The last day of biking started out pretty great – we stumbled upon an ancient abbey! There are abandoned old buildings all over this country, but this was one of my favorites. It was from around the thirteenth century, and we treated it like a playground for a little while. There were plenty of spaces to climb.
We had lunch in Kinsale at an outdoor cafe. There was a guy playing banjo for a little while, but he stopped soon after we got there. That was a bummer, because he was really good! This country is very pro-banjo. We like it.
After lunch, things went downhill (and not in the good way). We tried to follow the directions given to us by our tour company, but even four college-educated adults couldn’t figure them out. It seemed that they were outdated or from another booklet or something…the signs simply didn’t exist. We asked some locals, and even they were confused. We biked around in very hilly terrain for a couple miles, trying to find our way, when finally Rex said, “That’s it, forget the booklet. We’re going rogue.”
Lynn, Larson, and I looked at each other uncertainly. Were we ready to abandon the directions that had been our guide for the past four and a half days and rely solely on Rex? Finally, I shrugged in consent. It was a combination of, “I have total faith in you, Rex” and “I don’t have much other choice here.” He pulled out a map of Ireland and started figuring out where we should go. I looked around and thought, “If I’ve gotta be lost, this is an awfully pretty place to be lost.” I thought about getting a picture of us being lost to put on this blog, but I was pretty sure my team would mutiny and be all, “THIS IS NOT FUNNY, CHRISTINE. WE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR BLOG RIGHT NOW.”
So I didn’t. You can picture it, though: picture everyone unhappy, Rex holding a giant fold-out map, and a lot of sheep and cows. Got it? Okay, let’s proceed.
We started biking again, Rex in the lead, and we’d take “navigation breaks” every time we came to an intersection so that Rex could figure out where we were. At one point he said, “Oh….oops,” and I replied, “Don’t say ‘oops!’ That’s like when a dentist says, ‘oops’ and you think, ‘oh crap, now my teeth are all destroyed!'” So he amended and said, “No, not ‘oops.’ I think this is a short cut actually.”
Yeah, right. And my dentist believes that I floss.
It wouldn’t have been so bad except that it was the last leg of our last day, so we were all already wiped out. Also, we were biking up from the coast into the city, so it was uphill uphill uphill with almost no breaks in the terrain. I took a break at one point to meet a pug named Tilly, and that gave me enough energy for at least five more miles. But other than that…it was a difficult ride, especially considering that we didn’t know how long Rex’s “shortcuts” were going to take us. Uncertainty is poor motivation.
Finally we ended up on a highway. We weren’t on highways for much of the trip because our tour company kept us on back roads as much as possible. Now cars were flying by us at 100 km/hr (literally), and all I could think was, “Oh my word. Rex’s mom would kill us if she knew we were doing this.” But a highway meant road signs, and road signs meant we were going to make it to Cork. When we biked over the last large hill, Lynn said, “I can see the city!” in the same sort of hopeful desperation with which a scurvy-ridden sailor would gleefully yell “Land-ho!”
Finally we made it to our B&B, and THERE WAS MUCH JUBILATION. We were so happy to have found our way, to have completed the ride, and to take a shower.
In order to celebrate our success, we went out to a pub. They advertised live music, but when we got in there we were a bit concerned. The band was called “Hell for Leather,” and the members were all wearing black. The guitarist had ear gauges, the lead singer was wearing a Star Wars shirt, and basically it looked like we were in for a night of punk rock/screamo. We might have gotten up and gone somewhere else, but our leg muscles simply wouldn’t allow it.
Oddly, “Hell for Leather” ended up being a super traditional Irish folk band. Like…they had fiddles and tin whistles and bagpipes. Have you ever watched someone wearing a Star Wars shirt and copious amounts of hair gel rock out on the bagpipes? I have. Also, their fiddler was absolutely amazing. I thought I was going to see smoke coming off of her strings. Additionally, she would dance around while fiddling at the speed of light, so that was unbelievable. I can barely eat a banana and read my e-mails at the same time.
It was a great party to celebrate the end of a great week.
Biking is basically a metaphor for life. There are times you can coast, and there are times you wonder how on earth you’ll make it over that next hill. There are times when it’s sunny and beautiful, and there are times when the rain comes so hard you can’t blink the water out of your eyes. Sometimes the things you see are overwhelmingly beautiful. Sometimes you fall and need your friends to help you back up. You may even get lost for a while. When all is said and done, however, hopefully you can look back and say, “Wow, that was one heck of a ride.”