Photo by Jason DeVarennes

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.

My brother-in-law later suggested is was most likely a funeral for a local sporting figure, a chance for the whole community to celebrate the life of their hometown hero.

Every time I head out on my bike these days, I am also celebrating life - as I am constantly reminded not to fail to appreciate that I actually can.

My last visit to Ireland was just a few months after I was hit from behind by an inattentive driver, resulting in a broken back. It was just a bit over a year ago. The crash delayed our plans to visit John's family by a few months. However once I had proved I could tolerate travel, we re-booked the trip, heading over just after Thanksgiving. I was still in the back brace and still fairly restricted with what I could do, so there would be no cycling for me. But I could walk. And walk I did. I headed off for long walks whenever John went out on the bike. The photos John took each day served to ignite a somewhat dormant longing to ride a bike myself. It was sometimes heartbreaking for me not to be able to go out with John and his friends climbing mountains and exploring old church ruins, especially given all the glorious weather we had last year. Despite the heartbreak, this longing was welcome, since there were times early on in my recovery that I wondered if that desire would come back. But of course it did!

Not long ago, a friend asked me how I was able to suppress the fear and get back on the bike. My answer was that I simply had no choice. I am a cyclist. It's what I do.

So now it's been a bit over a year, and I am back on my bike - not as fast as I'd like, not for as long as I'd like, but I do ride most days. And on this particular day, I was thrilled to be cycling again along the tiny Irish lanes, even if the crowd didn't actually cheer for me as I went by. 

We had flown into Dublin early Saturday morning. As usual I hadn't managed to sleep much on the overnight flight from Boston. John's brother, David, greeted us at the airport. After a nice breakfast with wonderful fruit filled whole milk yogurt and proper muesli, we got busy reassembling bikes. Then we headed out for a "blow the cobwebs out" ride, with blow being a key term here, as the wind was quite persistent. Fortunately the lanes here are mostly lined with tall hedges, creating a wee bit of shelter. It did take me a while to get used to riding on the left again, but after a day or so, I was able to turn off the constant reminders I had looping through my brain - ride on the left, ride on the left. Our route that day was not one that anyone would call inspirational (so don't rush out to strava to download it), but we did make our way to Conolly's Folly on the return leg.

On Sunday, we met up with two friends in St Margaret's north of the city, and again tried to outwit the wind, by taking in more of the tiny hedge-lined lanes and tacking into the wind as much as we could.

Since John works from home these days, we were actually able to turn this trip into a longer visit, with John really working from home for the first week. The initial plan had been for me to try to hook up with Constance Winters in Northern Ireland, but her schedule prevented that, so I was mostly on my own for the first week - riding along with only my imagination for company!

So for my first solo outing on Monday, John and David had suggested a spin up to Trim Castle, a Medieval Norman castle on the River Boyne in County Meath, that was used as the village of York in the film, Braveheart. Despite being a film supposedly about Scottish Independence, a large part was shot at various locations in Ireland, even using Irish Defense Force Reservists as extras for  the battles! Ignoring the touristy placards related to the movie, Trim is a worthy destination, both for the view of the massive three story keep and 20 sided tower in the shape of a cruciform, as well as the lovely coffee shop where I lunched with an awesome view of the castle!

The route out of Trim took me past Bective Abbey, where I wandered around and did my best to fill the memory card on my camera. One of the cool things about touring around Ireland, is stumbling upon these heritage sites, where you can literally just walk in and wander around a Medieval ruin.

Incidentally, loyal followers may have noted that this post is well overdue and in fact updates to the blog have been non-existent recently, but my hope is to try and get caught up over the next month. John has hundreds of photos to sort through from both this trip to Ireland and our trip to Oregon before that. Things got hectic as we tried to squeeze in both trips before my recent surgery to have metal taken out of my body. While the hardware initially allowed my crushed vertebra to heal, it has since become troublesome for the surrounding muscles. After trying all other means to ease the pain, it was determined that a titanium-ectomy was the best option. So now, as I recover from this surgery, I've got some down time, and really hope to get the blog back with more regular postings. 

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