9:07am, Monday morning, September 9th, 2002
Yesterday was the worst day so far from a weather point of view, and in terms of my own performance. The roads were very hilly all day long and the rain was heavy and endless. A rotten day, all day.
I woke up in Strokestown where I’d stopped the night before. I had cycled a little beyond town in search of a wild pitch but could find nothing, and it was already growing dark. So I made my way back to Strokestown and found a row of houses in various stages of construction, beside a disused factory on the border of town. I reckoned (correctly), that they wouldn’t see any activity for the rest of the weekend, so I pulled my bike down a passageway along the last house in the row and into the back garden. There was a chance that ‘kids with cans’ might have the same idea as me, but it was a chance I had to take. As it turned out it was literally as safe as houses!
I woke up to rain and hills, and I don’t think I had any energy because I had a very hard time making any time. During one very heavy downpour near Ballinagare I pulled in to shelter under some trees beside a house on a lonely, windswept stretch of road. There wasn’t much shelter and I was about to carry on when the lady of the house came out and invited me in out of the rain. I spent the next three hours in the Brady house, where Ethel made me tea and mountains of toasted ham & cheese sandwiches while my rain gear dried on the range.
We had a grand rambling chat over many a cuppa. Her husband is a truck driver and was one of the few people she knew apart from myself who could boast of visiting every county in Ireland. ‘I’m not finished yet’ I said, ‘And with weather like this I might have to swap the bike for a canoe!’. I repaid her kindness by fixing the family’s computer, that had become little more than an ornament in recent months. This was great news to her kids who arrived home one by one to meet the stranger on the bike. Ah, I don’t mind telling ya, but it was with a heavy heart that I left that hearth, but the pedals don’t turn themselves.
Even with the rest and the full stomach I had a hard time getting further down the road. Three hours of idleness had sapped my enthusiasm for the it, and even with a break in the rain I couldn’t lift my spirits. Not far beyond Ballaghadereen the rain started up again with a vengeance and I had to stop and pull out my freshly dried rain gear. All Ethel’s efforts thus wasted, I pushed on. I hadn’t gone more than 50 yards when I got a puncture. I let out a roar that would have scared a banshee out of it’s wits, and pushed the bike down the road to the shelter of some trees to make the repair. I tried in vain to roll a cigarette but it was futile in that torrential downpour. So I sheltered there for a while in the hopes that it might lighten off a bit.
When it hadn’t eased off one drop in 15 minutes I resigned myself to carry on and made it here, to Charlestown / Bellaghy, on the Sligo / Mayo border. It was after 8pm and there was no possibility of pitching a tent, so I booked into the Riverside restaurant. The owner, Anthony Kelly, is a chef, so I think they’ve downplayed the accommodation side of the business. I passed it twice trying to find a B&B with a vacancy before I realised they had rooms upstairs! It’s a fine looking old building, nearly 150 years old according to their blurb. I’m running low on cash now and this place is going to cost me €34. I’m a gobshite for not taking any of the sponsorship money with me. I bought the one man tent, the Trianga stove and some other bits and bobs only about two weeks ago. And lots of other little things too, as well as paying my rent. So that lot nearly cleaned me out. I’ll have to call home and arrange for some money to be wired to me or something, because I’m about to check put of here shortly and I’ll be down to about 50 quid. Ah well, I’ll leave that for now and go get my breakfast, catch up with you later.