So, I was writing this post in the week after my July cycle trip 'round Ireland was over, but the draft got lost and I never finished it. Now's as good a time to dust it off as ever.
If you haven't already, you can start reading from the beginning of my cycle trip, Day 1, here. Or, navigate in the sidebar over here to July 2012, and have a gander at those posts ----->
I think my cycle trip around Ireland was one of the defining moments in my so-far-still-short life. It taught me a lot of things. Self-reliance. Independence. How strangers can be genuinely friendly (but also genuinely creepy--so trust your instincts). I got to know myself in a way I hadn't yet, simply by spending so much time alone with myself. I started swearing like a sailor (cycling in traffic for many hours a day will do that to anybody). I was immersed for an entire month in what very well might be the most beautiful country on Earth. I broke free of a reliance on cars, petrol, and public transport, and was essentially homeless for almost 30 days, never knowing where I would lay my head the next night--but never being worried about it, because I had all the essentials for life (except food, which was always plentiful in each town) strapped to the back of my bicycle.
Even though I haven't really gotten on my bike for more than short trips since I've moved back to the States, I will never forget how important it is to me, how it makes me feel, how amazing it is to be pedaling into the magnificent unknown. I'm planning on doing a much longer trip across America this summer. And I plan on blogging daily for that, too!
Speaking of blogging... I also learned a lot about writing, storytelling, and self-discipline as I wrote one blog entry per day on this trip. I'm really sad at how I've let my blogging lapse since then, at how lazy I got almost immediately upon my return. But I'm really proud of the posts I did make. It maybe got a little repetitive, starting with breakfast each day etc., but I got some really great sentences and paragraphs out, some nice poetry and some nice stream-of-consciousness moment captures, so that makes me happy.
I've grown soft and complacent since returning to America, but I haven't forgotten what it means to Jam Everywhere, and I certainly don't intend to settle back and watch the rest of my life spool out behind me into oblivion while I sit on my arse and do nothing with it.
Without further ado.
Here is my Awards Ceremony for the various aspects of the trip itself...!
Best day's cycle: either Westport to North Mayo (most peaceful), or when I was cycling on country roads thru Co. Sligo. Runner up is cycling from Sneem thru the Black Valley to Killarney, in the brilliant sunshine.
Worst day's cycle: Tralee to Kilrush. Shite weather, hardly anything worth seeing along the way, busy gross road the whole time, cold foggy ferry ride.
Most dangerous stretch: whenever I was going downhill on day three in the lashing rain
Favourite stretch of road, if there had been no traffic on it: coastal road into Larne in Northern Ireland. Starts somewhere after Cushendall.
Favourite stretch of road, as is: Sneem to Killarney via the Black Valley. Altho' of course it would be nicer without ANY cars on it, the cars were few and far between.
Best detour: Guagan Barra national forest.
Best rest day: Probably the extra day I spent in Killarney. Rode on a horse and cart thru the National Forest there, which is pretty awesome. Hostel was super cheap but decent, and I got plenty of good sleep.
Best overnight: (see below for accommodation synopsis)
Worst overnight: wild camping in woods outside Dungloe. Was literally breathing midges.
Piece of gear I was most grateful for: Pearl Izumi droptail bib shorts. I've gone on a weekend tour using cycling tights with an elasticated waist, and bib shorts are WAY more comfortable; I'd never go without them, now. The droptail bit makes it possible to go potty without having to take off all my clothes first, which was the handiest thing ever.
Gear I never used and shouldn't have brought to begin with: extra warmth sleeping bag liner (it was too warm for it); all the extra base layers (my one merino one was fine).
Gear I never used but wouldn't have gone without: bike and puncture repair stuff, most things inside the first aid kit.
Gear I had to buy along the way which I should have brought to begin with: insect repellent; tea tree oil for first aid kit; small bottle of chain lube.
Mechanical failures along the way: had to replace rear brake pads about halfway thru. Other than that, nothing! Not even a single puncture!
Worst injury: pouring boiling water all over my ankle outside Doolin on accident D: . Funnily enough, I never fell off the bike or had an accident while cycling.
best hostel: Kilcommon Lodge, North Mayo. 16 euro. Clearly the cleanest, friendliest, best run, best value-for-money hostel of all of them.
cheapest hostel: Paddy's Palace, Killarney. 8 euro.
most expensive hostel: Old Convent Hostel in Castletownbere at 19 euro, except I only paid 15 euro; otherwise, Old Mill Hostel in Westport at 18 euro for a mixed room. Old Convent is better value tho', because the rooms are only two person rooms and you get it to yourself if it's not full up.
best B&B: Rivervale Lodge, Mallow. Was cleanest, best rooms, AND had an awesome giant bathtub downstairs that I could use to soak my tired muscles! Turned out to be the only bathtub I came across during the entire trip. Sorely needed (pun intended), as I came across this place on day two.
friendliest B&B owners: tie between Sea Villa on the Ring of Beara, and Croninn's in Ballingeary.
And that's all I've got for now!