Jeremiah Watt Cycling around God's Creation

long distance bicycle touring

Blog 14 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour

IMG_2297I am currently drying out, sitting in the front door foyer of a small Supervalu grocery store, and out side the foyer is an outdoor laundrette……yup. an outdoor laundrette. Here’s how it was told to me, and I am sure it’s the truth. Sometime back in the early sixties, a fellow returned from vacation in America, he was ecstatic. About the fact that America was building ” drive-in-theaters!!. He was telling everyone in the local Tavern about it, off in a dark corner sat an Irish entrepreneur who was listening intently. The gears were turning, his mind was burning thru ideas until he finally settled on the winning “once in a lifetime” formula that still remains today. An edifice if you will to his keen sense of time and space within a fast developing business climate. No neon is required to announce the location of Arrtys Outdoor Launderette. Arty has even franchised his concept over the years since its inception in 1965………. there are now 2 of these fabulous facilities I was told. Picture a giant stainless cube, into which you slide 2 washers and those 2 machine flank a single dryer in the center, to one end is a coin machine controller for all machines……the motto is simple at Arty’s…wash your clothes here , rain or shine your clothes will get soaked and so will you.//////


Sure feels or at least sounds like I am living on the backlot of the movie set SNITCH. The vehicles, the faces, the roughness…..but the speech is strait out of the movie. There is a playboy bunny who has been imported from Ukrainia, her well toned butt covered in spandex is just 16 inches in front of my face. She is all body and makeup, she can find more ways to bend and contort to choose a movie from the flat list than an actor from Circ de Soliel…….I am not even sure of what I am typing to be honest…..I haven,t looked at the keyboard for 15 minutes. Accompanied by 2 gangster’s who are her escort which is known as “dual -pimping” One, a superlite Irish kid covered in neck and hand tats, bad mustache and unruly red hair like a highland steer that is back combed and blow dried. The other fellow, very heavy set eastern European, my guess Serbian or Croat. He,s like a refrigerator with sideburns. So it looks to me like the money earning princess wants to watch a movie tonight, and I am wondering if Guy Ritchie wrote this script./////

Skibberreen Famine Soup Kitchen, fed 9000 people a day at the peak of the infamous Irish potato blight.

Da, da says the big fella, pointing with a hard thick finger at the movie icon that caught his eye……Fist enFurrias is eggsalent fleek…….vee shudd vawtch dis he says with some authority as he rocks back on his heels to emphasize the point. I am sitting here watching one shiny object and listening to the none shiny object, beginning to think the diameter of his biceps may be a larger number than his “EYE-Q”. Raiyt raiyt says the skinny pimp, at’s a good flick Victor…….butt…..ave ya seen da Pelham one tuu tree yet, it’s a little more of a tinkin movie eff ya know what’ameen. I done vanna sit a tink, I vants ta sit an vawtch doan-eye says the big fella in a sort of irritated tone. Yeah raiyt says the skinny fella, I knows essactly wha,yameen doan eye. Naught tuu much tinkin, den how bout dis,ere one as he points to the icon for Titanic……that,uns all bout Irish histree Vic. The princess in the meantime can barely contain herself in her overly taunt ballet leggings, she leans way over strait from the waist to point at an icon pretty much at the top of the list????? I vanna vawtch dis one as she places a perfectly manicured 2″ long mauve nail on the icon……she is pointing to Moanna….. da Rock he, is so qewte. Okay, okey says the big fella, I’vill get dis vunn……Shawn go and get us some beers. Shawn the thinker says….d’uss she know the whole muvee is a kids cartoon?? Shud’up an getzz da beer Shawn, says the big fella./////
I am riding down the street in a far off town in a foreign country, the streets are narrow, the buildings are gaily painted and the town is extremely busy due to a PGA Golf Tournament. So, obviously I am a bit preoccupied with just surfing the ride thru town…….and out of the corner of my one good eye I see z small red car whiz past…..and with my one good ear I hear…..” HEY JEREMIAH” as clearly as a church bell rings on Sunday morn. POOCHIE MAGGIE I  think……who can I owe money too over here. So, I roll off to the sidewalk and turn to see if I can spot the red car……nope, it’s out of sight to me. There is a fit looking fella approaching on the sidewalk. As he draws closer, a smile appears and he sticks his hand out to greet me, Pavel Danko of PDSaddles on Instagram. I stayed with Pavel and his wife Magdalena, along with Rebecca and Theressa his small daughters. It was a fun evening, they fed me like a king and gave me a great bed and a shower for the evening. Thankyou Pavel and Magdalena for your friendship and hospitality.///////
The Cliffs of Moher, a part of my sights that I should see list. Just 5 miles away, I was a little ticked and told Collen so in an email. It had been raining all morning and I was pretty wet, the closer to the coast I got the colder I got and the air was heavy and hazy. I could hardly see a few hundred feet, there is no way that I can see the cliffs I am thinking…..pretty much a wasted ride. My map-app shows a small trail right on the cliffs edge so I head that way with the intent of riding it. The insight realization is……holy crap, be lucky to just walk this trail. It is designed by Irelands leading knee Doctor, and gets 2 cases a week from this trail design I am sure. ///////
Push my bike for about a mile, actually strain and fart and cuss in Gaelic, which interestingly enough sounds like speaking in tongues at evangelical churches. About a mile into it, it Dawn’s on me that I still have 4 more miles till the cliffs, at this rate it will take a full day Jim-Bob. Strip my bike of the bags, throw it over the fence and rebag the bike so I can walk maybe 1/4 mile over to the main road. Restrip the bags, throw the bike over another gate, rebag the bike and begin peddaling to Moher Observation site. By the time I get there, the clouds are lifting, not bright and blue, but sure enough lifted. Hundreds of people walking the cliffs. A grand sight to see for sure, and glad that my wife convinced me to stay with it, and get out there to see them.///////
WE NEED A COWBOY. You are perfect, you should stay around till the weekend and we can put you to work. This is Tuesday morning, and in my mind I am wondering what do I do for three whole days??? It all began out of curiosity as I pedaled thru a ti y village early in the morning. A man walks across the street in front of me, carrying 2 huge spools of wool. Something loud and mechanical is going g on in the building he enters. I roll off the street and follow him into a building that is a converted rock barn. It’s a wollen mill, the looms I am watching were built sometime around 1865. Still chugging away in all there mechanical glory, the only thing electric now is the motor. He tells me they were converted over from a ceiling mineshaft operation driven by a water wheel. Gorgeous pieces, but noisy as all get out. One loom is producing a very subtle herringbone weave pattern, while the other is doing something in shades of blue, rendering simple stripes.//////
We are scarf weavers she tells me, using the finest wools available such as Italian Merino, and Alpaca from South America to make our product. See here she says, and invites me into a other room where 4 machines, all Japanese knitting machines, these are the best on the market today. We cannot keep up says Anka the owner and designer. We began with just 2 people and the old looms and just one account. Today, we are 20 people working and several hundred accounts. Our visit quickly turned from scarves to cycling since she and her husband are also avid cyclists. We visited about many things, including our President Trump, I am not sure I scored any points during the discussion, but I defended the man over the issues that I feel he has done well on.//////
It was during this whole conversation that I was interrupted by Anka who approached with a smile….you are a cowboy she says…we really need you for the weekend we are having a cowboy festival and you could be our cowboy. Much as I would love to Anka, I gotta be moving on, there are miles to cover and sights to see. I gave her Pavels name too see if they could possibly get something out together. Sorry Pavel, but I actually gave out your name 2 times, I should explain the other. I met the epitome of tough when it comes to cycling that is. Rolled out from a tiny side road I had been riding, out onto a main road that I would be on for about a mile. Right across the road 4 people on bikes looking at maps, so I rolled over to visit as us cyclists do. Unbloody believable. 2 couples, all 4 very fit specimens, plus 2 dogs of which one could have used some walking miles being he was a wee bit chubby. So they are riding main roads, not the older side roads which are for sure hillier and steeper. The lead man, very fit, rides recumbent bike that pulls a long trailer carrying 4 surf boards, it has a totally closed top covered in solar panels at the back and a litle basket on the trailer front and center for a border collie looking dog to sit. After him comes one of the women with all the bags stuffed full on her bike, followed by another women with 2 rear bags stuffed and she pulls a little kiddie trailer behind which has a fat fluffy dog in it. All that is followed by the last man, who Carrie’s the beds matts and tents, the heavier type and bulkier type product. I really wish I had been on the ball enough to take a pic, but I was thinking more about water right then.///////
Priests Leap, began its life as a simple cattle drivers and pilgrims trail in 1612, and I assure you it is just barely more than that today. It winds, twists, crawls and threatens to fall off the hill backwards in places as it weaves it’s way thru the hills and over the mountain to the Ballylickey side. Stephen assured my, I would be happy to say I made it ” cause many sure dont”, I sees dem all the time come a rolling back down this a way. Dis here is Lassie, he says ta me…..I think she likes ya. Ladies is nis sidekick sheepdog that rides with him on back his quad. Stephen even made me take his and Lassies pucture…….then asked me to see the picture………he asked me for my camera I thought so he could see it closer, but no, he leans over to show lassie who proceeds to lick the screen…………dats guud he says with a smile, she likes it.///////
Gunna be professional “Hurlers” when we grow up they said. They being Connor Shawn and Shamus Patrick, both are going into Grade 9 and wanting to get on the schools A Team. I met them as they were about to go for a swim in the lake.  Hurling is an Irish game, not played anywhere other than here in Ireland. Something of a cross of LaCrosse, Hockey and maybe a little ruby. Each player Carrie’s an odd shaped stick on which they can scoop the ball, carry the ball on the paddle and swat the ball in a passing fashion or as a blocking maneuver. A game comprises 2 periods of 35 minutes totalling 70 minutes of hard running play./////
Chug, chug we go, it’s pretty much a uphill grade all the way from Kenmare as we follow the Sheen River up to its source. The road begins at Kenmare as a good 7 foot lane that is marked fairly well. But within just a few miles, it narrows right down to a very modest 6 foot, becomes a neglected 5 footer and finally up over the top it is gravel in many places and two paved strips with grass and weeds down the center over everything else. Dense spruce and larch forest, some of it young, some just harvested, and others will soon feel the bite of the proverbial axe soon lines the hillsides in many places. This hilltops surrounding are totally devoid of trees, its peet bogs in the hollows, and livley streams from every angle you can imagine, running their course to join the Sheen below. Finally you cross a humpback stone bridge, really more a pack bridge as it has very low side walls on it, much lower than a auto type bridge. The road vaults toward the sun like a worshipping sun ray, the hills envelope the senses in verdant green of every shade plus a few extra. The sweat is running, the arms and brow are glistening with sweat………no, I am not eating Mexican food……..I am riding up hill and its steep. But this little road is very different from almost all the others I have ridden, it still feels more like an upgraded foot path than a modernized road. The climbs are short and steep, then you turn and slant across the hill for a stretch only to turn strait up again…….and on  and on it goes. The wind becomes very noticeable, the sun which has been out all day so far, is really baking me and I am conserving water cause I know I am low. You crest at a monument marking Priests Leap, apparently when this Priest heard that It looked like Hillary may win…….he just couldn’t take it any longer. Okay so I added that little bit of history. //////
Walking downhill…..ever heard of such a thing???? Well, that was me coming off the mountain, the hills were so steep that my brakes would not hold me back. So rather than kill myself trying to take the corners, potholes, bumps and grass trip thrj the center, I just walked so that I could still finish up my blog…..always thinking of you guys. It took sometime, but finally made it down to Coolhuma Bridge with a fine river running under the fantastic old stone bridge built 1720. Too much sweat, too much sun baked sweat for me to resist, so I stripped off right there and went for a swim, just me, the fantastic river and 3 ticked off salmon fishermen. They were upset since I ruined their fishing, I told them they got tot watch a cowboy strip naked and learn to dog paddle instead…… hardly placated their anger. I dressed in the same sweaty clothes and headed into Bantry……..not actually expecting to find a cycle shop to have some work done on ol’Shirley. But sure enough, Dennis was very willing and ready to work on my bike for me at 5 o’clock. By 5.30, he had installed a new rear cassette and the chain, plus new brakes all around, plus test rode it for himself to assure it was all good and I was done and gone just 5 minutes before 6. Thanks again Dennis, really appreciate the work and the visit, whi h was mostly about our President Trump.///////
Up hill down hill and then uphill again, it’s the story of most countryside, but here in county Cork it’s a fast and quick rise and fall scenario. Now county Kerry, and Molls Gap coming south out of Killarney Park, now that was a climb and a ride to see. The road up to Mols Gap, is just one of those roads you have to see to really get a feel for how special it is, alot like Priests Leap which I say is its equal but for different reasons. Consider that the road side up out of Killarney Park is boulder strewn, the earth covering is as thin as a sheet of 1960 linoleum flooring, so moss covers everything like paint until there is a base for a blade of grass. Sheep pellets, and red deer dot the hills as you ride……many more sheep than deer, don’t believe everything the tourist guide says. I seen two red deer does, they were as tame as the sheep I seen, not sure why so tame????  May or may not have had anything to do with that blue dart hanging out of their butt???? JK the lines in this area are deformed and twisted, and I don’t really know why, but they are contorted for sure and make for interesting scenery. Almost at the top of the brade, you have a very clever “Adopt a mountain Sheep Program”, administered by a local farmer and stock dog raiser called Kissane.///////
Roared down off the mountains backside from Bantry, heading towards Skibbereen…………scrrrreeech…….dang near ran over an elderly dairy farmer moving his milk cows. Now had I came down this hill yesterday on the old brakes, I would have wiped poor ol’Dennis right out, or cut one of his cows in half with my front wheel. Dennis, is 86, and letting g his cows out to walk the lane for the first time this season. 71 acres, and 70 cows being milked plus he also puts up haylage from that acre count, and we only buy extra feed on the really bad years maybe every 5 years or so. I would call that very productive ground wouldn’t you. Roll into Skibbereen at about 9am, it’s a pretty depressed little town it seems, alot of empty buildings and not a lot of activity on the streets mind you its ear,y for the Irish to be out and about. This town is credited with being the epicenter of the famous Irish Potato Famine. At its peak, 9000 people a day were fed daily at the first ever FREE soup kitchen. The year is 1867 and it’s the destitution within this village that brought the world together to send money and food to the severely starving of Ireland. The potato blight wiped out everything for nearly 4 seasons until new and stronger varieties could be developed. There was even a dying house ,located beside the graveyard where individuals would simply walk to the stone house, crawl in thru a window and lay on the rotting piles of corpses awaiting their own final death. The remains of over 300 were found inside the house itself. Thus far, I have seen 4 famine graveyards while cycling this beautiful country. It’s actually hard to I imagine that it could have happened, given how green and lush the countryside is, the amount of water etc……..everything needed is there to be productive……..but let one little disease get started and go unchecked and it quickly becomes a humanitarian calamity.//////
Once again, my roads have been very safe as well as quite pretty in most places, albeit quite demanding in many places as well. The prayers of many saints have laid a path of safety for me and for that I am so thankful for the Lords hand upon this journey.

2 Responses to “Blog 14 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour”

  1. Jerry

    Beautiful pictures Jeremiah….. and that Calif-Ireland dialect was spot on! Ride safe.

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