By the time I was ready to get back on the road, Dawn was ready to come with me! I tried telling her how tough it would be, how cold and how wet… what an introduction to bike touring: winter in Ireland. But she was determined, and I thought, “Never tried that before…” My first instinct was “No this is MY bike tour,” but long ago I resolved to remain open to all possibilities, so after some proper consideration I decided I’d be okay with it. Her bike was in some state of disrepair, but neither of us could afford many replacement parts, so I did the best I could; I replaced her derailleur cable, bent the rear derailleur back into shape a bit and adjusted the limit screws, scavenged some bottle cages, borrowed some rear panniers, and ziptied a big rusty shopping basket onto her front basket mount. It was perfect proof that you don’t need a lot of money to go bike touring. Freedom costs nothing!
On Thanksgiving(just another Thursday in Ireland), after a big traditional Irish fried breakfast(cooked by Keane the leprechaun!), we departed for Dublin. We had a (relative) feast that night, camped in a bog, huddled together under my rain tarp. Dawn surprised me by having a huge sheepskin along – very cozy! Over the next few days we pedalled across the island, trying to stay warm and trying not to get lost. She was a champion; it was like she’d been bike touring for years. She even convinced me to stay in a couple abandoned buildings to escape the frost – something else I’ve never done before. And I had my camping stove again – hot tea on demand! A crucial bit of kit for winter camping.
We arrived at some friends of hers outside Dublin and stayed for a few days, relaxing and helping set up Indian-made yurts on a beautiful organic farm estate. One night we took the row boat(which was apparently sinking) out to the island in the middle of the lake on the property, on an ice-breaking trip. The sound of the ice cracking all the way across the lake, then rebounding against the shore and cracking back, was unreal. It reminded me of lightning. We had hot tea from my steel bottle and the last of my Crown Royal whiskey atop the 200yro tower built on the island, taking in the brilliant starry sky, the stunning pink haze of Dublin’s city lights, the splashing swans, and the sparrows nestling in the reeds.
Next we pedalled a bit farther and stayed at her parents’ place for a couple nights. During a conversation about traditional food, I told her dad I didn’t care so much for blood pudding(a sort of sausage patty made from pig’s blood). The morning we left, though, what does he serve for breakfast? Eggs and blood pudding, with an extra portion for me. Hah! Of course I ate what was given to me – it’s all calories, right? But the next day there was a nation-wide recall on all pork products; some chance of carcinogen contamination or something. Thanks a lot Jerry! 😉
From there we finally made it all the way into Dublin’s fair city, “the Big Shmoke,” via Pheonix Park, Europe’s largest urban park(whole herds of reindeer live there), for the weekend and Dawn’s birthday. It was nice; she used to live there so she knows her way around and has plenty of friends in town. For a couple of days we hung out and saw the sights, walking and cycling around town, visiting Trinity College, Grafton Street, the Spire on O’Connel Street, Molly Malone, Templebar, the Quays along the River Liffey, and tons of other spots. We had a grand ol’ birthday party and polished off a liter of Jameson between the three of us. I did some Spanish homework for her old flatmate Grianne who was swamped with exams, had an interview for the national Irish Times, met up with a Madisonian that saw the article(http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/1208/1228571631919.html), and got my broken Leatherman replaced immediately(and for no charge) with a new Swiss Victorinox multi-tool.
Saying goodbye to Dawn was not easy, but the time had come to part ways. She was one of the few women I’ve met that was tough enough for bike touring, and I’m sure we’ll meet again some day, but I had to move on. It’s one of the hard parts of this traveller’s life I’ve set myself up for – so many goodbyes; always goodbye.
I left on a crisp(and thankfully dry) Wednesday morning, headed North.