Distance travelled: 85km
Road kill counter: 12 (8 birds, 1 hedgehog, 1 mouse, 2 unidentified.)
Highlight: Riding on a restored 1948 tractor.
Lowlight: Learning the hard way that I have to unclip my cycle shoes before coming to a complete stop.
Our lovely host Brenda cooked us a full Irish fry up, with black and white pudding to give us energy for the long ride ahead. If anyone has any worry that the art of conversation has been lost, I suggest they spend a day with this lady. Even her short stories require at least 2 cups of tea to get to the end! At the first traffic lights I had to say goodbye to my little sisters as they were headed back to Dublin. I'd been doing quite well with the goodbyes up until this point but riding away from them I was a sobbing mess and had to keep stopping to de-mist my sunglasses.
But after an hour or so, my body found the cycling rhythm and as my good friend Kirk told me 'You can only cycle forwards' so onwards and up a few hills I travelled. My first detour was to see a Vintage Rally of old tractors, engines and cars. I met some interesting characters who spend their weekends going from rally to rally to show off their classic tractors. I got a great video of a guy starting one up with a crank so will try and get It online soon. I got a few odd looks from the locals in my lycra get-up but they were more than happy to tell me everything I wanted (and didn't want) to know about tractors.
My next encounter was a van pulled over to side of the road and as I passed they opened the door on a cage full of pigeons who flew off into the distance. Curious, I doubled back and enquired why two fully grown men were releasing pigeons?? It turns out this was their training run for a big pigeon racing competition the next day. Another past time I never knew existed and these guys took it very seriously. With a straight face one of the guys told me there's many theories on the best age to race them, then almost in a whisper he told me his were 5 months old, this year's chicks. With that, I was back on the road again headed for Birr. About an hour of solid rain and I was thankful for my raingear and the merino cycle shorts my Dad sent over from NZ.
On entry to Birr I was feeling pretty tired. I was more than 80km into the ride when I spotted a car full of clowns coming towards me. Not just one, a whole family with mum, dad and three kids in the back. I rubbed my eyes, putting it down to tiredness but then I spotted a man carrying a scroll and with a big feather in his cap and knew something fishy was going down in Birr. It just so happened that I arrived on the day of the Vintage Parade, the biggest event of the year. Walking down the street I met Imelda and Niall and their Irish terrier and they took me under their wing and onto the dancefloor of the Chestnut pub. For a whole week the town comes alive with art trails, concerts and all the townsfolk get dressed up in Georgian vintage costumes. On the way to the pub I got to meet Michael D Higgins (pictured), one of the favourite candidates running for Irish president who opened the Vintage fair festival.
I just checked the poll results and 55% of you have voted I go and stay on a pig farm in Limmerick. From what I've heard I better get the nose peg ready and get on my bike, it's over 100km from here and on my fully loaded bike that seems like a tough proposition. It's all downhill surely since I'm headed south right… right?