Wow, it has been almost a month since our last post..sorry to our loyal followers...we will have every day posted eventually, but for now an overview. After Scotland we made our way southward into England, caught a ferry (overnight) across to northern Holland and proceeded across using a northerly route. On the way we were hosted by some very interesting people. One day we spent cycling across a really long dike. Most of Holland would be underwater if it wasn’t for the dikes. History here is a very thick book. The north of Holland is called Frieland and they speak Friesh, which is alot like old English. In antiquity, the Frielanders moved over to the British islands..thus..the English language has roots with them. Many of them basically refuse to speak Dutch. The people we met at the campsites were delightfully friendly and very facile with English. The campsites here are all privately owned and lots of people who live in urban “flats” maintain a caravan from April to September in these places. There are tons of kids and fun stuff going on in them. People seem to kind of know some of their neighbors. It is an interesting paradigm. Bicycles are everywhere, even the bicycle path concrete is red, and we have our own stoplights with a little bike guy in red or green. The teenagers have figured out how to look cool and text while riding.
We decided to ease off a little more and take time to enjoy our destinations. Charlie is a great camp counselor. He has willingly let some of his hopes for this trip change as the realities of his campers became revealed. God bless him!
Summertime in the northern Netherlands and Germany is cool at night and almost hot when the sun is out. They (generally) get lots of rain and everything looks lush and clean - even though they have had a relatively dry season this year. After traversing Holland into Northern Germany, we turned south and followed the course of the river Ems. This river is a major shipping route, with fabulous greenspaces and cycle trails along it. Small active towns have dotted this route. I have to admit the Irish have the Pub concept figgured out, though. We miss our pubs and our full pint sized beer glasses and locals with historian level knowledge of the areas.
Another thing I have been educated on is the use of the smartphone. I have always used the PC for travel arrangements. I was completely retarded using the phone for this purpose. It is practically designed for this. Google maps is hooked up with the search engine. Groceries, campsites, parks all with reviews amazing and powerful tool...however the conventions are different, every phone has its own quirks. My travel companions are geniuses with theirs. I appreciate the education I have received. I must admit that I have been resistant to smartphone use in public, because of the negative impact on social discourse. It is a fact of life now, so I'm now down with it. I found a mapping application called Osmand which is a worldwide croudsourced offline thing. It has provided good bicycle routing, especially in Holland. Also, my friends in India turned me onto Whats App, which is a VOIP messaging and picture sharing app. It is great to keep in touch with the family when there is wifi available and the five hour time difference allows.
We miss everybody and our pets (editor’s note: miss pets most, sorry everybody). We are currently back in Holland, near the German border. On the map, Germany bulges into Holland. That's where we are. Thanks, everybody for the beer money!
The day began at the home of our warm-showers host, Gordon. We greatly enjoyed our previous evening over dinner with him. There is always joy in getting to know someone during travels, especially when there is a comfortable, friendly, and warm atmosphere through the visit. I think these feelings or 'vibes' exude out into these social situations and help build a relationship and a trust between the two parties. This combined with peoples inclination to help and meet others leads to awesome situations.
For us, it translated into someone trusting us completely and granting us to be apart of their home. We were able to leave our bikes for a day in his garage; this was very generous with the effect of granting us with wings for a 24 hour period - by way of tracks. We decided to get to our noonish train by foot in order to give us a feel of Glasgow. On the way to our train's station, Queens St, we stopped for tea, explored outdoor stores, and walked the streets.
We made it to the station with plenty of time to spare. The upper tracks of the station were closed, so the lower tracks were incredibly busy. This bustle caused us to think our train would arrive at 12:19...unfortunately that is when it left...bye bye train. We all three were confused and missed it so we will blame them. Luckily, our tickets were valid for the day so we would be able to catch the evening train. Though we were all pretty aggravated from our mistake, it worked out for the best. The result was getting to go North West through the Scottish Highlands during a setting sun; beautiful. The views from the car windows were stunning. Got to see Ben Nevis during our approach to Fort William - none of us knew what we were looking at at that time.
We arrived to a quiet, twilight Fort William and walked the streets on our way to the hostel. The town was very enjoyable in this setting. Soon settled in, we researched our activities for the next day learning a little more about Ben Nevis and reading of a steam train (The Jacobite) that would depart at 10:30. A plan for the morning was made!
A Joint Effort
-Skye and Charlie
The Heads of Ayr is on the west coast of Scotland. It is a tourist spot. Lots of golf courses, amusement parks, etc. Still in pretty good shape, but the tourist industry suffered after 2006. We have heard time and again how harsh this was for them. We cruised leisurely through this cute beach town..Charlie and Skye stopped at a playground and frolicked like children. Leaving town, we mostly stuck to Scotland’s excellent trail system. It is based largely on a system of old narrow gauge railroads which became obsolete, so the tracks were replaced with smooth pavement...at least on the west of Scotland. Also we rode a lot on trails next to canals, which were not as good as the rail trails, probably because the underlying foundation was less heavy duty. We expected steep hill climbs in Scotland, but both of these types of trails meant that the grades were almost completely flat! Go figure. The way to Lochwinnock, however, was coastal roads and had steep climbs. When we arrived in town the local places were booked, so we went to the local pub..The Four Churches. ..they had live music, Irish versions of Bruce Springsteen ballads largely...and they helped hook us up to a farmhouse b&b. It was a mile out of town...straight up...there, once we recovered, we were delighted with a very happy welcoming host, twenty beautiful pregnant cows in the backyard, and an invitation to use their sitting room to watch a soccer match and eat our dinner of Skye wraps. The consequence of the climb was an astonishing view across the valley with the lake at the bottom. Completely pleasant. The gardener gave us a primer on “midges”..their version of the annoying biting fly. He gave us a bottle of “jungle juice”, with enough deet to kill small children or your dog.
Our hosts name was Mary. .she was jolly! After leaving her we rode down to town again and visited a bird and nature sanctuary. There was a wetland associated with the big lake . We did a nature hike and saw birds. Then on to Glasgow and another warm showers host. His name was Gordon and he lived on an upscale urban neighborhood. To get there we braved a mile long tunnel under a deep river...way down then way back up. I walked. Charlie’s aggressive style is in full flower on the urban environment...I am mostly terrified. He hits the cars (on purpose?) They don't hit him. We joined with a friendly cyclist, who helped us navigate to a grocery. We then went to Gordon’s, cooked a pasta meal for all of us. Had rousing conversations, and went to bed. I am an aggressive conversationalist, like Charlie is an aggressive cyclist. Poor Skye.
We suffered more “punctures” on Charlie’s Continental Comfort tires. They are now patched, and will be replaced.. The punctures were caused by small red flintlike stones. Skye fixed the last one.
Belfast > Ballantrae, Scotland
- Ate breakfast
- Went into Belfast
- Mark went on the search for a new watch battery
- Found lucozade (thanks for the new addiction - Lydia and Pete)
- Got on the Ferry
- Four levels (We stayed in the bar area for the ride - it had the view out the front)
- WE MADE IT TO SCOTLAND!
- Off the ship and a ride to the B&B
- Then to a local pub for dinner, and the football/soccer game
Ballantrae to Ayr
- Rained a lot today
- Stopped at a tea shop to find a campsite
- Spent about two hours there
- Rode to "Heads of Ayr" caravan park to set up
- On the way there it started pouring, and it was quite cold
-THE BEST PART OF THE RIDE: Electric Brae
- A hill that appeared to be going up in elevation, but we were picking up speed without peddling.
- Meaning for the name ----->
- Brae: another name for hill
- Electric: a new technology seem to be "associated with strange forces"
- Spent time in the laundry room drying off
- Set up tents
- Went to the pub on site for football match
Day at Heads of Ayr
- Woke up and the rain was still coming down
- Decided to spend another night at this campsite
- Lazed around in the tent all day
- Mark made a pasta lunch/dinner
- Watched game at the pub
--- DAY 41 ---
We knew there was an off-of-roads bike path almost all the way to Belfast but didn't know the best way to intersect or enter this route. Edwin, our warmshowers host, helped us figure this out the night before; he showed me the town we would need to route to and then the point in that town that would be most efficient for connecting to the path. The path was an old towpath for a canal system that ran from Lough Neagh to Belfast. The path was used by mules to pull coal by barge from a mine across the Neagh all the way to the hungry customer of Belfast. What this route added for in distance was made up by its complete lack of any hills...we were following a canal after all.
A few segments required us to enter roadways and navigate off-canal routes through town centers, but a majority of the day was spent next to the water. The routes are all numbered with the UK's National Cycle Route numbers so theoretically the route should be navigable using the turn by turn signs provided on the path. Unfortunately there are points where these signs visibility is lackluster due to vandalism, poor location, or who knows what. Either way we had a few occasions where we either had to backtrack or cross navigate back to the path.
Without to much trouble, we completed our 30 mile day to wind up at our planned accommodation in Belfast - a cost effective, converted B&B town home operated by a few Portuguese men. The manager, Joa, was extremely helpful and welcoming. The place was old and tired but had everything we wanted, especially alongside the ideal location near the center of Belfast - the guys were making it work. We went out that evening and enjoyed a healthy portioned and cost effective meal at a local 'diner' adding milkshakes for the walk home - it was the perfect find fitting the stereotype of joints near a college campus. With a good place to ditch the bikes (the B&B), we would spend the next full day exploring the town by foot.
--- DAY 42 ---
As a day off deserves, we started slow with the plan to go explore the nearby municipal gardens and museum. A refreshing part of their local exhibitions is that they have been entirely free to enter with boxes scattered about encouraging donations; from the looks of the contents of these boxes, this method works well - human nature seems to prefer charity over forced fees. These exhibits were also not lacking; they showed obvious thought, planning, and execution to deliver an effective presentation to the public. All very impressive. So impressive that we spent the remainder of our morning and early afternoon wondering these two sites.
From there it was time to hunt down some calories, eating at a restaurant with a focus on local micro-brews. They had a 'brew bot' in their entrance. It was a glorified box that they claimed self sufficiently made micro-brews...there first batch was due in a few days so we didn't get to check the quality of the bot beer. Interesting thing to see though; created and developed in Belfast - we were a bit far to go check out the pub of the Brew Bot owners where all served beer was from bots. With the milk shake joint on the way home we stopped through to get some more SUPER calories. With the day sufficiently spent with activity, we headed back to the beds to get some needed R&R.
First big travel day by ferry set for Day 43.
Enniskillin to Edwin.
- Working our way across Northern Ireland towards Belfast.
- Weather: dreary, rain
- Roads: avoiding primary; so longer routes on little back roads.
Went back into Republic of Ireland, found pub, watched soccer with the locals. ..if you are curious as to how this happened look at our route map. [Editor's comment: we watched the Ireland football match just on the boarder still in UK but ALL of the people there were supporting Ireland making it feel like we were still in the RoI - a lot of support and heritage is shared across the boarder.]
They said we don't get tourists here...we shrugged. Crowd young, sleazy teenage girls included. Rousing fans of football. We all made new friends.
Off to bed and breakfast [in RoI] - night of luxury again.
Getting more difficult to find accommodation because of holiday season...we plan day by day.
Next day...long ride to warmshowers...Edwin. Tired. Edwin was a very green, small carbon footprint kind of guy. Wood stove heated house; made hot water and cooked dinner with unit. Wood was sourced from demolition, mostly. Iranian wife, Mahvash, both Bahia faith...avoiding religious persecution in Iran, she met Edwin at University..
They participated in woofing...a method of supporting green, organic ideology via accepting volunteers to help on the “farm”.. they had chickens, greenhouses, stacks of firewood and two young Frenchman, mostly keen on polishing up their English. Mahvash was a powerful, good natured lady who ran her own interior design business, with a chicken comfortably under one arm. We ate our dinner with them...Skyes wraps, what a wrap artist! Then to sleep in the tents...rain providing pleasant white noise.
I am impressed with how ecologically minded the people here are. High fuel prices encourage this, but it is clearly cool to be like this, especially in the middle age liberal group...a fairly large demographic. These people love cyclists! Very good for us.
Generally people we meet are VERY interested in politics..EVERYBODY wants to talk about trump. We don't want to talk about trump. Who is voting for this bully anyway? When they start talking about European politics, it is almost always about the issues, not the individuals. I find this refreshing. What next, kim kardashian for president?
After waking up, we were lazy around the campsite for the morning waiting the rain out.
Today was a short day to Enniskillen.
- We stopped at the first B&B in town and booked a room for the night.
- This particular family room had a shower in the middle of it.
- Awkward place for a shower. Though I used the one located in the hallway for my nightly shower, Charlie could not resist. You could only see a silhouette of a person because the glass was frosted. He did enjoy attempting to hold a conversation with Mark and I throughout this event.
Went into town
- Pub to watch the soccer game
Then we went to buy food.
- I decided I wanted to grab some Northern Ireland McDonalds.
- The guys bought groceries.
Went back to our bed and breakfast.
- Guys sat outside to eat dinner.
- I took a shower and snuggled up in my warm bed.
We left Eden Villa after a tour of their awesome woodworking shop (behind the B&B) followed with a picture with our great hosts, Peter and Mary. The planned day was a long one as there was not much between us and the next good option; two towns sandwiched between two lakes, representing our first boarder of the trip - between Ireland and the UK.
To compound on the distance, the route had a large climb 2/3 of the way through. Climbs are incredibly rewarding for their views at the top which always require a break to enjoy. It also means the remainder of the day is a nice ride with Mr. Gravity finally on our side. Drop into town! Bite to eat. Run through the grocery store. Onto our Caravan Park for the night.
By far one of the cleanest, most well kept caravan parks. The attitude of the host and owner who greeted us complemented this. We enjoyed a nice evening with a view across the lake. Long day done! Shorter day to come!
We were all little introspective from our experiences of the last week. Charlie and Skye from their adventures waiting for me, and me from my trip back to the homeland.
We packed up during a small respite from the rain and headed off. It was “soft” rain most of the day. We Are mostly prisoners of our gear. Raincoats, pants, shorts, shoes...all things are purpose and condition specific..however the conditions here change on a dime. Ignoring discomforts is a large part of travel by bicycle. That and extreme and prolonged effort. We thrive on this circumstance. It can be cold or hot. Uphill hot, downhill cold. What happens is a sort of dissociation from the circumstances, a zen state. You are focused on the physical necessities of riding a loaded bicycle and not killing yourself at speed, at the same time, a great part of your thinking mind can wander where it wants. I think this may be a major part of the allure of this sport and others like it. The bull falls away, some clarity is available.
This was just such a day. Relatively easy ride through pretty countryside on friendly roads in mild rain. We met a dutch couple on a tour, saw a beautiful speedy river..wound up in a bnb in Tobecurry with Peter and Mary. They had a fully set up cabinet shop in the building behind the house. Oh, how i love the smell of sawdust! Their setup from a tool standpoint was remarkable. Charlie and i enjoyed our tour.
This was an unremarkable and pleasant day. Many miles. Goodbye Chuck.
Sorry we haven't had a post in more than 3 weeks....the last blog ended with preparation for unplanned events. Below, I will share with you a note from Pops about this. From there, we will share Skye and I's outline of our travels while Dad journeyed home. The end of the outline will be the completion of our circle and the rejoining of the group with Dad's return from 5 days gone.
My friend Chuck Jones died. I received the notice from Perry. Joyce sent me a message “call Perry”. We were in Ireland on our way to a town called Castlebar. Charlie and I looked at each other..”I gotta go”...he said “of course, we will make it happen”.
Surprisingly convenient and scenic bus rides over narrow Irish roads with the local people, then a night in a hotel outside the Shannon airport and some long flights and I was home. Sort of bitter sweet.
Lots of people loved Chuck, me included. I have been enveloped in the Jones clan for nearly 30 years. Never was there a more kind hearted, clear thinking man than Chuck. Boy, he loved Amy and her girls. As expected, his funeral was a gathering of my favorite people in Albany (and beyond). We celebrated his life and lamented his death. I will not forget this time.
Back on the airplanes and buses and back with Charlie and Skye. I also had the great joy of seeing my sweet spouse for a few days and Ned and Perry. Got to pat Buddy..dogs are really good at welcoming people home.
Castlebar - Westbrook House (6.17.16)
- Rode The Great Western Way
- Camped at Westbrook House
- Receptions area felt like jousting arena
- Went into town for dinner - clean and crisp 'happening' town
- Ate at a reasonable priced pub/nightclub
- Watched soccer match (Croatian fans threw flares - ref added extra time allowing Czech to have a chance to equalize - awesome to watch)
- Charlie really had to pee during the search for a whippy (ice cream)
- Found a centra / charlie relieved himself - in the baby poop bathroom from nightmares / got the biggest whippy ever
- Home to tent to prepare for big planned next day
Westbrook House - Crough Patrick (6.18.16)
- Planned to wake up early and Summit Crough Patrick (this summit had been brought up by locals in conversation a few times)
- When we got there everyone was dressed in Yellow for a charity event
- EMTs on deck (they called them 'Civil Defense')
- Rocks all the way up
- Part of top with path of loose rocks at intense grade
- People walking barefoot for 'penance'
- "I dont know how many people they have murdered but... said the guy next to us"
- After, stopped at pub for soccer match (Ireland: they lost)
- Enormous projector to ourselves
- Went back to Westbrook house and took a "nap"
- woke up at 20:00 and snacked on food
- Rain had started
- Went back to bed
Westbrook House - Achill(ish) Island (6.19.16)
- Rain all morning making packing a pain in the arse
- Rode on the Great Western Way towards Achill island.(Ireland's largest island - lots of mountains on Island to0)
- It was raining all day
- we were soaked
- creeks = rapids
- water coming from everywhere
- Stopped at a pub in Mulranny
-Met some locals (Tommy, Franky, Pat, and Chris)
-Chris offered for us to stay at his house
-B&B's were expensive
-After getting to know the group we decided to stay with Chris
-OUR ADVENTURE BEGAN
-with throwing our gear into a bus the guys knew (knowledgeable , nice guy - his bus info is shared on our facebook page)
-Chris, Pat, Charlie, and Skye rode all the way onto Achill island
-Pub with a session happening
-Skye serenaded by band (the sixteen year old from Arizona)
-Rounds of drinks (Jameson) continued
-Ate at HotSpot - spiciest curry ever (Skye's fault)
-Went back to pub and....continued drinking
-Charlie began to weaken (Puke?)
-Back to Chris's house and to bed
Mulranny - Achill Island (6.20.16)
- Woke up Monday at Chris's at 0700 and we were both crunchy
- Pat was suppose to pick us up at 0730
- Chris ended up driving us back to the bike
- sat in back with gear
- drives like a maniac
- Neither one of us felt like riding today but were determined to see the island from a cyclists view
- Got on the bike and headed out to island
- stopped at centra on the way in (Electrolytes required)
- Valley House (highly recommended was booked)
-"Its all worth it once we get to this part of the day" -Charlie
"Well maybe not, we are booked" -Valley House Owner
- Went to the caravan park, it was not appealing and we truly needed a warm bed
- Finally found a B&B that would be home by seven
- Ate food (slowly)
- Went to B&B and set up the tent / took a nap till she got home
- made us tea, washed our clothes
- had a nice night inside
Achill Island - Castlebar (6.21.16)
- Breakfast Smoothie, Irish Breakfast, Fresh clothes
- Most windy day...ever.
- rode out to north point of island before heading off
- Met cyclists that spend a week riding 300km a day, 2-3 hours of sleep
- 1 Canadian, 1 Irishman, 1 Australian (all super loopy)
- Made it off the Island and the wind slowed down
- Opposite of ride to the Island (sunny and clear)
- Took Green way all the way back (same way we came but different from the change in weather and direction)
- 70km day
- Had lunch on greenway (apples, cheese)
- met hiker from Italy; he wanted to do Appalachian trail one day (mentioned this when we said we were from GA; gave our contact info
- Stopped in Newport for a bite to eat (Charlie had a beer)
- decided to go on to Castlebar
- checked in with Ronnen (awesome dude who helped us store Dad's bike and figure out logistics for his trip the many days before that we stayed at the same site in Castlebar)
- Went into town and split a burger at a pub while watching football matches
- Saw what we suspect to be secret service in plain cloths enjoying off-time and a meal (Biden was in town)
- back to camp to bed
The next day marked the reunion of the group. Dad jet-lagged - took the day off. Met him at bus. Went to eat. We surprised him with a fully set up site for him to go straight to sleep; it was right after fathers day after all (he was so stoked to see that tent after eating)