Ireland by the back roads.
It’s been a theme on this holiday, just like any other. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Spain, France, Italy, wherever it is. The direct route should only be adopted when you are on a mission to get to a ferry crossing. That’s the principal Ed has followed for quite a few thousand miles of touring. Maybe thousands of miles would be a better way of putting it!
It was sad leaving the tranquility of Sue and Gary’s house. I could have stayed there for a long time, however, we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. Also, I didn’t want to keep Sue awake with my spectacular snoring. EEK!
Our first mission was the Priest’s Leap. According to Gary’s folklore, he had taken a couple up there towards the end of their day and one of them being a novice rider, had been reduced to tears. I didn’t know what to expect, but by all accounts, we went the correct way. Unlike the camper van, which was wheel spinning up the hill to get to the top. They had followed their sat nav. To be honest, sometimes a map is worth its salt! I wasn’t reduced to tears, however, I have to say that it’s not for a novice in the slightest, especially at the end of the day when you’re tired. Had it been in 2006, I think I might have had a mini meltdown too!
Ed, being Ed, had found a route to the headland. No, not the easy, straightforward route, but the one that involved a very single track road. Now, there’s various gauges of single track roads. Ones that have passing places, ones that don’t. This was a no-passing-place road. In actual fact, had we met anyone, it would have been a battle of wills. I think I probably would have just got off of Indy, put the side stand down, rolled a cigarette, jumped the ditch….. ok, maybe I would have negotiated the ditch ever so carefully and sat my ass down, waiting for them to reverse. Indy’s not an off road bike, or so you would think.
The roads were so obscure that we met no traffic. None. Maybe gives you an insight into the road. The defining feature was a large strip of grass in the middle. If it wasn’t grass, there was no turning back, literally.
On this holiday, we’ve been on one dual carriageway for about half a mile. That’s it. A roads, as we know them have been few and far between!
The best of the worst was just before Castletownshend, called Toe Head. As usual, Ed headed off and me and my little Indian followed behind, wondering what the hell there was in store. There were some houses along the route and we did see one guy, sitting in his garden, talking on the phone ….. he definitely heard us first, and his eyes were like saucers and his mouth was hanging open as we trundled past. Little wonder! He knew something we didn’t!
Then things got a bit tighter. Tall hedges didn’t give us any idea what was around the corner, which, when you’re riding bikes like ours can be a bit of a disadvantage, given Ed’s bike has the turning circle of an aircraft carrier, with mine a turning circle of a small ocean liner!
Ed disappeared around a bend in front of me and disappeared behind the hedges. Tight bend. Then there was an even tighter bend, a very tight hairpin….. EEK! Then it turned back on itself, uphill, switching back with no sign what the next one was going to do. It was so steep and tight, and the ground fell off to the left, so basically, we only had half of a single track road to play with. I think it’s the first time since my novice, scaredy cat, no-clue days on my SV650 (who didn’t get a name, I wasn’t fond of it) that I felt the need to put a foot down to make sure I didn’t coup over into a very thorny bush. Thorny bushes aren’t good, especially if you have to pick a bike up. I found out later that Ed had to do the same thing. As expected, Ed was waiting around the next less palpitating bend, up the hill, to make sure we got round in one piece.
We had a good belly laugh about that. In fairness, had I been on Smoggy I think I would have still needed my foot down!
Now the roads. They’re something else. They can be a bit rough and in fairness, I will never criticise Scottish ones ever again without first reflecting on our Irish trip. They can be just a bit teeth chatteringly bumpy. Remember, my Indian’s suspension isn’t really built for bumpy roads, it’s built to suit long flat American ones with very few corners!
So how would I describe the bumps? They were really on a sliding scale.
Riding behind Ed has its advantages. If I saw his bike going ‘boing’ over a bump, I was able to set myself up. The best approach was to go over it at an angle, putting steering input in to keep the bike balanced as you crested the hump. I found out quite early on that if I didn’t, Indy behaves like a bucking bronco, trying to whip the bars out of your hands. Naughty girl. There was a corner that should have been SO much fun; excellent view, looked like a fairly nice bend until we got closer, then we realised that just on the apex of the bend there was a mahoosive lump. No escape. That was an interesting one.
Others hazards were the bugs. When the weather was bonny, I wore my helmet in open face mode, with my sunglasses on. It was a treat, after all, we were hardly going fast! In actual fact after a week of bimbling, one day I thought, ‘oh, that’s fast!’ We were doing 60. Being hit by a bumble bee was a sore one. It’s like someone has given you a swift poke with a missile. In fairness, it’s bad enough when you get smacked in the leg, never mind the face. I did collect a bumble bee, thankfully all it took was a tilt of my head to get rid of it, before it got snuggled down into my ear!
Then there’s ‘custard flies’. They’re the ones that hit you with a fairly spectacular *SPLAT* and leave a really attractive smear of yellow custard behind. Well, it looks like custard, I haven’t actually tasted it. One morning a custard fly got me just under my nose above my lip. Yep, it looked like a rather attractive bogie. I have also decided that getting a fly in my mouth is marginally more acceptable than getting one up your nose.
What else do you have to look forward to? The craic of course. The hospitality is just superb. Be aware though, the Irish don’t know the meaning of small breakfasts or small portions. I was thrilled when I spent 2 weeks filling my face and only put on 2 lbs. go me. Had I added in pints of the ‘black stuff’ it would have been another story. Don’t forget the potatoes. The Irish do tatties really well. Try and stop yourself finishing the lot. Pack expandapants, you’ll need them.
All in all a great holiday. Did we do much touristy stuff? No. We did however visit some spectacular places with amazing views, people and, yes, food. A huge thank you to Neil & Jenny for their magic hospitality and hopefully when we venture across the water again, we can all take a jaunt down to see Sue, Gary & Nelly. Cheers, Ireland. See you again soon!