Kinsale → Baltimore
Mileage: 62.2 miles Elevation gain: 4,503’
Total mileage so far: 62.2 miles Total elevation gain so far: 4,503’
In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams reveals to us that the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. But, perhaps more importantly, we also learn to never, ever forget our towel. For a towel has “immense psychological value” and could be the “most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”
It’s been so many years since I’ve stayed at a hostel it never occurred to me to pack a towel. Alas, here I am patting myself dry with a ratty old t-shirt after a much needed shower. I am rested, rejuvenated, clean… and sopping wet. I don’t feel the need to dry off completely because it’s raining and I’ll be outside all day, but the t-shirt works much better than one might expect it to. Ahh, how far we can get with so little when it’s all we have.
Our first trek today is a sixty-mile jaunt to Baltimore, a town chosen mostly so I could have a short and easy first ride. There are many things to get used to: a new bicycle that weighs considerably more than my own bike, hefty pannier saddlebags which I’ve never ridden with, riding on the left side of the road, and brakes which are opposite to what I’m used to. At home, the right hand controls the rear brake but here it’s the left one that does so. Luckily there is so much weight on the back of my bike that when I do accidentally slam on my front brake I won’t go flying over the handlebars in the process.
Fifteen miles into the ride I can tell I’m having trouble with the saddle as well. It’s the wrong size and causing pain in my sitz bones. This may be a “female thing” for Noel has no idea what I’m talking about. It’s raining off and on, and the panniers are so heavy they act like anchors trying to drag me back down every hill I attempt to climb. As the miles add up we encounter a surprising amount of long twisting 11% grade hills. [For reference, in the U.S. I’ve seen steep grade truck warnings starting at 6%.]
So by mid-day I’m kind of freaking out which inevitably sends me into an asthma attack, and I’m shedding a few tears as we turn onto yet another hill. The roads are rough and narrow; the winds are insane. Noel is so far ahead of me I haven’t seen him for miles. He’s riding much slower than he’s accustomed to while I struggle to lag behind. I feel an inordinate amount of deeply ingrained pressure to do better, but try as I might, I simply can’t. I get off the bike and start pushing it up the hill, only to realize that it isn’t any easier to do than riding it was, but at least for a few minutes I’m using a different set of muscles.
Eventually Noel stops for a break and it takes me twenty minutes to catch up to him. He’s on his phone looking for a bike shop in Baltimore so I can get a new saddle and alleviate at least some of my discomfort. To our delight he finds one: Joe’s Bike Shop. For a minute my spirits lighten just a touch.
As we start out again and the climbing continues it occurs to me that this is the most difficult ride I’ve ever done. That’s coming from someone who has climbed Left Hand Canyon to the Ward, Colorado post office, has ridden the Peak to Peak Highway up above 9,000’ elevation, has circled the entire island of Oahu at 115 miles. I’ve ridden back to back centuries and let’s not forget this 114 mile hill debacle during Cycle My Heart Out, after which I couldn’t find words. I just completed a Half Iron Man for goodness sake! And yet, none of that compares to today. It’s not just the route; it’s the combination of factors working against me.
It gets more and more difficult to stay positive. My brain overrides my heart and focuses on all the issues at hand. If today is any indication of what the Wild Atlantic Way has in store for me, I can’t imagine actually finishing it.
After what feels like forever we arrive at the Rathmore House B&B and Noel asks the innkeeper if she can direct us into town to find Joe’s. She’s lived here all her life and never heard of it. Noel checks his phone. Of course it’s in Baltimore, Maryland because Baltimore, Ireland has no bike shop. No new saddle for me.
I scarf down four slices of pizza for dinner and follow it up with cheesecake and a hot chocolate. Noel and I make jokes about the best ways to handicap him tomorrow on our 96 mile ride to Ballilicky. “Maybe if you ride my bike and I ride yours,” I suggest with a twinge of fool’s hope. He just laughs and laughs.
The rain drenches us as we make our way back to the B&B. The wind howls against the window by my bed as I unload as much food and as many items of clothing as I can fathom giving up in the hopes of lightening my load for tomorrow. I easily let go of nearly half of what I packed but I hold onto my ratty old t-shirt-turned-towel. Who knows what pinch it will get me out of next?
It’s been a shocking and overwhelming day but I won’t go to sleep crying. I came here for an adventure, and by golly have I gotten one!
Sending love & light ❤