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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #7 - 6.23.2004
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so i bid farewell to the oil tycoon and the guy
running the an aharla hostel and climbed on my bike.
it was 2:40 and i wanted to make the 3:00 ferry to
rossaveel. i checked that i had everything and
started up the hill (there is always a hill) toward
the main road to the pier. my competitive spirit got
the best of me (it often does on the bike) and i sped
up to pass the guy on a bike about 20 meters ahead of
me. i shot past him and had quite a bit of speed
going already as i topped the hill and started down
the other side. there were a number of people walking
up the hill from the pier and some more heading down
to it, also some people on bikes, a bit crowded it was
but i have been doing this a long time and have a 6th
sense about where people will zig and where they will
zag so i easily avoided them. i saw a 10 year-old
girl on a bike up ahead slowly drifting into the left
lane (my lane as i am in ireland and you drive on the
"wrong" side here) so i moved over farther to the left
to avoid her. she drifted farther, i moved farther,
she drifted even farther, i moved farther, i was
really flying, about 40 kph i would say and i ran out
of space. she screamed as i crashed full-throttle
into her front wheel. i went sailing. my bike threw
me off and i landed hard on the concrete, skidding for
several meters before i finally stopped. the panniers
flew off my bike, my sleeping bag too, and i lay in a
heap in the middle of the road about 3 meters from my
bike. one pannier was on one side of the street, the
other in the road next to me. as i fell i remember
thinking "oh man, this is it. this is going to be
bad." the crowd gasped as i swiveled my head back to
look at what the hell just happened. there stood the
little girl, still on her bike asking me if i was
okay, telling me she was sorry. she hadn't a scrape
on her - i looked like i was mugged by a group of
bandits. i quietly told her to watch herself and
ignored all questions. i picked up my panniers, my
bike and my pride, dusted myself off, and coasted the
rest of the way to the pier to catch the ferry.
(parents: i don't have kids myself but i am sure they
come with a steering wheel. i suggest you keep your
hands on it until they are about 18; they don't know
that anyone else in the world exists until about then.
how they all don't wander onto railroad tracks at
least once in there life is a miracle to me.) my bike
looked mangled and i couldn't pedal it - i thought it
was destroyed. i played with the chain for a bit, got
my hands real greasy and fixed it. i jumped on the
ferry just in time.

i hadn't enough time to think about what happened
because i wanted to get off the aran island of
inishmor to continue my journey up ireland's west
coast and so made haste for the ferry. but with a
little time to reflect i couldn't believe i wasn't
hurt more than i was; a long wide scrape on my right
elbow, a chewed up right calf, ripped clothing, but
that was about it. i didn't have much time to think
about it then either because as i stood there
examining the broken chunk of my helmet i heard the
tremendous roar of a helicopter; it was right behind
us, right behind the 20 meter boat i was on and
closing fast. a massive red and white irish coast
guard rescue helicopter...chasing us. it easily
closed the distance and was right above us, i mean
RIGHT ABOVE US, i would say 5 meters (15 feet...sorry,
in europe mode at the moment) over the stern of the
ship keeping perfect speed with us, facing us at a 45
degree angle. the sight was incredible. i have never
been that close to a helicopter, especially while
speeding along the atlantic in a boat. the sound was
deafening but absolutely thrilling. what was it doing
there? i thought an old dude in the back had a grabber
or something and the chopper was there to haul him to
a hospital but when i ran to the back to check the
scene everyone there was just staring up at it in
amazement. we all watched spellbound as a guy in
uniform, helmet, wetsuit and sunglasses threw open the
side door and waved at us. we waved back. everyone
on the ship looked at each other and smiled. dude in
the chopper grabs a line that hung from an arm
extending from the door and attaches himself to it -
at this moment we realize he means to board our ship
and sure enough a minute later he is dangling above
our speeding ship the helicopter out there just off
the irish coast. i watched dumbfounded. he made it
to the enthuisiastic cheers of the crowd, me included.
he stood there for a bit as the chopper stuck with
us. he never said a word, just stood there.
eventually the line dropped again and hauled him back
up to more cheers and more waves between us and him
and then the chopper peeled off with him still
dangling from the wire. it sped ahead of our ship and
sucked the guy back into it. turning around far in
front of us and racing back toward us it did a
high-speed flyby just frickin' inches from our ship.
everyone on the ferry exploded into excited chatter
about what we just saw. someone explained to me that
george bush was visiting ireland this weekend and that
every security force around was engaging in practice
drills. i thought for sure the ferry operator was
going to come by and demand another 5 euro for the
show - i'd have paid. wow.

then an american tourist from virginia chats me up
asking me about my trip. next thing you know i've got
the attention of her entire group and they all start
gushing over me and what i am doing. of course it is
a shock to them because they are seeing europe as a
majority of americans see it: by bus tour. nice
people and i don't like to generalize too much but
these folks have somewhat of a bad reputation around
europe because they treat it like a zoo. bus spills
these people out in front of a monument, they snap
pictures, they ooh and aah, then march back onto the
bus to the next place. they tend not to interact,
they tend to just look and talk amongst themselves.
that there is another way to see europe comes as a
shock to them. to further my point, and i am not
kidding about this, when we got off the ship they all
stood around me TAKING PICTURES OF ME. i felt
flattered but laughed to myself that i became another
monument to them. they promised to buy my book though
so that was cool. it made me think of when my buddy
jamie said he didn't want to simply be a voyuer of
other places, people and cultures - he wants to
interact. amen brother. as she was stuffing her
camera back into the bag on her husband's shoulder and
walking toward her bus i heard the lady who intially
engaged me in coversation say to her husband: "that is
a man i want to go home and tell my grandkids about."
oh, i love getting the love from the motherly figures,
even the tour-bus riding zoo visitors.

i got on my ride and rode toward clifden, county
galway, ireland through spectacular scenery (as usual
here in ireland). i cycled a road through a bog
considered haunted by the locals, so much so that many
of them won't go on it after dark. i looked up ahead
and saw something strangely shaped in the road and
checked my speed hoping to avoid another accident -
turns out it was two cows lazily strolling along.
these were two girls i definitely did not want to hit
- i wouldn't survive it. later on up the road, a lady
coming along in her car down a side road lost control
of her car and came flying toward me on the wet road.
i stepped hard onto the pedals and avoided her
thankfully. time to get off the bike for the day i
thought. i got to the hostel in clifden and noticed
the oil tycoon's bike there. another great meal for
me tonight i thought; the tycoon can cook!!!!!

greetings from beautiful westport, county mayo,
ireland. why do i always include the county name you
ask? well i personally have ridden through about 15
towns named "milltown" since arriving; they often
repeat town names and just use the same ones over and
over, so county is the only way to distinguish.
probably too drunk to think of something new, no!!!!
lots of guinness flowing around here, smithwicks as
well, and bulmer's cider, and murphy's stout, and
beamish....good stuff in amazing pubs. i drank a
smithwick's in a bar in dingle that was a bar on one
half, hardware store on the other. not that i am
spending much times in the pubs here but i met an
irish couple at one pub who wanted to go to another
one called dick mack's before closing time one night.
i tagged along but we got there just after last call.
the bartender said "hey mike...sorry dude, thought you
were coming earlier." the irish couple looked at me
in astonishment. "you know the barman at one of the
most famous pubs in all of ireland?" "uhh, yeah, but
he's an american." "that doesn't matter laddie, i
can't believe it." "yeah, but i only had one pint
there and that was yesterday." "still, i have never
known someone there on a personal basis and i'm irish.
well done!" "ok, yeah, it's pretty cool." i gave up
arguing.

anyway, lots more to tell you but the internet is
quite expensive here and i've given you a fair share.
random thoughts on the way in a couple days. i've got
some european football to watch and a pint of two of
bulmer's to drink with the oil tycoon. oh yes, and
i'm sure another amazing meal from his magical
culinary hand.

keep on keepin' on,
mike

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