Jeremiah Watt Cycling around God's Creation

long distance bicycle touring

Blog 13 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour

Life begins anew, I crossed over from Scotland to Ballytown, Northern Ireland early this morning on the HMS Seagag. Approx. 30 miles of open ocean to cross, not much for a sea gull over open water. But a heck of a long way fro a guy afraid of the local wading pool. Certified, not a beach guy, not an ocean guy…..and bikinis actually look best against a backdrop of sagebrush. And the only proper beach cover up, should be brown duck canvas and have a Carhartt label on it some place./////
The Cambeltown natives may still be chuckling bout that Yank that they set strait regarding the ferry crossing. Aye lad, it’s a ruf’un, only a boaht’a size of’a bathtub ya know. It’ll be like riding a bronco ya know, and cold lad, ya ride topside in tha back of a wee boat covered in sea spray ya’kno, so dress warm lad. Well heck, it was nothing like that, it was less than 2 hours across, inside, we even slowed so that we could watch some porpoises that were racing our boat. Gorgeous smooth seas. Arrived Campbeltown on glassy water, and bright sunshine. Couldn’t ask for better weather. I shall endeavor not to change the underlying theme from OMG ITS SO DARN WET to that of OMG ITS SO BLINKING HOT.//////
Found a hardware store, my handlebar wrap paid the price on the way over with the tying down process. Rewrapped and retaped my bars and was out of town by about 11.30 am. Headed north up along the shore to the Giants Causeway, an infamous piece of the Irish tourist trap infrastructure and an important piece of outstanding geological earth formation. The rock, is shattered into small mostly square columns some columns have a height of plus 250 feet above ground. It is estimated the rock runs some 200 feet under ground as well. My second time here, so I took the high cliff route this time for better views. The actual rich outcroppings were crawling with people, so the cliffs gave a better alternative. Fantastic bright sun, deep blue Atlantic waters washing on shore./////
Rode out and thru Bushmills, the home of Irelands best known whiskey…..not declaring it to be the best mind you. Camped south of the little whiskey village. I had been told several times now that wild camping in Ireland, although not frowned upon, it is difficult to find a place to set down on. I met Hienrich struggling to the top of one of the big rollers we were going thru. I had just covered 4 of them, and he assured me, that I had many many more yet in front of me. He started by asking me about camping spots, telling me how difficult it has been for him. So, maybe there is some truth to what I have been hearing? Hienrich, just a little older than me, admitted that he is worse out and will end his trip in Belfast. We all get overdone by different things, as for myself very little bothers me except for pedaling, bike seats, sweating, raining, sunshine, big hills, steep climbs, rollers, sore knees, sore sit bones, sharp corners, wet tents, no croissants,  damp sleeping bags, body odor, heavy cloud cover, fast cars, hedges, smelly clothes, instant coffee, no tea shops……..that’s about all really.//////
Winding my way around the larger towns, not even sure why really, it’s not as if its Paris or LA or something. Met up with a trekker while going thru a s all village. Got to visiting over tea and he began telling me about his walking adventures. He was in USA about 15 years ago and walked Route 66. My dear God in heaven what a fantastic walk thru amazing country. I went back to USA just 2 years ago with a mate of mine, we were going to walk San Francisco to Portland. I just couldn’t believe what a trash heap that San Fran is, discusting I tell ya. Bloody bums as thick as thieves, junkies and their crap everywhere. We UBERED north of the bridge and enjoyed the rest, but that SF is a hell hole as far as I am concerned. I basically agreed with him, but did take time to remind him that the fire hydrants are all nicely painted red… that both dogs and people know where the public toilets are. Thanks Gavin Nuisance for helping create Third World Frisco./////
Cycling Ireland has been much easier than Scotlan or England for that matter. The roads are better, and while they have plenty of hills, they are no where close to as many that are as steep. Most are very similar to the hills we would find at home. Road some tiny back roads out to the north of Donegal, my hope was to camp on some high mountain side to the north that offered a fantastic setting sun photo opportunity. No such luck, I rode far enough to make it happen, I was situated high enough…..but the ocean view just never came to be, not even as I now pass thru Donegal and have tea for a break. My setting sun shots were obscured by angry dark clouds that promised and delivered rain for most of the night.///////
As I rode along, I kept seeing large white feed sacks laid out just rando ely on the ground. My first thought was it was tree plantings, since people always talk about the thin poor soil of Ireland. Finally my chance to actually fi d out happened as I rode along. Gavin and James were out working g with the heavy sacks so I stopped to see what this was all about. We are PEET HARVESTORS he tells me. Me ol’Dad has done it’teer on this hillside all me life, an eye duus ta same as ee. Yes, we machine harvest now, in me dads day it was all sawn and trebched out. Much harder work for sure in the old days. So, the machine cuts a swath maybe 4 foot wide by a few inches deep. We let that dry for 3 days or so, then come back and turn it once for another 3 days or so. After that, just bag it and haul it home and it’s ready. No, he says, it’s not quite as hot as good coal, but it will sufe enuff keep the house warm just fine. Oh sure be says, there’s alot of bags out here, but it takes a full bag to heat the house each night. And we have 3 big rock houses to heat. It’s really best you don’t let your rock noise cool off cause they take a long ti e to reheat after that.///////
Donegal wasn’t exactly as I had built it to be in my minds eye. The bay, is actually quite a tiny and narrow bay with heavy trees lining the coast. You actually don’t see the water till your left foot gets wet so to speak. The town has some interesting sites, which I took in, such as Donegal Castle, a Railroad Museum, a ned little town square which is actually triangular shaped…..but let’s no go there since the Irish don’t like it mentioned to them either. I stayed around for about 6 hours, walking, looking, thinking about home, looking at stuff I had no interest in and wasn’t going to buy. There was a town fair going on, which really had the place hoping. Alot of music, doing top 40 covers badly, not as bad as Chinese karaoke but badly. Not one Irish music of the traditional style at least while I was standing around. Rode about 3 miles south of town and threw up my tent for the night. Got good and wet thru the night, but I did not.///////
Decided to head more or les east, take in a few sites like the marble caves, and see some of Irelands version of the Lake District. About a 65 mile day on fair roads. Ended up campi g in the public park at Bellcoo, ate food from a grocery store, pasta tiki tiki and a spicy chicken wrap along witha ,large bottle of liquified vegetable greens. Sat in a lawn chair that was for sale out in front of the little store…..was nice. The Marble caves will knock your socks off in approximately 38,000 years once all the pieces have had time to grow into something discernable. My tour guide Luca made it all fun and worth i. 18, and headed for Uni this fall to study medical biology engineering.  Pretty on the ball kid I thought, had alot of life plans made already.///////
Rained a few times thru the night and woke to very heavy cloud cover. No sun to be found in any direction, sort of depressing really or I find it to be. So on today’s menu is a ride ba k almost in the same direction as yesterday. I am headed almost due west now to see some spectacular water falls, the highest in Ireland to be honest. Interesting ride as it takes me around more lakes or as they say here, Loughs. My ride ends up splitting between two huge glacial moraine with a beautiful lake between sitting in the depression formed by shear glacial weight. Heck, if we hadn’t started driving cars and wearing fake wool made out of heavy crude oil……there’s no telling, this place may still be frozen today. So my advice, but another car and get driving, it’s not exactly warm today. Got rained on several times today, but nothing reL heavy, the water on the road wasn’t even over the hubs on my bicycle…… Mary and Verna you don’t have to be worried bout me just yet. Mary and Verna are the most strident prayer warriors you can have on your team – thanks to you both.///////
Well, the ride was pretty that’s for sure. But the tour guide book failed to mention that the huge water falls only actually run when it is raining HEAVY. the tallest, called the Devils Chimney is 3 feet 7 inches.. okay just kidding, did you swallow your teeth on that one. The actual height is a little over 200 feet, but it is broken up into 2 parts. The Other water fall is a out half that height,  ut will run much longer after a rain spell. As luck would have it, the sign said if you can see them from the road, don’t bother walking up because they are not running.///////////
No loss, we enjoyed the scenery and kept rolling on with the trip. It took me into Drumcliff, which lays along the bay above Donegal. Passing thru I spotted an old Cathedral off to the left and as my brother has told me several times……there some sort of homing beacon on that dang bike of yours, it turns to every church it sees. The oldest cross known in Ireland sits in this little cemetery. The cross and siege tower date 850 for the tower and approx. 900 as the time when the cross was made and erected. There are remnants or evidence of quite a large Abbey that was a part of the church grounds at one time. The records from the church show 5 seriously long sieges by the Viking hoard that frequented the shoreline raiding, taking prisoners that would be sold into slavery and put into slavery within the viking villages. ///////
Pastor Robert, a man of God with a great knowledge of his native towns church history, as well as a quick sense of humor. The church is a rebuild after it was sacked in 1480 sometime by a group of angry Iowa farmers…..upset over the loss of the corn subsidy. So the new church has not only the old original rock within its walls, but as was done on many occasions, they incorporated ornately carved stone that was at one time a part of the Abbey walls. Robert explained that it not time the siege tower was 5 floors in hieght. There is a water cistern within the middle of the tower that supplied the fresh water that would be needed when under siege. Great stop, had tea at the church tea room, thankyou Robert for an enjoyable afternoon.////////
Rolled into Sligo sometime later afternoon, didn’t spend alot of time. My route took me right thru downtown Sligo, so we seen the town pretty well. Out of Sligo on an R marked road, this means that it is a safer farm road, sometimes single lane and sometimes a very tight 2 lane. About 18 more miles and we roll into Ballytubber Abbey, built 1210 if my memory serves me correctly. Not much is left of that building today, it is in the midst of a modernized rebuild right now. Out of there and down thru Castlegar which is a cute little town. Skip thru that town and navigate my way to another very tiny and tight road out thru Srah and Tourmakeady. These little villages lay upon the shores of Lough ( lake ) Mask. I camped on the shoreline, donned my speedo and had a swim to wash a little sweat off….it felt great and the water was not really cold which always helps.////////
Robert Archibald Shaw, an actor of some renoun within the US movie scene, was a native son of Tourmakeady and a well loved citizen who was thought very highly of by the locals. Mr. Shaw had an elegant home along the lake shore, he was very philanthropic with the local community. From as far as 200 miles away, I was told that I needed to hit this area of Connemara and take in Tourmakeady./////////
I was not impressed with the very boggy section from Sligo to Castlegar, stunted spruce and larch trees, tons of rock about and dark water bogs everywhere. So boggy it seemed to me they didn,t even turn sheep out on the bog fields. But south along the lake, it was all grass, stone walls, huge hills and sheep abound. Some of the prettiest riding I have done yet. The hills, or better yet mountains were rough and rugged, reminded me of a small version of Slovenia. All total we crossed 3 passes up thru these intertwined ranges of mountains. Really glad I took this route, it proved to be beautiful riding. This little bit of riding made me wish I had a drone with me. It seems that would give a person the best chance of capturing the real extent of the rock walls that have been constructed./////
I actually heard it before I seen it. “Come by Sally”……” att’a girl Sally…….sharp single note whistle, followed by “down Sally”. I knew someone was working a stock dog, more than likely a Border Collie. Finally, I turned a corner and the rock walls no longer obscured my side view. There was Joe Joyce, giving a tour bus group a demonstration of his very capable dogs. I rolled my bike up his EXTREMELY STEEP drive, and joined in with the 30 or so people who were part of 2 tour bus groups. I really liked the style of his dogs, taller and leggy like a dog I owned at one time. Also his dogs were tight pawed and short haired which appeals to me in the hotter climates we have. Enjoyed watching Joe work 3 dogs, while a dozen puppies of various ages frolicked among the viewers on the observation deck. JOE JOYCE STOCKDOGS  094-954-8853 Lough Na Fooey, Shanafaraghuan, Clonbur County, Galway, Ireland///////
Rolled on past Joe,s and hit a gorgeous golden sand beach which would have been beautiful under some sunshine. But it was a dull grey day for me. The road turns steep and heads up thru a multi-switchback hill climb. Several miles climb, up out of the heavy grass and tree lined shores edge and into a rock strewn tundra type scenario at the very top. Peet bog type country up here.  A steep downhill greeted me on the other side and off in the very distance another lake grew out of the curtain of mist. I didn’t exactly blaze my way down the other side like  Satan follower on his roller coaster to HELL. My brakes are about shot and I am trying to make them last till the end of this little journey. We shall see if that holds up or not. I have a love hate relationship with most things electronic, that includes my new Gopro Hero 7. It is capable of stunning images, can’t believe how nice really given the size of the lenses and sensor. But it’s one of those 1 button does everything type interfaces… know…..when your tired, maybe a little sweaty…….ya press the magic button. The camera says…..are you sure you want to discard that image???? You panic, he k no keep that shot, I have been waiting on the sun to come out for over and hour… press the magic button again to confirm you KEEP THE SHOT. The camera responds almost instantly ” you have selected your third wife’s cell number….is this correct? Anger and sweat cause your thumb to slide just slightly off to the right when you MASH THE DAMN BUTTON. The camera responds…..”congratulations we have erased your second wife…..shall we continue? Not only that frustration, but the little bugger will just randomly wake up, beeped and shoot video till it’s dead. Had that 3 or 4 times now as well. But boy howdy, it takes a sweet image when you ask.///////
Down near the bottom of this very narrow twisting strip of this butt biting asphalt, you will hit a tee intersection or a sign if your brakes fail. And right there just 100 yards to the left of the tee, lays the tiny shop of Dennis Kendrick. The old establishment was formerly the home of Ann Bespoke Sweaters. Sadly, Ann has passed, leaving 87 year old photographer Dennis living alone with his faithful little dog whom I will call Waddles. The little fella came out to meet me on my bike, all wiggles and happy. It would take you a full 2 hours to properly pet the little bugger he is 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Went in, and almost immediately began a conversation with Dennis, a lifelong professional photographer. We shared stories, and he eagerly passed on some sound advice regarding photos. Told me a funny story about working with Ansel Adams on a shoot in London. Fantastic fellow with some equally fantastic images hanging in his little gallery. And was not at all hard to see the loss of his Ann written in the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. God bless you Dennis and a speedy recovery on that hip issue my friend.///////
Not sure just how far it is on past there and you come to a corner that gives you the option of going down thru “Quiet man Cottage”, this is the shoot location for one of John Wayne’s earlier movies shot 1952, starring yes JW and Mareen Ohara. Check it out, it is still available if you want to watch it. I on the other hand hooked left towards Oughterada. Cute little town even though I arrived rather late. I stopped on the side of the road to visit with Helga from Germany. She only has 3 weeks, and is in Ireland for the 4th time trying to cycle all the way round. She smiles, looks right at me and says ” dis bike looks heavy ja”. Very much so, I need to get stronger legs or bring less junk with me.! Ja, ja she says as she lovingly Pat’s the down tube on her bike???? That’s when I notice its electric assist. I buy dis after I cum heer da phirst tyme,  many hills very tuff…….now, eye juss wroll right up mit no sweatink….nice, she says with a broad smile. I am dying of envy, my quads offered to trade and even throw in the Gopro as a bonus……but no go she said.///////
IMG_2107Arriving late gave me less than the best chance to find a good wild camp spot. Was just rolling along a broad babbling stream with a wild overgrown bank when I came upon a tiny little mowed section with a picnic table. I stopped, made some tea and toast while it got darker. And with a little darkness for cover, I set my tent up on an out-of-the-way spot in the park. Went strait to sleep it was already 10 and bed time. Got out of there as early as I dated so I could ride on into Galway and miss whatever commute and delivery traffic there is first thing. As it was, it was pretty fast moving and a little more difficult visibility than I like to ride in. Raining a real fine mist, heavy heavy low cloud and fog off the very nearby ocean. I thought that I would have to crawl on my hands and knees to find the waters edge, but alas I am now in Galway and the sun poked out brightly at about 4pm today. Arriving here by 8.15am, it gave me time to have a coffee and then do some walking and looking around Galway. Right down on the main walk thru street, I met an evangelist for Christ, his name is Phillip and he passes out Bibles to folks. So once again, may God bless the saints who pray for my safety while I am away riding, may he grant me the strength to finish and the courage to speak to those whom he puts in my path. Good night and may God continue too bless these United States of America on this 4th of July, special thanks to over 200 years of soldiers who have laid down their lives to protect and preserve  this beautiful nation

3 Responses to “Blog 13 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour”

  1. Jerry Gant

    Really enjoy the photos…. almost like post cards at the pharmacy! Be safe.

  2. Larkin

    It s obvious why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. Spectacular.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Very enjoyable read as always!

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