Sunday, 8 May 2016

Day 14 Arklow to Dublin


Arriving into Arklow at the end of a tiring day. It's time for a quick cup of tea and a cake before making contact with my Homestay, Colm.
I met Colm at the main gate and he has been having a few Friday night pints before heading home with me in tow. He doesn't live too far away so we have a good bit of craic walking home.
Heading into Day 14 I'm feeling surprisingly well. No real aches and the cold I have been talking to is being compliant and staying back. But I know he is just biding his time till he gets an opening.
Nice dinner and a chat about cycling (Colm is a keen biker) and the soon it's time for bed. Im really tired tonight. A wonderful flame red sky bodes well to the morrow. Sleep comes quickly.

Red sky at night is normally a shepherds delight . But the shepherds in Wicklow must prefer the rain because it a damp miserable morning.
Forming up at the college for the presentation, which usually gets me going for the day, is not doing it today. I'm subdued and morose today and nothing can shift the gloom I feel. Unusually I sit through the presentation and any attempt to get me bouncing is pushed aside. I somehow leave putting my bags on the truck to the last minute and find one is full and locked up and ready to go and the other won't take both my bags. After some persuading I'm sorted and get bike ready for the final run in to Dublin.
Nollig and his wife appear at the start and have decided to come down to cycle the final day. We will pick up Liam later in the morning who is also going a distance with us. It's great to see a club face again before heading off. It's a roller coaster ride through Wicklow and my legs are in good shape and taking the inclines with ease.
There are various stops along the way cause we are on the clock today. RTE dictates our arrival into Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
Rolling down the roads heading into Dublin we have impressive Garda escorts of squad cars and motorbike outriders who take charge of traffic issues for us together with our own very competent motorbike marshals. It's a sight to see the huge peleton snake it's way through the city. We have right of way everywhere.
Finally we arrive at our our finish line that is the magnificent grounds of Kilmainham. I have never been in here before and it is a truly beautiful massive gardens in the heart of the city. Very impressive.
Welcome tea and sandwiches are provided here for us as I meet all my new friends and old ones, who have come the journey with me. Some I never knew before this but have made friends with as the days went on. I meet up Kathleen Tobin (super gran) who , along with me has now completed 4 two week full trips on CAS. An exclusive club.
Sad leaving everyone after the trip.
It's been a great trip. One with lots of memories. Good and bad. A lot has happened since we left Dublin 2 weeks ago. Hail rain and snow, sub zero temperatures and high headwinds. But spirits were never dampened to the point of giving up. Knee pain on day 2 threatened. But thankfully didn't materialise. Put on a few pounds with the great food we were treated to in home stays and schools but sure that will go.
 Met some wonderful people , both on the road and in home stays. People struggling with inner demons, with sadness and grief. Gillian ( not her real name) who was grieving for her dad.
Mary, for her brother. Pain that won't go. Grief that raises it head and will always. The whys! The how's! Spontaneous tears sparked by others personal sharings. And here we all were riding Shoulder to Shoulder to try to get the message over that it OK NOT TO FEEL OK. AND ITS ABSOLUTELY OK TO ASK FOR HELP.
The strongest message I got was that it's not our generation that will change this. We are setting the seed. But it's all those thousands of teenagers that we presented to , who will affect the change. It's their generation who will remove the stigma around mental health issues.
Most startling thing that happened?
28 people took their lives in Ireland since we left Dublin 2 weeks ago!!
Shoulder to Shoulder we will change this.
Thanks everyone for your support along the way.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Day 13 . Wexford to Arklow via Gorey

Last night I had a lovely Homestay with Micheline. She made me very welcome and she gave me lovely food. Wexford is a place I don't think I was ever in and it's a lovely town with a magnificent long bridge over the estuary.
Micheline brought me to the start and the presentation that we were giving to the school. The atmosphere was buzzing. The cyclists were amassing and we were taking some 200 students on the cycle today.
Even though my legs were aching in the night I feel energised this morning. It is the last but one day of this amazing journey and the aches are gone. I have legs like Fred Astaire and I'm ready for dancing. Sure enough the atmosphere in the hall doesn't disappoint. Everyone is up for whatever the day will bring. Sun is shining but a cool north wind is getting up. Ready to blow us backwards.
Some moving presentations and some great singing from local bands is what gets the juices going.
Emily Ann from my club text me last night to say she is taking a group of students from her school to ride with us. And I'm looking forward to seeing her and them in this mellee.
After saying last goodbyes to Micheline , we are off on a rolling 54km trip to Gorey. Because of numbers on the road (we are nearly 600) we are travelling slowly and the stop starting is getting tedious and a bit dangerous. There a re a few minor crashes on the way and it's not something any of us wants to see.
All along the road, through Blackwater, Kilmuckridge and Courtown people are out in the sunshine cheering us on and I have to say I never grow tired of it. It's uplifting.
Gordy is a welcome sight and we loop around the town to the designated school where we get a tumultuous reception.
Lunch is poor. They obviously had more cyclists than they expected and they run out of rolls before everyone is fed. But it doesn't bother our cyclists. They are easily pleased.
Leaving Gorey we are making the short hop over to Arklow and the end of a tiring day.

Day 12 Waterford to Wexford via New Ross



Woke up this morning after having a good nights sleep, feeling a good bit better . Not as chesty and more energy. Maybe this talking to the cold helps and it actually listens. Good breakfast, get some of my clothes washed . It's so good to put on a base layer that doesn't feel as if it has sand in it.
Get packed and Gerry arrives in the minibus to take us to the start in Waterford.
I've realized that I left my runners in the gym of the school in Tipperary. They were the only pair I had so it was barefoot till I was offered a pair of rubber sandles to get me through. Ideal!
Back to the lost property van, no sign of my shoes.
Weather is beautiful and boding well for the day. So layers are shed and it's great to be in shorts  for the first time this trip. Shorts, cycling top and arm warmers. Can't believe myself.
There is a bit of climbing today before we get to new Ross and the slow riders are finding it difficult. Pace is steady . We have an incredible 150 students with us this morning. Biggest ever!
They are managed well by the marshals. Mainly because their teachers have trained them about group riding etc.
We are cycling over a high range, with some difficult climbs.
New Ross appears eventually and we roll down into it and onto a great welcome in the town and the school we are basing ourselves at.
The food spread is great and are suitably loaded up for the presentation  after. Always good fun. But the sun is out and it's a welcome sight for all of us. Basking in the sun, sun cream out, good food and good craic. Could stay for the day if we were allowed.
Rolling out towards Wexford, we are joined by anothe 100 more students. Truly a record. We have nearly 800 on the road and riding the main road to Wexford on a wide shoulder is exhilarating with the peloton snaking ahead of us. What a sight!
Great welcome reception in Wexford and they have put on tea and coffee and cakes and sandwiches for us.
Micheline , my homestay is waiting for me and I'm whisked off to the house after saying goodbye to Gail and her friends. They finish today.
Micheline has a lovely shepherds pie ready and that and a glass of wine is pure heaven. Great evenings chat before beddybyes.

Day 11 Tipperary to Waterford

Bad nights sleep with the oncoming cold.
Long trip to Waterford. Feeling tired.
I was smothered with a chesty cold, had a horrible nights sleep where I coughed and spluttered what felt like the whole night long. Woke feeling like a dog and wondered if I would make the day.
Great send off from Tipp town, from the school and it lifted me as these occasions always do.
The weather is improving but the morning has been very cold and no matter what I put on is not helping.
When we get rolling things start to improve. I get a little warmer and my legs don't feel so heavy. Rolling on now but not wanting to talk and chat. Just grinding it out.
The morning passes and we arrive into Clonmel and things are a bit brighter. Have loaded myself with paracetamol and anti-histamine and I'm starting to smoke. The pace is easy but when it picks up, I'm ready for it and the legs respond.
Gail has offered me a bed for the night in a house that Ceire's sister has and I'm grateful, for a reason I can't mention here.
It's a long drag to Waterford and I'm grateful when we are getting close. Running in through the city and down along the quays and over the bridge to start a drag up to the school we are being hosted by.
Met up with Gail and the girls and we are transported to the house near New Ross.
Good meal ready and a lovely relaxed chat before bed looms at 10pm and head down for the night. I was losing my voice over the last few kilometers and I was glad of bed. Dosed the drugs again before nodding off in seconds.



Day 12 Waterford to Wexford via New Ross

Woke up this morning after having a good nights sleep, feeling a good bit better . Not as chesty and more energy. Maybe this talking to the cold helps and it actually listens. Good breakfast, get some of my clothes washed . It's so good to put on a base layer that doesn't feel as if it has sand in it.
Get packed and Gerry arrives in the minibus to take us to the start in Waterford.
I've realized that I left my runners in the gym of the school in Tipperary. They were the only pair I had so it was barefoot till I was offered a pair of rubber sandles to get me through. Ideal!
Back to the lost property van, no sign of my shoes.
Weather is beautiful and boding well for the day. So layers are shed and it's great to be in shorts  for the first time this trip. Shorts, cycling top and arm warmers. Can't believe myself.
There is a bit of climbing today before we get to new Ross and the slow riders are finding it difficult. Pace is steady . We have an incredible 150 students with us this morning. Biggest ever!
They are managed well by the marshals. Mainly because their teachers have trained them about group riding etc.
We are cycling over a high range, with some difficult climbs.
New Ross appears eventually and we roll down into it and onto a great welcome in the town and the school we are basing ourselves at.
The food spread is great and are suitably loaded up for the presentation  after. Always good fun. But the sun is out and it's a welcome sight for all of us. Basking in the sun, sun cream out, good food and good craic. Could stay for the day if we were allowed.
Rolling out towards Wexford, we are joined by anothe 100 more students. Truly a record. We have nearly 800 on the road and riding the main road to Wexford on a wide shoulder is exhilarating with the peloton snaking ahead of us. What a sight!
Great welcome reception in Wexford and they have put on tea and coffee and cakes and sandwiches for us.
Micheline , my homestay is waiting for me and I'm whisked off to the house after saying goodbye to Gail and her friends. They finish today.
Micheline has a lovely shepherds pie ready and that and a glass of wine is pure heaven. Great evenings chat before beddybyes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Day 10 Roscrea to Tipperary Town

After a nights sleep, during which my cold took hold and I started getting chesty. With my history of this kind of cold I know it will end in a course of antibiotics to clear the chest. So I , right away, begin having a dialogue with it . Making a deal! "Go away from me ! If you leave me alone this week I'll let you in next week"! Not too sure who will win that one.
Back up to the school and it great to see pupils back in our mornings. There is more life in everyone when there are students to present to.
Lorna and the girls we have been training back in Naas are all here ready to start their cycle. It's great to see them all so enthusiastic.
In total we have nearly 150 students on the road today. A big ask for the marshals.
The day is so good . Sun is out and the forecast is for much better weather than heretofore.
And so it turns out. Layers are being shed even though it's still guide cold in the breeze.
We have a wind that takes us all the way to the Garda college in Templemore.
Gail and Ceire have joined us this morning and it's good to have one of our own club men down here.
Templemore is amazing place and we are greeted by a guard of honor of Garda recruits to welcome us in. A lovely gesture. To see all the young Gardai and Ban Gardai is so refreshing.
Heading out then for a stop at Holycross and the abbey.
This is country I have never been in and it's worthwhile seeing. Heading down towards the Galtee mountains and the Glen of Aherlow. Beautiful countryside.
Arriving into Tipperary town we get another marvelous welcome and a welcome cup of tea before meeting our home stays.
Mine are Sean and Rosemary O Connor and their lovely family. Who look after us magnificently.
Cold is dug in now but I'm fighting it as best I can. Cause it isn't going to beat me.
 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Day 9 Ballinasloe to Roscrea

There was a quiet buzz around the hall in town this morning. The lack of a pupil presence makes for a quiet start to our day. On these weekends away we all seem to miss not having the uplift of the presentation.
We left Ballinasloe this morning in nice sunny weather but it was very cold. We were Comforting each other with the fact that it might get warmer as the day goes on. It was however very windy and we are hoping too, it will not be a full on headwind.
On the road we are soon into our stride . The wind is very strong but it is at our side and we have momentum. The craic is good as usual but I'm incubating a cold, I think. Woke in the night with sand in my throat. So me and the throat are having a discussion about weather I am ready for a cold yet. I'm determined to win the argument.
Or tuna is our lunch stop and people here have really done us proud. Huge variety of sandwiches and cakes of all types. Teas and coffees to feed the 5000. A truely wonderful spread.
Leaving Portumna the wind is now at our backs and we are cruising towards Thurles and the finish for the day. I have contacted Aideen, my homestay and she is expecting us . She is at the college with her 2 daughters Ashling and Kayley when we arrive. A quick cup of tea and it's off to Aideens house for a nice shower and dinner.
The cold in the throat is growling again so it's off to an early bed for me.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Day 8 Carrick on Shannon to Ballinasloe

Down to the start in Carrick, there is a welcome for us with tea and biscuits and cereal if we want it. There is no school today so we have no presentation to pupils but we have our own craic. Sometimes I forget that some , if not all the cyclists like to hear stuff as well.
In the hall we get a quick lesson in sean nos dancing which gets the blood pumping before we head out. A lot of new people are joining us today which will make for some difficult cycling. A light drizzly rain is falling and looks down for the day.
Flat route today with a few easy drags to keep us honest. The wind is following around behind us and it's hot because we are sheltered.
We stop in Roscommon for lunch at a hotel in a marquis. And there we have pasta and tea and coffee in abundance.
With the  the weekend upon us Colm Hayes from 2 FM comes back to entertain us with Rob Carley. Rob is a very funny man with stories of grief and hard times from his own life. A truely inspirational man. A bit of face painting and a Nice lunch before heading off again. Easy trip into Ballinasloe with a lot cheering for us on our way . With some new enthusiastic people on the road this afternoon you need to be vigilant for some erratic movements on the road. Soon we are there about 8pm . Bit late for everyone.
Tidying our bikes away and getting our bags from the vans we all go in search of our homestay which is always an adventure.
Gerry arrives and takes me to his home to meet his wife Carol and their two boys. They have a lovely dinner and a beer ready for me when I have had a very welcome shower. Nice chats and retire to watch the snooker and then a welcome bed.

Day 7 Sligo to Carrick on Shannon


After a great night in Sligo last night Geraldine has taken me into the college for the start of the next leg of my trip. There is a good buzz about the place. Lots of cyclists milling around . We get a visit from the coastguard helicopter which lands in the grounds and we all pile over to have a close look. The inside is amazing . We have a huge group photo around the helicopter before heading off for Carrick.
The morning is really nice and sunny and it feels like it will be a good day.
Its a short day with 45km to Lough Kee forest park . It's an uneventful morning cycling until we stop for a roast pig lunch. We are here for a  couple of hours. Had my food then head into the interpretive center to have a look. Got an ice cream and sit I the sun relaxing with a couple of lads.
Such a lovely place here. Sun is shining and out of the breeze is deliciously warm. It's all finally called to a halt and at 4 o clock we head out on the last 14km to Carrick and our homestay. Our homestay is Scregg House . A lovely country house run by Paul and Meryl and their 2 boys.
We are in a cottage, all together, 4 of us. Martin, Barney, and Gerard. 2 bedrooms a sitting room with a stove fire and a bathroom. They are a lovely couple who look after us well. At dinner time we are 'summoned' by their 2 boys ringing a huge school bell. They love it.
Very comfortable a homely.  We all have a lovely  dinner,  10 around the table and the craic is good. After dinner the lads want to go for pints but I'm tired and want to be fit for tomorrow's trip to Ballinasloe. Great nights sleep in my bed with an electric blanket.
Boys come  in at some point and are very quiet.
Up for breakfast when we get 'the call'
Another hearty breakfast then it's back in the car for the return trip to the start line. Where we head out about 10.30 heading for Roscommon and on to Ballinasloe