Final thoughts . . .

We woke this morning to a gray, dull sky . . . quite a change from our beautiful finish at Malinhead yesterday . . . it was a good day to end the trip.

The bus picked us up in Derry at 8:00pm and we headed southwest, through intermittent rain, to Dublin. Tony followed us in the van with the bike boxes (now full!!)

Two hours later we arrived at the Dublin Airport, Terminal 1 for Departures. Only a couple of folks were leaving this afternoon with most leaving on Sunday sometime. I wouldn’t be leaving until Monday at 11:30am . . .  

. . . which checking into the Crowne Plaza Hotel, located near the airport, gave me two days to ‘unwind’ from the trip!!!

Don was staying at the Holiday Inn Express and we had a final lunch together at the Crowne Plaza before he headed downtown for the afternoon. There was time for one more nice dinner at ‘Little Venice’ located right next to the Crowne Plaza . . . and one more dessert (this has to stop!!!) a meringue concoction with caramel/toffee/coffee ice cream and whipped cream. Quite a way to end the trip!!

Monday morning at 11:30am we lifted off for Chicago. Within minutes of leaving the Captain said we would arrive in Chicago at 2:00pm. local time. We landed at 2:01pm . . . I don’t know how they do it!!!!  An eight hour flight, but it flew by while watching three movies along the way . . . and a nice surprise as Smoochie drove down to Chicago to pick me up. No VanGalder bus back to MSN!!!

The Ireland trip was epic, starting at the southern tip, winding our way up the east coast, making our turn to the west just south of Dublin and heading north to Malinhead, skirting the Republic of Northern Ireland (had to use British pounds there rather than euros).

The trip lasted almost three weeks, which seems like a long journey but our daily mileage was moderate allowing us plenty of time along the way to take in all that Ireland had to offer (oh, and did I mention there was 39,000 feet of climbing involved). Interesting when you compare the land mass of Ireland to that of Wisconsin you can see Ireland is actually less than half the size of Wisconsin!!!

Some may remember when I rode my ‘Tour de Ranger Stations’, during a sabbatical I took in 2007, which sort of set the whole retirement thing in motion for me!! That trip was actually 1,918 miles about twice as long as our Ireland trip . . . the miles I have put on since then.

Every trip is unique and this Ireland trip was no exception:

This is the first trip I have taken with the Bicycle Adventure Club and it won’t be the last!!! An excellent organization run by, and tours led by, the members. Tom did an excellent job putting this ride together, along with Tony, and we explored all that Ireland had to offer. The 26 riders were fantastic and in great shape. No whining from this group!!! Some had been, or will be out, for two months as they string their trips together, one after another. Quite an adventurous group. The camaraderie, inspiration and friendships formed were a highlight of the trip.

The Irish people were also wonderful and very welcoming. Always stepping up and offering help anytime one stopped to look at a map or had that ‘I might be ‘off course a wee bit’ look on your face’. A very happy bunch!

The weather couldn’t have been more ideal. When one thinks of Ireland, the ‘Emerald Isle’, one thinks of rain, sometimes for days or hours. We were very fortunate during our ride to really only have had rain two or three times and never for more than an hour or two. Although the skies at times were cloudy, along with temps in the 50-60’s, it made for ideal riding conditions. The Irish also had a very dry and warm May and June which was not the norm.

The roads in Ireland were generally in good shape. While some of the local roads could use a little work (just like in Wisconsin) they were all quite passable and the LOW traffic counts and no tour buses more than made up for any surface issues that may have existed.

So . . . it’s time top hang up the touring bikes, Tracy TREK and Connie Cannondale, for another season. Starting with the Big Bend trip in April, followed my emJay’s Birthday ride , then our Italy biking adventure followed by my Ireland trip . . . it has been a great touring year!!

. . . and of course a big Thank You to my partner in life emJay, whose love and support, and tending to the home fires while I am gone, make all this possible!!

Time to start planning for next year!!!

PS . . . interestingly about a week after returning home I started getting ads from an Urgent Care Center . . . located in Ireland!!!

(the guy in the photo doesn’t look very convincing to me!!!)