Thursday, 28 September 2017

More Coffee and Cakes

Thursday 27th September     Still in Tipperary
Yesterday’s weather would have beaten even a bad Welsh day. It poured with rain incessantly and blew a gale. The paths and roads were awash; a really horrid day so we didn’t ride!

This morning the meteo had promised (Mmm…..) a fine morning with little, if any rain. Thus we made an effort to leave the van at a reasonable hour and ride the Glen of Aherlow as had been recommended. The fine weather was unconvincing but a vast improvement on the previous day. It was a day of quiet roads and stunning views.
at the cafe

In Galbally, we found a coffee shop serving the best scones, jam and cream that we have eaten for a long time. Absolutely scrumptious and to add to the pleasure of the experience, our hostess was a delight; on occasions, a trifle difficult to understand but, in every way, a truly warm and hospitable Irish lady. Buffeted by the wind and gently caressed with the rain showers, we returned without mishap and just in front of the next lot of gale force winds. We have been assured by more than one local person, that the weather in September is usually good! Must be us!

It's a long way toTipperary...

Tuesday 25th September   -  Tipperary
Just like the Brecon Beacons
We arrived too late on Monday at our Tipperary site to visit the Tourist Information office, which was entirely obscured behind the local pub. Probably a very appropriate situation. However, the following morning we were anxious to get on the bikes as the weather was okayish. As ever, the tourist info had no real info on bike routes and when I mentioned that maybe we could find maps in Tipperary our host looked horrified. It is a very big hill you must climb; probably best if you stick to the valley! Heavens, do we look that old? Apparently – yes! However well meant, we ignored the advice and climbed over the hill and down the other side stopping only to visit Jesus on the way. Christ the King Statue, it seems, is a popular and well known tribute to Christianity constructed quite recently and a superb viewpoint.

Anyway, Tipperary had no maps of the local area – they would be arriving on Thursday! The town had little to entice us to linger and there was always the prospect of the ‘big’ hill to be overcome on the return. I am pleased to report that the challenge was quite easily met.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Cliffs and Tourists

As to be expected, this unpleasant virus has finally fled and left both of us with sufficient energy to contemplate a ride. So three days after arriving here at the seaside, experiencing gales and ferocious sea states, the sun shines and we can get out and about.
 The question then, was where should we ride? The Cliffs of Moher are extolled everywhere, so a visit seemed a reasonable proposition. Bearing in mind that we are at sea level, and by definition a cliff is a vertical rock face rising from the sea, the uphill was quite long and steep. We topped out and met a sight only beaten by a previous view of a long queue of camels below an extinct volvano in Lanzarote. So unexpected was this vast area of parking for cars and coaches and the huge numbers of people who spilled forth, we very nearly rode on by. One has to admire the clever exploitation of cliffs! There was a cost for each visitor of around 6 Euros (not per car but per passenger). Only in Nordkapp (cliffs at the most northerly point in Europe) have we experienced something similar. In fact, much seemed to be based on the visitor centre in Nordkapp. It was disappointing to see so much infrastructure encroaching on a natural phenomenon. The visitor numbers were impossible to calculate but certainly many thousands of folk from all over the world were swarming along the path and taking photos. Being on bikes we were able to avoid the charges and joined the throng to admire the views but we were soon eager to leave this mass of humanity behind.
Not being willing to wait in the long queues for a hot drink, we whizzed down the road to Liscannor and partook of an exceptionally good cup of coffee in a pretty café. Over our shock and vitalled up, we thought to continue and follow a circular route back home. We sailed along a wonderfully quiet road in the sunshine, crossed the flats to Liscannor and Lehinch where, not unusually, the cycle route signs disappeared. I had had the forethought to photo the route on my phone and smugly opened my handle bar bag. Oh, sh..t! No phone. No amount of searching pockets and patting bodies revealed said phone. A review of memory resulted in the conclusion that I had left it behind in the café. We had no second phone, so the only course of action was to return the 10 kilometres to the café, fervently hoping it would be there. It was! The relief was such that the uphill haul back to the cliffs went unremarked, on my part anyway.
The advantage of having to return the same way that we had come, meant a careful downhill of 8kms with still no sign of rain.

NB. I mention that the downhill was ‘careful’. This constant high concentration level was the bane of cycling in Ireland. Many roads are only the width of a single car and are shared by everything from large coaches and vans to walkers and cyclists, all travelling in both directions. The cyclist often has to give way or end up in the ditch. Many drivers are courteous and understanding; an equal number, are not! In typical Irish fashion, the only road dedicated solely to cyclists and walkers that we have used so far, restricted cyclists to travelling one way. (Guess who was going the wrong way and had to walk!)    This is a beautiful country and deserves to be admired, and it is clearly the intention of the wardens of the countryside to provide cycle routes. Not a simple undertaking when road conditions vary so massively and with a 100kms speed limit on most country roads regardless of width. We wish them well!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Gales rain and a loose head set

Tuesday  19th September     Tralee  (The Lacy cup circuit)

Alan was keen to see how well his recovery was progressing and so we undertook this 73 kms circuit. Maybe not the best of days to obtain a realistic progress report as the weather was less than clement. It began okay and we rode the road I had taken the day before. On the positive side, the traffic flow was much reduced; on the negative there were no views at all – just low cloud and spray. Camp had cleared the market of the day before and appeared very normal except for the serious road works which were taking place. Shortly after the leaving the village, the road took a sharp bend to the left and we found ourselves at the mercy of a gale force head wind. The road ahead was visible and climbed steadily to the pass (quite a long way on!) There ensued some discussion about a return but was finally dismissed and heads down, we pushed on. (Just hate to be beaten).
We had begun the descent on the other side when Al stopped. Oops! He had heard a loud bang and now his handlebars were wobbling where they should have been stable. The rain was now serious about getting us wet. Nonetheless it was necessary  to investigate this (wee?) problem. Tools in hand, Al was loosening and tightening bits when a white car pulled up and asked if we were the missing members of a group? No. Did we have a problem? Yes. A ten year old emerged from the passenger seat and offered his assistance. After a further very wet ten minutes, Alan felt confident enough to ride a wobbly bike. We profusely thanked our good Samaritans and continued downhill very slowly. Not entirely confident in the performance of Al’s bike, we took a small short cut to Inch. We also took some atmospheric photos which disappointingly have disappeared into the ether. It is true that by this time, we were wet through to knickers and so, it was with great joy, that we came upon a garage selling hot coffee, sandwiches and cakes.
After taking on fuel and Alan having fiddled with his bike a bit more, we confronted the deteriorating weather and road conditions. From Castlemaine, we were climbing narrow, main roads with a continuous flow of vehicles – thoroughly unpleasant. We did make it home in one piece and clearly there was an indication the Al was in fine form.

(Unfortunately, that night I fell foul of a cold! A really good effort! Now two days later, we have both been sick, bad, ill. It will pass and look forward to some coastal rides from Doolin!)

Mary's Joined the Band

Monday 18th September -  Tralee to Camp.
Yesterday had gone really well but Al needed a bit of time to recuperate so I set off on my own. I didn’t feel like a solo epic, so plumped for a ride along the north coast of the Tralee peninsular. The weather was warm but windy and the road was a constant run of traffic. A very half- hearted cycle track ran intermittently for around ten kilometres. The remainder of this narrow, but main road, was shared with every conceivable sort of vehicle. That the cycle routes of Ireland need some serious organising was made evident by the requirement of a lead vehicle complete with flashing lights to ensure the safety of a group of riders following the Wild Atlantic Way. Sadly, I was going in the opposite direction and anyway they were going too fast!
I bent my head to my favourite nostril wind and headed for Camp. I had just started a small climb to the village when I could hear loud music. Only in Ireland could a main road host a farmers’ market complete with a live band! (Culchie Goes Cool) and they were foot tapping fab. As a lone cyclist appearing for no good reason, I found myself something of a celebrity, welcomed by the band and then subsequently waved off by the many occupants of the pub! Such fun.

The return was something of an anti climax but fast, with a following wind and a predominantly  downhill gradient. Able to raise my head, I could appreciate the views of Fenit to my left and the Slieve Mountains to the right.  I enjoyed my couple of hours and Al enjoyed his well deserved recuperation.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Benefits of Being Lost

17. 09. 2017     Tralee
Well, well, we awoke to sunshine this morning. Not exactly hot but no rain and no wind and a large yellow ball in the sky! Al already had our route for this day sorted. ‘a really pleasant 38 kms of relatively flat riding along well surfaced roads. After an early lunch (let’s not rush these things) we geared up and took to the road. Cycle paths are very intermittent in Ireland. I am assured that in London, if a car is parked in a cycle lane, it can expect at the very least a scratch down the side. In Ireland, not only are vehicles parked in the cycle lane, they are in the cycle lane and on double yellow lines. Dicing with death for cyclists it seems is all part of the adrenaline rush. Maybe?  Irish speed limits are generally much higher than the continent (100kms regardless of the width or condition of the road! – more Irish logic) and many car drivers see it as their mission to keep as close as possible to these speeds. I have to comment on the many who remained patiently behind two elderly cyclists until the road ahead was clear and given us a wide berth.  Many thanks!

Spot Mary
We have been lost/misplaced many times today and were in sore need of Brendan the Navigator who we didn’t meet until the ride was almost complete.( Where are you Bren when we need you the most!?)  It has to be said that each misplacement was an opportunity to explore otherwise ignored parts of the coast and thus, much appreciated. For example, trying to locate a small road through the dunes that had been obliterated by a considerable depth of sand, resulted in a turn back and spying a notice extolling the nearby beach as the’ best in Ireland’. We could not pass up this chance to explore. Hoisting bikes on our shoulders we overtopped the dunes and were rewarded with the view of a glorious sandy beach, rolling breakers and surfers. Deciding that the road through the dunes was un-ridable, we pushed the bikes along the beach and through the kelp to the next solid access point. Sand in between your toes!

Easy now – just follow the road through the wiggles. Mmmmm…… arrived in the wrong spot but we knew where we were! Follow this road – nope. Wrong again. But now we found St. Brendan the Navigator in Fenit; another venue we had not planned to visit! Altogether getting lost seems to be the way to go. It was to continue. Tralee is not huge but one wrong turning left us meandering around the town centre for some time and having no idea which direction to follow. Stopped a lot. Turned around a lot and then found locations that we recognised. Thankfully, the camper was where we had left it and our ride of 35 kms morphed into 50. Feeling good though.

St Brendan the Navigator

And all this time not a drop of rain! 

Followed by a Proper Ride

16. 09. 2017  Kilarney
Having removed the cover from the bikes, it was with some relief that we found them still intact after such a long lay-off. We decided to take on an undemanding circuit of a loch which lay nearby. According to our instructions we were to follow a route which passed a very grand house and thence to the start of our circumnavigation. Not only did we pass a grand house, we also passed a number of horse drawn carts and rode through quite a lot of horse doo doo! We did, however, locate our path (we thought). Weather was gentle if not hot and the path flat with excellent views of said loch. In amongst the plethora of signs was one for Torc falls. The waterfall was quite spectacular and just one of the many popular stops for the coach parties following the ring of Kerry. Al stayed with the  bikes, saying he would sort out our ongoing route, while I squished my way the bottom of the falls to take a photo. On my return, we remounted and took off …………….in the wrong direction! Fortunately, it was only a kilometre or so before we realised the lake was on the wrong side. Dah! Returned to the falls and then continued in the opposite direction and found ourselves on the lakeside, on a track with a very definitive one way sign indicating that bikes could not be ridden in this direction on pain of death! So, what does every law abiding rider do faced with such a directive, walk for the prescribed 1.5 km to a tea house. To our consternation this one way track continued in this direction for 4.5 kms. Do we walk, ride, run or fly? We had a cup of tea!

We walked/rode the next 4.5km on an excellent and wide track and saw three lots of oncoming traffic (e.g. three bikes/smug gits). In all our experience of cycle paths we were totally perplexed by the logic behind this one way system particularly as there had been no warning. It seems to me that all that was required was care and courtesy and the danger of collision would have been negligible.
We did finally return having completed 28 kilometres of interesting Irish logic but enjoyed some spectacular views and had been thoroughly entertained.

Yesterday was a bit more of a ‘proper’ ride. We left the van and rode to the start of the Gap of Dunloe described as’ one of the most spectacular places in Ireland, a narrow steep sided gorge 450m in depth and almost 4km in length’. What our guide book omitted was the mention of the steep climby bits. These were described as a ‘road which meanders through this awe-inspiring paradise interjected by a series of old bridges, ribbon like waterfalls and sparkling lakes’! It was quite pretty although not quite a paradise.  Slightly out of breath and having given way to walkers, motorists and numerous horses and carts, we reached the top and enjoyed a long and cold descent into Black Valley. This really was a complete contrast as few sight-seerers had the stamina to continue over the top. This was untouched countryside – a glacial valley of huge rocks and gushing rapids. A road so rarely used, that grass covered much of it. It probably felt more remote than it really was, but a lunch stop beside a small waterfall was reward for the journey thus far. Another fairly long climb returned us to civilisation and a more main road with the advantage of a café with cream teas. Yes, we were hungry again. The last 26km were admittedly along part of the ring of Kerry but no less beautiful for that. Apart from holding up numerous large coaches (all of which were very courteous) the descent back to Kilarney was uneventful. We were, though, beginning to feel the effects of not having ridden for some time and legs and lungs were relieved to find rest back at the van after a 60km round trip.

A Trip to Ireland

11. 09. 2017  Bantry

We are in Ireland! And fully intending to complete a few forays ‘ a velo’ around the coast and country. We have, however, been utterly confounded by the weather and that happens rarely (or are we getting older and more discerning/ cowardly?) Our arrival has been heralded with winds up to 40mph and torrential rain which has continued almost unabated until today. Thus far we have managed a hill walk, a coastal meander and a wander into Kilarney .  Not quite what we had planned. Nonetheless, various muscles have re-awakened which, particularly in Al’s case, have been slumbering after pretty major surgery. I don’t have that excuse.

Bikes are being surgically separated from the van tomorrow and this blog will, hopefully, return to something to do with ‘bikes’!

Monday, 14 November 2016


A week in Autumn in the Dordogne
My kind of cycling

Don't say it!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Moliet et Maa – Cabreton (just north of Bayonne)           (48 kms)

I had failed, last evening, to find anyone to pay for my stay and I was anxious to ensure the legitimacy of my accommodation. At exactly 08.00 the café opened and I not only settled my account but enjoyed a very substantial breakfast.
I had provisionally arranged to rendezvous with Alan at around midday and had chosen to do so before reaching the hustle and bustle of Bayonne. I have to admit to lacking the confidence to successfully locate him in a busy town. Thus, I had plenty of time to wander along the last few kilometres and take an unpressured surveillance of the countryside. Sadly, it was predominantly trees that were in evidence punctuated by numerous, now closed, very large campsites which offered everything for a jolly family holiday!
More interesting from my viewpoint was an eight kilometre (at least) long stretch of beach on which the surf pounded. Although hidden from view by extensive and quite steep sand dunes, access to the beach was provided by numerous steps and boardwalks. I later discovered that the surf here is so good that international events take place on a regular basis – but not today although there was no lack of surfers and their hangers on.
Needless to say, I arrived two hours early and resigned myself to a long wait alongside the river enjoying the sunshine; an area I shared with a constant stream of runners, dog walkers and fishermen. For the first time on this coastal ride, I did see fish actually caught and kept, presumably, to eat.

My phone rang at around 11.30 and, not unexpectedly, I and my man, were not in the same place! Carefully describing where each of us was, and deciding it was easier for me to move with a bike, than Al with a car, we finally met by the beach. I was both pleased and relieved to be reunited but also sad that another ride had ended. I look forward to the next one and hope that, on that occasion, it will be another shared undertaking. Throughout this trip, Alan had assured me that he was only ever about four hours away and this thought did provide a comfortable assurance that I was never isolated. However, sharing experiences is so much more fulfilling even if one does have to make inevitable compromises! My thanks also to those of you who encouraged and commented on my short venture and I look forward, as ever, to continuing this blog in the future.

(Mentally and physically strong, a love of life, and an enduring spirit of adventure - I am so proud of you. As we're over 70 next year, can we do a Saga all inclusive cruise!!!!!   Ed.)