learned a couple of lessons on the train to Cork. One was that
if you sit near the café, it can be very noisy, with
the Irish equivalent of good ole boys, standing around drinking
Guinness and shots and shooting the breeze. But it was also
on the train that I had my first beer of the vacation. I was
so jetlagged the night before, that I knew John would have to
throw me over his shoulder and carry me home if I had anything
resembling alcohol, so I stuck to coffee. But now I was awake
and since I was in Ireland, I was going to have a Guinness.
It was great It was also on the train while I was under the
influence of Guinness that John started talking about St. Patrick's
It seems that there is this hill in Cork that's pretty steep
and some criterium in some famous race goes up it a few times.
I've never been one to follow racing closely, so I couldn't
truly appreciate how well known this hill was.
For the rec.bicycles.racing readers
out there, the Nissan Classic used to have a circuit that took
in a few laps of St. Paddy's Hill.
next morning at breakfast John was still talking about this
hill. I suggested we could go find it, take the gear off of
the bike, and I'd take pictures of John riding up the hill solo.
So I wasn't too alarmed when he stopped and asked for directions
to the famous climb. I remember something about a left and a
right, and then across the river and it will be right in front
of you, going straight up. The other bit of trivia John had
shared with me was that it was one way in the wrong direction
part of the way. I was still so turned around about riding on
the wrong side of the road, that I figured I wouldn't even notice
and we could claim it was my fault if we got in trouble. At
that point we noticed a police car turning right on red
(an illegal maneuver) and decided we would probably be ok.
Anyway we turned left and right and sure enough across the
river this road rose up straight ahead of us. John started up
the first block and I noticed the sign, and politely requested
to be let off so I could take a picture. John ignored me and
kept going. In fact he ignored my screams all the way to the
top!! We drew a little attention as we went up the hill, with
one observer suggesting we would be the first tandem, and me
adding that we were certainly the first loaded tandem! But as
we got closer to the top I was almost thankful for all that
gear, for I am positive that the load in the front panniers
was the only thing that kept us from flipping over backwards
and tumbling down the hill. Well, we made it, but I promised
John he would pay dearly later. We circled back around for a
second lap - uh I mean pictures, before heading out of town.
What can I say ? The one way section
was clear when we got to it, and I just knew the locals would
be behind us ! It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss
at the time. My oxygen-starved brain was having second thoughts
near the top though.
a way to start a day. Well now I was all nice and sweaty, and
probably strained every muscle in my body in the first mile,
and even if I hadn't I would blame every little pain on that
stunt for the rest of the week. I definitely planned to get
a few massages out of it. What I didn't realize is that John
planned to make me forget all about that little hill with others
I'm not sure I remember too much else about that day. We stopped
for chocolate bars and lottery tickets. I guess we were both
feeling pretty lucky, in each others company, so we got a scratch
card, with which we won £2. We exchanged it for £1
and another card, with which we won another £2. Our third
ticket was not so lucky, so we stopped gambling and started
In the next town we stopped at a coffee shop for a lunch of
soup and sandwiches and a shared desert. We had a little confusion
finding our way out of town, with John of course trying to drag
us up one of those "Unsafe for Horse Caravans" roads.
We only went a block before turning back and leaving town in
the other direction!
We then headed down toward the coast, where we got to see lots
and lots of coastal birds, not that either of us could identify
them. One of note was black with white markings, that kind of
looked like a skeleton costume when he was flying. I wanted
to get a picture, but decided my little point and shoot would
never get it clearly. We passed through a few more small towns,
each with a large church, whose steeple could be seen for some
distance away, beckoning visitors from afar.
We took another snack break in Goleen, a deserted for the winter
beach town, where we gave one merchant his first real sighting
of a tandem, and tried to answer that frequent Why now
question. At each of our little snack stops I tried a new chocolate
bar. I was definitely a kid in a candy shop. I didn't want to
have the same thing twice, although after a few days, I had
developed a few favorites.
We stopped for the night in Skibbereen, where we found a nice
little hotel and a fabulous restaurant. The seafood casserole
was delicious. But it was the brown bread that made a real hit
with me. And the dessert was pretty good too. John kept telling
me before I headed over that the food would not be good. He
Ireland isn't renowned for good cuisine,
so I was just trying not to build up Pamela's expectations too
much. Seems I succeeded !
We managed to pick a town large enough to have a laundromat
and took advantage, since John assured me these were rare sites.
(While we could wash clothes out in the sink, there wasn't much
hope of them drying.) We dropped our clothes off just before
closing time and picked them up the next morning. This meant
that we couldn't leave before 9AM, but that turned out not to
be a problem. After three days of sun, we awoke to drizzle.
We moved a bit slowly and didn't actually hit the road until
11:30. But by then, the rain had stopped. The roads were fairly
wet, and despite having fenders I was still very happy to have
my rain pants.
complained about all the main roads we had been taking, although
they looked pretty small to me. So we headed off up one of the
"Unsafe for Horse Caravans" roads. We continued up
and up and the road became narrower and then just as we hit
the part with grass down the middle, John exclaimed, "Finally,
a real road." Then not too much later, we hit a classic
Irish traffic jam, in the form of a few cows being led down
the road, kept in line by a loyal little sheep dog, who decided
we were also part of the herd, and encouraged us to get in line.
We eventually decided to walk a bit, and get a few pictures,
until the cattle reached their side road and we could pass.
Well, heck, I would have felt cheated if this hadn't happened
at least once. Now I could send off that postcard of the Irish
traffic jam in good faith!
The rain did also bring a little bit warmer temperatures, so
I found myself without my jacket for the first time in days,
although not for long. We made a stop in one small town as we
headed toward Mizen Head and decided to get food from a corner
store rather than going into the nice fireplace-warmed bar across
the street. We bought cheese and a sort of light fruitcake,
drinkable yogurt, and chocolate bars, of course. This was where
I tried my first Flake bar. This definitely became a favorite,
and of course I can't get them in the US! We sat on a bench
across the street from the store, and drew the attention of
two pups, who looked up with big sad eyes and we ate everything
ourselves. Eventually, I broke down and tossed a few crumbs
their way. For this I was thanked with an attempted marking
of my shoes by the little mangy looking one!