Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rest day in Cork May 31, 2016

Today was a rest day so it was a day to sleep in, and sleep in we did.  At 9;30 we realized that breakfast was only served until 10:00 am so it was hurry up and get dressed and hurry over to breakfast. 

The breakfast menu chooses for the Garnish House were phenomenal. There was at least 4 different omelets, full Irish breakfast, half Irish breakfast, several different kinds of pancakes, waffles, French toast,  and all kinds of different egg and toast combinations.  I choose an omelet and it was great.  The Garnish House isn’t true b&B as breakfast is not included but at 10Euros for anything on the menu it is the best deal in Cork. 

After breakfast there was no doubt that we were headed into the main shopping area to find a bike shop and an Irish bike jersey.  On our way we walked through the Cork English Market which was originally a meat market.  It still has a lot of different butcher shops in it but there are all kind of other shops offering fancy pastries, chocolates, vegetables, and lots of other exotic foods and spices.  Ths smells were wonderful.  I loved walking through the market and day dreaming about all the different chops, steaks ribs and sausages. It would be so much fun picking out something different every day for your supper. 

After the market we came to a bike shop and they had a good selection of very nice jerseys in  Irish green with beautiful Gaelic designs.   I think they must have all been racer cut as I tried on a XL and it was skin tight so I would up in a XXL.  It is a beauty and will make an excellent addition to the jersey collection.

After the bike shop Ken and Sally and Agnes and I opted to do a “Hop on Hop Off” bus tour of cork.  They have these open top double decker buses and it was great fun sitting way up top in the bright sun.  Yes it was 23 C and bright blue skies.  The bus wound around downtown which is built on an island in the river Lee.  There are a huge number of bridges on the island most of which were constructed in the early 1800’s.  The route took us down to the south past a number of beautiful cathedrals and finally up the north side.  How the bus got down some of the little tiny streets on what must have been 30% grades is a total mystery.  One of the stops was at the old city jail.  So we jumped off and took a tour through the jail.  It was pretty brutal and not only that people were imprisoned for totally minor crimes.  A month for stealing a napkin. There was one story of a young boy who was imprisoned for five years for stealing two brass clocks. 

After the bus tour we headed back to the hotel to clean bikes, rider meeting and get ready for tomorrows ride down to Skibereen. 

There are two major climbs tomorrow and I am going to try and retain the King of the Mountain jersey, however I have been warned there are three other riders lining up to take it.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Clonmel to Cork May 30, 2016

Back to back zowie days!   And I am not kidding.  It really was one of those days from  which cycling legends are born.  I am sure this one will be handed down from generation to generation.  Those of you who suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) probably have the needle buried in the red. 

The day started with a full Irish breakfast in McCarthy’s B&B which was really a full breakfast.  They had everything ham, egg, sausage etc. We waddled out into brilliant blue sky and temperatures around 17C, in other words a drop dead gorgeous day.  We were on the bikes and rolling by 8:45Am.  It was a 97.2 kms day with a total climb of 1114 meters.
The road was down a nice peaceful country road with low rolling hills and a very pleasant tail wind.   You could not have written a better ride. 

At the 28 kms make we rolled in Cahir and there was the Cahir castle.  It didn’t take one second to decide we were going to visit the castle.  Once inside we slid into the castle preview video, and who is sitting in there but Agnes and Sally.  They had arrived just moments before.  The castle was built in the 11th century and was re-built and reinforced several times.  It surrendered to Oliver Cromwell and is therefore in excellent condition.   The tour guide said that the castle is used for movie and TV sets 5-6 times a year and has been the backdrop for Game of Thrones.
After about an hour tour we were back on the road.  We passed the turn to Ballyporeen and I wanted to turn up the road as a friend was born there however no one else did so we rolled on.   It was so much fun just rolling along though the country side in the warm sun.  Before we knew it we were in Mitchelstown where we stopped for a sandwich in a beautiful  park.  I could have stayed the rest of the day there but we were only half way and the big hill for the day was still in front of us.

We dropped down to a large river over the course of about 7 kms and crossed a bridge then made a sharp left straight up the big hill of the day.  There was about 3 kms of 6-9% before you got to the steep part which was about 3 kms of 13-15%. Ken and Patrick made it about 1 km into the steep part before they had to walk.  I decided I was going to beat the hill and started grunting it out.  There was a sharp right just as I passed Ken and Patrick and the grade shallowed out for 100 meters before the steep section resumed and I found a second wind and got past the steep part.  There was another  2 kms of 6-9% before a little dip and then a second climb of about 4 kms of 4-9%.  By then I knew I beat the hill. 

We had 25 kms to go but it was mostly downhill although there were a couple of grinders along the way.   The tail wind had picked up and was providing a nice cooling to what was now a 25C day.  

We sailed into Cork feeling like a million bucks.  We are staying in a gorgeous period hotel called the Garnish House on an island close to downtown Cork. They had tea and fresh scones laid out for us when we arrived.  Agnes and I lucked out and have a king suite.    We have a rest day tomorrow. 

Did I say this was a great day or what?


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Carlow to Clonmel May 29, 2016

What  a great day!  It started with a huge breakfast of sausages, eggs, ham, black puddings, fried tomatoes, cereal,  more toast than you could imagine, juice and coffee.  Wow! Racey Byrnes B&B really set the bar high for the rest of the trip. It was about 9:40 Am by the time we rolled out to Carlow. 

The route took us down a fairly major route however there was a huge bike lane and almost no cars. The pavement was perfect and it was a bright sun morning with a tail wind helping us along.  It just doesn’t get any better.
At about the 45 km mark we stopped to take some pictures by this old stone church.  The guide who was at the church was not going to have us take a few quick shots and roll on.  It was his job to make sure we got the tour and he was going to show off his bit of history.   The quick stop turned into close to an hour but the guide was absolutely fabulous.  He showed us stones from 3rd to 6th century.  Stone sarcophagi with Tempar Knights on them. Like this is stuff right out of Sword in the Stone movie stuff.  The cathedral had originally been built around 1050 , then enlarged around 1150 and then again in 1225 when it was dedicated to St Mary.  The guide talked about the history of the region and how this place was the cultural and spiritual center of the region and how Oliver Cromwell had invaded and sacked the cathedral.  Absolutely fascinating. It was called Saint Mary’s Church in Gowran.  http://irishantiquities.bravehost.com/kilkenny/gowran/gowranchurch.html

After lunch we rolled down to Thomastown  where we picked up some things for our lunch be as the big climb of the day was just ahead we decided to eat at the summit. 

The climb was really tough it was about 6 kms of 5-8% and then 2 kms of 13-15% before it leveled off to 3 kms of 5%.  I was following Ken and was thinking if he walks then I will walk.  He has a triple chain ring on the front and a 32 on the rear. I have a double on the front and a 27 on the rear.  He made it about 250 meters into the steep section before he walked.  Thank God he did as I couldn’t have made it very much further.  We got back on the bikes and rode the last 3 kms to the summit where we ate lunch. 

After lunch it was all down hill and we had only 31 kms to go.  There were some really neat roads on the way into town.  One section was little more than a wagon track but both tracks were sealed.  Well sort of.  More kind of lumps of asphalt  pilled somewhat together. 

I was all in by the time we got town.  However what a beautiful day.  Not a drop of rain.  Unbelievably  quiet roads with almost zero cars and the most beautiful scenery of lush green rolling hills and fields. 


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dublin to Carlow May 28, 2016

Today was the first official ride day of the Ireland bike tour.  The first ride was from Dublin to Carlow and a distance of 89.6 kms with a total climb of 996 m.  We rolled out of the apartment and took a group picture in front of a bunch of row houses which wasn’t very exciting.  So the decision was to ride down to St Patrick’s Cathedral  which was about 2 kms down the route and take a picture.  This would then be the official start of the tour.   

St Patrick’s Cathedral is a huge place and a national land mark.  It was closed so we couldn’t go in which was too bad. I set the camera down on the pavement set the time and ran over to get into the picture.   We had finished taking the pictures when Agnes and Sally rolled up.  

The road out of Dublin was down a very busy road but it had a bike lane so we didn’t feel too threatened by the cars.  All of the signs here are in both English, and Gaelic  which was quite interesting.   We are also on the left hand side of the road so everyone except Jos are learning the rules and trying to remember that when you make a right hand turn you have to go away across the street not just hug the curb.
After we got out of Dublin we came to the big climb of the day which was not all that long but was something like 300 meters high.  My Garmin showed grades 15% in a number of places.  Patrick and I have only  27 teeth on my rear cassettes so it was a pretty tough grind.  I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top.
The route took us down all kinds of interesting roads.  Everything from main roads which had excellent shoulders or even bike lanes to over grown country lanes with grass down the center.  Most of the roads were only one lane wide and almost totally devoid of cars.  The Garmins worked perfectly and the down loaded routes took us right to the B&B.

We came upon an old set of ruins which  had a number of grave stones around it.  The ruins were in the middle of sheep pasture.  So we walked out to look at them.  The  head stones all seemed to be from mid 1700 although there were some which were so badly weathered you could not begin to tell their age.  The latest ones were from 1914 so were probably soldiers who died in World War I.  The ravens were nesting in the tops of paripits which gave the place kind of a creepy feel.   

Tonight is in Racy Barnes B&B.   It is a lovely older country inn which has been lovingly maintained.   Delightful  d├ęcor  creaky floors and big high ceilings.

To day was a great first day.  Everyone had a wonderful time.  It was mostly broken cloud with only about 15 minutes of rain which we spent under a tree. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Dublin May 27 2016

Everyone did their best to sleep in this morning but everyone was awake at around 5:30 am.  The jet lag is still working on us.   Jos probably the least as he has had three weeks in England prior to arriving here.   However it was really nice laying in bed until you absolutely had to get up and get rolling. 

We had a leisurely breakfast and a lot of fun talking about this trip and past bike trips.  Ken was on the phone working on getting his luggage delivered from the delivery company.    Rory’s apartment where we are staying doesn’t show up in Google maps, so Ken was pretty concerned when talking to the delivery personal.  However it did show and then we headed off to get our rental bikes. 

We got down to the rental shop and the mechanic who was supposed to be getting the bikes ready was sick and so there were no bikes ready.   The store manage says that there only two bikes and we are one short.   Hey we are in a bike shop and there are lots of bikes how can we be short a bike I reserved three months ago.   So then this bike is dragged out and then another bike. One looks really bad, really dirt and the chain looks pretty saggy and the rear cassette is at best a 27 which is way too small.  Then Terry the store manager drags out this big steel touring bike with bar end shifters.   But it is a really good bike.  Ken takes a shine to it.   Of the original two one is brand new and it is just Patrick’s size.  Not the world’s best road bike but a nice aluminum bike with a brand new drive train.  Finally Terry goes and gets this beautiful black all carbon bike with Ulterga drive and Fulcrum 5 wheels.  Ok I can ride this but I have to promise that if I am going down I have to hit the ground first so that the bike can land on me.   I am also told he has a GPS in the bike so he can track me around and I cannot make off with his pride and joy.   We all leave really pleased with our bikes and are glad to be rolling. 

Back at the apartment Jos wants to go for a ride and Patrick and I join him.  I thought it would be a great idea to do a shakedown ride to get the Garmin’s tuned in and expose any  faults which need addressing.  Jos lays out a 30 kms course around Dublin stopping at a big bike shop down at the south end of town and through Phoenix Park.  When we get down to the bike shop we are standing in the parking lot and who drive up but Terry from the bike shop.   “See I have GPS in the bike  and thought I better see what you are up to.”  Turns out he was off running errands and spotted us.  Too funny.  Bikes work out very well and we are ready to roll out in the morning.

So the ride starts first thing in the morning thanks to Terry from CycleBikes. 

Thanks to Rory for hosting us in his Airbnb apartment. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dublin May 26, 2016

People talk about not being able to sleep through night because of the jet lag.  However I had no problem what so ever. I was off to bed at 9:30 pm and never woke up until 6:00 am local time.  I often have trouble sleeping in a strange bed but not last night.

Agnes wanted to get a sim card for her phone so we headed off to find a card.  Jos stayed behind to wait for Ken and Sally who flying in today.   Agnes got the card in her phone and almost immediately got a text from Jos saying that Ken and Sally had arrived, but they had left their luggage in Toronto. 

All of us headed off to lunch and wandered into Slattery’s Pub, which is a long standing local pub and server of traditional Guinness Pints.   I had the chicken curry and a pint of Guinness.  It was absolutely the best.  From lunch we wandered down through the down town area.  It was a lot of fun visiting the different sites.  Took our pictures by the James Joyce statue.  Took pictures of the Spire of Dublin which is a 121.2 meter stainless spire. 

Just be for leaving Kelowna I had watched the Netflix mini-series called Rebellion which detailed the events of the March 1916 armed rebellion.  It was a very good series and The General Post Office was the headquarters of the Irish Volunteer Army so we went in there and there is a huge display celebrating the 100th anniversary.  They even had stamps with the heroes of the revolution.  From there we wandered down to Dublin Castle which was the headquarters of the British forces stationed in Ireland at the time.  There was a whole museum there dedicated to the March 1916 uprising.  Even though the revolution was unsuccessful and all of the revolutionary leaders or at least most of them were rounded up and executed by the British the seeds of freedom had been sown.   These kind of crazy ideas are hard to stamp out and within six years Ireland had been granted independence.   Or at least part of it as Northern Ireland is still under British rule.

We wandered through the Temple Bar area of Dublin which is a large walking area of down town Dublin and is probably the oldest section of Dublin which dates back to 1127 when Dublin was first granted a charter to have its own city council.    It is all a cobble stone street and walking area of the city.  The streets are too narrow for cars.  It is reported to have the highest density of pubs anywhere in the world.

Supper is still up in the air.  Go out for super for fish and chips and Guinness, stay in and cook or stay in and order pizza.  People are pretty tired so I think the order pizza is a leading contender.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kelowna to Dublin May 24-25 2016

On Monday night I dropped Ajax off that the dog sitters house.  It was tough leaving the big guy behind.  He knew something was up as his bed and dog dishes were in the car and we don’t take them to the park.  The house seemed really empty and quiet without him.  I am really think I am going to have to get him certified as a companion dog so that he can come with me on the plane.

The flight was at 8:50 Pacific time which wasn’t horrifically early but by the time you back up security and getting to the airport and all the other stuff we were up at 5:00 Am Tuesday and arrived in Dublin and by the time we got to the apartment and settled in it was 4:00 Am Pacific time Wednesday.  The trip was tough because the flight was broken up into three segments.  Kelowna to Toronto which was about 4.5 hr.  Not enough to get any sleep and no meal service. The plane landed at a small satellite terminal which had no food services and there was not enough time to leave security and go to the main terminal.  The second leg was from Toronto to St John’s Newfoundland. The second leg was again about 4.5 hours and again not long enough to get meal services and not long enough to get any sleep.  The St John’s airport is quite small and again no food and not enough time to leave security.  The last leg into Dublin is also about 4.5 hr so no sleep and no food.  At least on the 12 hr flights you get food and sleep.

As we stepped through customs Patrick was there waiting for us. It was good to see him. I was concerned how we were going to meet him in the airport. Jos arrives in about an hour from London so I will go exploring with him.

We have an apartment right downtown Dublin.  It is only a few blocks from all of the major attractions.  The host is really quite a character.  Rory gave us a great description of all the things to see and places to eat.  

Jos arrives and we go and to eat and have a Guinness.