Making our way through Ireland

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Flag of Ireland  , County Westmeath,
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Got a record start to our day today:  on the road by 8am.  We had a long trek and wanted lots of time - especially considering our track record for getting around lately. 

Picked a fairly direct route, and remarkebly, finding our way was a bit easier on the main roads out of town -  not as many turns and intersections.  Basically you just get on and go (as long as you’re on the right road). 

Beautiful cycle day.  Slight tail wind and cloudy sky so it wasn’t too hot.  We’d covered a quarter of our ride in just the first hour cruising at an average of 22km. 

But then there were the confusing turns...However we did realize that our inability to navigate  in the country is not just us.  The map we have is inaccurate.  We were standing in the town of Correllstown which was South of the major highway and looking at our map it shows the town to the North.  Another map shows it on the highway!

Also roads change name at every intersection they cross. To help with this, they have an aversion to labeling streets - or if they do they are sporadic, in strange places and covered with ivy!

Also, it seems that the Irish are not that great at directions either (perhaps why they’re all so willing to help?).  Today when we stopped some other cyclists to ask for help finding a back road to Mullingar, the answer was:
“Mullingar’s that way!”
“Yes, we know, but will this road take us there?”
“Sure you can take this road!”
“Is this the road? ***pointing to map***”
 “Oh, I’m not sure, I’m not local” 
We had watched this couple leave their house just a few km’s down the road while we were having our lunch.  How local is ‘local’?

In the meantime, a man pulls over in his car to help and pulls out his map to look at and compare.  Brian is shocked to see that his map was different again!  Are we even in the same country?  It showed little roads that weren't on our map, and didn’t show the ones we had.  Even the roads that were labeled the same were in different places and took different turns - ARCH!!!  What is going on?????

Also, distance is an issue.  Everything is in kilometers again which is great, but it’s not the km’s that I’m familiar with…These ones change according to convenience.  Along the highway we saw a sign for information:  'tourist information 1 km'.  About 3km’s later there was another sign:  'tourist information 800m ahead'.  Again, nothing.  About 5km further down the road within the town we find one by pure fluke. 

In addition, spelling differs from sign to sign and map to map.  We think we’re heading one place, but the sign shows the name spelt differently, so we're not quire sure.  It wouldn’t be a problem if the majority of villages weren’t already similarily named…Bally-this & Bally-that.

But despite all of this, we’re getting into the groove of things:  eventually you’ll get there, and every wrong turn is another ‘adventure’ adding to the fun. 

On a positive note, I’ve found a solution to getting Brian’s attention while he’s biking ahead of me.  While pedaling today, I started waving my arm in hopes that he’d glance in his rear-view mirror and see me.  But he needn’t look, as the other drivers saw me, started to honk at him, and some even slowed down to get his attention and pointed back towards me!

Speaking of hand signals, We realized that we never bothered to learn the hand signals for turning on a bike in the UK.  The ones we know must be wrong as they’re on the opposite side, and inverting doesn’t exactly make sense.  So we’ve just been pointing with an outstretched the direction we want to go and it seems to be working thus far - even in the round-a-bouts. 

Drivers in Ireland are pretty good with cycles too, but don’t give as wide a berth (yet they’re not traveling nearly as fast as those in England).  Seeing other cyclists wearing bright yellow vests  does not do a lot to boost our confidence, but so far it's been good.  Looking forward to conquering many more roads to come!
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Where I stayed
Lough Ennel Campground

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