Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dundalk to Dublin June 20 2017

Everybody was pumped to get on the road as we prepared to leave this morning.  Staying in the Innisfree B&B was lots of fun it was such a jewel box.  However there was electricity in the air as we were doing the final ride of this tour.  And what a tour it was.  The weather for the final tour was excellent as well.  There was  nice blue sky with big puffy white clouds offsetting the deep blue. 

The ride out of Dundalk was non eventful even though we were down some busy streets.  Soon enough we turned off the main road and were cruising down some country lanes in what had turned into bright blue sky.  The wind had picked up considerably and was blowing at around 25 kms/hr.  Strangely it seemed to be coming from all directions.  One minute it was knocking you over in a vicious cross wind and the next a head wind and then a tail wind.  
We turned down one lane and suddenly we were riding along the seaside with a beautiful beach on one side and sand dunes on the other.  Unfortunately it was only a few kms long and too soon we back on the busy highway.

The Garmin routes for this trip have been a thousand times better than paper route sheets and maps of large enough scale would have covered far too many pages to be practical.  However the Garmin route which was built off Google maps did a strange thing today.  We turned a corner and there was an army base.  Big gates and no entry signs. This base had been there for years so how did Google put a road through it?  We had no choose but to turn around and ride back to the main highway and continue down it until we found the route again.

We pulled in to Balbriggan where we found some sandwiches in the now familiar Super Valu.  We only had another 20 kms to our hotel in Swords and it was only 12:30 so there was an executive decision to ride on into Dublin and drop our rental bikes at Cyclebikes in Dublin.  This would give us a full day to recover before getting on the plane home.

The completion celebration was held right in the hotel where we are staying.  One of our traditions is to have rider awards after a ride.  As tour director it was my job to hand out the jerseys.  This being a budget tour we didn’t have real jerseys to award but had colored paper jerseys.  I gave Jos “The King of the Mountain” jersey, represented by a red paper dot, as he never walked any of the hills.  His big 34 rear cassette and 28 front was a winning combination for the hills.  To Ken, I awarded him the white jersey.  The white jersey is still awarded on the Giro to the “Most Promising Young Rider”.  Ken is only one month older than Jos and not quite 60.  This left Patrick with the coveted Yellow Jersey.  He really did earn it.  He was to the top of every hill first and lead most of the time.  Patrick could be in the back and would zoom past everyone to the front. 

Tomorrow is a rest day in Swords.  Time to get packed up.  Catch up on some sleep. And generally unwind.

So stay tuned for further adventures.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Back to Dublin

Temporary Posting

We rode in from Dundalk this morning to drop our rental bikes back at Cyclebike in Dublin.  This completes the 2000 kms cycle trip.

What a trip!   An unbelievable trip with a thousand stories.

I will put ups a better story tomorrow as today we are off to celebrate.  Important stuff like rider awards


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Downpatrick to Dundalk June 19, 2016

After an exceptionally nice breakfast in the Inch School B&B there was a bunch of malingering around the bikes attending to last minute checks.  It was quite understandable and I felt the same myself.  It would have been much nicer to go back inside and have another cup of coffee.  The reason for all of this was there was a cold howling wind out of the south and black ominous clouds hanging low in the valleys.  We were headed west for about 25 kms before the route turned south.  Nobody looks forward to riding 85 kms with 1100 meters of climb into a cold howling wind with almost certain rain.

There were two big climbs the first started right away and climbed about 175 meters.  As it turned out the big climb was broken into a lot of smaller climbs none of were very long and most were less than 10% although I did note a few places where the grades hit 15%.  So the big climb was a none event.  The wind also turned out to be a none event as we were protected by high hedge rows and were riding down a lot of tree lined roads. 

By the time we got to the 25 km mark the first sprinkles of rain were hitting us and a kilometer later there was no ignoring the rain so we stopped and pulled on full rain gear as we could see the rain front bearing down on us.  No more than 5 minutes later we were hit by a total down pour.  An hour later we are riding through huge puddles or through rivers of rain a couple of inches deep on the road.  This rain would continue unabated for the rest of the day.  

I only took a couple of pictures today as it was a heads down and keep rolling kind of day.  One picture I did take was of Game of Thrones set which was being built out in a field.

We were targeting Newrly as our lunch destination as there was a big mall there and lots of places to eat.  Newrly was at the 60 kms mark and when we arrived only a couple of fast food locations were open.  Patrick and I hit the Burger King while Jos and Ken headed over to Subway.  Sitting down inside out of the downpour to eat was really deluxe.  Strip off the wet booties and rain coat then go stand under the hand dryer in the wash room to warm up.  It was great. 

After lunch was the second big hill and there was a lot of flinching and moaning about a climb on a full stomach but it turned out to be a pretty easy climb.  Patrick and Ken got out front when I stopped to adjust my Garmin and Jos stopped to adjust his brakes. It was so wet that even his disc brakes were not gripping.  The route took us down a bunch of little roads and even through a barn yard.  We were glad that there was only 24 kms after lunch. At one point Jos hit a puddle which was probably 30 feet long and 6 inches deep then he plunged into a pot hole which was 3 feet in diameter and 8 inches deep.  I thought for sure he would lose it and go down but he rode though both puddles.  Everyone was glad to be in and out of the downpour.  

The Innisfree House B&B we are staying is an early 1900’s Edwardian home which is decorated exactly as it was prior to world war one.  Little ensuites are the only changes which have been made.  The place is very cool. 


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Belfast to DownPatrick June 18, 2016

This morning we were greeted by a beautiful blue sky and bright sun.  It had all the makings of a great day on the bike.   The bikes had been cleaned and chains oiled so we were as set. 

The new route Jos and I had plotted the day before took us out through some very poor and rough sections of Belfast so I was glad we were rolling through them at an early hour.  There was a number of turns and twists but we found the bike path easy enough.  For the first while there were a lot of walkers and other bikes however they thinned out quickly and in no time we were out in the country.  The Combs Greenway worked great for getting us out of town.
Jos had arranged for Agnes to meet his wife Lynne and her mother Gladys for coffee in Grey Abbey and we were to join them.   It took almost an hour longer than Jos had origninally estimated however we did get there and it was very nice to see them.
After a quick visit we rolled down the street to see the Gray Abby which was built in the 1100’s.  The abbey operated for several hundred years before it was finally abandon.  All that remains is the huge stone walls.  However they are still impressive.  Buildings operating for several hundred years and today we abandon buildings after a few decades. 

We rolled down the road crossing from Strangford Lough across to the Irish sea.  It wasn’t quite clear enough to see the Ilse of Mann but it was pretty close.  We were just sailing along past quaint fishing villages and little towns.  It didn’t take any time to get down to Portaferry where you take the ferry across the Lough to Strangford.  As we approached the ferry we could see it was preparing to depart so we hustled down and made the ferry.  It is only about a 20 minute crossing but if you miss it you have to wait an hour. 

Making the ferry had its downside as there wasn’t much for lunch on the Strangford side and we had to make do with some really bad premade sandwiches out of a Spar store.  However we were all hungry as it was already 1:00 PM. 

We continued on down towards Downpatrick with only a few kilometers to go when the rear shifter on Kens bike let go and the bike went into the smallest gear on the rear cassette.  His bike has an old style Sram indexed bar end shifter and the whole assembly was loose. So we tightened it up and headed into Downpatrick where we found a bike shop and had it worked on.  They tightened the assembly and adjusted the tension in the shift cable. It seems to be working.  

We were off course but knew how to find the B&B where we are staying tonight.  The Inch School B&B is a 100 year old school house which has been converted to a B&B. It is beautiful old stone building.  Of course 100 years seems to be nothing as we had supper in a cafĂ© and bar called Denvir’s which is in a building constructed in the 1300’s and has been in operation since 1642.  Then we drove up to see St Patrick’s Cathedral where he is buried. and there is a stone cross dating to 900 AD. 

Today was another great day on the bikes.  We covered 92 kms and climbed  671 meters, rode down a tree lined bike path, got to met Lynne’s mother Gladys, took a ferry ride, and saw a lot of beautiful green hills. It just doesn’t get any better.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Belfast Rest Day Two June 17, 2016

Jos had wanted to reroute the ride out of Belfast along some routes that he has ridden before. The route I had chosen followed the coast more closely. Jos’ route shaved 7 kms off of my route and avoided a big climb.  To accommodate these changes all of the Gramins had to be reprogramed.  So I was up for an early breakfast and then Jos and I sat down to draw up the new route on Garmin Connect so that I could then download them to the Garmins.  Jos had his i-pad and I was laying the route out in Garmin Connect.  Using the two machines took a lot less time as you did not have to switch back and forth from screen to screen to watch where you were plotting the course.  Nevertheless we spent 2 hours laying out the new course.  I had the feeling that nobody believed me when I said that I had spent 3 to 4 hours building each course.  Two of the Garmins synced right off but two of them took a bunch of fooling with to get the new course in. 

Agnes and I were joining Ken and Sally on a Hop-on, Hop off bus tour of Belfast so we had to get going. There was a pick up bus which came right to the door of the hotel and drove us over to where the tour started.  The tour was excellent.  Belfast has a lot of really unique stuff to see.  It is a pity we are not staying longer as I would have loved to see more of the sites we drove by.  The tour took us down through the Shankill area which was the center of the “Troubles” in Belfast.  There we a lot of the wall murals depicting memorials to those killed during that time.

 We did one hop off at the Cumlin Street Jail.  It opened in 1845 and operated through 1996.  The history of this notorious prison goes from the harshness of Victorian period, through different prison reforms, the time of the Troubles when people were incarcerated without trial, and to the modern times.  It was built for 320 prisoners in solitary confinement with no toilet facilities to housing 1500 in the same 7’ x 13’ cells. During the Troubles both sides were housed in the prison so there was a constant state of war inside the prison. It also was the scene of 17 executions.  The tour took us right inside the execution chamber where the hangman’s rope used in executions still hung. 
We took the tour back downtown and Agnes head for the hote

l and Ken, Sally and I headed over to St Georges Market. On the way we meet up with Patrick who had been foraging in a supermarket.  We had lunch of sausage rolls and huge cupcakes in the market.  Patrick and I headed back to the hotel.  I needed to finalize the Garmins for tomorrow and Ken and Sally went for a hike to look at more wall murals.

I have had a couple of questions on what is the Start/Finish line for?  This is a bike geek thing.  The Mizen Head to Malin Head is a famous ride. Mizen Head is the furthest south point of Ireland to the most northern point of Ireland, Malin Head.   It is a highly contested race. The record is something like 19 hr.   Our tour rode from Mizen head to Malin Head so we accomplished this goal. Check that bucket list item.

Tomorrow we are off to DownPatrick and the final leg of the trip.  Weather looks good and we are ready to roll.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Belfast Rest Day June 16, 2016

Today was the first of two rest days in Belfast.  It has been a long and exhausting tour. While the rides average only 100 kms per day the climbs and the rough roads have taken their toll.  So a couple of rest days to see what is a very interesting and historic city is just what everyone needed. 

First thing on the agenda was to see Titanic museum.  The Titanic was built right here in Belfast by the Harland and Wolff.  Ship building was the heart and soul of Belfast. The city of Belfast built everything which went into the ship from the steel plates and fittings to the furniture and fine linens.  So the Titanic tragedy was a real blow to the city whose soul was so tied to the ship. The new Titanic museum is built on the same ground that the Titanic and her two sister ships were built.  The place is an amazing piece of architecture. It is shaped in a three pointed star and covered with these aluminum sheets which when viewed from a distance look like the ocean.  Inside the museum there are nine separate galleries which take you through the history of Belfast, all the way through to the sinking and final discovery of the wreck years later.  Then there is a walking tour which takes you around the yard where Titanic was built. Finally the historical society has rebuild the Nomadic which was Titanic’s tender for loading passengers in Cherbourg and is on display.  We arrived just before the museum opened at 9:00am and exited through the gift shop just after 3:00PM. You have great views of the two giant H&W gantry cranes Samson and Goliath are still in use today and dominate the Belfast skyline.  They have done an absolutely amazing job. 

Agnes wanted to do laundry, Jos want to go to Chain Reaction Cycle.  We loaded up the car and dropped Agnes at the coin laundry and Jos, Patrick, and I continued on over to Chain Reaction.  Chain Reaction Cycle is one of the largest on line cycle shops and their only brick and mortar store is here in Belfast.  Who can pass up the opportunity to go into one of the largest cycle shops in the world?  They did have a huge selection of just about everything cycle related. My luggage is already bursting at the seams so I held my temptations in check.  However I did find an excellent Stella Italia seat for only 14 Pounds.  

Back at the hotel Agnes and I meet up with Ken and Sally and the four of us went for and excellent steak supper at a bistro across the square from the hotel.

Tomorrow we are planning on doing the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus tour.  Looking at the weather forecast it will be a bring your umbrella day. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ballycastle to Belfast June 15, 2016

Today’s ride was another spectacular ride.  After a wonderful breakfast in the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle  we jumped on our bikes and headed off at 9:00 am.  

The climbing of 1083 meters for the ride was all in the first 35 kms of the 117kms.  There was a series of about four large hills, each one larger than the previous one.  The 2014 Giro rode through here however they avoided a couple of the roads we took as the downhills were considered too steep, too winding and therefore too dangerous.  Coming from the north we were faced with sections of up to 17% which paled in comparison to the downhill on the south side which had to be in the order of 30%. I had my brakes on full and was still accelerating in several spots.  Thankfully the road was in excellent shape and I was never in any danger as the next uphill quickly checked my speed.

The views of the valleys and cliffs were absolutely breath taking.  The sun had broken through and was highlighting the ocean and green fields.  Don’t take my word for it just Google “Glens of Antrim” and see for yourself.  It is no wonder there are songs of this area. 

After we got down to Cusbendun we were right down to sea level.  The road followed right along the ocean.  There was a sea wall which was an old stone wall and then there was the beach or at most a series of retaining walls on which the road had been built. 

So not to brag about what a great ride this was but let me describe what the conditions were; the sun was blazing down so it was nice and warm, the road surface was excellent, the road was almost totally dead flat, the wind was blowing from the north at a strady 25-30 kms so we had a great tail, and the scenery was drop dead gorgeous.  This condition lasted all the way down to Carrickfegus which was probably in the order of 65 kms.

At Carrickfergus  is the Carrickfegus castle which is a huge castle that was the center of power in the region.  We didn’t go in but stopped to look at the castle and admire the huge structure.  It is truly amazing that these structures would have been abandon.

At Carrickfegus there is a bike trail which runs right into the center of Belfast.  So we jumped on the bike trail and rode the last 10 km straight into the hotel. 

This was definitely one of the rides which will be bragged about when it comes to the telling of bike stories.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LondonDerry to Ballycastle June 14, 2016

It was poured rain all of last night and was pouring rain when we got up.  However it had nearly stopped by time breakfast was served in the B&B and we were ready to roll.  I had done a lot of work plotting the route out of Londonderry and it really paid off.  There was about four turns, up a hill, quick left through a tunnel and within a few minutes we were out in the country.  

The road had a lot of water on it from all the rain which had come down in the last day, so it was a game of dodge the puddles and try and time the puddles which oncoming cars would hit throwing huge waves of water up.  The rain itself had dwindled down to a light sprinkle but the clouds hung ominously low. 

About 15 kms out we had to ride up the A2 for a few kms and although there was a bike lane it was full of pot holes, gravel and rubbish.  It wasn’t a very fun few kms.  I was glad to turn north onto the Giant’s Causeway Highway.  There was hardly any traffic and no trucks.  In addition we were now out of the hills and following the coast so it was dead flat.

As Ken and I cruised along it was getting brighter and brighter.  In fact the heavy clouds were breaking up and a spot of blue sky appeared.  Then low and behold at the 40 km mark I looked down and was startled to see my shadow,so off came the rain gear.  The Garmin was registering a blistering 17 C. 

Just before we got into Coleraine we climbed a big hill and the town was laid out before us in the sun.  It was so pretty. We felt just great having the sun on our backs.  In town we foraged some sandwiched out of a Spar convenience store and were delighted to find 1 liter bottles of Chocolate milk on sale for 1Pound.

We had another 23 kms up to the Giant’s Causeway so we pressed on past a bunch of beautiful cliffs and beaches.  We got to the Giant’s Causeway and as it was now 2:30 Pm, Ken and I decided we would only do the walk down to the stones rather than go through the interpretive center and do the cliff walk. 

The Giant’s Causeway is a series of octagonal basalt columns which run from the cliffs down into the ocean.  This lava flow is said to look like a causeway of paving stones, and as they are quite large they most have been for a giant’s causeway.  It is actually quite a small area where these occur so it is unique.  In comparison to the huge basalt cliffs of the Columbia River Basalt Plateau of Washington, Oregon and southern Idaho this is not much.  Having said that it was fun walking down the 1.5 kms from the cliff top to see the rocks and climb on them.  After all these are famous and nobody knows about those other rocks.

Ken and I still had 20 kms to get into Ballycastle and a bunch of big hills to go. The road would climb up over a cliff and then dive down to the ocean.  Some of the views from the cliffs were absolutely stunning.  We were done by time we rolled into Ballycastle it had been 105.6 kms and 1093 m of accent.

Jos and Patrick took the train from Londonderry up to Coleraine as it was raining in the morning.  They did go in and see the Bushmills distillery in Bushmills and cycled in the afternoon.   They missed a great ride, and gave up their EFI.  In addition Jos was in contention for the coveted “White Jersey” being one of the youngest riders. However I believe that this pretty much takes him out of contention. 

Tomorrow we ride into Belfast for a two day rest period.