John and I have spent extended time apart many times in the past. When his mother first got sick, he got stuck in Ireland for a while because his employer had lost critical paperwork for his work visa. Then when we were in New Zealand, he went back to the US for.a while to keep his residency valid, while I stayed and had our house redone. After my father got sick, I spent lots of time in North Carolina. Then after we moved to Greenfield, I still had to travel back to Cambridge for a few days, every three weeks, for my cancer treatments. So we can survive apart. But the fact that I can list the times we have been apart might suggest that we haven't spent too much time apart. In fact most people know us as that tandem couple. So not just two people together, but two people on the same bike. So let's just say that being apart can feel odd.
Also, Most times we've spent apart, except for the residency trip, have also been marked by illness. So this occasion, at least, will be a pleasant change. This trip to Ireland is my victory lap, if you will. I have recovered and now it's time to put my strong healthy body back to work on having fun!
Until recently, I hadn't had more than a few days in a row without some sort of appointment. But my calendar this summer was free and wide open. While I probably should have said, OK, time to find a job, instead I said, I want to tour around Ireland. Then my brother-in-law conveniently decided to get married in July and gave us a reason o come in the summer.
Of course someone in the family still has to work.. We still need health insurance afterall. So John could only get away for three weeks. I, on the other hand, didn't have another appointment until late August, so I booked my return for a few days prior to that appointment.
Well today was the start of the solo leg of my tour.
I've been carrying all my own gear on this trip. I've been carrying the iPad, which has served as map, and route planning, and photo storage, and communication. I'd worked out all the kinks and eccentricities of route planning with this device and the Wahoo GPS. I'd even mastered picking the best roads.
I have years of experience of solo riding. I know how to fix a puncture and most other mechanical issues. I have contact info for all of John's family in Dublin and Carlow. I will never be more than a couple of days riding time from a train. I have extra tires and clothes in Dublin that can be mailed out if necessary.
So I'm ready.
John and I enjoyed our final breakfast and rode to the train station. We hugged and I was off, on my own.
I forgot it was Saturday and mapped out a busier track through Galway. In retrospect I should have taken the route through Cong that we did a couple of years ago. That's the route I included below.
We'd had an amazing tailwind the day before, so I knew I was in for a headwind. It was steady, but not as bad as I feared. It took a while after leaving Galway for the scenery to open up, but once it did, I had to consciously think about the jaw dropping scenery and close my mouth or swallow lots of bugs.
At some point, I turned onto a familiar road, one we had ridden two years ago through bogland of Connemara, with the 12 Pins providing a dramatic backdrop. I stopped to take photos. Now that the real photographer was gone, I would need to take more than a couple of token shots of him, just to prove I wasn't using a drone for selfies. There won't be anymore forever butt shots or action shots, but I'll do my best.
After surviving traffic in Galway, I was well aware that it was the weekend. My route headed toward Clifden, but I thought I should try in a smaller village to find accommodation. Sadly when I enquirer in Roundstone I learned a large wedding party had booked everything in the vacinity. Fortunately, the clerk at the hotel phoned around and found lodging for me. It was plush and twice what we'd been paying. But I had a roof over my head and a nice bed.
Lesson learned. Make reservations on weekends.
This was a rare site. I think lots of cyclists are riding the Wild Atlantic Way, despite it not being the best for cycling. It travels on busy secondary roads, where the tiny lanes or L roads are the best for cycling. Usually if I saw a cyclist, I knew I was on a WAW road.
My experience has been despite the appearance, these folks aren't camping. But they are carrying way more than I could imagine
Bog is a great source of fuel. They have special machines to dig it out. It is then dried and bagged up and sold like firewood.
Lots of thatched cottages out here.
I traveled 130 km on my first solo day. I earned this.