Day 20, Derry – Malinhead


We woke to a BEAUTIFUL day  and it would remain so for our last day of riding from Derry to Malinhead . . .


. . . lots of old bikes used for store front advertising in Ireland . . . Derry was no exception . . .


. . . so I wonder if this is for Irish driving down the roads . . . or driving off the tee . . . good advice for both!!!


. . . nice riding today as we rode out to Malinhead along the Atlantic . . . PERFECT conditions


. . . we were on an R road (Regional) which are similar to our county highways. This one had a nice shoulder too.


. . . at this point we turned off the R road, onto a series of L roads (similar to our town roads) that would take us the remainder of the way to Malinhead.


. . . a typical L road. Paved and no shoulder . . . but VERY light traffic, just as they had been for the whole trip. A car passing you every 15 minutes was pretty much the norm. The routes we took on this trip had no tour buses!!!


We were on our big climb for the day, mostly 11% with some 14-16% thrown in for good measure and I  figured we had to be close to the top . . . the gps tells the story . . .


. . . this looked like the top . . .


. . . further evidence by Tom’s message written in chalk . . . ‘BAC 39,000 feet of climbing’


. . . and here was the lookout that welcomed us to  the most northern tip of Ireland. You can see the Atlantic on both sided of the peninsula . . . a very dramatic moment.


. . . up ahead was Malin which would be our meet up point. Not knowing how the weather was going to be today, Tom and Tony suggested we do a staggered start, with slower riders going first from Derry, so we would all assemble about the same time at a café in Malin. We would then all ride the remaining distance to Malinhead, together, assembling all at once for our group photo. This was a good plan and insured if the weather was bad, like it was at Mizenhead three weeks ago, no one would be left standing and shivering in the cold while waiting for other riders to arrive. But the weather ended up being . . . PERFECT!!!!


. . . the only thatched roof I have seen along the way that has  ‘gone to seed’!!!


. . . only five miles to go  on the epic adventure . . .


. . . this had to be the ‘most northern’ church and graveyard in Ireland. Not much around!!!


. . . but of course there were sheep, just as we have seen along the roads the whole trip.


. . . finally is was time to ride along the coast . . .


. . . with a few more farms along the way . . .


. . . and of course a final climb up to the Malinhead monument.




. . . we all assembled for the group photo using letters that Tom and Tony had printed to describe our adventure. GREAT IDEA!!!!


It was the end of the ride. I turned off the gps and the satellite tracker to preserve the final days data. From the monument, we biked about three miles back to the bus that would transport us to Derry. Local traffic jam for Peter and Charlie!!!!


No time to lift a pint . . . we would celebrate later!!!!


We took the pedals of our bikes, turned the handlebars so Tony and John, who had reappeared with the second Iron Donkey van, could haul the bikes back to Derry . . . and we loaded onto the bus.


. . . it was all done now, but the packing. Traci TREK went back into her new case emJay had bought me for my birthday, every one cleaned up, packed up . . .


. . .  and soon it was time for one last meeting. Tom reviewed the highlights of the trip  . . .


. . . and so did Tony. There are probably three main routes to bike ‘end to end’, some shorter than others. Tom and Tony had devised this route to take us up the east side, across the middle and then up the west cost. The trip had never been done this way . . . we had broke new ground and made riding history!!!


Then it was time for happy hour where the drink of choice was gin and tonics . . .


. . . or custom latte’s such as the one Peter had (DV for DaVinci’s, our hotel) . . .


. . . but for me it was a celebratory martini . . . first one in three weeks!!! A great end to a great trip. The next martini will be with my Smoochie . . . I miss her.

Final thoughts to come . . .

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!!!)