On The Road Again
July 2006: The road was the color of red clay as it rushed past my eyes. Looking down from my perch atop the rented Road King I was able to see all of the little pieces of gravel and ground glass that had gone into the construction of the N8 motorway. The road was gritty, not as smooth as the asphalt that I was used to. Its surface provided much better traction in the rainy conditions that prevail in this part of the world, but that was thankfully not an issue today. Looking in my rearview mirror I saw my two friends, Ben and Mary Keenan smiling as they as they maintained a steady pace of 110 kph.
They looked great, she on her Fatboy and he on his Roadking, the two of them clad in black leather from head to toe. We had been riding buddies for a good few years now and this trip was the icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.
The euphoria that accompanies me on my motorcycle adventures peaked as we reached the crest of a hill on the motorway. The ancient colossus stood boldly before us, the Rock of Cashel, home and fortress of the High Kings of Munster for hundreds of years, site of the king's conversion to Christianity by St. Patrick in the 5th century A.D.
As we continued down the N8 the castle drew closer, it dominated not only the landscape but also my thoughts. It filled my eyes and seemed to demand my attention. But I had to look away, a soft Irish rain began to fall and we were nearing our destination of Cahir.
It was time to stop daydreaming.
The off ramp was well posted and the road was gently banking to the right as we slowed our bikes to 50 kph and made our way into the heritage town of Cahir, Tipperary. Neat rows of houses lined the streets that led us to the town square. Our sudden appearance on the streets of this little town was causing quite a stir. The big American motorcycles and the helmeted, leathery bikers inspired both the excited waves of school children and looks of disapproval from aging pensioners in tweed jackets and caps.
A hot shower was just what the doctor ordered and the water pressure in our hotel, Cahir House, was reminiscent of home. We had arranged to meet some old friends while visiting Tipperary and so I called Chris and Michelle O'Donoghue to let them know that we had arrived safely in town. They wasted no time in getting over to the hotel and suggested that we go to dinner at the Galtee Inn across the street. The food was not what you might expect in a country not known for its cuisine. Delicate, complex flavors permeated the food and my al dente green beans were a welcome change from the mushy peas that add color to the fish and chips.
It was too short a stay but we had to move on. After hugs, kisses and promises to see each other again soon we were on our way.
As we climbed the hill that led up to the N8 bypass we saw them shooting by…………bikers, loads of them! Accelerating to highway speed we took our place in the motorized migration. The patches on their backs read like a geography lesson. Bremen Germany Chapter, Manchester England Chapter, Milan Italy Chapter, Warsaw Poland Chapter and then the best of them all, the Clyde River Chapter from Glasgow, Scotland. 30 crazy Scotsmen riding Harleys in their kilts! What a howl! The road led us through the Golden Vale of Tipperary with the Galtee Mountains on one side and the Knockmealdown Mountains on the other as we all made our way to Killarney for the European HOG Rally. But it was not just the N8 that was feeding foreign bikers into the tiny tourist town in Kerry; on this day all roads lead to Killarney and the world was on its way.
The rally had a distinctly European flavor that was hard to nail down. Bikers are bikers the whole world over, though there was a lot about it that felt familiar. For 3 nights and 4 days we enjoyed rides around the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and McGillicuddy's Reeks. Anyone who has visited Kerry will attest to the natural beauty of the place, it is amazing.
Our trip had begun in Canterbury, England and proceeded up through Wales. Catching the ferry from Holyhead to Dunlaoire we began our Irish adventure. Looking back I must say that it was the trip of a lifetime. I can only pray that God will allow me to continue seeing the world from my favorite vantage point, the saddle of my Harley Davidson.
Happy Trails, Shevy
Shevy's Biker Tip of the Week: With spring in the air you will no doubt notice an increase in motorcycle traffic. Now is the time to do the right thing and stop driving while telephonically impaired. In other words, "PUT DOWN THE CELL PHONE YOU IDIOTS!" Crashes between motorcyclists and motorists often have dire consequences for the motorcyclist. Don't go home with blood on your hands, hang-up and drive!