Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 6: Final day of riding

After a good meal at the hotel, we all went out to hear live music at a pub, only to find that it would not begin for another 45 minutes. We went on down to the waterfront, where just a few hours earlier the boats were resting on the muck but were now afloat. Two gentlemen in their 60's were coming in on their small motorboat and they told us that the bay has a 16 foot tide, and then we had a great time discussing things with them as well as Alan and Bruce from Toronto. One of them was a top military man in the British air force in the Faulklands War. The other taught Alan and Bruce how to tie a good knot. It was all pretty comic and interesting.

The music was fantastic- even one of our riders, Mike from Atlanta, sat down and played with them for awhile. The bar was small and packed, very authentic.

The ride down to our current hotel was in two parts- the first 30 miles took us along some rolling roads to Ennis, where we began the trip. Diane and 3 others decided not to ride the rest of the way (another 22), so I took one of the unused bikes and set out with Alan, Thea, Mike and Katie for the rest of the journey. We went right along, staying together, and we zipped right into Bunratty at a pretty fast clip.

Its our last night together so it will be a bit bittersweet. We've really enjoyed everyone's company. The sites have been so beautiful, and some of the roads so idyllic it is hard to put into words, especially the small country lanes that went on for miles.

On to London tomorrow, where we will be met by Ruth's husband Stuart to bring us to their house.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 5: Kinvara

For our photos, go to

Woke up to a pretty dismal morning, although it really was not more than a mist when we left the hotel. It was to be a short mileage day- about 28 in all, but that was fine as the sights were fantastic and we had a great lunch along the way.

We were headed to Kinvara, a small town on Galway Bay, so we were going from a highland location downward, but not until we did a bit more climbing, with a big decent at the end. We traveled for about 12 miles on a beautiful country road with little/no traffic with sweeping views of the burren and hills several miles off. At times, it felt like we were in southern Utah with the strange geography. The weather was changing around all day, some rain, some sunshine, but thankfully, always a tailwind. We did have to walk at one point as there was a tremendously steep hill for about a quarter mile and we could not make it up with the tandem. Other than that, though, the riding was very nice.

Diane has been loving going into all the gift and craft shops, but most of all, talking to the people is so much fun. Brian, one of our guides, has ridden with us a few times and he is a wealth of information about everything about the country- its geology, geography, but most of all, its history and politics.

Tomorrow is our last day of riding back down toward Shannon. We've ridden about 200 miles thus far and are now in a groove every day about it all. Just when we get to this point, it's time to end. We did meet another tandem couple from Amherst MA who are doing a self guided tour with the same company- we felt like kindred spirits.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 4: The Burren

Very nice day today- the morning sunshine was muchly appreciated- the mileage on the bikes was just about 35 miles, but very interesting ones. We did a loop around this peninsula seeing some very interesting geography and geology as we went through the Burren- a barren section of limestone along the beach that is spotted with flowers and straight lines created by erosion. We were on this road, passing the numerous tour busses, for about 18 miles, coming to a town that had a great restaurant for lunch. It began raining during lunch, and it let up as we began riding, finally ending about 3 miles into the afternoon ride. We did a really beautiful climb out of the valley up about 1000 feet along about a 3 mile drive with gradual switchbacks and sweeping views- it was actually a 'fun' climb (not that anyone but a biker thinks that a climb of 1000 feet is fun). Eventually, we came out to a Neolithic Tomb site which was pretty neat- it predates Stonehenge by about 2000 years. After this we went the final 7 miles back to our nutty little town that features the bachelor festival every fall.

Diane bumped into Bernie and Coleeen, neighbors of ours at home, who are also on a bike trip, but having not known about ours that offered tandems, went for the VBT tour. We actually went to hear Irish music with them tonight (we also bumped into them in St. John in February).

The food continues to be outstanding, and we are enjoying learning all about the lives of the people in the group.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Days 1, 2, 3

Sorry to everyone for the delay, but the town we stayed in for 2 days had little/no internet service.

So where to start? Right now we are at the end of day 3, having ridden about 45 miles each day, and are in a village called Lisdoonvarna, which all of you must know as the bachelor capitol of Ireland. Every Sept, for 3 weeks, Irish farmer bachelors descend on this town and sow their wild oats with---whomever they can find. Then they are good for a year.

We just came in from the Cliffs of Moher, quite spectactular- hundreds of feet above the ocean, very dramatic. This was only about 6 miles from the end of the day, in which it was supposed to rain most of the day but only actually came down for the last 5 miles- very heavily. We got into our hotel and are awaiting the hot water heater to replenish so we can take our showers. So here I sit, in the dining room where there is internet access, drinking a pint of Guinness, trying to stay warm.

There are 10 people in the group, plus two guides (Wilma and Brian). Two couples are from Toronto, one couple from Atlanta, and two other people from Ashville and a small town in PA. We only need 2 more for a minyan (8 out of the 10). Everyone is nice and are enjoying each others' company.

The first day took us on a pastoral journey to the sea to the town of Kilkee, the second around the Kilkee peninsula, and today straight north from Kilkee along the coast. We will be at this location for two nights.

The topology is a cross between Vermont, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia. We have not seen too many sheep, but there are a hell of a lot of cows. All kinds, including ones that were mating as we went by.

The food has been very good- much better than we had anticipated. Last night I even had a very high quality fish and chips. We've been in pubs, listened to Irish music, and had the most fun talking to the locals on our rides.

I'm going to attempt to upload pictures, but if I cannot, I will surely do it soon.

All is well, enjoying everything. The biking is good, but not as tough as Vermont and certainly not as hot as when as we had left! Most of the time it has been overcast (which did not stop the locals from swimming in the ocean like it was 100 degrees even though it was just about 65-70). Our tandem is fine, not as good as ours, but easy to use and a good size for us.

That's it for now, so I'll try out the photos-


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Arrival in Ireland

We have arrived safe and sound- the flight was quick and easy, although sleeping on the plane was difficult (too many lights, children, and good movies on demand). We got into Shannon, waited a few minutes for our cab to Ennis which was about a 15 minute drive. Drizzly morning, we got to the hotel, a stately one, at about 7 AM, expecting to have to kill 5 hours before our room was ready. The manager looked over the rooms, and discovered one free room, and let us check in super early- we quickly went up and crashed for about 5 hours, catching up on our sleep (in my case, all of my sleep; in Diane's case, just about 2/3 of it). We got up, it was pouring rain, so we ate in the hotel pub- a delicious lunch while watching the Scottish Open. We then strolled all around Ennis, a very typical looking Irish town with dozens of local shops, pubs, etc. We did this for about 2 hours, and saw three other couples in the hotel lobby that would be on the trip with us- there will be 10 people total on it. More on these folks as we meet them formally later.

The people here are quite nice and friendly, and aside from their driving on the wrong side of the road, we have enjoyed everything thus far! A wedding across the street has brought a lot of people into the hotel- this place is bustling!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


We're getting ready for the big trip across the big pond- and looking forward to the much cooler weather of Ireland- it was about 30 degrees cooler there yesterday. Both Diane and I prefer this to the hot, sticky weather we've been having.

Our itinerary can be found at the Iron Donkey (the name of the bike touring company) site: