Our schedule today is a little tight. We have reservations in Galway for dinner and overnight. But first we have to get 76 km back to Donegal Town--turn in the bikes with Seamus and IrelandbyBike, shower, and head to Drumcliffe for our Yeats pilgrimmage and gravestone visitation. After an Under Benbulben recitation and salutation we do a Sligo flyby just to see what it looks like downtown at rush hour and then on to Galway for a few days (by foot or taxi)
The morning in Ramelton dawns clear and bright with the promise of full sun and record setting warm temps. We are convinced we can handle the worst heat Ireland can throw at us, we are after all Southerners but we recall a trip not so long ago in Sonoma where we were warned about the heat and pooh-poohed the kindly informant but were not laughing when we could find no water anywhere and temps were 105 with extremely low humidity which makes you thirsty very quickly. We are getting more sure about the hills but we have a healthy respect for the topography. We have had some mighty pretty roads but they are not the direct way from A to B. Our first sign says Kilmacrenan 9 km and I think, should be there in a jiffy. Not. The hills have got us considering a rope to make Polly pull us up all the inclines we prefer not to tackle. In effect we weave our way to the town all the while knowing we could have risked our lives on the valley road and been there in 20 minutes.
Our route today retraces some of the roads Lynne and I took into Ramelton 2 days ago. This is so called O'Donnell country where the ancient chieftans of the clan were crowned on Doon Rock around Kilmacrennan. We didn't see it on the map and I have every expectation that if it had been on the map we would have had to go uphill to see it.
Here we are resting from one of the many early climbs we had to make this morning. These are not long climbs at all but we find ourselves either going up or going down. It's not like pace-lining on a country road in Alabama.
So we are cruising along headed to Ballybofey when we see a country store that reminds us of home. We stop in for a Gatorade and see that it has a steam table for lunch, drink cases, and ice cream boxes just like home. It has an unpronounceable name that I tried 3 times to get right amusing the cashier and it overlooked a pastoral valley that was closer to green than the ubiquitous brown. Donegal is NOT all Irish green, it has a dusky forlorn remote air in many places but it has plenty of resplendent green.
We are headed to Ballybofey for lunch. It's a pretty happening place at noon. We were told its the only town without a church or school. Well it has a lot of cars. The main drag is pretty tight to be walking your bike on the sidewalk what with everyone thronging. There was a lot of traffic too. We wandered around asking people what the best place to eat was and got several opinions with no obvious synchronicity suggesting a superior choice. We ended up in Hennessy's which was cool and rather empty which was a mighty good thing because the proprietor was aged and flighty making us feel bad for ordering, having him bring the wrong thing, and then making him return to the kitchen which he did with apparent good cheer but some ineffectiveness until he got the helper out of the kitchen to assist. We like the step up toilet. I had never seen that before. You open the bathroom door--and take two steps up to a platform where the toilet resides. No one can see you on the throne but you just know your way up there. So hills to conquer when riding a bike and hills to conquer when going to the john.
After lunch we notice that it has become significantly hotter. We are headed to Barnesmor Gap which has an uphill sound to it. I notice on the map that we are getting very close to the border of Northern Ireland and wondered whether a little road like we were on would mark the border. No. Didn't see any guard towers or fences with a no man's land. I think it is safe to return to Northern Ireland--the troubles are quiescent. I would be a lot more worried about taking an admission tour at U Penn in W. Philly.
It is another prettty fair climb to Barnesmor Gap and arriving suddenly find ourselves on the main superhighway to Donegal. There is a LOT of traffic but we have an entire emergency lane to ride in. Pretty sweet. It is also a huge thrill to take the downhill. What a rush. It is also very satisfying to end a bike trip flying downhill. It's like making a birdie on 18, leaves you with a great feeling and makes you end wanting more. The last 10 miles are all downhill and once we detour off the main road at Lough Eske we get even more downhills on narrower roads. Our only problem is elementary school quitting time which puts us on the road with Moms late to pick up their little darling and sometimes sabotages us around blind corners with idling cars in a bunch.
We get to Donegal a little before 3:00 and return to our first night's stay to turn in the bikes.
Seamus is there with his truck and detailed instructions about accessing the shower in the hotel in town. We pick up our suitcases , throw them in the back of the rental Passat, deliver to him our trusty steeds and head downtown to remove the funk and put us in a traveling mood for the trip to Galway. It was a short and sweet goodbye to our trusty guide Seamus. I of course forgot to remove my pedals from the rental bike and Seamus had to return to the parking lot where we were just getting back from the shower to deliver them to us. Always thinking that Seamus. I am grateful he didn't discover it servicing the bikes in Carrick and then need to mail them home to me. It would just be one more thing for him to do to ensure we had a good trip. From what we've seen--a Donegal tour is about as good as it gets in cycle touring.
Yeats' grave in County Mayo is not far.
"Under bare Ben Bulben's head-
in Drumcliffe courtyard Yeats is laid-
An ancestor was rector there--long years ago. By the road an ancient cross"
We drank a toast to the poet and checked out the view of the mountain. It is distinctive.
Well I'd write more but you should just go and see for yourself what a pleasure Ireland can be in the sun. I'd say we were lucky considering it could have rained daily and been 50 degrees but Fortune favors the brave and the Irish will make up for any snafus with a generous dose of hospitality.