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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #6 - 6.10.2004
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cycling through ireland is so spectacular that i
insist you take over for me. here, climb on the bike
for 20 kilometers or so and i'll take your spot in the
office. remember the words of brother jim: keep your
eyes on the road your hands upon the wheel. go!

you ride around a blind corner of the narrow road and
stop to take in that which opens out before you: the
single lane road drops down, down, down winding along
the coast. you are all alone on this hilltop, all
alone except for the 5 cows and handful of sheep. it
is so silent despite the crashing ocean waves that you
can hear the tearing of the grass as the cows grab
another mouthful. you have biked 70 kilometers so far
today on your black thorn nomad touring bike, biked
through the spectacular mountainous ocean scenery of
the beara penisula in county cork, ireland. small
uninhabited islands float just off the coast covered
in bright green grass, dark evergreen shrubs in the
middle and light gray just before disappearing into
the sea. the road here cuts through solid rock on
your right, into what looks like a cave just ahead.
on the left is the sea. you sit on your bike with
your foot against a rock holding you steady. the
landscape is comprised of rolling green hills,
punctuated by clumps of brilliant yellow grass, huge
flowering shrubs of purple rhododendrons and baaing
shaggy sheep. you haven't seen a car in a hour. you
reach down to one of your two water bottles and take a
big drink; afterall, you had to climb to the top of
this hill, you weren't just placed here. "top of the
world ma!" is what you shout each time you scale one.
those words disappear into the partly cloudy irish sky
as you prepare for the descent. you say "moooo" to
the cow as you begin to roll, reaching to the bottom
of your left handlebar to shift into 27th gear. the
weight of your two rear panniers gets you going very
quickly down these hills. the wind begins to whistle
in your ears as you pick up speed. you pedal just a
couple times to get things started. now you are
moving. the road races under your bike, you see a cow
just on the right side of the road ahead hoping to
hell she doesn't get spooked and jump out into the
road like the sheep often do. she doesn't. 30 kph,
40 kph, you are flying now. you crouch down to rest
your fingers on the brakes never knowing when you may
need to squeeze them - the road is barely wide enough
for one car. it is bumpy too. and it twists it's way
around all kinds of beautiful things: castles, abbeys,
forts, shacks, cows, sheep, ocean, mountains...it is
never straight for more than 10 meters. you can hear
the ocean now above the howling wind. you wind down
the road toward the bottom of the valley right at the
foot of the ocean. this is the best part of the ride:
downhill. 45 kph, 55, 65....charging down the hill
you feel your heart pounding and the joy of the moment
flooding you. near the bottom you see the road climb
again 50 meters ahead so you start pumping furiously
on the pedals to allow your momentum to push you up
the next hill. it does. woooooo!!! quickly you climb
up another hill, your speed more than enough to carry
you over, then it's down, straight down, again,
curving to the right. you renew your grip on the
brakes...it can get a little sketchy around these
corners. to the left now the road rises again in 30
meters. you stand on the pedals again and you are
whisked up the next hill. down again. up again. the
ocean crashes, the cows wail, the sheep run, your
wheels spin, the wind whistles, the mountains twist
around you, the air hangs salty and clean, you smile.
when the rollercoaster flattens out you see a small
country pub ahead. you pull off the road and lean
your bike up against the wall. inside you order a
creamy pint of guinness and grilled salmon, the
perfect treat after a breathtaking ride through the
irish countryside.

now slide that guinness over to me, i've had enough of
the office. by the way, the boss wants to see you at
3pm - seems i pissed him off a bit...sorry about that.
i'm not used to the office.

hello all. i greet you now on a beautiful sunny day
from ballinskelligs, county kerry, ireland. i am
having an amazing time biking through ireland. it is
indeed the most enjoyable country i have cycled
through. the roads are empty of traffic, the weather
is nice, the scenery stunning, the people extremely
friendly and the guinness as good as it gets. this is
my 8th day in ireland and i have decided to stay here
until i leave for new mexico for jason's wedding on
the 9th of july, so i have just about another month to
work my way up the western coast of this fascinating,
biker-friendly country. after i finish this email i
will bike to the next town to see if i can get a boat
ride 15 kilometers out into the sea to skellig
michael, an island once inhabited by monks from the
5th to the 13th century. ruins of their monastery are
something to see i hear.

the last time i gave you an official update was from
evora, portugal, quite a while ago. a lot has
happened since then. most notably, i biked the entire
country of portugal. i cycled 1090 kilometers (675
miles) through the country, following my buddies jack,
phil and matt from town to town. we all met in lagos,
and then hung out in lisbon and then porto. portugal
was great. i really took a liking to port wine and
was glad to visit the northern city of porto where it
is bottled. we toured about 6 port wine lodges there
which give out free tours and free tastings. we spent
one lazy afternoon drinking with people we met in the
hostel, specifically caroline from new zealand and
luke from brazil. i continue to meet amazing people
from all over the world. lisbon reminds me a lot of
san francisco; it's building crawl over the tops of 7
hills, a red suspension bridge spans over the rio tejo
and cable cars climb the hilly streets. we had some
great times there. the boys all left from lisbon on
the train to porto and i met them four days later,
much to their surprise (and to mine). it was a long
ride, on the last day i rode 144 kilometers or 90
miles. i spent 3 days in porto and then finally got
on a train to vigo, spain in the northwest part of the
country. from there we trained it to san sebastin -
what a wonderful place. i would highly reccomend it
to anyone visiting spain. ocean, mountains,
beautifully kept city, great nightlife...it's got it
all.

from san sebastin i wanted to get to ireland. i
planned to take a ferry there (30 hours) but it didn't
work out. i needed to take a train from roscoff,
france where i could take a short ferry to ireland. i
took a train to the border town of irun, spain but the
train didn't go to france from there so i biked across
the border to hendaye, france where i took a train to
bordeaux, france and then to nantes, france. i called
stephanie who was in cork, ireland at the time and she
looked up the ferry schedule for me; ferry didn't run
to ireland for several days so i made an executive
decision - i would train it to paris and fly from
there. i got on the phone with my friend claire and
told her i was coming to visit. "when?" she said.
"in about 2 hours," i replied. "a little more notice
would have been nice." "i didn't know i was coming
until 5 minutes ago," i said. this is the beauty of
not planning things - you can go wherever you want at
a moment's notice.

i arrived in paris for the second time this trip two
hours later and biked through the empty city streets
at about 11pm under a full moon. i biked next to the
louvre along the seine toward the effiel tower - one
of the highlights of the trip so far. i met claire
and we spent two fun nights hanging out in paris. i
met two of claire's friends, benjamin and
olivia...love meeting new people, they were great. i
got a new passport at the american embassy there. it
only took about an hour.

i flew the next day to cork, county cork, ireland.
stephanie met me at the airport holding a sign like a
limo driver which said "knucklehead." my
fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants ways put a hitch in her
get-along i know.... we had a fun couple days in
cork. she was working there at the time. fish and
chips, traditional music, murphy's stout, a bottle of
1997 vintage port wine and then she flew off to the
united states. i got back on my bike and started off
on the best touring of the trip yet.

having the time of my life, no doubt. i often ride
along wishing everyone could experience this. i am so
thankful that i get to do this. i want to tell you
all about it so you can enjoy it as well, as much as
possible through simple words.

a thank you long overdue to my brother-in-law brent:
thank you for taking me on that overnight bike trip in
vermont when i was a pain-in-the-ass teenager. that
short trip inspired this long one, both of which i
will never forget. i am so grateful for then, for
now. come to think of it, you have introduced me to
many of the things i love the most in life. tip of my
hat to you bro-in-law - you are one hell of a guy.

random thoughts coming soon; this update was a mere
glossing over of what i have been doing.

keep on keepin' on,
mike

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