me irrationally angry. There were a few stiff climbs coming out of there, and the sun randomly decided to turn up the temperature, but there were nice downhills also, reasonable traffic, and woods and trees again. Irish Colorado is stunning, but not my favourite kind of cycling really.

I ended up in the Old Monastery Hostel in Letterfrack, chosen because I had such a nice time at the Old Convent Hostel in Castletownbere. So far I think it's loads better than the one I left behind. The atmosphere, the aura of the place is positive. Building delightfully quirky. Guy didn't even want money up front, says I can pay at breakfast tomorrow. I'm glad I am where I am for my rest day. And I wouldn't be here if full-up Galway hadn't shunted me onward to Spiddal, cutting 20 kms off today's cycle and affording me the energy to escape Clifden.

I have no idea what I'm going to do in this town tomorrow besides sleep in and grocery shop. It's hard to believe I'm halfway thru this cycling adventure. My tour de Ireland. Was gonna grocery shop tonight but I guess I'm lucky 'cause right after I got settled inside it started seriously raining. Can't keep my eyes open very well right now...

Pax.

Day thirteen

It didn't rain on me last night, I don't think, even tho I dreamt that it did. Lots of dreams. Weird dreams. Didn't want to get out of my cocoon of warmth so I stayed laying down till like noon. Breakfasted on gluten free biscuits and trail mix, then packed up and made my way out in a much easier fashion than coming in. Had cold ham and some bananas at first shop I saw. Wasn't seriously rolling until like half one or two.

The burn I suffered last night left a nice red welt on my ankle, but you can hardly tell what with all the scrapes and scratches and nettle stings on my poor knees and calves.

Downhill 3 km into Doolin. Several nice-looking hostels there, and I'm kind of regretting not staying in one and taking my rest day there. Didn't know all the Galway hostels were full up when I set off for them this afternoon.

Today was my nightmare day. I cycled like I was trying to escape something. Thru the Burren, mottled with ancient rotting stone, grey and inhospitable despite a ragged shaggy blanket of wildflowers and grass. Cracked shell of a giant dying turtle sliding back into the sea. I only skirted its edges, but it certainly is the fascinating and unique landscape everyone says it is. That's why there were climbers all over the crumbling cobblestone cliffs, cars and tents jammed between craggy outcroppings. Sometimes naught but a dry stone wall and my wits kept me from tumbling into the sea.

Traffic on the coast road as far as Ballyvaghan heavy, but tolerable. The N67 from there thru Kinvarra to Kilcolgan had more bends and blind turns with high hedges, meaning I slowed and held back more traffic than usual, but I did my best. One thing I'll never understand is people who beep at you as they pass you (dude I'm following the rules of the road and being courteous as possible, like pulling into driveways on uphills, give me a break), or who risk life and limb in oncoming traffic to pass you (or to pass tractors, coaches, hillwalkers). We're all going somewhere important, aren't we? Unless we're talking ambulances or police, no single journey is more important than another. Relax a while and obey the rules that keep everyone safe. Even still I couldn't have held anyone back for more than two minutes.

Stopped for a lunch of peanut butter on rice cakes in Kinvarra, sitting by the sea watching the sailboats with my jacket on against the wind. Didn't stay long tho'. I felt pressed, hurried, like I was in the last leg of some kind of crazy endrance race. Had to keep my speed up. Make it to Galway. I mentally prepared myself to stay in the Snoozles hostel, which I've been in before. But when I got there, knackered and annoyed after being on the hard shoulder of the crazy busy fast N18 and N6 then contending with city traffic again in Galway (used to Dublin, but since forgot how everyone's got it out for you)... Full up. And so is every other Galway hostel and most B&Bs; it's the weekend, it's hen and stag party time. Rather than try and stay in a city full of drunks (besides, I've been to Galway before and am going back in August), I pushed on an extra 20 km to a campsite in Spiddal.

Over 100 km today in just over 6 hours in the saddle--that is, not including any time spent going 0 kph. Paid a fiver to have access to running water, electricity, proper toilets, and a hot shower while camping under a tree for the night. Campsite would be all right if it wasn't for the midges and the sour smell of gas in the "kitchen" area.

OMGTHEMIDGESMAKETHEMSTOP

Tomorrow was supposed to be my rest day but no. Not camping. I'll push on to Clifden, find a nice hostel, and rest on Monday there. Do laundry. Etc.

Pax.

14 July 2012

Day twelve

I seem to be incapable of making rashers for breakfast without burning the damn things and filling the kitchen with smoke. Argh.

Breakfast: aforementioned burnt rashers, two fried eggs, boiled rice, tea.

This hostel, Kate O'Connor's, is fairly nice. Several hundred year old building with quite a bit of history to it. I kinda want to make today a rest day, but I've decided that rest days will be Sundays, wherever I happen to be. This time will be Galway I think.

Made decent time for the first few hours today, then got tired after Quilty/just before Milltown Malbay and took a nap in a field. Didn't pick the best field for it really... Long wet grass hid what was basically a little bog. But I found a decent place to put down my foam mat and take a snooze. Got up when I got cold and kept going. It was a pretty cold morning actually. In Milltown Malbay there's some kind of music festival going on, and I tho't I might lunch there and listen for a while, but got really nervous and antisocial for some reason and just needed to get out of there and away from people as quickly as possible, so I only passed thru.

Trundled on north thru Lahitch. Been off my ordinance survey map of SOUTH Ireland for a while; finally found a place that carried the WEST section (it comes in four pieces, and has the perfect level of detail on it for cycle touring long distances). Got off the N road and headed toward the Cliffs of Moher. Didn't sit down to eat lunch today, just snacked constantly on the bike on fruit, skittles, and boiled eggs. Nearly had a breakdown over a stuck zipper in-between towns for some reason. Just not in the best of moods really... Probably because I already miss the landscapes of southwest Cork and Kerry. County Clare is postcard Ireland: bushy green quilted hills, dry stone walls and white cottages, placid masticating livestock, the sea never too far away. Every place I've gone so far has had its share of tourists, but here they seem especially thick. It's too built up and I miss the wild bits of Ireland already. Where you could cycle for an hour without seeing a house.

Just heard a cow cough. Weird. Hit a wall just before Cliffs of Moher and had to lie down for a little while and eat some GF biscuits. Quads burning all day. I'll pee real quick then get going again.
--
Decided to camp in some pine woods near Doolin rather than hostel there, since the sun came out and forecast is good. Skipped the Cliffs of Moher 'cause I've already seen them and I'm particularly anti-tourist today. (I don't really consider myself a tourist because I'm not in a coach/car/caravan, and also I live in Ireland, have friends here, etc.)

Chose the dumbest, muddiest, thorniest way to enter the woods because I didn't see the gullies and muddy trenches I was setting myself up to cross, but once I got so far thru shoulder-high grass it was too late to turn back. Campsite is nice, isolated but near enough to the road. I'm boiling rice on my camp stove in treated water (there's a tiny trickle of a stream nearby) and will eat it with a tin of mackerel. It's nice to finally be using the heavy crap I've been hauling up and down all these mountains and hills for so long. And GOODGODIJUSTSPILLEDBOILINGFUCKINGWATERONMYSHINS

i know better than this too. The whole setup is really top-heavy. Excuse me while I swear and scream about how I've killed myself.

I've got some kind of burn something in my first aid kit. It doesn't hurt too much right now. I guess I'll see the damage in the morning... Get a tube of proper burn cream. It's dark now and cold so i'm not going anywhere.

I've got the right amount of warmth in this setup but of course it will be an hour or so before I fill the bag with my body heat, get comfortable, and *feel* warm in it. I'm not going to get up until I bloody well please either.

Stay tuned for more drama later today/tomorrow.

Pax.

12 July 2012

Day eleven

Slept in quite a bit today, due to the lateness of last night. Hot shower upon waking. Marie turned on her audiobook when I was in the shower, but fell asleep again afterward. (Her brother did the same thing yesterday, turning on the radio when he got up but then falling back asleep whilst listening to it.) I don't want to bother her so I'm just chillin' until she naturally wakes.

Brunch: packet of salami, peanut butter spread on rice cakes, one banana, tea. Talked to and enjoyed Marie's company from when she got up until half three, when I finally got going. Latest start so far, but it was only a 50ish km day today. Ride unremarkable on a main, busy road from Tralee to Listowel, where I stopped to eat some boiled veg and a plain baked potato with green tea. I prefer to buy food in grocery stores but you have to eat it outside and it was super overcast with a semi-permanent mist today and I didn't want to be out in it. When I can find a café with a window I can watch my bike from, I go there. Anyway I'm more likely to eat vegetables or salad if I go indoors so that's good I s'pose.

Discovered in Listowel that the screen on my camera has broken since last night. This is because I was too cheap to buy the waterproof, shock-proof version when I had the chance. Might still be under warranty but I think I want a better camera anyway. Hopefully it will still take pictures for me for the rest of the trip... Just without the visual aid of the screen.

Weather today is absolute shite. Worst day so far. Not only wet and dark, but cold, too. Daydreamed my way thru the mist on a boring busy road to Tarbert ferry. The beach there in Tarbert was absolutely desolate. Grimy sand crawling up out of the sea, cloaked in white fog. I was forty minutes early for the half eight ferry, so I sat in the pub near the dock and had a club orange. Fellas inside an interesting lot. Chatty and constantly slaggin' each other and everything else (and betting on horses). I couldn't tell if they liked me or not but they all shook my hand when I got up to go. Apparently when I went to the toilet they made a bet on whether I was lesbian or not, but I guess nobody won 'cause I'm asexual and all.

Ferry to Co. Clare cold and slippery-wet. Sat in a little room with my butt on a heater for twenty minutes. Road to Killrush at nine pm quiet and lonely. Beach desolate as well. Sky and sea grey as sorrow.

Soaking wet and somewhat miserable, I rolled into Killrush and booked into a hostel near the main square. The building and kitchen are very clean and nice, but you only get one shower token that when you use it gives you 8 minutes of hot water. Damn.

Sharing the room with a girl from Scotland. Otherwise the hostel seems very empty. Tomorrow I go up the West coast into hopefully Doolin.

Pax.

P.S. -- Aunt Becky, I was thinking about what it means to "smell Irish", and we've decided it means the sweet, unique smell of a turf fire, along with the smell of horse/sheep/cow shit. Also, I have no idea what "the Bags" means. I think he got it from a song or poem or something.

Day ten

Breakfast: package of pepper salami, an avocado, two boiled eggs, tea, trail mix right away on the road.

Slept in today, then got up, stretched, read a bit. I could sit in that house for weeks, months, just reading. Played a little tin whistle outside until Mickey got up. We talked for a little while, had tea, then I asked permission to pick up the alto sax and play a bit. It's an old, but good, horn. Nice tone quality. Every note playable except G#/Ab, which had a sticky key. Lovely stuff. I haven't touched a sax in ages; started realising how much I miss it.

Mickey seems like the kind of person my cousin Howard would enjoy. I don't know why I was thinking that but I was.

Neighbourman with the fields and sheep came over for a spell. Kerry accent, weatherbeaten face that shines with kindness. Bit shy seeming but warms up quickly. I'm finding so much generosity this trip... Makes me so happy. Gives me hope for the human race and all, etc etc

We chatted and enjoyed each other's company until about two o'clock. I didn't quite *want* to leave yet but it was a glorious sunny day, warm and ripe with birdsong. Perfect for cycling. Since I was running a touch late tho', Neighbourman threw my bike into the back of his van and took me down the road about 10 km, saving me a big hill and about an hour of cycling. Rather than take the main Ring of Kerry road back into Killarney, I took a detour (recommended by Mickey & co last night) thru the Black Valley and Dunloe Gap. There was hardly any traffic as far as the Black Valley hostel, just a few cars and locals on bikes. The views of the valley from the gap in, and again the gap out, were spectacular. I can't begin to describe the glory of this landscape, gleaming in the sun, rising ever toward Heaven. I tried to film some of my descents; we'll see if it turns out at all. Only two scary spots: once when my pedal caught a rock and I almost came off the bike, and another when I got razzed by a blue car with a spoiler going a bit too fast around a blind curve. No harm done tho'. I'm feeling more comfortable at speed, getting used to the braking power of the bike and the handling down hills, so that it doesn't scare me as much to fly downhill.

Once I reached the gap of Dunloe, there was lots of traffic--cars, horses, jaunting cars (i.e. horse-drawn carts), hillwalkers. I hate cars with a passion on roads like that but the rest I don't mind. The views from the winding road by the rivers, across lakes, thru the mountains... Ahh. So clear why it attracts the world to come see it.

Today was only a 40 km day, but definitely the best 40 km so far. (and the first day I didn't get rained on at all!) Pedalled quickly into Killarney the last 12ish kms on the main road. Traffic in Killarney is always terrible. So glad I'm on my bike. So glad I'm free.

Caught the 20.24 train from Killarney to Tralee to come see Mickey's sister. I intended to catch the 18.24 but was about fifteen minutes too late for it, so I bought some food instead. Ate another whole gluten-free cake in the train station. Later bought some smoked salmon as well. I have a craving for some fresh, hot chips for some reason, but I don't think I could find anywhere that makes them without gluten cross-contamination. :(

When I got into Tralee, I sat with Mickey's sister, Marie, and some of her friends and had drinks outside a cute little pub near enough to the train station. Irish way is to bring you a new drink before you're quite done with the one you've got. Had a decent amount of cider. We moved inside as the sun set and sat by a nice real wood fire and talked and talked. There was a guy there who was closer to my age and kept telling me I was beautiful. You know you're with good people when drink makes them friendlier.

Stayed up until about one before coming home with Marie and collapsing. Marie put me in her own bed, and took the couch, before I could even protest. BK fit in the lift so she's here in the room with me. Lovely place this. But of course that's mostly due to the person who lives here.

I have to promise myself I will see these folks again one more time before I leave this country so I won't get sad about moving on with my journey. Making new friends is a wonderful thing, but leaving new friends is most assuredly not. That's the nature of the game tho', I s'pose. You travel, you lose people. And that's that.

Pax.

11 July 2012

Day nine

Rain and deep fog already this morning. Poor BK was wetted all night, too. Kitchen rather empty as I cook.

Breakfast: 240 grams of slightly burnt bacon, with which I filled the kitchen with smoke; two fried eggs; boil-in-a-bag rice that tasted a bit like the soap I washed the pot with; mango juice blend and tea.

Journey as far as Waterville boring and heavily overcast with too much traffic. Saw the road literally bend under the weight of some coaches. Daydreamed most of the way when I wasn't pedaling furiously up hills looking for a place to pull over and let vans pass. I've now formed an irrational fear and hatred of red cars, especially red audis. All the red cars I've come across since I started this jaunt nine days ago has either been going way too fast, or passed me way too close (or both). Red vans are hit and miss but red cars are unanimously scary.

Sun peeked out at us while I sat eating a boiled egg near the beach in Waterville, but ultimately decided he'd rather play hide n seek for a while than actually come out. My knees kind of twinge every once in a while and whenever I'm not moving on the bike I have a headache in my temples like someone is driving screws into them. Wonder if it's a tension headache or if it's from something I ate.

Up the Coomakesta Pass from Waterville, blown helpfully up the last few metres by a powerful wind. Glorious views from up there, so of course it's where all the coaches stop for a while. Downhill all the way to Caherdaniel, the whole town sunbathing while its neighbours were spritzed. Had green tea in the Blind Piper and met two fellow cyclists in there. From Caherdaniel, it wasn't too much farther on to Sneem--just through some Misty Mountains, past Smog's treasure room (I was totally channeling the Hobbit at the time, as if Bilbo had had a bicycle)...

In Sneem the sun came out for a while again, and I sat by a shop on the river soaking it up. Decided to be brave and adventurous, so I called Mickey the Bags to ask about where would be a good place to camp for the night (since it was at least sunny at the time). "Ah, you must be Jam. ...oh no, you can stay here, I've got a spare room and all"

...Why not?

Flashback: while in Killarney on day six, outside the hostel with BK, I met an older woman who was asking me about my bike and my trip so far and all that, impressed and saying I was the first person she'd met cycle touring Ireland alone. We clicked somehow and ended up talking on that street corner for hours, about all sorts of things. I finally had to go up into the hostel and she had a bus to catch but when she found out I was passing thru Sneem, she insisted I look up her brother, a musician there, and another friend and neighbour with lots of land she was sure he'd let me camp on. She gave me phone numbers, details, and texted her brother that I'd be by on Tuesday night and to say hello. She also offered her own house to me in Tralee, where she lives, and where I will also be passing thru.

So I called her brother and he said he'd come up in the car and he did and we put BK in the boot with my luggage and drove off to his little unfinished house nestled in the mountains by some falls in one of the most ancient and magical parts of this island.

How do I describe my night here? This musician's in his sixties, long gray hair tied back in a ponytail, low quiet voice, constant conversation. Talking to him is like uncoiling a fraying rope, subjects and thoughts and musings and anecdotes bristling out of the main braid but still connected to each other. We sat in his sitting room sipping tea and talking for ages, surrounded by walls stuffed with books, instruments (including an alto sax) on the chairs, leaning in the corners, suspended in the rafters. A small black stove burning peat and wood in the centre. Abstract paintings leaning up against a wall of books. As we talked he'd often remember the book he got something from, bring it to me, until my lap was overflowing with books and CDs and whatever else we were speaking of.

A friend and neighbour of his came over and we just enjoyed each other's company. Mickey started drinking coffee with a splash of whiskey in it and grew more animated as the night wore on. Imminently philosophical and jocund. I stayed up till one in the morning just listening to him, watching the gaffer tape that holds his glasses flapping about as he looked up Daoist poems or sung the praises of Dorothy Parker. It started to rain and get really windy out so it was really nice to be here, inside, warm and dry and ever-entertained.

I did have to collapse at one tho', crawling under the duvet on the mattress upstairs. Once the lights were out the darkness in this country cottage was complete. Mickey did a bit of recording downstairs, and I drifted off while music came and went below.

That's why this post is coming up the next morning, and not last night. Too busy enjoying human company. Mickey seemed absolutely chuffed to have a visitor. This is real Ireland; these are the stories of the people who populate this island, far from the tourist traps and circulating foreigners enjoying the views but forever distant and removed from the essence of the places they're seeing. This is why I get on my bike and kick up my heels and just go. Trust people. Enjoy people. Make new friends.

Who can explain this, replicate this? Only a metaphysical poet or an alchemist.

Pax.

09 July 2012

Day eight

Breakfast: whole pack of bacon (something like ten slices), two fried egg yolks, boil-in-a-bag rice, tea, mango fruit juice smoothie. I also boiled two eggs to carry with me as snacks today. Hostels are nice because you can spend like a tenner on food and get two or three meals out of it. This hostel only cost €8 a night, too. If I could find hostels like this every night I wouldn't need the camping gear...

(I just realised that in my past few posts the tenses might be a bit confusing in how they switch from present to past and back again. What I usually do is start the post in the morning with a paragraph or two, then get going, maybe add a little more at lunch if I've got something in my head, and finish the post up when stopped for the evening. I try to keep the tenses sensical but of course one's instinct is to use the present when speaking of the present, etc.)

It was pissing rain all morning again and the clouds were hanging down low between the hills. Went off the main road to cycle around the foothills of Macgillycuddy's Reeks to see some nice, if wet and shrouded, views of Lough Acoose and Caragh. I was mostly out of traffic on back roads until I cleared Lough Caragh. Even saw a red fox trotting along the verge until a van scared it into the bushes. Lots of mossy forest and crossing streams on little bridges. I never get tired of that.

Back on the main ring of Kerry road, the N70, just before Glenbeigh, where I had lunch. Most expensive lunch yet, but good. Smoked salmon salad with a HUGE portion of salmon. I explained my allergies to the waitress but the first plate came out with couscous on it and I had to send it back since couscous is not safe for celiacs. Felt like a jerk; argh, I hate food intolerances. Met a fellow gluten-free guy in the restaurant tho'. American on a hiking tour. Sipped tea and talked to him and two other girls for a nice lunch.

Lots of traffic until Cahersiveen, but wonderful views of the patchwork hills and the sea. Could only just see the sun on the horizon: a sliver of ocean glowing white were it kisses the sky. I also passed thru/nearby Kells, which was cool metaphysically, if an unremarkable place these days.

Overall today was pretty cold, especially on the windy, wet descents. It's pretty windy tonight. I hope it blows all the rain and mist away. (...wishful thinking, I know.)

I'm in the Sive Hostel in Cahersiveen now. It's €15, but certainly not twice as good as the last place. Location location. And this is the first time I've had to lock my bike up outside, come to think of it. The B&Bs all have garages or sheds and the hostels had storage rooms or let me carry the bike up and shove her under the bed. She's locked to a pole in the back garden but I feel sorry for her. Poor BK out in the wind and only kindasorta out of the rain.

I think it might be the first time I'll have to share a hostel dorm with a man, as well. Some French hetero couple were in here chillin' when I came in. Blasting music on a phone and not really paying attention to me. Whatevs.

Traditional Irish music in the pub across the street tonight. I was gonna go have a pint of cider and listen but then I decided it reminds me too much of an ex-beau and I'm heartbroken again because that's the way it is. I can hear it from here tho'. At least there's no banjo.

Daaaang my back's been itching like crazy past few days, and of course just in the spots I can't reach properly...

Going to sleep now 'cause I'm tired. Sneem tomorrow, which will be a short day. If there's no hostel I might try to ask if I can camp in the field of the farmer who's friends with the brother of the lady I met in Killarney two days ago. We'll see.

Pax.

08 July 2012

Day seven

Today is a rest day for me in Killarney. Tomorrow I will start the Ring of Kerry, which will bring me back here in three days, where I'll catch a train to Tralee (skipping the Dingle peninsula to save time) and from there cycle into County Clare.

Slept in, then went to Mass at local cathedral at noon. The building is of course beautiful, but, as an ex-Catholic, Mass always makes me feel a little strange. Nostalgic, a bit sad, out of place. It also reminds me of Franciscan University and I get a little lonely, remembering my friends and professors and all there, many of whom I won't get to see again.

So today I'm a bit lonely and still headachey. I'm going to take a nap, eat something, wander around a bit, eat again. Get ready to start the Ring of Kerry tomorrow.

I need to stop eating so much gluten free processed food because I don't think my body can handle it in these quantities. Like, I had a whole GF cake for breakfast with my tea today. Legally GF stuff here has to be less than 20 ppm (parts per millon) gluten, but if you eat a lot of it you can build up traces in your system until you have a reaction. I don't want that to happen...! More rice and fish for me then. And eggs and bacon and canned beans and peas and peanut butter and trail mix... Daddy told me I should be eating up to 5000 calories a day while on the road, so I don't feel guilty about anything. Doing my best to eat when hungry and keep plenty of snacks to hand--apples, bananas, avocados, trail mix, skittles. (for those of you unfamiliar with my dietary restrictions, I cannot have milk products, soy, or the gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. I have autoimmune reactions to these things that can last days to weeks and come with a whole host of unpleasant symptoms.)

Mama and Daddy called me last night, which was nice. We talked for an hour or two. I needed that I think. I do miss them a lot. For my whole topsy-turvy life (Dublin is my 21st physical address, remember) it was my mama, daddy, and sister who were constants, y'know? When all the other people and places kept changing.

...I've had the chorus of a song that I made up stuck in my head all day. It doesn't even have like proper words yet, so it's like an annoying person sitting in my head humming the same thing over and over...

I left one of my favourite earrings in the Old Convent hostel, so today I bought a cool new one off a street vendor. Wandered in and out of shops. Found a café named after me (pictured above). Walked a bit along the road, but am trying to take it easy on my knees, so I didn't walk thru the national park here. Instead I shared a ride in a horse-drawn cart (got to sit in front since I wasn't with the group in the back) thru the forest, past the breathtaking lake and islands, to Ross castle and around nearby. The horse's name was Rosie, and she's half Clydesdale. Fellow driving the cart was sweet too. Thick Kerry accent; wore a cowboy hat.

Killarney is full of tourists, but rightfully so. It's nestled in some amazing scenery. Smells Irish.

Misty, overcast day. Hope it doesn't mean rain tomorrow. But no matter what, I'm sure Kerry will live up to its stunning reputation.

Pax.

07 July 2012

Day six

Waking up with headache not good sign. Ah well. Caffeine will fix it.

Breakfast: orange juice, tea, fried eggs, bacon, tomato. I'll probably have an apple as soon as I start rolling as well. Having a hot breakfast is nice and all, but my food-intolerance-induced paranoia won't let me feel completely comfortable with food coming out of someone else's kitchen. Even if it is all just fried stuff that really shouldn't have touched bread or milk. (one thing I do like: I don't have to ask about what kind of oil things were fried in, 'cause you can't really get soybean oil here; it's all sunflower or rapeseed oil.) Been okay so far at least. I would prefer hostels if I could find them, tho. Should be a few in Killarney actually, if I can make it that far tonight.

Still overcast this morning, but not raining right now. I'll be prepared for it at any rate. It's funny tho, how my instinct is to get out of the rain immediately, even if I have all the proper gear on and am not cold. Back in the mountains on day three, when it really started coming down, I sat under some pine trees on an embankment for a while, out of the worst of it but slowly getting colder from lack of movement. There was no real reason to stop other than some unconscious aversion to heavy rain. Do you guys think this is something everyone has in common? Some sort of human instinct developed as soon as we invented/discovered watertight shelters? Or is it just me?

(Andy, to answer your question on my last post: the rain is still typically Irish in its frequency, but it was worse in the mountains for sure.)
--
Mist and light rain all morning. I know the ring of Beara is supposed to be amazing and all, but I actually think the coast road from Lauragh to Tuosist is nicer. Flatter, too. Nice views of the sea and opposite coast, and a bit of lush forest as well.

Sun broke thru the clouds just before Kenmare, where I stopped for a delicious quinoa and egg salad, along with gluten-free biscuits and an organic banana from a health food store. Kenmare--in fact, this whole peninsula--was full of cyclists doing the Ring of Kerry charity cycle. It's a 180 kilometre cycle starting and ending in Killarney. I'm going to do roughly the same route myself, but over three days instead of one.

Today however I met them all in Kenmare--thousands of them. The N71 north to Killarney was closed to traffic just for them, which was brilliant. I joined in on the last 30 kms of their route. From Kenmare there's a long, steady uphill of 10 km thru Moll's gap, which of course I did very slowly and was passed by just about everyone. Those I did pass, I had to remind myself they'd just done 150 kms and I'm nothing special after only 50 :P

The real fun began at the downhill all the way to Killarney. I strapped my ROAM to my handlebars and tried to film some of it; we'll see if it turns out. I felt like I was on my own little tour de Ireland, haha, passing everyone, zooming along due to how heavy my loaded bike is compared to theirs. It was like 20 kms of almost pure downhill and I was reaching 45 kph for a lot of it. Doing that road car-free was such a blessing. And being around all those cyclists gave me tons of refreshing energy, too. They'll talk to you for a spell, encourage you, cheer for you. One guy I met, talked to, and passed, later passed me resting and shouted, GO COLORADO!

We reached Killarney in style and I was shunted to the finish line with all the others even tho' I hadn't started at the start. Felt a bit silly going with them on my bike loaded down with gear etc. Of course a lot of people tho't I'd gone the whole way with it... I explained to people when I could, but again, we're talking thousands of cyclists. I did feel a bit of a hero. Sprinting finish. My total mileage today was only about 80 km tho'.

Town is full of cyclists now, resting their weary legs. Three hostels I checked were full up. I'm in Paddy's Palace now, right on the main drag, with my bike shoved up under the bed in a four-bed room. Other girls here are American too. Friendly.

Tomorrow will be a rest day so I'm booked in for two nights. Means tomorrow is sleeping in! I'll still post a little something tho'. Not sure how I'll spend my rest day yet.

Pax.