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Feewheeling Adventures

 

I Almost Biked in Ireland
a sore knee makes me very, very jealous!

 

Evelyn Hannon

I was truly excited about planning my first trip to Ireland--an eighteen day schedule that would involve a sampling of all the wonderful goodies that the Emerald Isle has to offer. Included in my itinerary was some independent solo cycling along meandering country lanes. The good people at Celtic Cycling (based in Ireland) agreed to be my hosts.


As it turned out, the travel gods felt differently about my aspirations. Three days before I was to begin my two wheel trekking, I hurt my knee. Walking wasn't bad but peddling was out of the question. I called Bill Passmore and Don Smith, co-owners of Celtic Cycling, explaining my need to cancel. The conversation that ensued was my first hint of how hospitable and helpful these people genuinely are. Bill immediately offered to chauffeur me in his car. True, I wouldn't have the ultimate experience of actually cycling in Ireland but we would follow the company's routes and itinerary. It was an offer I didn't want to refuse!

Lorum Old Rectory was the beginning....
I was met in Dublin, then driven to the company's base in south east Ireland. Lorum Old Rectory in County Carlow is both a working farm and a bed and breakfast run by Bobbie and Don Smith. This magical spot simply exuded country charm. Think about all the Irish films you've ever seen-- sheep grazing on green rolling hills, farm dogs lazing in the sun, low stone walls crisscrossing the landscape --that's exactly what I saw from my bedroom window. There was a half canopy over my bed, an en-suite bathroom, shutters that kept out the early morning light and, in the a.m., a dining room table absolutely groaning with home-baked goodies. There was even cappuccino if I wanted it!

Everyone was briefed before setting off....
I sat in on the pre-trip briefing for the "real" cyclists. Each participant was given a set of laminated route maps and an "insider's" resource booklet outlining the best sites, pubs, restaurants and shops that could be visited along the way. Because Celtic Cycling offers the freedom of an unescorted tour, daily itineraries of different lengths and difficulty were suggested and discussed. Based on interest and stamia, each person was free to choose their own independent routes. However, like doting, protective parents, Bill and Don gave each of their charges a telephone calling card so that they could be in touch with headquarters should any emergency arise.

I collected Irish memories....
Yours truly, with my sore knee, was spoiled silly. Chauffeured along narrow winding country roads, I was treated to the loveliest sights--fields of the deepest, richest green imaginable, bright yellow flowers, historic village pubs, Irish horses with gleaming chestnut coats, crumbling castle ruins and bikes, bikes, bikes everywhere.

Just as the cyclists did, I picked the places I wanted to stop and collect memories. I took the opportunity to walk along the water in the summer sunshine and remember a swan swimming ahead of her seven little cygnets. In the tiny village of Bennetsbridge, Irish pottery was being crafted in a shop that was once an old mill. And close by, at the charming Mill Cafe, both the bowl of seafood chowder and friendly conversation were perfect nourishment for body and soul. Further on, in historic Kilkenny, there were hand-knit Aran sweaters to be bought and a fabulously furnished castle to tour. In the evenings, a stop at a pub was generally rewarded with lively fiddle music (great fun!). I drank a little Guinness, sampled smoked salmon on brown soda bread, enjoyed mouth-watering lamb roast and had to practice restraint (not fun at all!) when faced with all the mouth-watering desserts.

Cyclists make excellent dinner companions....
At the end of each day, cyclists came together at pre-arranged bed and breakfast stops. I was included in that arrangement as well. My final (and most enjoyable evening) of the trip was at Park View Deer Farm, a charming home at the end of a long country road in County Wexford. This is where I met Danish cyclists Lisser and Poul Larsen. Both teachers, both in their fifties, he--very tall, she--rather short, and both most delightful company . I was enthralled with these Danes -- their stamina and healthy good looks, their day's cycling adventures and their lively sense of humour. Over a hearty home-cooked meal, and plenty of wine, we exchanged travel stories well into the evening.

I tried not to be jealous....
I must confess that I went to bed with mixed emotions that night. Without a doubt, my experiences those few days in the Irish countryside had been really wonderful. But, I was envious of the adventures my dinner companions had had. I could only fantasize about how satisfying that trip would have been by bicycle. And think of all the calories burned in the process. With that kind of exercise, there'd have been no end to the apple tarts, Porter cake, and sticky buns I could have consumed at the end of the cycling day! My only consolation? Perhaps the travel gods will be a little kinder the next time round and my knee won't let me down. I need to try again. I'm convinced that Ireland will look best from the seat of a bike.

Interested in happily burning calories in Ireland?

Celtic Cycling offers seven-night, unescorted cycling holidays in the south east region of Ireland--land only from $715 per person double (Canadian funds). Tour fee includes transfers to and from Dublin, pre-arranged accommodation in bed and breakfasts,luggage transfers between stopovers as well as the use of top quality touring bicycles, safety helmets, rain capes, water bottles, panniers and locks.

For further information contact:

Woman to Woman Biking Advice

--Used mascara brushes are perfect for cleaning bicycle chains.

--On long rides, panty liners provide extra padding where its needed most.

--Stock up on sunscreen. You'll be outdoors all day, every day, so take plenty. Don't count on buying extra overseas. It can get very expensive. For example, a 600 ml bottle in France was priced at $40.

--If you plan on bringing your own bicycle with you, check in advance with the airlines. Find out if there is any extra cost to take a bike on the plane.Are their rules for packing it? P.S. Remember to take the air out of your tires to prevent them bursting in the airplane hold.

--Take a trial run. A couple of weeks before you leave for your biking holiday, take a shakedown bike ride of 30-40 miles with full packs to determine the condition of your bicycle under weight and stress. Learn how to balance the added weight. Decide on what should be taken out of your packs to make them lighter.

--If you feel tired get off your bicycle, sit down and take a rest or walk slowly for a while. Don't extend yourself, especially if you're not a regular cyclist.

--Tape a piece of paper that includes your blood type, your name, any allergies and the name/phone number of a contact person back home into your helmet. In case you're in an accident (even if you're unconscious), this important info will be immediately available.

--Don't rely on your telephone charge cards from home. They don't always work when you're making local calls in a foreign country. Always carry a telephone calling card bought in the country you are visiting. Learn the general emergency number so that you can get help immediately should you need it.

--WOMBATS The Woman's Mountain Bike and Tea Society is a network of women of all ages and abilities who share a passion for pedaling in the dirt. Check out their website at: http://www.wombats.org

--Attention cyclettes! Look out for the mother of all "cycling" websites! The InterNet Bicycling Hub offers 25,000 links to bicycle related sites and more than 200 mailing lists with 15,000+ subscribers. If its bicycling info you're looking for, you'll find it here.

Take your pick, ladies!

Did you know?

Bicycling burns at least 500 calories per hour!

At the end of that hour you can eat the following and never gain an ounce:

  • 20 cups of cauliflower
    or
  • 20 large carrots
    or
  • 40 cucumbers
    or
  • one piece of chocolate cheese cake.

 

If you enjoyed reading this article about Ireland, may we suggest that you try Super Sleeps In Dublin as well.

 

 

 


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