Bright and early Sunday morning... Well sometime before noon actually, we packed up our bikes for the start of our proper tour. The loose plan was to make our way south to the coast and pick up the Wild Atlantic Way. Sadly, John only has three weeks, so we will see how far he gets. My plan is to go all the way to Donegal. Hopefully I'll make it there.
For the first day we decided to climb over the shoulder of Mt. Leinster and make our way south to Carrick-on-Suir.
John has gone on and on about Mt. Leinster since the day we met! It dominates the horizon in Carlow and has been his standard by which all other climbs are judged. Like many big climbs in Ireland, wind and rain is a major factor. It was several years after my first visit before the weather finally cooperated enough for us to even consider the climb. But a few years ago, we rode part of the Humpy Hundred route and I got to see what all the fuss was about.
Well sort of. The wind was still pretty severe that day, so we only climbed over the shoulder, passing on the climb up the closed road to the mast. Two years ago, I finally got up to the mast, but it was on foot. I was still in my back brace and not able to ride yet. My sister in law was sporting a cast on her arm. So we drove up to the gate, while John and Dave rode. We had caught up to The lads just as they reached the gate. It was pretty blustery and they decided it was not a day for cycling up. Daphne and I had a lovely hike and even had a few breaks in the clouds with nice views for our trouble.
Well this Sunday was amazing. Mild and sunny and still. John stopped dozens of times to take photos, so I was at the gate well before him. As I rolled up, a fellow in a car asked if I was going to the top. We hadn't planned on it, but it just was too nice a day not to. I asked if he'd be ther a while and he said yes. So then I asked if he'd tell the rider coming up behind me that I'd gone up. I lifted the bike through the gate, and was instantly reminded of my load. I quickly pulled out my dry bag and stashed it behind the gate, and began the journey to the summit.
The road to the summit is gorgeous, but brutally steep, reminiscent of Mt. Washington, although not as long. I settled in for a long slow slog. My breathing was heavy, and my heart was pounding. But all this served to remind me that I was alive and well and cycling to the top of a mountain.
I was surprised that John had not caught me when I reached the wall of S bends. I stopped briefly, but carried on. The final push to the mast was brutal, but the wind was mild. The road was packed with walkers and I got lots of encouragement along the way.
When I finally reached the top I pulled out my phone to see a message from John asking where I was. I replied "Mast! Where are you?" He said bottom of descent on far side. He had not gotten my message and never thought I'd climb the mountain!
He started heading back up, while I made my way down. We met part way. He was pretty bummed to miss the climb on such a perfect day, but I was still floating on clouds.
The day was spectacular. I even managed to expose some flesh!
I had mapped out our route to Carrick-on-Suir using rwgps and basically just picked white roads. The route was amazing, right up until 5 km from town, where we hit the end of the road at a river.
Fortunately we found this tiny bridge.