It's Halloween and we are in Ireland. After a few hour ferry ride we arrived in Rosslare and were given a warm Irish welcome with some rain and wind. Winding our way up from the harbor we arrived to a little B&B and quickly shed our rain gear for some warm and dry clothes. The two of us anxious to experience our first Irish pub and some real Irish Guinness quickly headed down the street to the nearest pub.
It's pretty funny how on this trip whenever we walk into a cafe, bar, or pub, the local people can immediately tell we aren't from there. Embracing the stares and looks we were getting from everyone we walked straight up the bar, "two pints of Guinness please". Pouring a Guinness here in Ireland is an art, and it takes time. There has to be the right amount of head and unlike pouring other beers which is usually done with one single pour, a Guinness is poured twice I order to guarantee the right level of head Guinness is so well know for over here. Taking my fist sip I was amazed by how much better it tastes here than back in the states. It's thicker, creamier, and has more flavor. It is a proper Irish stout, and any Irish person won't let you think any different.
Pretty sure that we were going to get some weather the next day, we went to bed early to make sure we had enough energy for what ever Ireland was going to throw at us on our first day of riding.
We woke up and low and behold we had sunshine. We quickly ate the full Irish breakfast Liam had so graciously cooked for us and hit the rode. After heading up the rode for a few miles and thinking we were going the wrong way, we decided to explore the countryside and weave in and out of the small roses connecting each farm. After some stunning scenery and a few odd looks from some locals we made it back out to the main rode and we were back on course for the days ride. This was were the weather turned and the temperature began to drop.
It started with some rain and a few gusts of wind, and by the time we made it to a small ferry in Passage, it was raining sideways. We would take three pedals forward and get blown ten back. We weren't going to make it any further so we asked where the nearest place we could get a meal was. "6 km's up the rode, the place is called the Saratoga". One foot after the next, one pedal at a time we pushed through the wind and the rain and made it up cliffs that stood in between me and the pub. Drenched to the bone and on the brink of shivering we made the final decent into Woodstown where the Saratoga was located. We arrived and were greeted by Bill, the owner, who was still cleaning up from the previous nights Halloween festivities. Seeing us shivering he dropped what he was doing and lit us a fire and a brought out a pot of tea. I was amazed at the hospitality Bill was showing us and the Saratoga immediately began to feel like home.
As the weather worsened Bill asked us if we knew where we were staying for the night, and after telling him we didn't have a clue, he began thinking of different places we could stay for the night. That's about when he came out from around the bar and told us that he had a caravan in the car park next door that was closed for the year, but he had the key and would allow us to stay in it free of charge... Well free of charge meaning that if we would buy a few pints later that night. This is what the trip is all about and we immediately jumped at the opportunity to stay in his caravan. Despite the lack of heat and running water, we unloaded our gear and made the caravan our home for the night.
After putting on dry clothes we spent the rest of the day in the pub, conversing with the locals, watching rugby, and learning about the Irish sport of Hurling. Realizing that they only accepted cash, I began preparing myself to brave the weather again and make the 6km ride to Dunmore East where the nearest ATM was. Theresa, Bill's lovely wife, insisted that we wait and she would drive us at the top of the hour. She not only drove us, but gave us a mini tour of the village and shared with us the history of the place. I couldn't thank her enough from saving us from making that ride which turned out to be full of hills, and with the sun setting, we would, have likely returned with hypothermia.
Pints of Guinness were drunk, stories were shared, and we quickly made friends with the locals who call the Saratoga home. This entire trip I have been amazed by the hospitality of strangers, but what we were experiencing at the Saratoga made for one of the most memorable nights of the trip. We had been welcomed into the Saratoga family with open arms, given a place to stay for the night out of the wind and rain, and now have some amazing Irish friends.
The next day the storm had passed and we began our ride early in the morning knowing, like England, that covering distance here would take a bit longer than what we were used to. Passing in and out of small fishing villages and coastal roads we inched our way closer to Dungarven. Ya it was windy, but the sun was out and panoramas we were seeing were some of the best of the trip. Johnny Cash was absolutely right when he said there are "40 Shades of Green" here in Ireland.
About halfway through the ride I was out of water and pulled off the road to ask for some. In order to make sure that Ryan didn't ride past me, I leaned my bike on a stone wall at the end of the drive way to signal where I was. Unsure of how people were going to react to a skinny guy in spandex walking up their driveway asking for water, I nervously approached the house. I was immediately greeted by the family's 2 month old puppy followed by the entire family who was at home enjoying their "lazy Sunday". They not only filled my water bottles, but made us sandwiches, fruit, and a pot of tea. The 7 of us sat at the table while Ryan and I told stories from the trip while the family gave us a lesson on the sport of Hurling. The entire family played the sport, and their father is one of the best to ever play the sport and now coaches a championship college hurling team. Knowing we needed to get back on the road, we said our goodbyes, but not before exchanging contact info and taking some pictures.
We had only been in Ireland for 2 days, but the hospitality the Irish people were showing us has been some of the best of the trip. It blows me away by how nice complete stranger have been on this trip, and how welcoming people can be if you just put on a smile and share some stories from the road. It may not be the best time of the year to cycle in Ireland, but I am so happy that we are ending our trip here with the Irish. Thank you Bill and Theresa and Bonnar Family for taking us in and welcoming us as part of your families.