Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ireland - All About the Bikes

After 15 posts on our trip to Ireland last fall, what else could I possibly have to share about this trip...

Well a few folks have asked about our bikes and other gear. So I'll just do one final post all about the bikes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ireland - Duckett's Grove Under Sunshine

Saturday was our last full day in Ireland. Our flight out of Dublin was scheduled for early Sunday morning, so we'd need to clean, disassemble and pack bikes the night before. Of course, we also needed to get back to Dublin. Fortunately, chauffeur-extraordinaire, David, was ever-accommodating!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ireland - Carlow

For us, no trip to Ireland would be complete without a journey down to Carlow. While John grew up in Dublin, his parents were from County Carlow. He, along with his brothers and sisters spent many a summer working and playing at his grandparent's farm. Most of his extended family still live in County Carlow and John's sister, Daphne bought a house there a few years ago, and extended an invitation for us to come stay whenever we'd like. She may grow to regret that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ireland - The Sally Gap

Since we'd been hitching lifts with David for a couple of days, when he was called back into work in Dublin, we found ourselves back on the east coast as well.

I really can't complain though. The sun was out and the winds were calm.

Now while I had managed to get down to Blessington a couple times during the week that John was working, John had not yet gotten out to ride his favorite old local roads himself and was eager to head down that way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ireland - Slieve League Cliffs

In our desperate quest to have a day of cycling without rain, we were again lured north by the fiction foisted upon us as a weather forecast. So yet again, we loaded up the car and drove north, this time aiming for the fishing port of Killybegs, gateway to the rugged coastline of southern Donegal. 

Sadly, David also got word that he might be needed to work in Dublin the following day. So we feared this might be our last day on the road together. Therefore we decided to try to take in two of the landmarks that for John are symbolic of Donegal, the Glengesh Pass and the Slieve League Cliffs.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ireland - Sligo (Yeat's Country)

I admit it. I was starting to grow weary of the rain. I looked at the weather forecast, and determined that we'd need to head up to Northern Ireland if we held out any hope of getting photos without puddles. I fired off another email to our friend, Constance Winters, to see if her schedule had freed up any, but she was still swamped. So we didn't even have a proper excuse to cross the border. 

However, since David had joined us and we had access to his car, we decided to take advantage and hit a few of the farther flung areas that normally would us take a few days to even get to by bike or train. And we'd just get good use of out of our rain gear.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ireland WETport

--Just a reminder for those seeing this in December or January, that I'm way behind with the blog and making every attempt to get caught up with these posts from our trip to Ireland. This is about a ride from November 1.--

All Saints Day in WETport and the Halloween trick is on us!

David had finished up his work in Bellmullet in County Mayo on  Friday and drove down to Westport to join us for a few days of cycling. As we discussed various route options and the weather, and the prospect of riding with or without gear, we decided to stay a second night in Westport, allowing us to do an unencumbered loop ride on Saturday, with some hope of drying out gear from the previous day.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ireland - Clifden to Westport

We had planned to ride the Sky Road out of Clifden, but the access road right out of town was filled with construction vehicles and closed off.  The Sky Road is an 11 km loop around the peninsula just west of town, climbing up to the ridge-line for a while to provide stunning views of the 12 Bens. It was pretty clear to us that there would be no views at all today, so we didn't bother trying to sneak around the construction zone. Next visit.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ireland - Cong to Clifden

You wouldn't think you could get lost leaving a tiny little village like Cong, but still we managed it.

When touring, we'll often plan out our intended route for the day - first using our paper maps for the big picture and then actually plotting out the route on the computer using software like RideWithGPS (if we have internet, or Mapsource if we don't). Having a route downloaded onto a GPS means we don't have to stop so frequently to check maps,  especially handy here where we're often faced with a mishmash of tiny little roads, and the signs at the crossroads point not to the large village that is our planned lunch stop or overnight stop, but rather just the next little crossroads a kilometer or so away. And sometimes signs pointing different ways show the same name - a low road and a high road - as it were. The GPS is also really useful in Ireland since we don't have to constantly pull out our paper maps in the rain, meaning they stay dry and in one piece. Since we each have a GPS, it also means that one of us can stop to take a nature break or photos or whatever and the other can keep cycling without too much fear of getting separated for too long.

Ashford Castle

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ireland - Anthenry to Ross Friary and Cong

We knew when we planned a trip to Ireland in late autumn that our fenders and rain gear would likely get lots of use. And indeed, the weather we encountered this year did not let us down in that regard!

The very wet and dreary forecast for Tuesday seemed to suggest that we stay indoors and work on the blog. Well obviously that didn't happen! Instead we took the train into Dublin city center for some off-bike fun. Our first stop really should have been to get some welly-boots, but instead we made a bee-line for espresso.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ireland - Rolling Hills of County Meath

John claims that I have silly superstitions about weather. He fails to acknowledge that he inspired many of them, with all his talk about Irish weather. It was John who taught me things like it will stop raining only after everyone in the group has stopped to put on a jacket. Then the sun comes out making those jackets more like saunas, but it will start to rain again if anyone dares to stop and remove the sweat-inducing garment.  If you ask John when is the best time to go to Ireland for a bike tour, he will tell you September - after school is back in session - because when he was a lad, the weather always improved after his summer holidays ended. He told me that the worst weather inevitably occurs on holidays, with St. Patrick's Day traditionally having some of the most epic conditions.

The riverside bike path made for a pleasant way to leave Drogheda.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ireland - Ballykissangel

On Sunday, we took advantage of David's car to do a ride in eastern Wicklow, with a remote start. This meant we wouldn't have to spend half the ride battling with traffic, as it is now much trickier to cycle to and from that area than in the halcyon days of John's youth. 

Creature comforts.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ireland - Hill of Tara

At last, Saturday arrived and my week of cycling solo was finally over. No more riding with just my imagination for company. John was now officially on vacation and ready to join me on rides and head off on a tour. His work computer had been powered down and packed away. Maps and bicycles would now capture his attention instead. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ireland - Blessington

On the first full day of my first trip to Ireland, back in 1993, John took me out to a lovely tea room called the Skillet Pot in Blessington. Ah yes, I remember it well.

That trip to Ireland was essentially our third date. The first date had been an all day tandem ride followed by a quiet dinner for two away from the PAC Tour crowds near the end of that tour. Our second date, a few weeks later, was a weekend in New York City, where John had a long layover, as he made his way back home to Ireland.

As randonneurs, it appears our dates span the time frame of a brevet! 

One of the many locks on the towpath

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ireland - Tailwind!

Don't be so naive! There is no such thing as a tailwind! 

Experienced cyclists know that there are three states of being with regard to wind: headwinds, crosswinds, and I'm having a good day! We all know that after all the effort one expends pushing into a brutal headwind, the return journey is never the reward it should be. You might not have to work as hard, but it's never a case of just being able to sit up and coast home. The tease of a forthcoming tailwind is a cruel one. So rather than constantly being disappointed, experienced cyclists soon come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a tailwind. As further evidence, no cyclist has ever credited a tailwind for their ranking on a strava segment. Headwinds may slow you down, but if you ride faster, it's down to your skill and training and fitness!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ireland - Trim Castle and Bective Abbey

As I pedaled through the village on Kilcloon on Monday morning, it seemed like the whole community had come out to celebrate my triumphant return to cycling in Ireland. My imagination ran wild:

I had established a massive lead over the peloton after a long solo attack. As I crossed the finish line, I blew kisses to the adoring fans who were dressed in my team colors and lining the road at the finish line.

Back to reality, I refrained from raising my arms in victory as I passed through a large crowd of celebrants, who were not actually dressed in pixie pink, but instead wearing the colors of their local sports team.  A few minutes before, as I entered this little crossroads of a village, I had noticed loads of cars overflowing the church parking lot and all along the roadside. This gathering wasn't for me. And no one actually cheered as I stood and sprinted along the parade route.

Monday, October 13, 2014

F2G2 - Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder

I have a whole slew of posts to put together from our September trip in Oregon, but Fear Rothar still has to whittle down the massive number of photos he took on that trip, so in the meantime I'm skipping ahead to a ride we did last weekend. While the Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder also involved numerous photo stops per mile, being just a one day event, the sheer number of photos was smaller, making his task of going through them much less daunting. As such, it allows me to have an almost timely post, for once. But fear not, Oregon posts are forthcoming! After all, we've got to get them out before we go to Ireland and create an even worse backlog! [It would help if I wasn't working 16-hour days - FR] [Whatever - FP]

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Frenemy

I've long claimed that I don't train. I ride my bike to hang out with friends at good caf├ęs, after taking in all the magnificent scenery on the way. I don't use a heart rate monitor. I don't do intervals. I don't race. I just ride my bike.

But the reality is that all that riding can have the side benefit of increased fitness. And sometimes I do seek out hills and make an effort to get up them in short order. But still this is not training, not in any structured way, not in any way that a coach would call training.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Not a Recovery Ride! Hair of the Dog

Fear Rothar teases me about my choice of routes for the day after various Big Event™ rides. He likes to call them Recovery Rides - with a big dose of sarcasm. I prefer to think of them more as Hair of the Dog that Bit Ya. In reality, I am just taking advantage of the great terrain in whatever place we happen to be. Since most of our Big Event™ rides take in lots of climbing and dirt roads, most of our day-after-the-day-before rides tend to do the same. Recovery rides do not happen on weekends!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

When Roxbury Gap Is the Bailout...

This is what every week has been like for me this summer...
Monday - unpack, do laundry, recover from weekend. Figure out what Big Event is next.
Tuesday - 100ish km social ride from Ride Studio Cafe
Wednesday and Thursday - Various appointments with doctors and physical therapist
Friday - Pack and load up for weekend. Drive to Big Event
Saturday - Big Event
Sunday - so-called recovery ride, then drive home
Wash, Rinse, Repeat...

I'm not looking for sympathy. Really. It's a pretty sweet life. It's just my excuse for why I am months behind on any ride reports! We are so busy creating content that we just have no time to post it. I'm hoping to open the floodgates with a few posts soon, but will not make any more promises.

One ride report at a time.

We'd heard about the Irreverent Road Ride last year, and it made it's way onto our short list for this year. The words irreverent and road were combined to convey the fact that the word road might be a generous description for some of the route. A large part of the route was on lovely scenic quiet dirt roads, quite rideable on a road bike with reasonable tires. But there were some sections connecting these roads that would be a proper challenge, both physically and technically difficult. This sounded very appealing to us.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Green Mountain Double Metric

The alarm goes off at 3 AM. John silences it. The room is quiet. We drag ourselves out of bed and begin the pre-ride rituals. I do love to ride my bike. I do love the long rides. But I do hate getting up at this hour.

I brush out and re-braid my hair. Then I apply sunscreen to my face and arms and slather on plenty of chamois cream. This is going to be a long day, better add some more. I check the outside temperature. It's 59F. Heavy rain fell all day yesterday and continued overnight. The dirt roads we'll be riding on today will be soft and full of mud puddles. Looking out the window, I see light drizzle under the street light. I put on my shorts, arm warmers and leg warmers.

I take a few bites of bagel and some sips of cold coffee drink.

My RoadID hangs from a chain that I wear like a necklace. My primary contact is John, but it also says, "If on tandem, call Susan". The ritual of putting on this necklace is new for me since last September, when I discovered that not all EMTs know about back pockets on cycling jerseys. I was rather lucky that my phone wasn't broken when I was thrown from the bike, since I couldn't come up with phone numbers or addresses without it! Once I explained that I was actually lying on my phone (and wallet and ID), the EMTs, who already had me strapped to the backboard, were able to retrieve the device and possibly ease some of my discomfort from lying on all that stuff. The deputies were then able to use my phone to contact my cousin. I think someone eventually would have found the card in my wallet with all John's info on it, but it likely would have taken a while longer to contact my local hosts. 

So before I got back on a bike again, I ordered a RoadID. The first few times I went through the process of hanging this thing around my neck, I thought back to that fateful day and paused... Each time I returned from a ride safely and took the necklace off to hang on hook on the bathroom door, I felt a sense of relief.  Now it has become just another part of the pre-ride ritual, after applying sunscreen and chamois cream.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DROVES 2014 - Day 3

Dirt Roads of Vermont Early Summer 2014

Photos from other DROVERS

from Steve and Carolyn
Day 1 and 2
Day 3

from Henry


Constantin arrived late Sunday night bringing yet another new set of fresh legs. But before he could climb away from all our tired legs that morning, Chef Henry cooked up some fabulous Dutch pancakes. 

The forecast for the day was classically Irish, and this one proved to be classically accurate. It was cloudy and showery and sunny and showery and sunny and cloudy and showery. Every time it started to rain, a few folks would stop and put on jackets. As it continued more people would stop and don jackets. Once everyone had stopped to put their jackets on, the rain would stop and the sun would come out. Then various folks would stop at different times to remove jackets. Once the last jacket was removed, it would start to rain again, on cue. Repeat this pattern for 6 hours and you have our day. This is classic Irish weather !

A bit grey at the barn this morning

Monday, June 9, 2014

DROVES 2014 - Day 2

Dirt Roads of Vermont with Exquisite Scenery - Day 2

We woke to brilliant sunshine, making it much easier to hop out of bed after a hard ride the day before, finished off with good food and drink and late night shuffleboard. We got the day started right with Neil's delicious Steel Cut Oats and some pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup.

Next up, Neil definitively showed off that he brought some fresh legs as he powered up the first climb and then every one after that. Fortunately for him, the exquisite scenery distracted us from knocking him down and beating those fresh legs with our pumps. 

Burke Mountain, rising above the clouds

Friday, June 6, 2014

DROVES 2014 - Day 0 and 1

Dirt Roads Of Vermont with Exquisite Scenery - DROVES-eve and Day 1

When we first started doing DROVES a few years ago, we did a point to point ride starting and ending near Ludlow, VT, with two overnights at the same inn in the Waitsfield/Warren area to allow for a middle day of unencumbered riding or even a rest day. Our initial route was inspired by the many dirt road deviations we had taken over the years on another mid-summer weekend ride in Vermont known as TOSRV-East (standing for Tour of Scenic Rural Vermont, or seemingly more often than not, Soggy Rainy Vermont and on at least one occasion Scorching Roasting Vermont). And for those for whom this acronym is familiar, yes, TOSRV-East ride was inspired by the more widely known AYH TOSRV - Tour of the Scioto River Valley. Anyway, some 30 or more years ago, the Boston chapter of AYH starting running TOSRV-East run along the 100 miles on Route 100 between Rawsonville and Waterbury, with hostels at each end of the ride. It stayed the same for many years, but a few years back, some route changes were made as various hostels closed and Route 100 got to be a bit busier, and some of the regulars just wanted to explore a bit more of Scenic Rural Vermont. John and I did the ride many times, but often would go even further off the beaten path and try out another dirt road diversion, sometimes enticing a few folks to join us, until one year when we only criss-crossed the planned route, and literally rode less than 5 miles along the official route!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring 7000 - a weekend with Henry and friends

We first met Henry in 2011, when he was the only person daft enough to join us on a bitterly cold Christmas eve ride to Mt. Wachusett and back, part of that year's Rapha Festive 500 challenge. That was his longest ride ever at that time, by quite a margin, if I recall correctly. However, he took everything in his stride and brought a spirit of festive cheer with him that made for a fun spin.

It was obvious that we had an affinity for exploring by bike and taking pictures of what we saw - not to mention that he and I had worked in the same building in The Netherlands many years before, albeit not at the same time - and we became fast friends (I'm speaking of Henry there). We have shared many miles on the road and trail since then, although that first ride hasn't been the only one with bad weather. However, those are stories for another time...

Monday, May 12, 2014


It has become a yearly tradition now to meet up with friends and spend Memorial Day weekend climbing and descending some of the finest dirt roads in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Folks are welcome to join us, with the following disclaimer: This is not an organized event. You are on your own adventure. You have found links to our planned routes on Ridewithgps and we all just happen to be riding on the same routes at the same time!

Further disclaimer: Vermont dirt roads are often steep. While not like gnarly technical trails, the surface can sometimes be loose, especially if the road grading monster has been on them recently. More usual though is they are sublime hard-pack. We'll be on road bikes with fat tires and low gears.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What I meant by don't drop me

A followup to last week's post. But first a bit of background... A few years ago, a group of friends started an email list (referred to in the text below as FAIB) for folks who have time off midweek to ride. While my Tuesday rides are based out of a local coffee/bike shop and are open to all, most of the regulars are members of that email list. What follows is from the note I sent to that list after last week's disappointing ride (with a couple of edits for clarity to those not on the list).


For the past couple of weeks, I have posted a link in reference to my Tuesday rides. The page contains the GPS links to the routes, but also includes a little of my philosophy about the rides.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not a fun day out!

Yes. I am back on my bike.

But no. I am not back.

And my most recent ride pretty much proved that...

Since given the clearance to ride by my doctor, I've been on some rides with John, some rides on my own, and some rides with a few select friends, here and there. My confidence is very shaky in terms of being able to keep up with others, and the climbs that I once sought out eagerly now seem to mock me, so I've been hesitant to go on group rides.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pamela's Brevet Bike - Seven Axiom with S&S Couplers

My journey through bikes to find my Nirvana

Remember my credo (from my most recent post): a brevet bike is one you use on brevets with little or no hassle or pain!

I promised at the end of that post to tell you about my bike...

As I tried to emphasize in that previous post, any bike that fits well can make a good randonneuring bike. I mentioned a few things that one might do to make a bike more comfortable for the long rides, like adjusting the fit to really suit, mounting the fattest tires that fit, attaching some kind of fenders, affixing some sort of bag to carry stuff and mounting whatever type of light is needed for the event/distance.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's a Good Bike for Brevets?

Ask n different people and you will get n different (and most likely contradictory) opinions for what defines a good brevet bike. Do a simple google search and you will find loads of articles on precisely this topic. (It may be how you found this one!) So since there is already so much information out there, why am I bothering to add to the noise with this post?  Partly because I get asked the question so frequently, and partly because my definition is in many ways counter to the standard dogma.

Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version...
A good brevet bike is one you use on a brevet with little or no hassle or pain.

This means the bike is:
  • reliable and comfortable
  • has enough storage capacity that you can carry what you need for the distance and conditions (including clothes and tools) and/or store what you no longer need. 
  • and since the longer brevets require lights and usually involve sustained night riding, a bike used for longer brevets should have reliable long-lasting lights. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Fender Day

Last year our friend, @the_wilcox (who recently moved out to Portland, possibly in an attempt to get even more use out of his fenders), showed off his beautiful Full Metal Fenders from Portland Design Works and raved about how well they worked. I must admit to admiring their looks, with the simple elegant stays and lovely anodized finish. But more than the aesthetics was the fact that they worked so well and held up to abuse over the long term, unlike many of the lightweight metal fenders we've tried over the years. Fear Rothar has cracked or broken pretty much every type of lightweight metal fender out there (Honjo, Berthoud, Velo Orange), to the extent that I've now bribed the folks at Harris Cyclery to stop ordering new ones for him to break.. the bank!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cycling in Ireland - shot in the arm

The snow is coming down - yet again! - as I type. We joined the Ride Studio Cafe gang for part of their cafe-to-cafe ride this morning and early afternoon, before heading for home more directly when flakes started floating down. The good news is that leaves me with some free time to finish up a long promised post on my cycling adventures in Ireland at the end of 2013.

We originally had a trip to Ireland pencilled in for October last year, but Pamela's contretemps in September put that plan on hold indefinitely. To make a long story short, she had recovered sufficiently by late November to make air travel viable. And while late November and early December might not be the time that most people plan a trip to Ireland, we both really needed a change of scenery and I needed to use up my time off at work. Thus, carpe diem!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Epic Goals and Courage to Fail

First, I want to express sincere thanks to everyone for all the well wishes and positive energy. The comments and emails mean so much and really contribute to my recovery.

A few well-intentioned folks seem worried that I may set some epic goals for this year.

I don't really know whether folks are worried that the never-say-die spirit of randonneuring will cause me to push myself too hard or if they are worried about my psyche should I fail to achieve some goal.

One of the first lessons a randonneur learns is to suppress the imagined voice coming from within (or the actual utterance of some well-meaning observer) that suggests the option of quitting. It's too hot, or too cold, or too wet or too windy. The hills are too steep. The legs are too tired. The saddle is too hard. The eyelids are too heavy. The belly is too empty. The mind is overwhelmed.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wind in My Face

Wind in my face never felt so sweet!

I've spent a lot of time walking outside recently. I've longed for the feeling of warm sunshine on my back and the sound of a gentle breeze rustling leaves. Since September, I've looked at my world in a different more deliberate way - a way I now experience through the slower pace of walking. While it has been a nice change of pace, I would not recommend the road I took to get here. Regular readers know that I've been documenting my discovery of the beauty I've found in simple things like backlit trees completely stripped of leaves, and wooden boardwalks and my walking stick with a Boston skyline backdrop as seen from lots of different locations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Went Walking with the Lovely Bike Blogger

When John and I moved overseas in 2002, we told our family and friends not to think of it as us leaving them, but as an opportunity for them to visit a new and faraway place. Well my words are coming back to haunt me, as friend after friend has moved away this past year. Velouria took off last summer for an extended visit to Northern Ireland. Then in less than 6 months my entire fleche team from 2011 scattered across the USA. I know that it would be boring if things never change, but it's just been a hard year to have so many good friends move so far away. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Went Walking - Hill of Tara

My sister-in-law, Suzanne, had been talking of treating her mom to a day out with chocolate cake at the tea shop at the Hill of Tara. John suggested that he could ride his bike there and meet the three of us for lunch. So a plan was hatched.

Note the helicopter in the background, getting the nice aerial view!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Went Walking - County Carlow

After spending a few days visiting with family in Dublin, the always affable David drove John and me down to Tullow in County Carlow to visit more family. Carlow is off the beaten tourist track, as it were, and isn't as well known as other parts of the country, like the Ring of Kerry or the Cliffs of Moher.  I'm happy to have the quiet lanes remain quiet, but in my not so humble opinion, the area certainly deserves to be on the list of must-cycle places, thanks to the wide open views of rolling green countryside and windswept mountains, including John's favorite Mt Leinster in Blackstair Mountains between Counties Carlow and Wexford. A couple of years ago, John and I pedaled down from Dublin, and then joined David for a couple of fabulous rides in the area. It was heartbreaking for me to miss out riding here this time, but Daphne humored me by taking me out for a few walks, while John and David went out for rides.

On that last trip, John, David and I rode over the shoulder of Mt Leinster, but did not ride up the brutally steep road to the tower. This time, David and John decided to take in the same route, while Daphne and I planned to drive out and meet them at the gate, where we could park and walk up to the top and back. Poor Daphne had broken her wrist the week before and her arm was in plaster, but she was a real trooper, walking with me all the way up to the mast. The lads decided to pass on riding up, citing a long ride still to go and minimal daylight hours in December. They missed a screaming tailwind for the journey up, and a howling headwind for the trip down!

It was windy and chilly, but sunny when we arrived at the gate, at almost precisely the same time as John and David.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Went Walking - Deep Sinking - Royal Canal

Fear Rothar grew up in Castleknock, about 6 miles west of Dublin City Center. His mom's house is ideally situated for walking, as it is just over a mile to walk to the Phoenix Park or a stroll around the corner to get on the Royal Canal Way, a 49 mile long towpath/trail alongside the Royal Canal stretching from Dublin to Cloondara in County Longford.

On our first day in Ireland, we did a short stretch of the canal and I noticed the signs for the Deep Sinking. Curious, I did some research and found that the Deep Sinking is the name of the deep and narrow cutting of the Royal Canal between Castleknock and Clonsilla. When the Royal Canal was designed, the Duke of Leinster demanded the canal be routed by his ancestral home in Maynooth. This added substantial cost and complications to the project, including 11 additional locks and an aqueduct. In the section known as Deep Sinking, the canal runs much lower than the towpath and in places it is quite narrow and dangerous. In one serious accident in 1845, sixteen people drowned when their boat sank after hitting a rock at night. Also with the towpath well above the canal, horses were often pulled into the deep cutting below to a watery grave.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Went Walking - Phoenix Park

Last month, Fear Rothar and I headed over to Ireland for a couple of weeks to visit with friends and family. We stayed at his childhood home about 6 miles from Dublin City Center, just at the far side of the Phoenix Park, one of the largest city parks in Europe. The wall surrounding the park stretches for almost 7 miles, enclosing 1750 acres of grasslands and forests. With miles and miles of trails and quiet tree-lined roads to explore in the park, I had plenty of opportunities to get out walking.

After our overnight flight to Dublin had us arriving in the early hours (both body clock time and local time), we gave in to our desire to sleep away the first part of our first day, but then we emerged re-energized and headed out for a short walk along the Royal Canal to shake the cobwebs out. The Royal Canal Way is actually a 49 mile long towpath/trail alongside the canal stretching from Dublin to Cloondara in County Longford, but we only walked a mile or so west from Castleknock train station for our first outing.