Posts from the ‘Kilts and Shamrocks Tour’ category
A solo cycle tour of Ireland, Wales, Jolly Old England and my ancestral homeland of Scotland. The chance to visit a few Bothies, travel the most rural roads I can find, and enjoy the Emerald Isles to their fullest.
I 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……..it 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.
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…..so 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……..so 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…..you 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…..you 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.///////
Arriving 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
My intentions were good, my effort was also good considering it was pouring rain all night, I rolled a soaked tent and sleeping bag…….it stopped for just 1/2 hour at about 2pm…….I think that’s when God went and got more water. Cause after that it came down harder. Rolled into Fort William at a little after 5pm, full intentions on getting a room and getting blog 11 posted. Gotta tell ya, I love taking the pictures and would do so even if I didn’t blog. Don’t even mind writing out the sort of daily going on. It is simply that danged WordPress program that I just hate. I worked till just after midnight on the blog, I also had to get my tent and sleeping bag cleaned up and dried out, so that was timing some of my time. Got up early, worked on the images till just after 9 and left the hostel stay. Headed for the Post, and mailed some items to my kids. Then headed to the first open coffee shop with wifi, my intentions were, get the blog up. Sorry, worked right thru till just after 12 noon, finally just folded my crap up and left before I stabbed someone with a coffee stir stick…….WP is pure evil frustration. Nothing would copy and paste, no matter what I done.
The hills to Fort William where indeed demanding, and alot of them. I rode both main road and single track dirt paths, it was wet, lots of puddles and mud. While riding, I could not but be impressed by the hardiness of the Scots and others. While I am cycling, I was able to see dozens out in the same weather as myself. Some carrying huge packs, others obviously on a simpler day hike……but they were out there doing it. The trekkers or walkers as we may call them in USA, can range in age from just late teens all the way into their eighties. Fort Willim couldn’t come son enough, I was pretty cooked by the time I arrived, and yet it really wasn’t that many miles, about 50 from where I started. As many of you know, miles, hills and wet does not a happy man make.
All the time I sat there working on the blog, it was cloudy and rainy, with stiff breeze from the north. 5 minutes after I walked out and left, it was brilliant sunshine. See, even God hates blogging. Sunshine, due north all day except for one 15 minute spell of rain shower. Rode north along a lake, great single lane road, just me and logging trucks. Joined the main road, not really congested, just pay attention. Busy rather than continually worry busy. Road by and looked at the viaduct at Glenfinnan, great looming piece of rock work. But sadly there are scads of tourists now, because they have used this viaduct in 2 James Bond movies and 3 or more of the Harry Potter movies.
Sitting here in my tent, facing due north just to the south of Lochailort, and not 20 feet from the gently waving waters of the North Atlantic. I am but 700 miles from Iceland, and only 20 miles at best from the outer Hebrides, which as you all know is the home of the famous Harris Tweed coats and wollen works. This is a special tweed fabric made with heavy spun wool, much different type of wool. The wool used is very long, and quite coarse, it makes a long wearing and durable piece of clothing. Unfortunately, the coarser tweeds do not pair well with the factory ripped super skinny Jean’s. Just a wee bit to puffy thru the shoulders I am told. How would I know, I am in spandex.
I woke the sun, or it woke me, but I was up fairly early. The tide was low and the gulls were already sweeping the tidal flats looking for an early sea food breakfast. I had a power bar what they call a flapjack here, and a swig of water and hit the road. Up, around and down I went now mostly heading west and a little south. There are logging sites everywhere, even out on the islands, they are cutting and replanting pine, spruce and larch. The tiny road sucks just a wee bit narrower, something Opra can’t seem to do. The bridges, are all marked as weak bridges, and rated for very low tonnage. Quaint rock cottages make up the bulk of the houses you see from the one. Very little farming, pretty much, tourists stays, logging and raising sheep is the main styles of livelihood that I seen. A drop dead gorgeous ride around this block of land that I rode. I simply rode to fast is all. I stopped in Stantian to clean out my food bag as a cleaning was badly needed. A flat of smoked herring fillets in sunflower oil had broke open and that stinking fish was on and in everything. Got that job done with the help of a lady at a little cafe, she boiled water for me to do the cleaning. Plan was to just get down the road a ways and maybe pitch early.
But oh no, I guess God had a different plan for me. I met another cyclist about my age who was coming up the other side of a long grade. Tall fella, in good shape for his age, and easy to talk to as we stood on opposite sides of the road visiting. He is a roadie, a strip down race bike, and long legs that’s a classic roadie. Where ya staying tonight he asks?? Not sure, I just put my tent up where I think it’s safe, I tell him. Nonsense, you can stay with me tonight, so whzy don’t you follow me. So off we go, very tough to keep up, ,but we work at it. Just 7 miles down to the ferry crossing. I am just a few miles south on the other side he says, won’t take long at all. Well, it was 18 miles and my legs are burning and I seen 5 million places where my little tent would have fit perfect.
Finally made it to Tony’s cute little place, and elderly crofters rock house that has been totally redone and modernized, very nice indeed. Tony was as I said an amiable fellow, a retired English teacher. We ate well, with 2 rounds of black pudding which I love. Several rashers of bacon, which by the way is far different than our bacon as it is far meatier than ours. And topped it of with juice and beans a great way to end what was a tiring day for me. Oh, pardon me, I almost forgot to mention that Tony drummed up some very fine apple pie and ice cream which settled within that inner tube shaped device I keep around my waist for occasions just like this. We visited till my eyelids got to heavy and Tony must have noticed, being an awesome host we turned in at about 11.15. Breakfast was a huge bowl of oatmeal, toast, fruit juice and of course coffee. Tony, I didn’t thank you near enough for your kindness and hospitality, I hope someday that you show up in California and I can return the favor.
I got left and began riding. The plan was to get to Oban and make some road choices. But those choices got made early at the Ballachulish bridge. I had 3 choices in front of me, and I took a route that would see me in Taynuilt just in time for a church service. I was the hit of the party, once again, I think it was my cologne. Pastor Tim Telfer gave the service, and soon to be Doctor of Choral Singing, Dr. Peter Jennings walked us thru ancient Scottish Hymns and there historical significance as it pertains to the first edition of the Scottish Salter ( very first published Gaelic hymnal dating 1637). The pastor and his wife Jan, are from southern California. The Doctor and his wife are from Walla Walla, Washington. All told, about 40 in the congregation, cool service. Had my obligatory cup of coffee while I mixed with the parishioners of Taynuilt and then took my leave.
Rode out of town, had checked my map, and began climbing hills. Rold down off the opposite side of the ridge I had climbed and met a couple from Belgium who were also cycling. Had a great visit, learned Alito about cycling in Belgium. They were headed for Oban and some whiskey, are you coming Paul asks me. Sorry, but no. I don’t drink fir one but thanks, secondly I am not going to Oban. Well then he says, that is really to bad because the is road only to Oban. Yes I did, I misread my map and had to cycle back to where I had began. Worked out just fine, my intent was to stop at a flat spot and make myself lunch. Since I went back thru town, I stopped and bought lunch. A fine salmon toast, salad and deep dish apple pie with a grand vanilla sauce. As they would say here…..IT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT.
Took the correct road south, headed out towards Loch Aue. It’s actually quite a ride, very narrow single track which runs a few hundred feet above the loch,s edge. When they build a road here they just scrape a flat spot 6 feet wide and no deeper than needed to make a road. So it follows the natural contours of the Loch,s edge. That means you have some nasty climbs, they will hit as steep as 34% according to one Belgian fellow that met while riding this road. He had an inclinometer mounted on his handlebars. Stopped in Dalavich for tea, it was a late start due to a heavy rain shower. Plus there is a silversmith in this tiny village. To bad ya arrived today lad, the silversmith is headd fer Edinburgh for supplies says Andy at the Dalavich general store. Sat there visiting with Andy, and having tea when along came a family from Calgary Alberta Canada. There third child is going to University in Glasgow.
Rode on south, heading ultimately for Campbeltown, the draw of Campbeltown is like a magnet on my mind, that’s where I will be taking the Ferry over to Ireland. Before any of that can happen thought, I do need to put a new front tire on my bike since the side wall is bulging badly. Stopped in Lochgilphead cycle shop and had new tire installed. I have a room right across the street, at the Old Stag Inn & Hotel right here in Lochgilphead. I have already posted blog 11 and feel like life will be successful after all. My 50 dollar room which was just fine thank you, included a full English breakfast which I ate rather late in the morning. I needed to call and confirm that the Kintyre Ferry was indeed still running since a heavy drinker told me that canceled that ferry. Gotta tell you a rather funny story that happened with this same fella, it would have been better if it could have been caught on camera. So, I am sitting down in the lobby area as close to the router box as I can get so I can have the best internet possible.
This fellow who has had a few to drink, comes my way since the bathrooms are past me. A conversation ensues once he has finished draining his bladder. He asking where I am from, what am I doing……your on a bicycle you say? Yes is my reply, I am traveling by bicycle and camping at night. He looks at me with a fishmongers raised eyebrow, looking down on me where I sit. He leans back to correct his balance and places one hand firmly on his hip for emphasis………his arm comes up and his index finger extends……he is going to make a brilliant point but it’s all happening in slow motion for me and at lightning speed for him I am sure. You know that this sort of nonsense comes to an end when you get to be my age, so enjoy it while ya can lad he says with a great flourishing hand gesture. Curious, I ask him, well how old are you? Lad, I am 58 and all of it……..and what about you he asks.? Well, I turned 63 in March. I swear he about fell over looking at me. He put his hand to his forehead and said more to himself than to me……good God what has happened to me! I could see he was devastated, a broken man. I excused myself and claimed to need to use then men’s room down the hall…….being a loving Christian I limited myself to JUST ONE cartwheel while walking down the hall…..and I never looked back.
The ferry is running, it’s time to roll. Just 51.5 miles is what my map-AP tells me. But I confess, this was a brute of a ride for me. I am camped 4 miles short of making it to Campbeltown. 17 hills of over 12% grade, plenty in the high teens and 20,s. And I am totally done, I will finish the rest tomorrow. By my calculations, there should be 6-8 stiff little climbs left yet. Most of these climbs are several hi dried yards to maybe 1000 with a few switchbacks on the longer climbs. I have a grand camp site, a roadside picnic area, mowed grass, tables and all to myself. I am 100 yards off the shore, my view out the tent is that of the shore of Isle Aaran some 2 miles out in the Atlantic. Can it get any prettier. Praise the Lord for safe roads and good health. We pray for those suffering poor health, and pray thanks to the many Saints who I know are praying for me. Good night and may God bless us all. Campbeltown is a gorgeous little town, and worthy of a visit if you get over this way. The area is pretty enough that Sir Paul McCartney wrote and sang a song about it called Mull’O Kintyre. Take listen to it on you tube.
The irony of it all is a little overwhelming, but let me explain. We are in Scotland, as you may have figured out by now, in the home area of William Wallace and many of the famous battles fought in Scotlands fight for independence. Those battles were fought to acknowledge that the people of Scotland wanted to be a free people. These movie memories give cause to mentioning a conversation I had today before I left the church. Since the churches here always seem to have a wee bit of a socializing after the service. Rather than walk around and say hello before the service as we do at home, which is fine, they serve tea and coffee and biscuits which you and I would call cookies. During this get together I had the chance to talk to the Pastor and his helper about Brexit and the Scottish independance vote ( and yes we talked about Christ, the Church and our youth).
So it goes like this at least according to these two fellows. The Scottish people voted overwhelmingly against autonomy and soveriegn Scottish rule in favor of remaining a part of the UK. They also voted as a majority to stay within the EU, rather than leave the EU but remain within the UK. but the biggest irony at least to me, was that given a choice between maintaining its membership within the EU, or a UK that leaves the EU, the larger majority would remain within the EU. The Scots see their own way forward as being a part of the European Community first and foremost.
Back to the house I am staying at, the Alba Guest House. Originally setup as a half way type house for addicts which I did not know about, a few years back they dropped that mission due to the legality costs I cured when that is what you do. Now a simple guest house with shared bathrooms, and okay bedrooms. It was a fun stay, and met some nice folks. So here is Jeremiah a recovering alcoholic and one who has found Chrst. Then there is Nils the fellow from Netherlands and a fellow now dry or off heroin for 18 months now and searching for meaning in life, wondering about a God figure. The housekeeper, 6 years now recovered from alcoholism and strong Christian now. And Gerald the house owner, now 20 years recovered alcoholic and strong Christian walk. Only 2 other peop,e at the house that I don’t know much about. But for it being a simple guest house, sure were a lot of addicts rolled thru at one time. I really think we all ended up there for the sake of Nils who is searching. NILS, let me just say, Jesus loves you brother and he is waiting patiently for you to invite him in.
There was supposed to be big breakfast fryup Scottish style. Everything, sausage, bacon crashers, black pudding, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, mushrooms etc. But I woke at 4.30 and could not get back to sleep. So I monkeyed about for a while and finally rode out headed mosty north at about 6.45am. It was raining, cold, dang cold, then the sun would poke out, followed by an arctic blast and rain, and then kersplat the sun would find its way thru the clouds and heat it all back up again. I was taking clothes off all day long, I know how a stripper feels now by the end of the day. I even checked to see if there were any dollars Bill’s hanging out of my underwear….no such luck……all though it does feel like there is a coin hiding in there somewhere.
On the one hand, I can say I am loving Scotland. That would be the hand that still has a waterproof glove on. But me left hand, he ain’t so smart ya know……and he done lost his glove…..not he’s not to happy with Scotland. Guess he is a wee bit tired da’rain he is. Rode north out os Stirling winding my way up thru to Braco. There was a large Roman fortification here in the day, The Ardoch Fort as it is known is a part of the Gask Ridge defense system built by the Roamns approximately 20 years Head of the Hadrians Wzll a better known Roman artifact. But the Ardock is the best preserved large Roamn earthenworks fortification in existence. Date is approx year 132. It was occupied for a very brief time, abandoned, and then reoccupied by the Roman’s around the year 140..The pack horse bridge which predates the fortification, was at one time a gateway to the highlands. Still standing strong after nearly 2000 years, as does many hundreds of feet of the fortification wall. I can’t help but think how joyous the soldiers were when the Emporer let it be known that they were to a abandon the UK. I am betting that when they had crossed the English channel they all through there rubber gloves and water proof suits at the island. From then on it was going to be beaches and bath towels.
Heading out of Braco, I met 3 cyclists, two were my vintage, and one a very young girl of 17. The girl was doing John O`Groats from northern most point, down to Lands End the furthest southern most point. They were all doing B&B travel, Jay-Dub is far to cheap for that sort of luxury…….I wonder if that’s why my wife refuses to travel with me anymore ??????? Heather on the hillsides, Gorse lines the road with its brilliant yellow plumage on full display like a barnyard peacock. The hills slip in and out of view because of low hanging cloud and rain. The day is briefly laced with sunshine, but only briefly. I round a corner, and the hills all of a sudden step together closing in on me, they have stepped so suddenly that they also captured all the wind for a moment as well as a large portion of a huge rain cloud. The rain is pelting down, sounding like a snare drum on the single lane blacktop road, water is running haplessly down my back, my head is soaked as it everything attached to me that resides under that hat. Decend down thru a small dense Larch forest, it is so. Black inside those forests as if mo light can penetrate within its bounds. I know there is a stream off to my right, I can here it tumbling thru rocks in an effort to escape the cling of the dark dense stand of trees that guard its banks.
Round a corner with a barren hill making up my left flank, the trees suddenly stop and there is a dead flat bank that borders the 30 foot wide river. It’s a fisherman access, so there is a wee bit of a car park and the long grass has been mowed. You can guess where my tent lived that night. Some Aussies drove up and parked, wanting to look at the river. We struck up a conversation, found out they live in Adelaide, and they were both tired of the rain. They had been in Scotland now for 16 days, and had been rained on everyday since they arrived. I assured them that the guy who lived in that tent had told me he was ready for some sunshine as well.
Up early, noonish. All packed up and pedaling. Just a mile past where I had camped, you cross a stone bridge and begin heading up. Nothing to crazy, but up, and up for several miles. To my right the hills are totally tree covered, spruce, and Larch, while to the left, the hills are open and bare but for grass and the ever present sheep. The road, the forested hills, went on for miles and miles. I used to think I could recognize the difference between spruce and larch, but I am questioning my ability now. The tops of the moors are ,essentially empty, oh, you do see farm houses for instance. But even they are to a large extent empty now but for curtains in the windows. The barns I am sure, still get used. But only bay farmers who must live in town somewhere. More rain.
Dropped down into a deep valley, three rivers converge here and they sound magnificent. Rock, covered as if by a seamstress in bri,liant green moss, these rocks line the river course like tapestry hangings that enhance the color of the swift flowing waters. The townspeople are expecting sunshine any time, I notice because they are all wearing their, lighter rain jackets. I hope a Scot does’ina reed this, caus’in he’da skunt me alive and make a Sporran out’a me hide. Well Scotland did not disappoint, it was raining within 10 minutes of my arrival. The town’s folk all cheered, confirming ing they had not lost their innate abi,it to predict Scottish weather…..and they were right again……..aye, it rain’t ta’day a wee bit lad.
Rolling thru town after the rain. stopped, and I met Eric. He is a French engineer who works for BMW, lives in Munich now. Maybe 35 years of age, an avid cyc,its within extra flesh on him like Jay-tub has on him oops, that’s a genuine faux paux that I think I will leave to show my sincere lterary honesty. Anyways, he has done Turkey, Georgia, Azerbijan, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Oman. He is finding the UK tough, between the hill gradient and the cold his knees where giving him fits.
Camped under a huge Sycamore on a tiny 6 foot lane I rode along Lock Rannich towards Pubil. A waterfall serenaded me all night. It was really col the first few hours, but I noticed that with all the running water I sure had to pee alot that night. Not that I am the vindictive type, but today I withheld all water from the big boss just to teach him a lesson. If downhill coming out of that Rannich basin into the valley below. Thankfully it was in my favor. The day has been rain, then larger srops of rain, followed c.osely by road strangler and then after an hour of the rain exiting out the crack of your butt, we had rain dusting for a couple hours and then back to road strangler. Not that I am counting, but the day did have 2 minutes and 42 seconds of sunshine, but of course even that amount of time was broken up.
Roled down into Killin and had genuine fun. Spotted a tea shop and de ided a cup of hot tea would be perfect. Before I got my bike parked, along came Ian on his VERY LOADED bike. I had thought mine was heavy and loaded his made mine look empty. Ian I inherited quite. Sum of money from his mother, may she rest in peace. That was 24 years ago, and he has not worked one day since, and has been cycling since that time. He has, ogged a little over 400,000 kilometers during that time and quite literally worn out 2 Koga Miata Globemasters- maybe the best heavy touring bikes made. He has cycled all over the world, but is fondest of southeast Asia, especially Vietnam and may even chose to retire there.
While Ian and I talked, along came Rvainy from Switzerland. In headed out more or less in the direction from which I came, while he done so I headed in to have tea. I asked if I could join the lady from Switzerland and she obliged. Here is a gal who is a certified AMERICA nut, her first question was why are you here, everyday is the same here, green hills, sheep and rain. In USA YOU HAVE SUCH VARIETY SHE EXCLAIMED. She passed is z tent with her, but o ly uses it on the nicest of nights, if it’s too wet or cold she prefers the B&B or hotel route. Can’t say that I blame her, there is a degree of comfort in that approach thT I think appeals to women much more than the dirty smelly ” hairy legged man tour” where tour success is measured in the number of airfreshners required to be in the same room as the rider……its almost that bad right now……my left eye is really watering.
Something new happened today, and I finally had to talk to a kind Scottish lady out front of. Gro very store to figure it out. I was swarmed by tiny bugs today, yes, even while it rained Nd I rode. At times es they just swarmed my face and legs. Y noon, I noticed I had alot of bites on my legs already. I was swatting the little buggers from my face out front of the store when she came walking out, and she noticed right off. Soooooo air ya lykin thay wee midgets, thay juss hatch’s bu lass week ya’know. Well if they are a week old, I just met them head on this morning. While I am doing a Charlie Chaplin dance routine, my legs and arms flying around like broken parts…….she is. almost and unfettered. WTF I am thinkin – “where’s the flies” of course. Ya godd’a whear thay vanilla, or ya will dew yer’self harm ferr shure. My tent is up, not a great site, ut it’s up and raining all today. Headed for Fort Wiiliam and then south.
Have I mentioned how much bloody rain they get here, in case I overlooked it, they get alot at least right they are having alot. Supposed to snow tonight on Ben Nevis right behind me at the moment. We had 16 hours of strait rain. My tent drowned out last night, I was just off the side of the main road. Tough to find a camp spot, pretty much up on one side a d down on the other.. done my best but lost the battle. Rained thru the night steady, morning awoke with 1 minute 24 seconds of weak sunshine right at day break. Once it slipped into its daily grave, it was solid mist wreathed hills and pouring rain. Still in all of thT I could see a steady stream of brightly dressed hikers working their way along thru the highlands. The midges and mozzie are relentless, you can ride fast enough to be rid of them, but may God in heaven bless you with a natural vanilla odor when you hit a long slow climb. It’s unfortunate, but have been blessed with “Odor de Goat” and it seems to be a natural attractant. Clothes are being washed, even the bag of sleep which I just hope I can get dry by tomorrow. Charging batteries on everything right now, and almost finished with the blog but still have images to work on before I can post it up. Not sure I will get it all done tonight, the eyes are already trying to close. Good night and may God bless our every footfall.
So, how was your day. Pretty danged lousy thanks really. I got left out of Barnard Castle later than I had wanted. But I hung around till the Hardware store opened so I could get a few bungee cords and some super glue to make a repair that was much needed. Raining and windy as I left Barnard./////
The road out, takes you up the river Tees, and in nice weather under blue skies, like they had here June 9th of 1653…..it had to be spectacular. No wonder the bard’s wrote songs and poems about that day. Today however was just a deep dark and foreboding grey. Clouds wrapped the hilltops, concealing from you the ability to relate in distance. The trees shivered and shook under the heavy skies, pelting rain and a 54 degree day. Meanwhile the river, happy and rambunctious as it meandered the valley. Carelessly spilling over waterfalls and the boulders that made its bed. There must have been a dozen or more waterfalls, the largest I seen had to be 20 feet plus////
True visibility was maybe 1/4 in any one direction. There was a hillside off to my left, I assume that it formed the other side of this valley that I am continuously climbing out of. We are rising above the trees that blanket the valley floor, I can see better now that there is a very ominous black band of cloud and heavy rain blowing in from that side. The next small village I think to myself, if there is a tavern I will use it to sur this one out. Sure enough, The Blacksmith’s Arms owned by a Trump hating fella, so we got right into it. I love the USA he says with emphasis, and especially San Francisco, Bodega Bay and Point Reyes, love it he says. This new President I think he wants to destroy the world, don’t you he asks? Hell no I say, and leave it at that. But look at how rude he is with not just his own people, but with the rest of the world leaders as well. Can you give me an example? Well how about how he treated the UN? Right, I was actually a little upset that he didn’t pull us right out of that group of despots and socialist thugs. Despots and thugs, why do you say this? I realize there are legitimate countries within the group as a whole, but you have to honest and admit there are some bad actors within that leverage their seat into nothing more than personal gain. And tell me why the US citizen should foot the bill for Europes defense? Germany, putting in 1% of GDP towards it’s own defense budget is not just wrong its criminal in my eyes. What other world leader has had the courage and conviction to take on China for instance, or within US Presidencies, who among the many have had the tenacity to take on North Korea rather than just keep sending them money as has been the status quo. So for me, since your silent, I think he is going to be seen as one of the best Presidents we have had during a time when journalism has totally derailed and forgotten what actual journalism is all about. My hot coffee was not free../////
You can just never tell with the clouds and the wind. It looks to me like the band of heavy rain has slipped over the other ridge and gone….so I make good my escape. It sure hasn’t, it comes boiling up behind me, even though I am riding uphill into a 30 mile and hour head wind. Okay, okay…..I hear the OMG comments being made out there. There are 4 cyclists who all rode in from different directions, all 4 of us were quite literally blown right off the road. I was blown off not once but twice as I struggled to pedal uphill into the wind and rain….I was actually leaning as well to make up for the force of the wind, and whoosh came a gusty and sent me strait for the rockwall and grass. One lady rider broke her metal headlight shell she hit the wall so hard. By the time I got to Alston, I was frozen. 4 different bikers converged on a tiny tea shop, not so much for tea, but more to warm up. The young lady who came in from the east, was so cold she was in tears. So here we all sit, at the Black Horse Inn, all of us trying to get dried out before we do it again tomorrow, I will bet that each of us is praying for sunshine tomorrow. Not much luck with that says the weatherman. I think Gods got this, so we shall see./////
I ask, so how much snow if any, do you get thru the winter? Lad, was it a wee bit “whinday” today as ya cum’cross. Sure was I tell him, blew me plumb for the road twice. Well let me tell ya says the owner of the Teahouse. We get 3-5 feet of snow on average. But the winds you experienced blow that snow into 20-30 foot drifts real regular like, all along these high Moor roads. Winter here is a brute. And ya’shud takkle a’few the hills when it’s a tad icey, an’yal quit wondering why so many old Land Rovers….he says with a chuckle./////
Full English breakfast the following morning before all of us cyclists depart the Blue Angel Inn and Free House. As it ended up, there were 6 in total who sought refuge at the Inn. Everyone heads out and as it ends up, myself and another fella are headed for Haltwhistle. We are not really riding together, we sort of pass one another now and then. It is pouring rain in those big soak you thru type drops. Yesterday was wet by the end of the day, but today I am well soaked within an hour of riding.much of the distance was shrouded in a veil of cloud, but given the tight rolling countryside and abundant trees and rock not mention the fast moving river. If this ride had sunshine, it would be gorgeous that’s for sure./////
Still pouring down but a town, and a tea house are now closer. I am done with this says my infrequent partner, as we meet at the top of a steep climb. He was standing off under a huge spreading oak, taking a break from the rain. So what are you going to do I ask? I have an Uncle lives in a town not far, I will call him. I am packing it in, it’s to be rainy for maybe a week he says….each, I am done. Not sure if he changed his mind those last few miles into Haltwhistle or not. Call it God leading me, or just the weenie in me surfacing, but when you come rolling in, you pass under a stone bridge and as you come out there is a traffic circle racing you and the first left is into a train station. Wwwwhat? I roll down in front and meet a lady talking to a group of school kids. She stops with them to answer my question, which is when is the next train to Carlisle, about q2 minutes she says. So, I bailed on and disembarked in Carlisle station. I buy a coffee to warm up, and 2 young road race type cyclists come along. We have a quick visit, they advise me to get a ticket to Lockerbie a d then ride the 74 to Douglas./////
Rode the 74 but not to eventful really. The route skirts every little town. So in reality after I left Lockerbie until I camped that night, I n ever met one person. Woke up early with dappled sunlight hitting my tent, the leaves of the trees around me cast shadows amidst the brilliance of sunshine. Rolled camp up and at the same time I was watching the bashful Scottish sunshine being chased away by heavy dark clouds. By the time I made a special stroke, yup,I it was raining. The entire day today, was sunshine for 15 minutes and wind and rain for an hour, an on we went. My new app says we covered 51 miles which feels real good considering some of the days I have had. I had a deuce of a time finding a camp spot this evening, harder than I have had in quite a while.. comparable to finding spots along the coast of Italy. I am camped now, have a pretty good spot finally, had a cheese sandwich, a gulp of water and 3 cookies….I am done and to be honest, yes, I am pooped./////
Woke up to a slate grey sky, a mild wind and just one days ride from Stirling. Stirling is the famous location of William Wallace Memorial. Shame on you if you had to Goolize William Wallace. I suggest buying Braveheart and watching that. Mel Bibson does a fantastic Wallace, something senior Bieber just couldn’t do me thinks. Anyways, there are several towns famous because of huge historical battles, I passed thru all three today. That being Falkirk first, then Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce finally stood his ground for Scotland and finally here in Stirling. I think i had the weirdest day cycling that I have had in a while. Riding my Komoot app route, and it put me on dirt roads for about 5 miles./////
So I hit a 3 way fork in the road, a little confused because there was little difference between the roads and direction since it was a chicken foot shaped junction. My map app does not zoom right in close, and maybe the biggest downfall of the app, it obscures the road names you have to guess. Anyways I went a ways on the one which I thought made the most sense. One grass covered trail went into a cow pasture, the other toe of the chicken foot headed on a narrow path into a grain field. The route I thought, was a 2 track dirt road, the typical 2 wheel tracks and a high grass verge ( this is for Racer and Kollins- tell me what verge means), with plenty of long puddles since it had just rained for the last 489 days I think. So, I gear down and head out on my chosen path, a small creek to my left and it had a very steep bank off the roads edge. Mature trees on both sides of my parg. I am riding one wheel track not the verge at this point. I go just a couple hundred yards and check my map…..wrong path, the correct path is out thru the grainfield after all./////
Turn my bike around, and remount and start off on one pedal but in too high a gear so I am having to bear down on my pedal way to hard and that also seems to cause my upper body to contort and tilt the handlebars in the opposite direction. Now I don’t tell you this as an attempt at making an excuse, but it did play into the lightning speed event that followed. The lid on my handlebar bag popped open, it never does that. For but a second I looked down at my bag because my first thought was something may fall out. But at the same time lurking under the 4 inches of water in the 10 feet long puddle…..was a rut leading right. My tire hit that rut just perfect and launched me with my butt now located higher than my head, and my bike with the front wheel turned sharply right……..strait over that danged cliff. We landed in a grand pile amidst the lower branches of two trees. With everything now being literally upside down and no real firm footing under me, I had a he k of a time getting to my feet and then an even harder time keeping my foothold as the edge was nearly vertical. I bet I spent over half an hour getting out, throw up each bag, make sure you have all the bungee straps etc so you can reload. Then lift and shove the bike back up the slope in what seemed like 6 inch moves, if I tried for to much distance iether the bike would slip back or my foot hold would give way. Frustrating as all get out, but I bet it looked funny as it happened./////
So where you from he asks as he pushes his Koga Myata bike up next to Shirley my Surly. From central California I tell him, and how about you I ask. Belgium, I live right now in Antwerp and a recovering drug addict. My name is Nils, and yours? I was just upside down, so I don’t know my name at the moment I tell him. I will explain later I tell him. We are both touring, and I thought I had a heavy load. Heck no. His is almost double the load I am pushing down the road. He has all I have plus a trailer in which his average sized dog lives. About the same size as an average border collie for instance. I suggest to him that he should buy 5 or 6 more dogs, but hook them to the front of the bike instead! Great guy to visit with, used to do his traveling in a fancy 5 ton truck of the Unimog type…..but his drug movements caught up to him and that all came crashing down leaving him addicted and facing prison time. On the road to recovery now, 1 year 5 months away from it and attending addict meetings every week no matter where he is./////
Spent Sunday here in Sterling by shopping for a new charge cord for my tablet so that I can post this blog today. Riding back to my little guest house I spotted a open bay car wash, and my bikes gears and rimms needed a darn good wash, so I got that taken care of. Headed out from the car wash and heard church bells up the hill not far from me, so I took in a church service at a PresbyteriN church this time and it was a good service. They listened to me since sing the first rhyme and they rolled out a special guest chair just for me that was in the back parking lot. These Scots are such kind people, just amazing. I also just found out tht Scotland is full of Bulgarins right now who come over for the fruit harvest season here…….so maybe the guy who hornswaggled me out of my hat last year will be out in the field as I ride by……I can get my darned hat back.
Think I will stick with my Christ addiction. Good night all and may God in Heaven bless us all and keep us safe.
I actually meant to stay 1 more day in Harrogate so I could wrap up the blog and get back to pedalling. The first nites room cost me 43 dollars, told the check in guy that I was going to stay 1 more nite at about 7pm the evening that I checked in. Oh, that’s fine sir, will not be a problem, except you have to do it online, now or tomorrow morning and everything will be the same as it were for tonight’s room……don’t worry, you know those famous last words. Well, the next morning I set out to rebook my room, web site says it’s totally booked. WHAT? Head down stairs and talk to the front desk, sure enough hotels is fully booked, new room rate is 122.00 per night now…..weezer, JW is far to cheap for that./////
Pack up and leave Harrogate by about 9am, after I buy some much needed groceries and water. My friend Randy tells me that I should not miss the Yorkshire Dale’s, so I make changes to my route which had been headed towards Newcastle upon Tyne. This next part is wee bit embarrassing, but a good lesson and I will share it with all of you. I don’t think I had ridden 5. Miles out and the rain came hard out of the north, along with a cutting cold wind. I was cycling thru an RAF Military Base, and was riding past a dense stand of trees. I actually rold off the road into the trees, I began by getting my full rain suit on….rubber pants that will hold 5 gallons of water per leg and most of that is sweat. A second shirt to cut the wind, a full rain jacket and a pair of seal skin rubber gloves……..you guessed it, I am already drenched and wondering the wisdom of it all. While I stood there, partially sheltered by the dense stand of trees, I seriously thought of throwing up my tent till the rain quit?? Right then, not but 10 feet from me……..two riders pass, bare legged, no rain gear, just wind proof anoraks on. They were busy talking back and forth and didn’t even see me.
That’s it, what the heck if two kids on bikes can pedal thru this rain as if it’s not there, surely I am either as tuff of dumb as them……I mean ain’t I. Out I go, suited up and chasing them down. But the little buggers just seem to have vanished in the rain screen ahead of me. Up, down, right turn, left turn, another lane junction and still nothing. Ah, what the heck they must have pulled over and put their tent up I bet. Nope, about 3 maybe 4 miles ahead, I make a tight turn left and downhill on yet another tiny lane, and passing thru a corpse of small trees, there they are standing fully exposed to wind and rain, smiling and eating fold-whiches. Those are the type of sandwich that a lazy person makes, slam in a slice of cheese and bologna, fold the slice over and gett’er down in 2 bites. That’s exactly what they were doing. SORRY, I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE. Anyways, they were almost same age as me, a man and a woman, bare legged, walking shorts and a singlet and an anorak is all…….and I am standing there freezing. As we briefly visit, we figure out we are all basically headed in the same direction, me fully loaded, and them not loaded. I left before they were done, and about 5 miles later as I grunted my way up a hill, they passed me…YES, on the dang hill. EMBARRASING, may have to send my man card back.
Caves, cafe and tea the sign reads and I roll in like its magnetic. First things first, ask if they have a bathroom and I am praying they have one with those blower dryers. God is good, they do. 45 minutes later, I have a dry jacket, pants, and both shirts, all dried nicely under that blower……not sure if the blower is still working today? I head upstairs, dried out, and warmed up, have a hot tea and a soda biscuit. As I sit, it rains hard, so I drink slower, as it lightens up, I got ready to leave but dressed differently this time. Shorts only, unzipped sleeves on my rain jacket and I headed out in wind and rain to ride further.There were much bigger hills ahead, and it didn’t take long to get heated up. The outer edges and tops of the Dale’s area is pretty sparse with any sort of trees, and the wind is really howling strait out of the north and more often than not it is directly in my face. My little tent needs some wind protection to make a stand thru the night. I need a grove of trees, or the protection of a rock wall for instance, and that’s is what I am on the hunt for as I ride.
The following day was heavily overcast, the weather report had said rain for the next 6 to 7 days. I rode without expectation of sunshine that day, and fully expecting to get soaked again. But God indeed had different plans for me. Rode up a ton of short but real steep little hills. It’s not just that the hill is pitched at say 15%, it’s that you hit a literally 90 degree corner then the climb so all momentum is lost, you are frantically shifting down and the chain is wondering which cog it is actually supposed to stay on…..would you please make up your mind. All total that day, we done 6 hills at 16%, one at 20% and I can’t remember how many at less than that……I was pooped. Riding along and it’s about 6afterish PM and I am thinking of a place to camp. Wow, look at that, right beside the road, a 2 story rock barn, rock fences and a 12 foot gate totally swung back leaving an open entry. Checked it out and it looked perfect, found some flat ground tucked in behind the rock fence and set up my tent……even sat down in the door of the tent and ate a simple cold supper. My mistake I think, was getting up to walk out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine that had poked thru the clouds.
Mere minutes later a car rolls up and a young fella jumps out. He is on the prod, and it’s not hard to tell, he is just waiting for me to pop off, ……he tells me to get the F off the place…..NOW. So, I pack it all up, and get on my way again. But by now heavy rain clouds had built up right out in front of me, and I thought oh crap, there goes my dry camp for the night. Rode hard for the next 2 miles, and spotted a cricket pitch and set my tent up right there. Had a quick visit with a fisherman who was walking back to his car. Lots of nice Browns and Rainbows, best to just use worms when the water is this high he tells me. Do that and you will go home with fish he says.
The following day could not have been more glorious, huge puffy white cumulus clouds greeted the morning sun, and brilliant blue sky enveloped the expanse above. The angling rays of morning sun added depth and character to the rugged landscape, bleating sheep with lambs in tow grazed around lazily, song birds and wild blossoms adding to the natural tapestry of the Dale’s. There were eye hurting greens, and purest of whites, broken by absolute miles of hand stacked rock walls and Laiths. If you pay close attention, and start counting there are thousands of simple 2 story barns, which are called “laiths” by the locals. These act as protection from severe weather for the sheep, but also they are for hay storage in the worse seasons. It would be very common for these barns to be 16 by 30 feet in dimension, and all dry stacked rock meaning no mortar.
The number of miles of hand stacked rock is staggering, it would be a huge number for sure. To see it in person on a clear day, to see how far up into the moors ( moors are the top most country which is treeless and covered in a variety of weather that turns deep purple in the fall ) and upon how steep of ground the rock has been stacked is mi d boggling. Apart from all that, the sheer size of the base rocks is just frightening, given the time frame when this work was done, it leaves me wondering how did they actually manage the rocks themselves. The men must have been like iron for sure, as many walls are a full 8 foot height and of tapering thickness from several feet thick to about 18″ width at the top. As if that were not enough, there is often one faith per small fenced field, a field varies in size by seldom do you see one that would be over 50 acres in size. The Dale’s we first inhabited by the Vikings they think, Lord knows where they parked their boats???? So who stacked all this rock and does it still go on today, all God questions. Certainly the Vikings stacked some, but the bulk of the rock was stacked between 1600 and 1800 time period.
There are professional rock stackers today, of course they are universally known as stone masons. But dry stack, which is a Yorkshire trait, is a different breed from that of stacking brick and mortar. Dry stack requires careful thought and planning as small shim rocks are inserted in JUST THE RIGHT SPOT to aid it keeping a wall strait and level. It is the most time consuming method on one hand, but also the cheapest as it requires no mortar etc.i did see a brand new lrock house being erected all dry stack, and walls of a out 2 foot thickness, two story with huge wooden beams laid in place for second floor supports. The roof was just going up as I rode by, bare and naked with the heavy timber rafters exposed, left me the I impression that these were timbers cut green and framed up from that state, not a load of lumber from a yard.
While riding, I did not see one person walking with his trusty order collie companion, seen tones of “trekkers”, re recognizable in there brilliant colored gear, but not one old fellow walking with his heavy wool sweater and the iconic black and white dog we know and love. So who tends the sheep, and who repairs the walls. Obviously, many men today who may have been out walking the moors. y day in James Herriots day, have a town job somewhere, that would be my best guess. As to the walls, while they are very expensive to maintain, they are exceptionally expensive to build today. That cost is. ore in large part by an agreement with the EU Farming Protocol. To assure the continuation, and enhancement of a unique cultural region and experience, the maintainenece is in part shared thru the whole of the EU. To what extent, of that I am not sure, but the program does exist.
Well hello I say, as a fellow long haul cyclist and I meet on an incredibly steep hill. His name Terry, hails from New Zealand, also a world cyclist. Older than I, he being 73, you will find that the UK has some of the toughest cycling you can find he assures me. Barely a s ow capped peak, save for but a few further north. Here you can encounter five 20% climbs within a single mile in some areas, and then a long grade at 10-15% for as much as 2 miles. Terry is tall, rugged and fit for his age, causing me to ask what he done for a living before he retired. Well he says, do we simple workers ever really get to retire?? When life began I was a school teacher at the High School level, had a wife and all the rest. But the wife up and left, and the kids are more painful to deal with each day it seems. One day while sitting having tea in the comfort of my English home on a Saturday morning. I noticed an ad in the paper that read ” wanted, apple pickers in New Zealand”, that was in 1972. I have picked apples and other things every season since, I live quite simply on the west coast of the best island, that being the south island he says with a wink. Of yes, I do some substitute tea thing and fill ins at the Post Office when regulars goes on holidays. Basically, I try to make enough extra every year to simp,y escape the New Zealand winter, which is rain everyday for three months. I love to go to USA or Australia, get out I to the outback of OZ or into Nevada and Arizona. Just dry out a little he says with a smile. I love USA he claims, the rest of the world could use a little of your countries freedoms.
We part ways, me to the north and he to the south. I cycle thru Thwaite and have tea and reflect a little on the conversation with Terry. It reminds me of a similar talk I had with Chris and Jennifer just 2 days before while standing on a brilliant stone bridge in Bainbridge. I sure wish we had a flaming red headed Prime Minister says Chris. This country could use a swift kick in the economical pants, it’s just atrocious how these politicians run the country. Barry a one of me has ever worked out here where us stiffs make a go of it. Ah Chris, but he is so rude isn`t he says Jennifer, his wife. Yeah, I`all grant ya that gun. So, I ask them if they ever tire of political merry-go-round answers. Where they talk for 5 minutes but never answer the actual question. Of my God yes, we are both so sick of the verbal escape plan. So I says, when President Trump stands up and says XYZ without and extra fluff, why is he all of a sudden crude and uncouth? Well you have a point there says Jennifer……..maybe he could soften the tone just a tad says Chris. We have been to USA several times they tell me, just love it, especially southwest, like Cody and Sedona. I bought a hat and boots I was so impressed with cowboys, seen them all over on the streets of Cody, had ta have me a pair as well. Those boots, they make a person walk funny now don’t they. Did not have the heart to tell him that good boots don’t make you walk funny, and most of the cowboys he seen where other tourists who arrived the day before. None of that was important, the essense of what made America great to him was our apparent freedoms. Praise God above, for the greatest nation on earth JW added this.
I actually meant to stay 1 more day in Harrogate so I could wrap up the blog and get back to pedalling. The first nites room cost me 43 dollars, told the check in guy that I was going to stay 1 more nite at about 7pm the evening that I checked in. Oh, that’s fine sir, will not be a problem, except you have to do it online, now or tomorrow morning and everything will be the same as it were for tonight’s room……don’t worry, you know those famous last words. Well, the next morning I set out to rebook my room, web site says it’s totally booked. WHAT? Head down stairs and talk to the front desk, sure enough hotels is fully booked, new room rate is 122.00 per night now…..weezer, JW is far to cheap for that./////
Pack up and leave Harrogate by about 9am, after I buy some much needed groceries and water. My friend Randy tells me that I should not miss the Yorkshire Dale’s, so I make changes to my route which had been headed towards Newcastle upon Tyne. This next part is wee bit embarrassing, but a good lesson and I will share it with all of you. I don’t think I had ridden 5. Miles out and the rain came hard out of the north, along with a cutting cold wind. I was cycling thru an RAF Military Base, and was riding past a dense stand of trees. I actually rold off the road into the trees, I began by getting my full rain suit on….rubber pants that will hold 5 gallons of water per leg and most of that is sweat. A second shirt to cut the wind, a full rain jacket and a pair of seal skin rubber gloves……..you guessed it, I am already drenched and wondering the wisdom of it all. While I stood there, partially sheltered by the dense stand of trees, I seriously thought of throwing up my tent till the rain quit?? Right then, not but 10 feet from me……..two riders pass, bare legged, no rain gear, just wind proof anoraks on. They were busy talking back and forth and didn’t even see me./////
That’s it, what the heck if two kids on bikes can pedal thru this rain as if it’s not there, surely I am either as tuff of dumb as them……I mean ain’t I. Out I go, suited up and chasing them down. But the little buggers just seem to have vanished in the rain screen ahead of me. Up, down, right turn, left turn, another lane junction and still nothing. Ah, what the heck they must have pulled over and put their tent up I bet. Nope, about 3 maybe 4 miles ahead, I make a tight turn left and downhill on yet another tiny lane, and passing thru a corpse of small trees, there they are standing fully exposed to wind and rain, smiling and eating fold-whiches. Those are the type of sandwich that a lazy person makes, slam in a slice of cheese and bologna, fold the slice over and gett’er down in 2 bites. That’s exactly what they were doing. SORRY, I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE. Anyways, they were almost same age as me, a man and a woman, bare legged, walking shorts and a singlet and an anorak is all…….and I am standing there freezing. As we briefly visit, we figure out we are all basically headed in the same direction, me fully loaded, and them not loaded. I left before they were done, and about 5 miles later as I grunted my way up a hill, they passed me…YES, on the dang hill. EMBARRASING, may have to send my man card back.////
Caves, cafe and tea the sign reads and I roll in like its magnetic. First things first, ask if they have a bathroom and I am praying they have one with those blower dryers. God is good, they do. 45 minutes later, I have a dry jacket, pants, and both shirts, all dried nicely under that blower……not sure if the blower is still working today? I head upstairs, dried out, and warmed up, have a hot tea and a soda biscuit. As I sit, it rains hard, so I drink slower, as it lightens up, I got ready to leave but dressed differently this time. Shorts only, unzipped sleeves on my rain jacket and I headed out in wind and rain to ride further.There were much bigger hills ahead, and it didn’t take long to get heated up. The outer edges and tops of the Dale’s area is pretty sparse with any sort of trees, and the wind is really howling strait out of the north and more often than not it is directly in my face. My little tent needs some wind protection to make a stand thru the night. I need a grove of trees, or the protection of a rock wall for instance, and that’s is what I am on the hunt for as I ride. ////
The following day was heavily overcast, the weather report had said rain for the next 6 to 7 days. I rode without expectation of sunshine that day, and fully expecting to get soaked again. But God indeed had different plans for me. Rode up a ton of short but real steep little hills. It’s not just that the hill is pitched at say 15%, it’s that you hit a literally 90 degree corner then the climb so all momentum is lost, you are frantically shifting down and the chain is wondering which cog it is actually supposed to stay on…..would you please make up your mind. All total that day, we done 6 hills at 16%, one at 20% and I can’t remember how many at less than that……I was pooped. Riding along and it’s about 6afterish PM and I am thinking of a place to camp. Wow, look at that, right beside the road, a 2 story rock barn, rock fences and a 12 foot gate totally swung back leaving an open entry. Checked it out and it looked perfect, found some flat ground tucked in behind the rock fence and set up my tent……even sat down in the door of the tent and ate a simple cold supper. My mistake I think, was getting up to walk out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine that had poked thru the clouds. /////
Mere minutes later a car rolls up and a young fella jumps out. He is on the prod, and it’s not hard to tell, he is just waiting for me to pop off, ……he tells me to get the F off the place…..NOW. So, I pack it all up, and get on my way again. But by now heavy rain clouds had built up right out in front of me, and I thought oh crap, there goes my dry camp for the night. Rode hard for the next 2 miles, and spotted a cricket pitch and set my tent up right there. Had a quick visit with a fisherman who was walking back to his car. Lots of nice Browns and Rainbows, best to just use worms when the water is this high he tells me. Do that and you will go home with fish he says////
The following day could not have been more glorious, huge puffy white cumulus clouds greeted the morning sun, and brilliant blue sky enveloped the expanse above. The angling rays of morning sun added depth and character to the rugged landscape, bleating sheep with lambs in tow grazed around lazily, song birds and wild blossoms adding to the natural tapestry of the Dale’s. There were eye hurting greens, and purest of whites, broken by absolute miles of hand stacked rock walls and Laiths. If you pay close attention, and start counting there are thousands of simple 2 story barns, which are called “laiths” by the locals. These act as protection from severe weather for the sheep, but also they are for hay storage in the worse seasons. It would be very common for these barns to be 16 by 30 feet in dimension, and all dry stacked rock meaning no mortar.//////