Photo by Jason DeVarennes

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

But have no fear that by using a GPS means we can't still be spontaneous. Just because we plot out and load a route, it's not a rigid plan. We can and often do deviate from the proposed route. We may see some interesting road or decide to make a change due to weather conditions. With the maps on the GPS, we can pan around to see where some interesting looking road goes, or take a shortcut, or add mileage or whatever. For the most part this approach works really well for us.

We had a little stumble in Cong though, as the starting point I'd used on the route for the day, turned out not to be in the center of the village where I thought it was, and as we each tried to figure out which road to take to get to the actual road we wanted, we got separated.  It didn't help that there was a one way loop around Cong, so as we each backtracked to try to find the other once we'd found the correct road, we'd miss each other on the one way section. Then we each assumed the other must be just up the road.

We eventually managed to re-connect through texting and phone calls. Ah technology!

After a scrumptious lunch in Maam Cross, we looked at a map on the wall and decided to deviate from the GPS route. The name - bog road - was jut too appealing to pass up. We made lots of mental notes about turns and directions and figured we'd be able to use signposts and the maps on the GPS to get us into Clifden. As we got closer to Clifden, it started to rain pretty hard, and somehow we missed one critical turn, adding an extra 5 miles to the day and leaving us rolling into town in the dark and pretty well soaked to the bone.

As we entered town I spotted a CTC sign at the first hotel on the corner. Obviously this was the place for us. The gentleman who checked us in offered to hep dry out our wet clothes for the next day. He gave us a big plastic trash bag for bringing the wet clothes down to him.  He then said he'd take our bikes through to a secure spot. It didn't occur to me to ask if the bike parking was covered.  I would have used that trash bag to cover my saddle and bar bag if I'd realized. I've recently switched to a Dill Pickle bar bag with a mounting system that is simple and secure, but not exactly quick-release, so I usually just leave it on the bike. The bag has such nice features (custom made with pockets where I want them and custom colors) that I've been willing to put up with the non-quick-release aspect, and just use a small inner bag for the stuff I want to bring with me. On this occasion, the outside parking and heavy rain overnight gave me the chance to see just how waterproof this bag actually is. It was only the next morning when I looked out our window that I saw the uncovered bikes leaning against a wall in the courtyard. I feared that the bag would have a gallon of water inside, but not only was it not filled with water, it was barely damp inside. I'll probably still keep a ziplock bag handy for my phone (with its sensitive electronics), but it did prove to me that I don't have to worry so much about things in the bar bag getting wet on a rainy ride.

The CTC certificate, with faded letters

In the end, we didn't take advantage of the offer to dry our clothes, preferring just to hang stuff in the room. Everything dried pretty well overnight, but it didn't really matter, as we left the next morning in lashing rain.

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