A diary blog, covering details of the initial planning for our Round The World motorcycle trip in 2008...
After a difficult ride back last night in the pouring rain and howling gale, I arrived home from the Irish trip at 3.30am, and have only just managed to catch up with myself to the point where I think I'm capable of recounting events in a somewhat coherent manner... time to update the blog...
After my last post, which was from the cyberpub in Westport, we went out on the town, supping Guinness and enjoying the sunshine. We took the landlady's recommendation and headed to The Helm for dinner, which more than made up for the poor quality of the food in Cong. We enjoyed an excellent meal, washed down with some good red wine before heading back into town again for some more drinks - firsly in a bar with only one other patron (so much for lively Irish nightlife!) and then on to Matt Malloy's bar which was a bit busier and served the only pint of the rare "Brewhouse Series" special Guiness called "North Star". When we asked the barman for a pint, we were shocked to hear they actually had some - everywhere else had the pumps but no beer - and remarked how difficult it had been to get hold of a pint, and how much we were looking forward to it... "Shouldn't have bothered, tastes just like Guinness" was his cheery reply!
After a fairly hectic night on the lash, we grabbed a taxi back to the B&B and crashed out. The following morning's breakfast was superb and our every cheerful landlady then enquired about where we were heading before recommending a trip to Achill Island, where there is a little road (the Atlantic Route) that winds its way round the headlands and provides spectacular views of the Atlantic. Based on the quality of her recommendation about where to eat, we didn't hesitate to take her advice and headed off in search of this road, and she was right, it was spectacular!
From here we rode round the coast via Bangor Ellis and Ballina and up to Sligo before taking the excellent N16 to Enniskillen - a road that finally gave Colin's Aprilia a proper workout. All the time the weather held and remained dry, although when we arrived in Enniskillen it turned colder and the wind picked up some more. It didn't look easy to find a B&B so we popped into the Tourist information office and grabbed a booklet, and then made use of my sat-nav to locate our 1st choice B&B. On arrival we found no-one at home and no-one to answer the phone, so off to our 2nd choice... only to discover they've stopped doing B&B now... and on to our 3rd choice, phoning first to check they had vacancies. Which is where the sat-nav let us down, as the postcode could have been in any number of places. We rode for a while trying in vain to find it, finally resorting to phoning the landlady again for directions. Even with these it took us a while to find it, and by now the rain had started... damp we turned up on the doorstep of a large house overlooking the lake and checked in. A quick shower later and it was time to walk the 10 mins into town to find some food - Colin suggesting we take a taxi as it was still raining a little. I said as it was only 10 mins, we'd be alright. I was wrong. Within a few minutes of setting off the rain came down with a vengence and then a car drove straight through a large puddle, completely soaking Colin... he was not amused (I was, but managed to hide my mirth pretty well!!). Stopping at the first pub for a pint and to wait for the rain to slow at least gave us chance to see the funny side... A quick walk round town and we discussed options for eating, opting for a curry. And here we again fell on our feet with the Kamal Mahal which provided an excellent curry (and some of the hottest onion relish accompanying the popadums I've ever tried!). Suitably refreshed, and by now a little drier, we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine from the off licence and headed back to the B&B for a game of snooker in the games room (I did say it was a large house...).
The following morning's breakfast didn't quite match that in Westport but was still good - and by now I'm getting a taste for bacon, eggs, sausage, etc every morning, which will have to stop when I get home or I'll need an even bigger bike!
Still in the drizzle we loaded up the bikes and set off in the direction of the North, heading towards Colin's parent's house in Limavady... As we neared their house we took a detour to ride round the NW200 circuit, which was the first time I'd seen it... How crazy are the racers to ride on these public roads, with all the hazards that entails - drain covers, white lines, street lamps, roadsigns, overbanding, etc - at the speeds they do in all weathers! Simply barking... We stopped off on the seafront at Portrush and wandered down the pit straight before heading back to Metropole corner to watch the practice session. Seeing the bikes come hurtling down the straight before slamming on the brakes and throwing them round the turn, just inches away from the kerb is quite a sight. We watched the superbikes from here before jumping on our bikes and riding throught the back roads to University corner where we saw all the classes take this 90degree left hander and head up over the bridge and into the distance. Again the speeds they were travelling at simply beggars belief, and when a couple of riders missed their braking points and headed up the slip road at great speed it re-enforced how committed (and crazy!) they were.
We braved the drizzle to watch for a while (it was the least we could do, given the rider's commitment!) before heading off to Colin's parents. Here we were made to feel really welcome, his mum having cooked us a lovely pork caserole and his dad plying us with beer!
The following day we took it easy, having a liesurely start before riding off to see some of the local area, visiting the Legends of Road Racing exhibition at the museum in Ballymoney, Joey's Bar and the Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden, and generally giving Colin an excuse to show me some of the local roads, up and over the hills - roads that my BMW was much more at home on than his sports-bike! Then we returned via his sister's house (where we discovered the delights of Mexicana cheese and gave her little dog chance to sample my fingers (ouch!)) and went out to a pub / restaurant for dinner. Then it was back to their house where we played "Pass the Pigs" and had a few glasses of wine before turning in.
Race day dawned bright and sunny and Colin's dad gave us a lift in to Portrush - and supplied us with Paddock passes! That gave us a great opportunity to get up close to the race bikes - the Relentless TAS Suzukis in particular looking stunning. We watched the teams as they prepared the bikes, took them through scrutineering and generally got themselves ready for the day's action.
From the paddock we walked down to York corner, where we grabbed 2 seats in the grandstand that provided great views right up Primrose Hill and settled in to watch the action. The first race started and a gaggle of superbikes came hurtling over the brow of the hill, front wheels well off the ground and then all somehow managed to squeeze themselves round the tight corner... but then the race was red-flagged due to an incident as the 2nd group were leaving the grid, apparently someone stalled and the bikes from the back of the grid collided with them, causing carnage. In the restarted race, the action was really hot with the top superbike riders really quick round the corner in front of us until one of the top men, Bruce Anstey, highsided on the exit, causing a big shout from the crowd which seemed to take ages to spur the marshalls into action. Fortunately he was not too badly hurt, although the race was red-flagged.
The rest of the day's action was just as exciting, with the slightly crocked Bruce Anstey going on to win no less than 3 of the days races - all those he entered with the exception of the first in which he crashed... these boys are really hard, no doubt about that!
Having enjoyed a really sunny day we walked up the road where Colin's dad picked us up and took us back to his house, where he plied us with more beer and cooked us a wonderful steak on the BBQ, before we started the evenings "Pass the Pigs" tournament - and at least this time his dad won a game!
Sunday was the day for coming home, so we cleaned the bikes and packed up before having Sunday lunch and setting off round the coast road to Carrickfergus and then on round the main roads via Belfast and on to Dublin, where we arrived some 5 hrs later. Shortly after we boarded, the ferry captain announced that the boat would be running on 3 engines only, so would not arrive until nearly 1am, so we were not best pleased! At least they had a cinema on board and were showing Wild Hogs, which seemed apt... and was hilarious! I need to take Tracy to see this at the pictures! A quick kip later and we arrived and remounted our bikes, desperate to get on the road and get home. True to form the weather was miserable, pouring with rain and blowing a gale, but we made quick progress out of the port and got our heads down for the long slog home. With a quick fuel stop (why don't Aprilia fit a decent tank to the Mille?) we got back to Colin's early in the morning and I emptied the pannier of his stuff before the final leg home, pulling up outside home at 3.30am, having made excellent time back from Holyhead despite the weather. A quick hot shower and I was finally back in my own bed, cuddling up to Tracy after 2 long weeks apart... and off to sleep, dreaming of Irish sunshine and spectacular seascapes...