Ballybunnion → Spanish Point
Mileage: 56.0 miles Elevation gain: 2,241’
Total mileage so far: 455.6 miles Total elevation gain so far: 24,096′
This morning starts with a 12 mile ride to the ferry that goes from Tarbert in County Kerry over the River Shannon to Killimer in County Clare. The Wild Atlantic Way covers six Irish counties and today I’m entering my third.
On the ferry I run into a French guy—the same one Noel and I said a quick hello to at the café at the Gap of Dunloe four days ago. We chat for the twenty minute ferry ride but then take off separately once we reach the shore. Initially he is taking a left and my GPS is telling me to go straight so I do. I can see on my map that we’ll end up in the same place but I tell myself I need to stick to my route. I know he’ll ride much faster than me and I need to stay focused on my own safety. Sure the French guy seems nice but I’m a single woman traveling abroad. Who knows what could happen if I’m not careful.
My adventurous spirit is waning today. Maybe it’s because I’m on another long dull slog through cow country. If the second half of yesterday reminded me of Iowa, then today I feel like I’m in Kansas. To those unfamiliar with the tedious repetition of the American Midwest, neither of those is a compliment.
But Ireland’s got a fuck ton of peninsulas and they can’t all be the Ring of Beara. Yes some of them will be mind bogglingly gorgeous but others, like today’s Peninsula du Jour Loop Head, will just be boring.
Or maybe my spirits have dropped because I miss my dogs so much. I’ve never been separated from them for this long and at night I find myself wishing more than anything that they were curled up next to me keeping me safe (read : hogging half the bed).
Overall the rides and experiences are amazing. It’s the end of the day when I check into my room and have no one to re-live the highs and lows with over dinner that I find myself slipping into negativity. The loneliness of solo travel is catching up with me and I find it difficult to engage with new people. In the U.S. we don’t really do the talk-to-strangers thing.
Halfway through the day I stop at the Wild Atlantic Break, a cute coffee shop in Doonbeg. The song on the radio is that one that goes “I see you baby, shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass” and all of a sudden I’m laughing. It reminds me of the friends I met a few months back at the Tony Robbins seminar I went to and Joseph McClendon’s refreshing advice that we should constantly give ourselves high fives and shake our ass.
After checking into my room I take a walk down to the beach at Spanish Point and listen to a Tony Robbins priming exercise in my headphones. From that point on I start to remember all the things in life that bring me joy and comfort. Meditations, songs, comics. At a café by the beach I pull up a David Sedaris New Yorker article on my phone and feel closer to home and every day normalcy as I bite into a panini that, I swear to god, comes with boiled carrots in it. (We can all agree that Ireland isn’t known for its cuisine, right?)
A few minutes after I sit down to eat, the French guy finds me again. I learn his name is Simon and he joins me for dinner. He orders the fish and chips as the sun starts to come out, sparkling off the ocean and warming us up at our table by the window.
Simon’s English is pretty good and for the most part we compare notes on the day with little confusion. As we finish up our food I tell him there’s live music and free WiFi at my hotel. Simon is camping so anyplace warm with WiFi is a place he wants to be. But when we get there the WiFi is in and out non-stop, the worst I’ve experienced so far, and the music won’t be starting until 10:00 PM, too late for Simon who needs to be at camp before dark. He jokes that I promised him the world and gave him nothing, but still we sit down for a drink and keep on talking. He gets a Guinness. I order my new favorite thing: Lemon Club.
He tells me about Le Grand Sentier, a 22,000 km (14,000 mile) trek that crisscrosses all over Canada that he wants to do. I’m impressed but it sounds way too cold. I tell him about the Pan American Highway, a 30,000 km (19,000 mile) route that starts in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and runs south through twenty-one countries including Canada, the U.S., and most of Central and South America ending in Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of Argentina.
Then Simon opens my eyes to a gold mine: the EuroVelo routes. Holy moly! Do you guys know about these? There are thirteen of them covering all of Europe. He did #6 on the Crossbar CR7 bike he’s on now, sneakers and flat pedals the whole way. He shows me on a map how he started from his home in Nantes, France and rode 4,500 km across ten countries to Romania.
I’m writing on my laptop and Simon wants to know if I’m going to blog about him. I tell him maybe. I’m impressed that he’s camping the entire way and traveling with only one piece of equipment—a tiny gas operated stove so he can make fresh coffee each morning. He steals sugar packets from the table as he explains the device to me. I appreciate how hard core he is, especially considering how sleight he seemed at first glance. Something about his French accent and tiny frame made it seem like he would melt in hot water.
Simon thinks he’s older than me, and that is a beautiful thing because he is 28 and I am 39. Simon also wants to have a shower in my room but that’s where I draw the line. Now I know what you’re thinking. I can hear you screaming at your computer screen. “Jennifer! When a cute young French guy wants to get naked in your hotel room, you let him!” Frankly I think Simon would move in with me if I allowed it, but no. I’m just not feeling it. Cute, yes, but in a very boyish kind of way.
I know I’m probably the only American woman alive who doesn’t get turned on by a French accent, but what can I say? This evening what I really needed was company and conversation and I got it. I really believe that my ability to relax on the beach (thank you Tony Robbins!) and invite in a lightness is what allowed it to come into being.
This trip is not taxing me physically nearly as much as it is mentally and emotionally. Tonight I am so thankful to have gotten a break from the loneliness, to have gotten to say, “Kilkee was boring as hell but did you see those crazy Irish kids surfing?” And to have someone respond excitedly, “Yes! What were they thinking?! It must be freezing in that water!”
Sending love and light from Spanish Point ❤