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Mussolini's Emerald Isle Adventure

Discussion in 'Free Fire Zone' started by Mussolini, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru Patron  

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    This thread runs in conjunction with my 'Mussolini's Travels' Thread. This adventure took place two years prior to that thread.

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    Introduction

    I enjoy riding my bicycle and Bike Touring has always been something I've wanted to do ever since I rode from London to Rome in the summer of 2003 - the summer I graduated from High School. It was my parents graduation gift to me - "Here, Musso, we're shipping you off to Europe for a month and you've got to ride your bike carrying all your gear (tent, clothes, food, kitchen items) while you do so. You've also got to get to Rome from London." - Luckily, I was with a group of 12 similarly aged people with two college aged leaders.

    Some of you Europeans may well remember the Summer of 2003. It was one of the hottest on record in Europe and we greatly benefited from this heat wave. During the course of the month, we only had 1 day of drizzle (in England no less, our first day of riding) while the majority of the rest of the trip was 80 - 90'F and sunny. Apart from the first 3 nights in England, I slept every night directly under the stars in my sleeping bag. Weather like this certainly makes a trip more enjoyable (nobody likes it when it rains) and I only had 1 bad day of riding (when a strap was rubbing against my tire, acting like a brake for half the day, which made it quite a tiring day for me). I never had any mental low points at any time, but unlike half the kids on the trip, I had actually done training before hand and while training had hit the wall one day and knew what to expect. I was also very active at the stage of my life, playing year-round soccer out of school, soccer in the fall in school, indoor soccer with the school during the winter, and long distance track in the spring for school - so I had the mental toughness of spending long, solitary hours exerting myself.

    Since then, my fitness has gone downhill, especially my junior year of college where I severely damaged my ankle playing indoor soccer - I rolled it badly, tearing a tendon and pretty much every ligament you could possibly tear in it. It took nearly 8-days before the swelling had gone down enough to take an MRI and it took 3 weeks before I could even put weight on my foot. When I got back into cycling after 'recovering', I formed a sciatica in my lower back and I could barely turn my pedal over due to the lack of flexibility in my ankle. Since then, I have constantly dealt with it and my calf muscle on that leg is constantly tight - to this day, that ankle has about half the flexibility of my good foot. So I am not nearly as active as I was in HS and have put on a few extra pounds since then as well.

    I spent the summer of 2011 taking care of my father for 6 months before he passed away. I was made a Supervisor at my job immediately after and spent 2 years being a Supervisor before my position became redundant as the company become more corporate and I suddenly knew I had the month of May, 2013 free to myself. I decided to go to Ireland for the Month, where my Aunt lives, and do a bicycle tour along the West coast before taking part in the 'Tour de Conamara' - a 50 mile ride in Clifden at the end of the month before heading home and to my new job.

    The problem with living in a Mountain Town is that its usually to cold and snowy to start riding your bike until the end of May, so I had very little chance to properly train for my trip. In retrospect, I would have done several things differently, but its debatable whether they would have affected my trip as my problems were mostly weather related, and when you have the weather I had in Ireland, it also affects you mentally. Two years later, when I went to Wales and started to experience the same sort of weather you will hear about here, I almost called it quits....thats how bad the weather in Ireland was for me!
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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  2. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Weirdly enough the warm water in the relatively shallow gulf of Mexico expands and exits the Gulf between the US and Cuba, turns North and moves up the East coast over the continental shelf to Nova Scotia which turns it Eastward under Greenland. Arctic water moving South between Greenland and Norway keeps the Gulf Stream going East then deflecting it south along the coast of Ireland and as it rises over that country , still warm relatively to the North Atlanta, it looses it's capacity to hold moisture so Ireland gets relatively constant rain as does Western UK. The moisture produces the name Emerald Island. and Wales is right in the mix !

    Your trips sound adventurous and what an experience to see that part of the world so closely.

    Gaines
     
  3. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru Patron  

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    Background

    My Aunt lives just outside of Galway so I decided to go down the West Coast then back (as far as Galway of course) and then do the Sportif called 'The Tour de Conamara' (however you'd like to spell the word, there seems to be a few variations) that was in a beautiful region just up the coast a ways.

    As beautiful as the country is, I was not expecting the wind.

    This particular y ear, the wind was extremely bad. It was so bad, scorching the earth, that nothing was growing. For the first time since the potato famine, Ireland had to import hay to feed all the livestock. Airports were even cutting the long grass and donating it to local farmers. I was not aware of this at the time of my trip but found out first hand. My Uncle, my Aunts husband, has a brother who is a farmer. They built their house on a piece of his land so we went to visit him and his family and talk about the weather. They couldn't put the cows out in the field since there wasn't any grass for them to feed on - all the landscape was being wind-burned due to the poor weather. The western half of Ireland at least was experiencing this, though the Aran Islands may as well have been a world away. No wind, sunshine, and the grass was a growing over there when we went for a visit.

    If you've ever gone bike touring before and faced a wind, you'll have a rough idea of what this monster wind was like. Otherwise, its very hard to describe what its like riding in such a wind. There is nothing worse when it comes to riding a bicycle with panniers on it than having to ride into a wind. The amount of energy you have to exert to stop yourself from starting to roll backwards is exhausting. Riding in a group, you can take turns breaking the wind for the riders behind and share the burden, but riding solo as I was it was all up to me.

    It was/is singlehandedly the reason why my Emerald Island trip was not quite a disaster, but a failure.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm not sure I agree with you on this one. Some years ago I also made a trip to Ireland. We (my sister and I) took the ferry over from Wales after flying into London separately and meeting up there. We rented bike in Dublin and took off. I knew there weren't any mountains in Ireland so didn't worry much about elevation variations. Turns out the location I chosen to spend our first night camping at was at/in the highest village in Ireland. After going up and down a couple of decent size hills the final assent was taxing. I was in decent shape then and ended up walking my bike part of the way.
     
  5. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru Patron  

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    I live at 8,000 ft. The 'Flattest' ride out here involves about 1,000 ft of elevation gain. The 'typical' rides out here take you to about 12,000 foot elevation. I think I live at a point higher than the highest point in the UK or Ireland. I would have to do the math. The elevation here makes it easy to fill winded or get altitude sickness. I was never out of breath or trying to catch it when riding in Ireland even if my legs did have difficulty with mileage (not being in shape).

    The hills in Ireland are not nearly as steep as the ones I encountered in Wales, despite following the same logic (straight line from bottom to top). I don't recall ever having to walk up a hill in Ireland, though I did so a few times in Wales.

    You can always walk, as you said, but when you're heading into gale force winds, its almost harder to push your bike than to ride it. Hills are a standard when coming to cycling. Winds that push you back up a hill you're trying to ride down are not! Wind sucks the energy out of you faster than anything else I have encountered. Typically, its the steepness of the hill that forces me to walk - mistiming a pedal stroke and going off balance, or unable to crank the pedals enough forcing a foot down, which results in walking to a slightly less steep place. As I did in Wales, I had to stop on even flat roads to recover in Ireland due to the amount of effort put into riding on what should be easy, flat terrain.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I could see how gale force winds could be a problem. Didn't realize you were talking about that level. I've occasionally been in winds that I could hardly walk into so doubt I could ride into them. On the other hand I've seen slopes I couldn't climb so I certainly wouldn't be able to ride a bike up them (they don't pave those either for obvious reasons.
     
  7. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    They have those motorized 'murdercycles' that you can rent. Just sayin'...
     
  8. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru Patron  

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    This wind was quite literally a constant presence, wind-burning the landscape. Despite the lack of sun, my face was red - looking like it was sunburned - when in fact it was wind-burned. Wind makes flat terrain fill like a constant uphill. If you stop pedaling, you start to roll back.

    Panniers are bags on the back of my bike, containing my clothes, tablet, etc. Any sort of wind that isn't directly behind me affects the handling of the bike. A wind from the side could blow me over if it was strong enough - if I didn't have panniers, it would be extremely rare to encounter wind that strong. A head-on wind has the same sort of affect, albeit wanting to push me back the way I came. Most of the time I stopped, I had to angle my bike into the wind so that it would topple over, instead of being pushed backwards while at a standstill.

    I have gone over my notes from my Ireland trip and they are quite poor. I will have to go off of memory and photos. I must say, though, that Ireland is a truly beautiful country and I did take a few photos. Unless it was a really low day mentally (a few of those) due to wind.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Sounds like I was a lot luckier weather wise on my trip. I've been wind burned a few times as well although not while biking.
     

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