Archive for April, 2008

Lovely Letterfrack

April 30, 2008

April 14: After our first breakfast at the Old Monastery Hostel, Anne went back to bed to read and nap while Larry made friends and talked bikes with other guests. I roused in the late morning for a hike up Diamond Hill, one of the 12 bens, and moderately high at 512k. The path up is one-way and really well-maintained. We saw wildflowers, waterfalls, and fantastic views.

After a bite to eat at the hostel we took off on our bike for a ride to the Renvyle Strand, a peninsula that includes Tulley Mountain. Ignoring the “Connemara Loop” signs we decided, at Anne’s suggestion, to “ride around” the mountain on what turned out to be the world’s longest sheep ranch driveway. It was a bit harrowing at times, a couple of times we felt the back wheel spinning on gravel, but, the cable splice held! Heading back to the hostel, Larry cooked a lovely dish of smoked haddock, broccoli, onions and pasta in the hostel kitchen.


Westward ho!

April 29, 2008

April 13: Cong to Letterfrack day, retracing our steps for a few K and then west to the coast. Our leisurely ride let us see and experience Ireland close up. Leaving the hostel, it started to rain so when we got into Cong we waited out the storm out at a gas station market and then a diner across the street. Back on the bike a few minutes later we saw sheep grazing in stone-fenced pastures that dotted the hillsides. Once, hearing frantic bleatings of twin lambs, we were relieved to hear Mama Ewe’s “BAAAAAA,” as she appeared over the crest of the hill. The “mamama” bleats were followed by happy baby “baabaabaa” as the twins, tails whirling, rushed up the hill to enjoy lunch.

The route was hilly but with proper fuel, including a stop at a pub in Leenane for soup and coffee, we climbed to a mesa.

Our destination was the Old Monastery Hostel in Letterfrack, a place run by Steven, who serves breakfast strictly at 9 every morning of oatmeal and fresh-baked bread. We stayed in the “church room” which was decorated with all sorts of religious art. The whole place is decorated with colorful artwork, eccentric collections of things, including the community showers which have blue twinkle lights and bead curtains.

Cong’s Quiet Man

April 29, 2008

April 12: After Googling a straightforward, 63K, route from Galway to Cong, our Captain instead steered a route west along the coast (Salthill to Spiddel), north to Maum, and east to Cong. Admittedly a lovely, scenic ride with view and hills (and hail!), it added another 30K or so to the day. The road north from Spiddel was especially interesting, lots of rugged ranches, mountains, sheep on the road. Got to Cong fairly late and stopped at Danaher’s Pub for fish and chips before checking into the Cong Hostel. Fans of The Quiet Man (John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara) will recognize Danaher as the name of her brother in the movie. Cong was the closest we came to a touristy area. Luckily, it was before the high season and few visitors around. The hostel was only okay; we paid extra for an “en suite” private room but because it was so small we just assumed the showers were downstairs in the community WC. Turns out there was a shower but we could only get cold water. Paid one euro for an almost six minute shower downstairs.

On the road to Maum

A Galway Day

April 29, 2008

We spent an easy day in Galway, where we visited the cathedral and walked around the National University campus. We met up with Lexi Bushnell at a charming coffeehouse on Quay (“key”) Street, the end of a ped mall, where Larry enjoyed a scone with jam and cream. Found Charlie Bryne’s, a cool used/new bookstore where Larry bought a book about bike touring the coast of Ireland. (And which gave me a chance to rag him about having to carry extra stuff on the bike!) It was cold and rainy so we headed back to the B&B for a nap and to wash out clothes. Met up with Lexi later on and enjoyed a Thai dinner at Tamarind. Good prep for the next day’s ride to Cong…


April 24, 2008

After a 12-hour sleep-like-the-dead night’s sleep and the trip back to Ennis for a new gear cable, we returned to Corrofin to pick up our luggage at the hostel, eat some more and hit the road. The route took us through the Burren, a hilly, rocky path. Beautiful countryside, but hilly. Stopped to eat at a tea shop in Ballyvaughan, where one of the lady proprietors told us of a loooong hill coming up. Here Anne is just below the crest.

Still, it was lovely, new spring grass, grazing cows and sheep, little traffic. However, at the end of the bay, heading west around the curve toward Galway we hit a “dual carriageway,” a charming name for a four-lane highway, Ireland’s version of a super-highway. There was space for us on the side so we soldiered on through the noise. At regular intervals there were gas stations (Spar, mostly) which we discovered had good coffee, clean toilets and were a nice place to stop. Got to Galway in the early evening (not dark yet), got lost, (your navigator got confused easily) but found the Prague B&B on Fr. Griffin road run by Charlie and Mary Fitzpatrick.

Of all the cool things about bike touring, one of the best is how often you have to eat! Keeping your body fueled is as important as maintaining the bike and sleeping. Here’s my food diary for April 10:

Breakfast: toast and coffee, Corrofin hostel

10-ish: Muffins and coffee, Ennis tea shop

Lunch: Canned salmon, soda bread, coffee, Corrofin hostel

Afternoon: Vegetable soup, coffee (Larry had porridge), Balluvaughan tea room

Afternoon: Bread and cheese, bayside, Kinvarra

Almost Galway: Chocolate, latte, shared apple tart, Spar, almost Galway

Dinner: Salmon and veggies (Larry had seafood pasta), McDonough’s, Galway

Biking, eating and sleeping

April 23, 2008

I realized that when I sent out our blog URL before the trip that there was a good chance I’d have trouble keeping up with the trip electronically. I managed to keep a small journal with the highlights and we took lots of pictures, but we had limited access to computers and no will to blog as we went along. Therefore, I’ll try to write about our trip after the fact, in the full glow of a life back home in Iowa City, sleeping in my own bed, parenting, and extracurriculars.

April 8: Our flight left Chicago O’Hare Airport in the early evening. We had very little trouble checking in the bike and panniers once the clerk read over our printout of Aer Lingus’ Web page on bicycles. The flight was uneventful, though long. Uncharacteristically, I had abstained from coffee from late morning and slept much of the flight, even the 30 minute hop from Dublin to Shannon. Larry, of course, can sleep anywhere, anytime. With travel time and time zones we arrived six hours ahead of ourselves, after breakfast, making our first day of travel….

April 9: After coffee and scones, we started putting the bike back together. Well, Larry put it back together and I tried to help. There was a lot to do but we had it done by the late morning. Unfortunately, I chickened out of riding away from the airport and asked if we could at least take a bus to Ennis and bike from there. Of course, we missed the hourly bus and had to wait for the next one.

We changed into bike togs at the Ennis bus station and started the 30 kilometers to Corrofin. About, oh, 27 k into it, as we were turning onto a side road to see an ancient tower, the gear cable snapped. Larry used cable ties to hold the derailleur into place and we rode on. Corrofin is too small to have its own bike shop so the next morning we road back to Ennis!

I do love to ride….

April 4, 2008

Riding around in the rain yesterday afternoon, stopping at John’s Grocery to pick up promised salad fixings for Noah’s team dinner, made me remember how much I love to ride around town. Even in the rain, which must’ve been a whole lot like what we’re going to experience next week in Ireland!

–From Anne

Training, too, in San Diego

April 4, 2008

Mama’s BakeryOn the plane back from a work meeting in San Diego (which was lovely and sunny for the most part) it dawned on me just how quickly our Ireland trip is coming up! We’ll be sitting on yet another plane in less than a week, this time flying Aer Lingus nonstop Chicago to Shannon.

However, the downside of travel is that it’s hard to get exercise. The week before we left for California Larry had been regularly riding his bike to work and around town. All I can claim are a couple of after work jaunts. In San Diego you’d think we would have rented bikes at our hotel. Or at least thrown one of the rickshaw drivers into the back so one of us could pedal. Instead we did lots of walking and sight-seeing, which I actually prefer to do after being cooped up inside listening to speakers. I also like to check out the local food.

On a sunny Friday we walked from the hotel to the far northeast corner of Balboa Park in search of San Diego’s only disc golf course. We found it, but didn’t have time to do more than watch the guys at a few holes because we were due back at the Prado restaurant (in the heart of Balboa Park) for a reception. After an awesome taco dinner we could have been hard asses and walked back to the hotel, but as we were leaving there was this lovely charter bus just waiting to take us right back to the hotel! Rough total for the day: 6 miles.

Saturday we made another trip to Balboa Park, first taking public transit up to Mama’s Bakery an awesome Lebanese Restaurant that’s tucked into a carport off a busy street (4237 Alabama St., After a great lunch that had some terrific people-watching, we headed over to the disc golf course, paid our fees, and found the first tee. (Anne was caddy….her throwing technique needs some private practice.) We played a few holes before the crowds got to us (nice folks, but that place is busy), so we walked east of the park and grabbed another bus downtown. Day’s total: 2 miles.

For dinner that night we decided to try a fish taco place in a neighborhood north of Old Town. Walking downtown we hopped on a bus and transferred to a second bus that left us off a half block away. When I asked about the street, the driver said, “Oh, the fish place?” That would be: Bay Park Fish Co., 4121 Ashton St.

We had ceviche and crab cakes and fish tacos made with mahi mahi. Fish tacos are considered a signature San Diego dish and are made with fresh cabbage. We were so hungry that we just hung our heads down and ate. Coming back outside to the bus stop at about 9:45 pm, it only took a few minutes before we realized that the buses on that line quit running about a half hour before. We walked to the Linda Vista trolley stop, which we took to Old Town and transferred to a downtown trolley. Evening total: 2 miles.

Sunday, we took the water taxi to Coronado Island where we walked across to the Pacific side. We walked on the beach, refilled our coffee mugs several times and after walking back across the island finally sat down to eat Greek food at the ferry landing. Day’s total: 2.2 miles across island and back plus walking around.