Day 14, Galway

Rest day in Galway

Mileage:  0 miles                                                                     Elevation gain:   0′

Total mileage so far:  530.5 miles          Total elevation gain so far:  27,223′

I love getting the opportunity to write in new places, and Caffé Ristorante on the corner of 300 year-old Eyre Square in downtown Galway does not disappoint. I’m guessing the name loosely translates to Café Restaurant so you really know what you’re getting into before you even sit down. Clever stuff, guys! The staff is friendly, the mid-day raspberry muffins and tea divine.

This morning I covered the entire city with an eight mile walk that took me to the end of the Salthill Promenade and back. Galway Bay is beautiful and the city is alive and exciting.

Galway has everything a great city should have: Mexican food made by people who are actually from Mexico, traffic, pedestrian walkways, 24-hour delis, homeless people sleeping on the streets. I’m in heaven.

Even so, it’s difficult to write today. Everything I want to tell you about seems trite compared to what’s going on at home right now. My love/hate relationship with hostels for instance, or the saddle sores I’m sure you’ve been dying to read about.

My father believes our family history links back to a village called Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary, but the Lynch’s are especially prominent here in Galway—Lynch’s Castle which was built in the 15th century and oddly enough renovated into a bank in the 1960’s, Lynch House on Market Street where the elected mayor condemned and hanged his own son in 1493… greeeeaaaat. My family’s crest is even flying on a banner in the middle of town.

It’s fun to see my family name everywhere, but I didn’t come to Ireland to discover my heritage. Sure, I might buy myself a piece of jewelry while I’m here but it’s not going to be a claddagh ring. I don’t mean any offense to the people who do that. I’m just saying I feel my ties connected to the folks who had the idea to get the U.S.of A. started, even if it’s really hard to say that today in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA.

The Latin Quarter of Galway comes alive with street performers at night.

I already know the best music is at Quay’s. I know the best lunch options are off the main thoroughfare—a burrito box from Tuco’s or a falafel sandwich from the Lane Café, taken to go and carried down to the river to eat with the swans and the sea gulls. Or perhaps even better, up to a grassy spot in Eyre Square, if you can find a few feet not already taken by the locals so grateful to have an afternoon in the sun.

Give me another day and I’ll have the bus lines figured out.

This is an environment I am very comfortable in. I could live here. And yet… the only souvenir I buy in the Latin Quarter is a tote bag with cartoon sheep on it because I have apparently, and very quickly I might add, come to miss the little buggers I’d been communing with every day out in the wilds.

I have a very big decision to make. Option A is I ride with Noel and Paul’s MizMal group for a day and then I stick with them. In three days I can make it to Malin Head, the northernmost tip of the country, via the direct route, straight through the middle as opposed to sticking to the coast. I’ll have company, no more saddle sores, and cut a few hundred miles out of my overall ride. Not only will it mean friends and conversation, it will mean going home sooner. I’ve been frustrated and lonely so often, I feel like I have a million reasons to quit. America is a hot mess right now but it’s still home and I miss my dogs something awful.

Option B is I keep going as originally intended. I ride with the group for one day and then I head back out into the wilds on my own for twelve more days of cycling. It’s the journey I came here to make. Do I finish what I started or do I crap out and head home? I really don’t know what to do. The news from home makes me feel even more disconnected than I already have but it also gives me a renewed sense of how important it is to see the world as one, to experience any kind of beauty at any moment it is available to us.

Walking back towards my hostel I come across a street mural by O’Connell’s bar on Station Street. It’s a set of wings painted by Kelsey Montague. Her work can be seen all over the world and this is the first one I’ve come across in person.

What lifts you? she asks. The answer comes to me very quickly. Travel lifts me, even though it can be difficult. Learning, exploring, understanding. Adventure lifts me. The consequent payoff of getting out of my comfort zone lifts me.

I ask a passerby to take my picture and when I look at myself smiling back on my phone, I realize my decision is already made. I’ll be riding strong and seeing this through to the end. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Sending love & light to everyone in Charlottesville ❤


Day 9, Sheep Shearing up on Connor Pass

Dingle → Ballybunnion via Connor Pass and Brandon Point

Mileage:  74.6 miles                                                     Elevation gain:   3,849′

Total mileage so far:   399.6 miles     Total elevation gain so far:   21,855′

This morning I’m climbing 1,700’ out of Dingle to the top of Connor Pass. I put my bike into the small ring manually. (Did I even mention the part about how my bicycle doesn’t let me shift down into my low gear while I’m riding and that’s a big part of why I haven’t gotten up all the steep hills?) I’m covered in grease but I’ll be able to make it all the way without dismounting.

It’s ridiculously windy at the top of the pass.I don’t stay long because I’ll get too cold if I do.

Halfway down the backside I come across some live action sheep shearing on the cliff side of the road. This is the beauty of traveling by bicycle. The drivers are concerned about passing on the dangerous single lane curves that fill this descent. Meanwhile I’m swiftly weaving my way through stopped traffic full of nervous tourists and pausing on the side of the road to chat with local sheep shearers. I never would have caught this if I was in a car.

They tell me I can have a discount on a haircut today.

The wind blasts up the pass with such ferocity that I barely need to squeeze my brakes for the three and a half mile coast down. Even with a 10% grade the wind holds me back to a comfortable cruise. Mount Brandon towers to my left and the ocean stretches out in front of me.

When I get down to the bottom I take a left to head out to Brandon Point. I’m not sure at the turn off if it’s going to be worth the extra miles but it absolutely is. The views of Ferndoyle Strand (beach) are so cool. Low tide has dramatically pulled the ocean far out from the shore. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I take a few pictures then ride down to the beach to experience the salty sea air and take a snack break. After that, and for a long time, I’m on a road that climbs high above the shoreline. Cow pastures fill the space in between me and the ocean. It’s a beautiful clear day and I am loving every minute of it.

The second half of my ride from Tralee to Ballybunnion is surprisingly boring. It’s the first dull stretch since I started in Kinsale. The route turns a bit inland and I kind of feel like I’m in Iowa farm country. (No offense, Bret.) For thirty miles I’ve got my head down, hands in the drops, spinning into the wind. This part is more of a workout than climbing the pass had been.

It’s a sweet relief when I get into the cute seaside resort town of Ballybunnion and can stop pedaling. This is where the River Shannon opens up to the sea. It’s a beautiful area and I feel quite welcome upon my arrival to town.

Day 7, Stopping To Take Pictures of Cows

Killarney → Dingle and the Slea Head Loop

Mileage:  67.3 miles                                                        Elevation gain:  2,892′

Total mileage so far: 325.0 miles           Total elevation gain so far: 18,006′

One of Noel’s pet peeves is people who stop on the side of the road to take pictures of cows. I never let on to him that I am one of those people. For our six days together he respectfully refrained from taking pictures of his food, which is my pet peeve, and I repeatedly beat back my urge to pull out my phone as we passed cow after cow after cow.

But those days are over. Noel is gone now and I’m free to take pictures of whatever I want.

Hey girl, how you doin’?

My first true solo ride is spectacular. From Killarney to the beginning of the Dingle Peninsula I cruise along back country roads around little farms. Once I get back out to the ocean the landscape changes and grows more and more dramatic the farther out I get.

Dingle town is a crowded tourist trap. I’m happy to get through it as quickly as I can and take the turn onto Slea Head Drive. I’m going to make a long loop out to Ballydavid where I’m meeting my parents. They landed a few days ago and have been traipsing about Dublin and Cork. This evening they’re coming to Dingle and we’ll all get a day together tomorrow.

Every inch of Slea Head Drive takes my breath away.

I’m tired today and with my parents now. Though the scenery and rides have already surpassed my expectations, homesickness is overwhelming me tonight. I hope I can fight my way through and see this journey to the end but in this moment I’m not exactly sure.

Sending love & light ❤