Well, we’re here at last. After a nearly three-hour wait at the airport (I was dropped off early), and the usual rigmarole in security — I got my first bodyscan… sure hope they’ll tell me if they see a giant tumor, we settled in to talk about the trip. Here’s my Co-Worker discussing details with our Support Van Parent.
See those calf muscles? That’s what I mean about his being a tad more fit than me.
Our first plane ride was quite pleasant, from Seattle to New Jersey. I took lots of anti-anxiety meds, and once they kicked in, I only had to say “I LOVE flying” to myself half a dozen times, along with “I LOVE sudden banking” and “I LOVE turbulence” a couple times, and I was okay. I’m practicing positive mantras, as I tend to make myself nauseated by repeating how much I loathe flying in my head.
Continental Airlines provides only drink service on the plane, unless you buy food. I bought a tapas box. Yes, you read that correctly. It wasn’t bad, as these things go.
While I whiled away the hours with seven different gossip rags (not surprisingly filled with the same gossip), my Co-Worker was having a tough time of it.
One of my students is actually a master card magician. Here he’s practicing one of his many routines:
A three hour stop-over in New Jersey meant a burger at an airport diner for everyone.
The license plates may have been unrealistic, actually. Is there a way to say “Mediocre Food” in seven letters?
Our second flight was much less fun, since we hit a series of thunderstorms. “The turbulence we’re experiencing right now should pass in the next 15 minutes,” the captain said cheerfully. Then fifteen minutes later, he returned to the P.A.: “And I’d think this round will be over in no more than 15 minutes, at most!” At this point my Co-Worker leaned forward, tapped my leg and chirped “I LOVE flying!” at me.
At that moment, I HATED him.
A few hours later, in the half-darkened plane surrounded by lit iPad screens, movies and chit-chat, my medications gave in and I was wide awake. I turned around to see my Co-Worker was also struggling to sleep. The student sitting next to me helped me capture his struggle by holding up his lighted iPod:
Yes, he’s trying to sleep with his blanket on his head. It was that kind of flight.
We arrived at Shannon in the early morning, totally exhausted, and waited for our last student to arrive separately, as she and mom were already in England when we left.
Doesn’t everyone look wide-awake and ready to ride? I LOVE flying!
A short bus ride took us to Ennis, where we are spending our first night. While the others napped, I took my camera around town to capture some typically Irish views.
That yellow building is our hostel, and this is the bridge into town over the river Fergus. Everywhere in Ennis has those lovely petunia baskets, as you can see in several other photos.
One of several local churches.
In use, all day long, as the light in the window shows.
I’m not sure what they sold here, but it definitely put me in mind of Diagon Alley, as did the school supply shop below:
I am certain this is where Harry would buy his notebooks and pencil cases, if one needed that sort of thing at Hogwarts.
Everywhere I went, the scenes reminded me of a million Irish or British things I’d already seen. This busker made me think of the wonderful film Once, with the amazing soundtrack featuring The Frames’ Glen Hansard.
Near our hostel is an abandoned building with an astonishingly unfinished mural of a man riding a cow.
The Rowan Tree Hostel, where we’re staying, is a big, bustling hostel with en-suite rooms right on the River Fergus. This is the view from my clean, spacious room:
Though they have an excellent free wireless connection, which is enabling me to enter this blog, I’m sharing my space with a group of noisy German tourists playing 80’s Euro-pop on their iPhone as loudly as possible in short bursts, which is a Very Bad Thing. This, I suppose, is the downfall of hostelling.
After I returned from my stroll, we set out to eat a quick meal at a local pub, then retrieve our bikes. The bike shop is called M.F. Tierney Cycles and Fishing Equipment. The entrance is through a charming shop crammed to the rafters with model cars, fishing flies, pocket knives, binoculars, rocket kits, and every other sort of brick-a-brack a normal male would need due to even the slightest surge of testostrone.
It really was boy paradise! In the back, is Noel Tierney’s bike shop. The less-tempting, but no less picturesque entry is through the neighboring alleyway.
Note the bikes piled in back. We picked up the 10 bikes Noel had reserved for us, along with half a dozen panniers and three chain locks. Getting everyone reasonably fitted and ready for a short ride was an ordeal, but eventually all the kids, myself and my Co-Worker had bikes. We walked them carefully over to the corner next to the hostel, then everyone ran in to get their helmets. Ain’t no riding without a brain bucket when American liability is at stake! I waited with our steeds for their return.
The Raleigh hybrid in front is mine. Let me say this: it may be a Raleigh, but it’s not The Raleigh, if you know what I mean. At least I got lucky and got one with a chainguard.
Saddled up, we rode just a couple miles out of town to test out our bikes and see if they fit. We’ll definitely need to make a few adjustments tomorrow. My seat is too low, and my handlebars need to be rolled back a bit, and I’m not the only one. But overall, our group did well, annoying drivers in a large enough block to keep everyone respectful. We stopped at a small lake.
On the way back, one of the kids took a curb at too sharp an angle, and fell. A skinned elbow and knee were his only injuries, but he also dropped his chain. Unlike a couple weeks ago, I had it on again in about thirty seconds. I felt like an old hand, covered in grease. We ended up riding through a serious squall, as well, which had everyone well-prepared for Irish reality: we started out in sunshine and finished soaked.
Back at the hostel, I took one last obligatory bathroom self-portrait, and headed down to get started on rideblog!
I don’t look like I’ve been awake for nearly 24 hours at all, huh? That’s because I LOVE flying soooo much!