10:31pm, Saturday night, September 7th, 2002
(Average: 10.4 mph / Time: 5.12.59 / Distance: 54.49 / Odometer: 381 miles)
Sunshine my arse! The rain is beating down on the tent. Firstly, Ballymahon and the rest of Longford I’ll not miss. Not for any specific reason, simply because I can’t think of anything to say about it. The weather didn’t help, but I’m not about to blame a county for it’s weather. It didn’t distinguish itself, let’s put it that way. Oh, and the hills. Up, up, up, all fucking day! It’s not fucking Tibet I’m cycling through (or over). ‘When is this all going to end?‘, I kept asking the cows and trees and hedges I passed. ‘There’s an incline to Ballymahon’, John had said. There’s an incline to everywhere around here.
The best bit of Longford was at it’s border with Roscommon. The town of Lanesborough, another Shannon town with a beautifully maintained waterside. Lots of nicely landscaped terraces with tall trees, and a wide walkway with broad green areas either side. The border runs down the river and divides the town in two halves at the bridge. Unfortunately for Longford, the Roscommon side is nicer.
From there it was up, up, up and f-ing up again to Strokestown. Along the way was some beautiful wild Irish postcard country. There’s something magical about the knurled hillsides and twisted trees, the dry stone walls and weedy-reedy overgrown little fields. Something in the peculiar way the cows had of looking up and watching me pass by. Some even stopped chewing and gazed after me slack jawed, as though completely flummoxed by me. I imagined one watch me disappear from sight and turn to it’s neighbour and ask with puzzled astonishment, ‘Did you see that?!’
Yes, Roscommon is a wild county. And I’m seeing it on some roads I never would have used for any other purpose. They’re not even short cuts from anywhere I’ve ever been before. It’s taking a lot of careful observation to follow the route I came up with. There are so many roads that look alike and branch off from one another that it’d be easy to get myself lost. At one spot that was named as Curraghroe on the map, I think, I found only two rows of houses facing each other across the road. Nicely kept, with a neat trim verge on the left, lined with trees. Two young girls called out Hi to me as I passed by, running along beside me.
‘Hi girls’, I said.
‘Where are you from?’
‘Ohh, come back, stop for a minute, you’re cool!’
They were so plaintive! How must it be to be 12 in rural, rural Ireland. I know I mentioned the spread of convenience shops and the like, but there are still hamlets like that one that don’t even have an old style shop. The kind with yellowing boxes in the window, behind net curtains. A limited selection inside and open no later than 6pm. Some people still have to travel just to reach one of those. Did they consider me cool because of the bike, coming from Dublin or because I was wearing shades? I’ll never know, because as much as I’d have liked to stop for a chat, and perhaps a cup of tea and a sandwich from mam & dad, I had to keep going. The weather, the hills and the condition of the roads today made for some slow progress.
I’ve also gone and lost my map for the next two days. It may be here yet, I’ll have a proper look when it’s light tomorrow. I’ll be doing well to finish next Saturday at this pace.