Day 7

August 14, Friday
Day: 7
Mileage: 45
Tralee -> Dingle via Connor Pass
Night's Lodging: Westgate Hostel & Camping
Weather: Sun! Evening coastal marine layer

(As I write, I am behind in my journal writing, although have been talking to the tape regularly. There just isn't enough time to do it all. Sitting in a hostel "evening room," I write and listen to travelers speaking "in tongues" around me, none of which can I translate. A small orange glow emanates from the metal pot bellied fireplace. The night manager tells war stories of manning the front desk after the pubs close.)

To recap yesterday, Siamsa Tire was fantastic. We attended the production "Fado Fado" which was - in mime, music and dance - the history of Ireland; how to make thatched roofs, spin straw, churn butter and whack thatch. The music was both Celtic rollicking and soulful.

Our hostel from hell continued to be so throughout night. At 2 a.m. the two young revelers from Cork returned, drunk, having had, as they mumbled to one another, "two bottles of vodka each." I believed it. In a rodent infested loft, with 12 people, these two lit up and began to smoke. I commented in my "sleep," about "no smoking." They ragged on me about it. One would regularly light a match as a flashlight substitute. I was frantic and planned escape routes: throwing mattresses through the tiny window, if we couldn't run down the skinny staircase.

We were in sheep country as evidenced by watching a border collie herding errant sheep from a house front yard, returning them to adjacent pastures. No longer were the hedgerows fuchsias, but blackberry bushes, a menacing species which reached out and touched somebody (close passing cyclists in particular).

On Sandy Bay, a plethora of caravan parks abounded, and windsurfers with multicolored nylon sails taunted one another for upwind rights. That was perhaps one of the finer August days for the Irish seashore. Cool, but it did not deter swimmer, windsurfer and kayaks from enjoying the water. As I passed a man unpacking his car near the sand, he proclaimed to his children in his strong Irish brogue, "It IS shorts weather."

We were headed out to Rough Point and the slough - it reminded me of the marsh lands around our San Francisco Bay. The houses were a mixture of Irish thatched bungalows and California glitz. It's unfortunate, the California style influence.

Long lean greyhoundy dogs wandered about looking to run like the wind, and do damage to a slowly rotating cycling ankle.

On the road to Rough Point...forlorn territory. Cows wandered aimlessly in open fields unprotected from the road. A rock walled shore without beach, Rough Point looked to be rough living. The tide was out. Rocks and sand like any other coastline. But austere.

Castlegregory. A charming and quaint small town. I looked across a verdant field of corn. Behind me the green barren-of-tall-growth hills of Dingle Peninsula rose straight up. It was beautiful. In the middle of town on a street corner three young men stood, in cycling lycra, bikes loaded for touring. We began chatting, and I asked one where he was from. "Scotland. From Glasgow." He returned the question. "America." "Are you Judy?" he asked. I squealed delightedly, "Pete!" I had met Pete on a biking newsgroup on as we discussed cycling plans for Ireland. We had agreed to try to meet, but plans were vauge and unimplmented. However, there on a corner in the middle of nowhere stood Pete, John, and Mike.

Connor Pass is the long hill to climb enroute to Dingle and the highest mountain pass in Ireland (accessible to autos). Up I went. Up Connor Pass. I passed an old man pushing a wheelbarrow top-heavy with straw, the grizzled lanky Irishman preparing to repair his thatched roof.

It was breezy on the road. Jack was behind me...pushing his bike. More cross-training.

It was alpine scenery, with goats alongside the road, rocks, streams, small lakes down in front of me, but close to sea level rather than high mountain. I felt as if I were climbing to the top of the world, stark, beautiful and windy.

I dismounted and walked the last 1/4 mile. Traffic jammed up in Los Angeles freeway proportions, cars and pickups nose- to-tail winding up the (nearly) single lane road...traffic stopping while a wider car came down taking more than it's space. It was dangerous being a cyclist. I had much more maneuverability off my bike where I could bail out to the inward curve of the road.

A swift descent down Connor Pass - I felt that I was now in Ireland. Sheep decorated with their red, blue or yellow family brands painted on their wool wandered back and forth across the road as I snaked down. A yellow VW "bug" gave me a thumbs up sign as I snapped a picture of their forward progress impeded by the sheep.

Tracy awaited in Dingle. His cross to bear, for being the fastest cyclist, was having reading and writing time at our regroup points. Jack, although he pushed his bike the three miles up Connor Pass, was right behind me at the end.

Grimy after the ride over Connor Pass, I was excited at the prospect of a shower. I craved clean clothes. My royal blue pants and polo shirt...have I mentioned this outfit before? With some humor, I had been referring to clothing combinations as "My new outfit for tonight." "Never seen before." "Gorgeous new colors and styles for the off-bike look." Of course I knew only too well, and so did my riding companions, that this was my ONLY off-bike outfit, and it looked suspiciously like yesterday's off-bike ensemble.

The showers were awful. The bathrooms were co-ed; you had no idea who might be in the toilets while you were struggling to maintain some degree of modesty and decorum while undressing in the cramped shower stall. Because of a unique plumbing arrangement, water pressure in the shower was nearly nonexistent. A trickle of water flowed from the shower head with barely enough pressure to get wet, much less rinse off soap. The wall water heater, an electrical unit common in the UK heating water on demand, acted as if it were an applicant requiring a 220 line, but getting 110. The water was lukewarm at the high point of it's heating/cooling cycle. As I began to understand its quirks, I backed out of the water flow as it cooled down, and moved forward on the reheat. Since this cold/hot/cold cycle occurred every 20 seconds, from above it surely looked like an unsophisticated shower dance ritual.

I had read about Doyle's Seafood Restaurant - famous in Dingle for their fresh and smoked salmon and other exquisitely prepared fresh fish meals. I enjoyed salmon en papette, very fresh vegetables served in a style more similar to California cuisine than what we had experienced so far in Ireland, and a citrus terrine with cardamom sauce for dessert. The sauce was addictive and an extra bowlful would have been sinful - but wonderful.

Pete found us again! As we left dinner, there he was. We agreed to meet at a vaguely defined pub "next to the hostel" but after unsuccessful three passes we gave up. An early evening. I was too tired to carouse the singing pubs.

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