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June 8, 2003
Oh no, our last day of cycling! After another traditional Irish breakfast, we again had a choice of a loop through the mountains or a more-or-less straight shot to our destination. The wandering route was longish for us ~43 miles, but the weather was pretty good, and after all, it was our last day cycling. We wanted to make it last. The light at Killary Harbor in Leenane was beautiful as we departed. (Picture at right.) It wasn't long into the ride though when the threatening clouds behind us started to dump some of their water. We tried (somewhat) to outpace the front, and for several miles we were right at the edge of the rain. Unfortunately, we were at the edge on the inside so we did get rather wet. It did let up some, and we got ahead of it, so the rest of the day was pretty dry. We started along the coast of Irelands' only fjord, but soon headed up into the mountains. In addition to being the longest cycling day, it was also the hilliest. At one point, we had a fairly serious 3-mile climb that was part of a longer climb that was more rolling, but intense in spots. "Rolling, but intense in spots" seemed to characterize the day.
While sheep and cows had been companions to various degrees during our ride, today was a real sheep day. During one tough climb, we came across several sheep in the road. As we would approach - slowly - they'd scamper along ahead of us for a ways. After several hundred yards, there was a place in the stone wall that had been knocked partly loose and they clambered over it and back into the adjacent field. Fidelma told us later that the mountains are owned in common by the sheep farmers, and for most of the year, all of the sheep just roam around there as they see fit. A couple of times per year, when its time for vaccinations or whatever, the sheep dogs round 'em up, and the farmers sort them based on their colors. They are painted (dyed?) in various colored spots along their back to tell who's whose.
After the long climb with the sheep, we had a beautiful descent into Tourmackeady. We stopped at a thatch-roofed pub that had been suggested on the far side of town only to find it closed, so we dined on our picnic supplies on the picnic tables out back of the pub at the waterside.
At one point in our afternoon ride, we had just finished taking a pee break behind a small (empty) cabin on the side of the road when an elderly couple in a nice car sped past, turned around and pulled over next to us. To my surprise, they asked if we were with Cycle West (which we were.) It turned out that they were Fidelma's parents who had picked up our luggage from the B&B where we'd been last night, but they had a question about the bags. Sure enough, they had picked up an extra bag that we think belonged to another woman on a similar sort of tour that had also been at that B&B. We were glad to get that sorted out. It would really suck to have luggage just go missing like that!
A little while later, we saw what appeared to be a guided tour of cyclists going the opposite direction from us. Maybe 16-20 in total spread out over a couple of miles. Those we met on our way downhill looked at us with envy while those we met as we climbed were coasting down with knowing smiles on their faces. We were glad to be more-or-less on our own even if it meant only seeing Kylemore Abbey from the outside! We meandered between and around two lakes today - Lough Nafooey and Lough Mask.
A little after 5:00, we make our way into Maam Cross. There we meet Fidelma's parents again, and surrender the bicycles. Fidelma's parents had been assigned to sag work because Fidelma had to go pick up a tired teen on some other journey. So, Fidelma's parents drove us into Galway. It was a fascinating ride. These back roads had seemed so gentle as we cycled along them, but hurtling along at 60 miles an hour they seemed barely adequate to the task of transportation. At one point we were backed up along with several other cars behind one slow car. When we finally came to a straight away, we passed easily 5 other cars with the engine straining along at redline. It was a blast, but I had to pry Carolyn's fingers out of my knee when we finally came to a stop.
The Galway Harbour Hotel was also quite nice, but so newfangled, I couldn't figure out how to operate the shower. For the first time in my memory, I was stumped by plumbing! I poked and prodded at all sorts of things but couldn't get the water to come out of the shower head. Finally, I called down to the front desk and some nice young lad came up and pulled on something that I hadn't found (a recessed ring in the faucet itself), and all was well. It reminds me of my user interface training, and one of my favorite books -- "The Design of Everyday Things." Anyway, I finally got cleaned up and we got back out into town.
By the time we settled in Galway, most of the shops had closed (past 6:00 on a Sunday) and we returned to the Bombay Palace for dinner. It was delicious, as before, and we told the proprietor that though I suspect he didn't believe us as we didn't finish our food. This was further exacerbated by a miscommunication where he thought we wanted to take it home, but of course there would have been nothing we could do with it. Oh well. We really did like the food!
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