Blog 15 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour
Currently parked in a hotel in the city of Waterford. As most of you know the entire family, Nevada and Levi as well as Pine and Whitney and Mom are all due here the 31st on July. And Jim-Bob has had to severely cut mileage and change his course to be sure to coincide with thier arrival in Dublin. It will be a fun week together, we will see some sights, eat some fine Irish food and enjoy our time together. Looking forward to it.///////
Have I ever taken a moment to explain to you all that this soul is not an ocean loving soul, Iam much closer related to a desert tortise than a dolphin. The Wild Atlantic Way, is a primarily coastal route around the west coast of Ireland as a destination type journey to boost tourism. Don’t get me wrong, it is indeed a beautiful and very scenic route. The downside is that it hugs the coastline like a new brides lingerie, meaning every nook and cranny is taken in…..very time consuming ( stop right there….lingerie is no longer a part of this ongoing description…so just drop it ) And secondly, it is primarily an auto route and it becomes very busy on a sunny afternoon and always busy within certain sections just due to proximity to larger cities. So as much as my wife wanted me to ride the WAW route, honey I rode some of it, but avoided much of it as well for the reasons mentioned. I can only be spellbound for a short time by screeching gulls and waves hungrily lapping at a rock strewn coastline. A coastline that will hold my attention would be covered in big busted mermaids, playful sea otters splashing in tide pools…….and maybe a few decomposing Narwhale carcasses so I could retrieve the horn. Now that’s a shoreline I could get into. A seagull however is just a white version of a crow….that’s it folks. Plus Jim-Bob don’t swim a lick./////
I am a certified interior type country soul, give me hills, grass, cattle, horses and just enough sheep for a couple of good sweaters and I am happy. RETIREMENT DREAM……..Quartsite California amidst the cactus and gravel that fills the unlush countryside, reweaving discarded lawnchairs using baling twine that has been found laying along rural roads after ranchers finish feeding ( lets call it “repurposed” ranch twine it sells well )…..oh, and don’t forget a 115 degree blazing sunset to ensure a constant trickle of sweat runs between your shoulder blades just set the mood for this scene of Jeremiah’s luxurious retirement villa set up behind his 1974 Winnebago Scout motorhome a blue irrigation tarp flaps in the breeze as it acts like an awning. No recycle bins, no dog dropping containers nor Bouganvillea…..the dog droppings are stuck to your left foot and the empty beer is thrown on the pile over to the right…..we will haul it away next year….. or start a new pile?///////
Pretty much always a village within less than 10 miles, so it’s hardly a journey where a person ever feels vulnerable shall we say. It’s not a complaint nor intended as a slight, it’s just here in text to tell you the reader more about what rural Ireland really looks like or most of the UK to be honest. Indeed Scotland had some places with far less population and that out on the edge feeling. There have only been a few instances where I encountered a greater distance between villages, and even fewer where you are overwhelmed by that “I am totally alone` sensation. From my many conversations along the ride, Irelands average farm is between 45 and 75 acres, it would have as many cows as it does acres, and if they raise sheep they could have 2 ewes or sometimes more per acre. They will raise pretty much all their hay on this same farm ground. The value of sheep wool is so low today that it’s now a financial burden to the producer to have it removed. The lambs value is minimal at best, as one producer said to me, ” in America, when was the last time you sat down to a meal of lamb at your own table” and therein lies the problem, lamb has fell out of favor as has wool itself. As I have been told many times now, the Irish cattle industry is hanging by a thread and a thin strand at that lad. If it weren`t for the EU subsidies we would be gone already. The only ag product holding it’s own is milk, those fellas are doing pretty good right at the moment. The EU subsidizes our beef programs, the wool and lamb prices, it pays us well to rebuild our rock walls and barns, it pays us even better to return to thatched rooves……don’t forget that Poland and Ukraine are the primary producers of fine quality river edge reeds for long lasting thatch rooves and at least Poland is an EU member. As one farmer stated, we have a protected market and that ensures our existence but it does not ensure nor allow profitability because the market is so heavily manipulated. He closed by telling me that while he loves farming, he would be unwilling to talk his children into the lifestyle.///////
So, since we are talking lifestyles and markets, let me summarize the many conversation I have had with regards to education. I think you all know how I feel about advanced education……its totally unnecessary if you have a hard working wife. Okay, okay, put the long knives away I was just kidding. Dang, just imagine what retirement would look like if you could have 2 hard working wives….wowzer.//////
Maybe the longest and most indepth education conversation I had, was with young Claude who was minding the little store in some now forgotten village. Claude has his sights set on forensic type accounting. Claude readily agreed that too many young people were locked onto the notion of requiring a 4 year degree, he himself has student friends who had great grades but have already opted for the skilled trades route. The problem that I see, says Claude, is that the Irish political system, once again it’s one of assurances and equity of outcome, it does not allow nor Invite entrepenurship, matter of fact students leaving University have a skewed version of being in business if you compare it to the same thing in USA for instance. I did assure him, that there are plenty of young people under 30 say, who feel as though financial equity should be guaranteed not just random chance. The Irish follow politics closely, especially the USA, as a young person, I can tell you what all of the EU needs is a little American competativeness tossed into our system, we should take a lesson from Trump on that accord.//////
It struck a chord with me at just how similar the thoughts of my Math degree friend Luke’s thoughts mirrored those of Claude. Keep in mind, one was graduating while the other fellow was just about to begin his education. Luke, readily acknowledged that Ireland was both special and beautifull….but you cannot make dreams happen here nor in Europe. Old money, established money, still rules the day says Luke. If you want to give a dream legs, you almost have to go to the USA , or too a lesser extent Canada. I will try my luck in Canada first says Luke, and if not there, then I will try something in USA. The biggest problem we face right now are Trump administrations tightening immigration restrictions. Certainly a problem for me now, but I agree with the policy. Ironic he says that I am caught in this dilemma. You understand he says to me, that our Irish immigration problem is born out of an EU mandate that has not proven to be healthy for our economy in the long run, nor is it the best thing for the economy that people are leaving he says. That has me curious, so I ask him why he thinks that to be the case. Well says Luke, if you consider the demographics, most of the ones who arrive are in that 18-35 age group. These are the next generation entrepreneurs, that effort and energy should be happening internally to the struggling country in order to help it grow……or at least that’s how I consider it today. Admittedly, it may look and feel different when I move to Canada. Finally there was Chris, who swore off University for that of a trade. Oh, I had good grades and could have done the University route he assured me, but consider that that age group has the highest unemployment rate in our country. My Dad sat me down and showed me the cost of going to 4 year schools ( by the way here in Ireland a 4 year degree means you can be done in 4 years, it’s only California who sells you a 4 year degree that takes the average student 6 years to get due to class impaction ). The income of the tradesman is almost par with that of a college graduate says Chris. Plus, with the degree inhand, you will very likely be working for a large Corp here in Ireland, not very often will you begin your own business. So, I am going to get my electrical journeyman license and buy my first house with the education savings.//////
1725 or it may have been 1726, but it has been a long while that this house has been in my family says Connor. Initially what caught my eye as I rode by, was the simplicity and starkness of the old whitewashed rock cottage. Quite often these cottages are really dolled up with flowers and paint etc, they are beautiful don’t get me wrong……but this one reeked of honesty. The owner in a somewhat tattered wool sweater, wellies and disheveled hair, was out front by the door feeding a mess of kittens fresh milk from the aftermath of his morning chores. An overaged, and over tired collie dog never lifted his head from his gunny sack bed, not for the bothersome cats, nor for Connor and I as we spoke for over an hour. Sadly says Connor, the house will remain in the family but not under the same surname as it has since the beginning, I have never married and have no family left who carries the same last name now he says rather sadly. As though breaking from that thought, Connor exclaims, you sure look healthy, may I ask your age. So rather than tell him my age, I ask how old would he guess me to be. Well says Connor, I am guessing somewhere right around 50, it would be my guess ya couldn’t do this sort of ride if you were much older. Well, I am 63 I tell him. Oh cracky says Connor, your a year older than me……..that’s just hard to believe……are us sure. Oh yes I am pretty sure that’s my age. So, I assure him that the oldest aged long distance rider I have met was a German fellow who at the time was 86, but the STUD that I met was an Austrian aged 79 who was in amazing shape. So, I don’t think it’s purely age that dictates ability, but attitude and a program of continuous fitness maybe as a better determinor of ones health. So Connor asks, have you always been a over active healthy fella……..no I says, I started last week. LOL////////
Sitting here letting my hand washed clothes dry hanging on the fence outside, drinking coffee and talking to Abdul the hotel manager. We are talking about I migration and education, both are tender edged subjects, and both of us are visitors to this country. The problem here in Ireland, is the willingness to work says Abdul, the Irish youth are just not willing to do what is needed to be working, they have expectations far in excess of what is available. The immigrant kids that come here have no expectations they just take whatever is available and move on from that to the next job that comes up. So while it looks like the jobs are being taken by a foreign body, the company hiring would most likely hire the Irish person had they even applied he says. His point makes sense, not being here everyday, I cant argue with it. The immigrant kids that come here are mostly uneducated, so they have no expectation based in the fact that they have a degree to substantiate their rate of employment, on the other hand says Abdul, there are not enough jobs created In Ireland each years to employee all the degrees being turned out each year iether. When you take a look at what is going on here Ireland, most of the immigrants will gravitate towards the tradesman skills, they see that as a huge opportunity to them within this economy. I think this is very smart choice, you are earning money even as you train, and there is no out of pocket money for the advanced education. By the time a young man hits 35, he can own a new home back in his country of origin, a place he may choose to retire too…..but he will more than likley NEARLY own his home here in Ireland as well by that time. I see this all the time says Abdul./////
Rain, and then some more rain, and the heavy rain is interspersed with light showers. I am cycling as close to nude as is legal, the temp is low seventies, and there are just the right amount of hills to keep the body warm but not abundantly so. The hills around are swathed in a mist of grey cloud, hanging like a canopy on a four poster bed. The winding road undulate and curves under the hiss of my tires on wet asphalt. Hedges seem to grow right in front of you with all the water, the rivers and small streams are just a little darker and angrier this morning with addition of the rain that has fell through the night. My tent hung or sloped like the shoulders of a man at a funeral, the fabric wet and heavy with rain to the point of saturation. My bed however, remained quite dry, thank you God for that small mercy. The sun, at least as a daily visitor to the Emerald Isle, has left some 4 days ago. Since that time it seems the color grey has invaded the palette by which my world is painted, even the rows of small buildings that line the village streets seem to be more grey than when under the watchful eye of the Sun, flowers hang limply waiting the arrival of the next ray of sunshine. Sick and tired of the coastline I am headed for a row of distant hills that remind me of Dragons teeth, a little climbing will be good for my somewhat surely demeanor on this day that the Lord hath made. The ground in front of me is in the state of constant rise as I approach the hills,. It’s easy to see below the cloud line that aged spruce forests are being harvested, other places I can see where hefty deciduous trees are being pruned and thinned to further thicken those Elms, Oaks etc that remain behind standing sentinel over the very productive Irish ground they inhabit. It brings to mind the biblical command from God that states we have been given dominion over his creation and that specifically we are to be STEWARDS of his creation. At least as it pertains to forestry in most of the UK, that seems to be happening.//////
The fast moving River au Suir flows down thru the valley that one could call “castle valley”. At least by my count when walking thru the Clonmel Museum, I think I counted 9 or 10 castles, and 3 abbey’s within a 15 mile radius of tiny Clonmel. I rode as far north or inland as Cashel, then rerouted Shirley back to the east and south. Had I not intervened she would have headed due north again towards the Cavan region and no telling where to from there. Sometimes you just have to seize control of the daily ride to keep it on track, today was one of those days. I sat, eating my lunch in a parking lot of a small village grocery store. Nothing fancy nor exotic, just a tub of yogurt filled with fresh fruit and a quart of whole milk. The afternoon breeze blew softly and it was not raining, so I threw my tent out on the ground to dry while I ate. My phone cord is broken from all the twisting and kinking etc. while we have been traveling, so I use my phone very sparingly since the remedy now is a new cord. And that only happens when you get to a larger town. How many castles can you photograph I ask……my brother may ask……and did ask me…….how many danged Cathedrals do you need photos of Jeremiah? To which I say, everyone that I pass, I may never see them in person again…….but I can always look back at the photos.///////
Waterford is my current location, yes, that Waterford……the home of original Irish Lead crystal tht is or was famous the world over. I remember as a kid my Mom talking about Waterford crystal and how beautiful and collectable it is. Sadly she raised a son whose favorite glasses are plastic and you get one in each bag of ” Hank the Cowdogs” brand of dog food…….which by the way Mr. Erickson, should be on the market and in every country feed store. You can thank me later from the retirement villa you buy in Dalhart with the proceeds of such superlative thinking. Pardon my random thinking, Drover and I got off on a financial tangent, wont happen again….. so the process of making crystal comes obviously from the glass making process, but with a slight twist in the making. The glass makers of where else, but , Venice are credited with its discovery and perfectin standard glass. Glass uses silica potash in the making so it is clear with a slight blue tinted at the edges. So to slow the rate that refracted light passes thru the glass structure they infuse it with lead oxide, ( for those of you who are lactose intolerant, gluten free paleo dieters, soy drinking food worriers……..I am not sure the lead will kill you in one glass or 2 of wine…..I will look into it.) which speeds passage of light rays and renders a very white or translucent looking glass product. Hence when you see those amazing pieces of real crystal it incorporates many cut or ground in place designs. These grindings are done with wheels that are charged with oxide particles and all grinding is done fully wetted so as not to heat and crack the fine crystal product. All cracking is done later when the wife throws the crystal into the dishwasher as she watches yet another episode of Frustrated Housesives of 93201. Waterford crystal is no more, at least not Waterford Crystal manufactured here in the village of Waterford. The labour costs in combination with no one drinking out of crystal anymore since that damned dog food company began giving away bright colored plastic cups and bowls…..says the docent at Waterford Crystal Museum. The crystal we sell now, is like many thinks, sourced where it can be made and priced the most effectively. So does that mean China now manufactures the majority of what I am looking at I ask her. Yes, she says, except for the most outstanding pieces which are still being made in Poland and the Chekhov’s Republic.//////
Over hill and dale I roam, constantly in search of home…..and even more so as my time here in the UK draws to an end. I know full well how lucky, no, indeed how blessed I am to have had the chance to ride this piece of Gods Creation. Not only that, but my family was behind me and supported the trip not only thru prayer but financially as well. I do however make every effort to travel cheaply, meaning less than Hilton type rooms and so far only 2 full SUPPERS ( dinners for those raised in USA ) have been bought. Still with that said, I know this journey cost more per day than any of my others simply because there was a village every few miles…….its the convenience factor as I say. So thanks Mom for holding the fort down as we say back in USA. I promise I will make it up to you first morning by making you SOURDOUGH toast the first morning I am home. Can any trip be a true success without the blessing of Christ and the overarching prayers of the steadfast Saints who know me and care about me…..I think not. A HEARTFELT THANKS TO THE MANY WHOM I KNOW PRAY FOR ME DAILY.
One Response to “Blog 15 – Shamrocks and Kilts Tour”
SIXTY THREE! I never took you for a day over 40! Why else would you want to spend so much time riding a cycle without an engine in it? And I’ve always wondered why you and the misses don’t spend more money on vehicles. If you did your 39 year old wife and daughter wouldn’t have to do all that running.
It will be good to see you and hear lots more about the trip.