We can't seem to get away from the pubs here in Ireland. I mean I'm not complaining, but I'm starting to get a pretty good picture of what Irish pub culture really is. A pub isn't just a place for the Irish to come and get drunk and fight (stay tuned for the later). It is a place for the local people to come and share the days stories, drink, sing, laugh, and cheer on their local sports teams. Now that all might seem like your local bar wherever you live, but the pride and respect the Irish people have for their local pub runs deep, and therefore it feels more like a family rather than a bunch of drunks. There are people like your older brother, who give you a hard time, make a bit of fun of you, but are always good for a laugh. Older women like your mom and grandma who ask you 21 different questions about what you are doing, and make sure you are safe and taken care of. Father figures who tell you what to watch out for, where to stay away from, and lecture you on many life lessons. And grandfathers who point their finger at you from across the bar, pull you in close, put you in a headlock and sing you an old Irish folk song as they reminisce about the old days. An Irish pub is a thing of beauty. Everyone feeds off each others energy and the pub comes alive, especially when come half-past-8, the local musicians start to play a tune or two. For me there is nothing better than having good company, live music, and great beer.
Arriving to Dungarven with no where to stay we began asking the locals where we could find cheap accommodation. We were pointed to a pub called the Tudor house. We walked in the front door, spandex and all, and everyone's head turned and stared, knowing that we were not from there, but other than the looks know one seemed to care. Asking for a room for the night the bartender handed me a key and showed us to our room. Very intrigued about our bikes he made sure they were locked away safely in the storage room of the pub, knowing that the rest of our trip depended on them. After a quick shower and swapping our spandex for some normal clothes we went downstairs to the pub for a beer to celebrate the days ride. The peoples stares had turned into smiles and they began asking us what the hell we were doing riding our bikes through Ireland in November!
It's funny that everyone asks us the same question: "Why didn't you start in Ireland and finish in Portugal?". And yeah, when I think about it, had we done the trip in reverse we may have gotten to experience the best summer Ireland has had in 20 years, had warmer weather in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and less rain and more waves in Portugal and Spain, but I couldn't have asked for a better outcome for our trip. Had we done the trip any differently we likely would have missed out on meeting the people that we have, and seen the places we have as the season changes from summer to fall to winter. Rain is just water and everything that we have overcome and put up with on this trip has just made the adventure that much better.
Early nights have become pretty standard on this trip, knowing that we need as much energy as possible for the next days ride. So we went to bed, woke up the next morning and packed everything up and the realized that our bikes were still locked up in the pub which we both knew would not be open this early. After scrambling trying to figure out what to do I finally got a hold of someone who said they would send someone over to get the bikes. I felt terrible, I could hear in his voice that I had just woken him up from his deep slumber and he was not to happy about it. As we waited for someone to show up, a lovely women named Tina walked through the door and up the stairs and asked what we were doing. We explained the situation and she told us she had the key to the pub and would help us out. After following her down stairs and telling her the story about our trip she offered to make us a full Irish breakfast before we hit the road. Tina has family in Santa Cruz, so we immediately connected and I told her all about going to school up there. Tina was a total mother figure although I don't think she had kids herself, but she took care of us and sent us on our way to Cork.
The ride to Cork started with a huge climb, followed by another, followed by a few more smaller climbs after that. But the sun was out and the wind was a little calmer than the previous two days so we didn't mind. We realized pretty early on on this trip that Ryan and I have two different riding styles, me wanting to push myself to go faster and ride longer, while Ryan likes to really enjoy the surroundings and make sure he captures everything with his camera. Now don't get me wrong I take in my surrounding while I ride, I just prefer to do it with a faster cadence, always pushing myself to ride harder and go faster no matter the terrain or weather ( something I know I developed from years of riding with my dad). After that first initial grueling climb I looked behind me and couldn't see Ryan and for the first time on this trip I just kept on pedaling. Ryan knew where we were going and if I did stop somewhere, I would leave my bike out some where visible to signal where I was. My legs were now warmed up and the hills became easier and I started climbing faster. I got in my tuck on the descents just to feel the wind slap me in the face. I wouldn't allow myself to stop until I got there. I pushed harder. My body at the point of bonking but my mind not allowing it to. I reached into my handlebar bag and grabbed some Halloween candy the Bonnar family gave me the day before and chowed down for some energy and followed that up with a few big gulps of water. I just kept on pedaling. When you push yourself like this you start to get tunnel vision. You block out the pain, the exhaustion, and pretty much whatever your body is thinking and feeling and you just keep going. For me this is what fun is. Pushing yourself to levels you haven't taken your body to before. Climbing a hill faster than you did the previous time. Descending around corners tighter than last time, and pedaling longer and harder than you thought was even possible. You can feel yourself getting stronger everyday.
We eventually made it to the Bru Hostel in Cork and checked in. Booked for 2 nights we began to settle in for some well needed R&R.
That night happened to be open mic night at the hostels pub downstairs, and being tired from the days ride we decided that downstairs was about as far as we were willing to go for a pint. The pub was full of characters. A lunatic film director who supposedly had a film in the Cannes Film Festival, a wannabe actor who was trying to persuade the director into letting him be in his next movie, a 70 something year old "Jamison Connoisseur" if you catch my drift, a fellow bike tourer named David who just got his dream job with Earnest & Young, and far off in the corner two guys which seemed to be in a very serious conversation... The volume of this "very serious conversation" began to get turned up, and before the lanky bartender could do anything a flurry of right and left hooks were thrown leaving the pudgy Russian guy flat on his back on the ground. Ryan, being the tall, strong, and experienced fighter that he is, immediately jumped out of his chair to help brake up the fight between the rather large Russian man and a feisty South American. Not wanting the two guys to get seriously hurt, I pulled Ryan out of it by his collar and sat him down and handed him his pint and looked at him and said "what the hell were you thinking?!". After things settled down everyone started laughing. Cross that one off the bucket list, we had just experienced our first Irish pub fight.
We turned in for the night, looking forward to what the city of Cork had to offer us for the next day.
The next day actually tuned out to be pretty lazy. It consisted of a lot of reading, journaling, and staring at a map trying to figure out where we would be going the next day. The book I picked up, and haven't been able to put down since, is Richard Branson's Autobiography called Loosing my Virginity (get your minds out of the gutter, he is the person who started Virgin Music, Virgin Airlines, Virgin everything). It's funny to grab a book off the shelf at a hostel and have it connect with you on so many different levels, but this book is turning out to be one of the most influential books I have ever read. If you are looking for a inspirational book, and are intrigued by entrepreneurship and business this book is for you! Okay back to Cork. After our lazy day, Ryan, our new friend Dusty who happened to be from San Diego, and I decided to head down to Corks own micro brewery, Franciscan Monk, for a tour of the brewery and some beer tasting.
A jolly Irish fellow who was the brewery's chemist was our tour guide. I was stoked to be getting a tour and hearing about the process from a chemist because having brewed a few batches of beer back in the states, I understand the basic process and wanted to learn more about the chemical processes going on and how different types of yeast, grains, and hops affect the outcome of different types of beer. It just so happens that our tour guide had created his own yeast strains and was in charge of preserving the brewery's special yeast strains for years to come, so I was learning first hand from one of Ireland's leading yeast specialists.
To make the tour even better there were supposed to be 9 people on the tour, and 6 people didn't show up so the three of us got a private tour and got to see the ins and outs of the brewery. I was completely needing out the whole time. While everyone our guide was saying was going over Ryan's and Dusty's head, I was eating it all up and taking notes on things we can do and try to make our home brews better. I was in awe of the brewery's equipment and the efficiency of their brewing process. They had my dream brewing set up. We finished the tour with a beer tasting, and finally I found an IPA. I have been craving an IPA this entire trip and finally, in our last country, in our last week, I found one. And a damn good one at that called Chieftain IPA. I was in heaven sipping on the hoppy golden nectar, and I went to bed that night a happy man.