|When daylight peaks through the small porthole in our cabin. My eyes fly open from a dead man's sleep. We should have enough time to get breakfast on board the ferry. I gently wake Sharyn up from her slumber and we ready ourselves for the day. It's back up to the 'regular folks' restaurant where we order 'fully cooked Irish breakfasts'. In case you ever wonder about it, a 'Scottish fully cooked breakfast', an 'Irish fully cooked breakfast', and an 'English fully cooked breakfast' are all about the same - hen fruit, taters, meat, maters, and beans that remind me of what we call 'pork and beans' out in the country. I skip the beans this morning and really enjoy the rest of it. The prices on board are pretty reasonable compared to a lot of places where they have a 'captive' audience.|
With our fuel levels and sleep levels a little better now, we step outside on the deck to get a bit of fresh air before we head down to the cabin. As I look out, I tell Sharyn -
"Well, babe, welcome to Ireland!"
as the Port of Cork comes into view.
|As I look around, I am very impressed with the safety equipment that this ferry has. It looks to be in a good state of readiness and repair.|
The announcement for departure is made, so I do my usual 'paranoia' room check and we head down the multiple flights of stairs to the bike. I noticed yesterday that the workers chose my parking place right behind some large trailers. This did not bother me until this morning, when I discover that the trailers are dropped and will not be moving. I walk over to see if the VFR will squeeze between them, but I can't get it through if I had a 50 gallon drum of axle grease and lots of patience. As the ferry continues to empty, a worker finally wanders back. I tell him -
'I can't get through. Where do I go now?"
He just motions me to go around to the other side, so I promptly follow his instructions. When we get to the other side, they have dropped the ramp above us and I can't get out that way either. The worker on that side motions for me to go out the other side. I yell out
"Can't get out there. Your man told me to come out on this side."
This is starting to really make my head hurt. Finally they decide that I know what I'm talking about and raise up the ramp so Sharyn and I can escape our iron imprisonment.
|It's nice to be out of the belly of the ship and into the fresh Irish air. Once again, I make sure I am on the 'proper' side of the road, not the right side.|
|It's a nice run through the country side around Cork and I begin to get my scattered wits about me.|
|One of the main places that Sharyn really wants to see is the Blarney Castle and now we have managed to arrive in spite of the craziness up to this point. I visited it the last time I was here with the Brits, but it's interesting enough to do it again. It is an imposing, ancient fortress high upon a rocky bluff.|
As we pass by the original dungeon, I tell Sharyn -
"I bet they didn't have pork chops and color television in there!"
|Since Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, started this structure in 1446 (it was the third iteration on the site), I guess they have decided it was about time for a little upkeep!|
|I always love this warning sign on the way into the castle proper. Obviously the Irish don't have near as many lawyers as we do back in the States.|
|And the reason they have fewer lawyers could be because of this nifty feature that Blarney Castles and others like it had. I begin to wonder if I could do something like this on my front deck ....|
|As I look out a narrow window, I wonder how many arrows were shot out this very opening over the years.|
|The winding stairways to the upper levels are not for the faint of heart nor the short of leg. They were designed to make defense very easy as they are extremely steep and narrow enough that one person could hold the position with little trouble and a sharp implement of war.|
|But the view from the top is worth the effort and the trip for me. I've always fancied a high place to look out, whether it is a man made spot or God made spot.|
|The last time I was here, my Brit friends told me that I didn't need to 'kiss the stone' as I already had the gift. And now I am getting educated as to the difference between 'Blarney' and 'Baloney' - just a matter of the instrument of application.|
|Sharyn is still recovering from the events of the previous day and is vertically challenged, so she decides not to make the strenuous climb up the stairs.|
|Since I kissed the Stone the last time, I figure I'll just pass today. But I do notice that the 'catcher' looks a little bigger and healthier than the last time I was here.|
|On way back down, I pause for a moment at the Murder Hole again. I still am wondering what the 'other missiles' might be ...|
|Below the castle proper at some distance is a nice, rippling stream that you cross coming and going. I'm sure the poor house servants spent a lot of time toting water back up to the castle which is a pretty good little climb from here.|
|And as with any good exertion, proper nourishment must be obtained. They didn't have chocolate, but I did manage to suffer through the slight portion that I retrieved.|
|Soon we are back on the bike and headed toward Kenmare where we will be staying at the Water's Edge B&B. This fancy entrance catches my eye as we travel on our way.|
One thing you have to get used to riding in Ireland, Scotland, and England is that the roads through the towns and villages are are not the expansive affairs that you often see back in the States. I reckon they figure if you are driving, you're an adult and should be able to sort it out.
|As we move at a rather rapid pace, the fuel gauge on the VFR1200 starts blinking when it gets to one bar. I don't know if that means I have 5 miles or 50 miles before we are out, but I decide not to test it since I have Sharyn on the back and she might object to pushing. Being the adventurous sort, I figure I'll see how well the old GPS fuel finder will work. I dial it in to the nearest fuel stop and it promptly sends us in the reverse direction - which has no fuel. I decide my brain works a little better that this contraption, so I head back the way we came and finally locate the much needed fuel before pushing becomes necessary. Along the way, we encounter these dreadful signs that must be to warn us of impending danger. But we are up for the task, and manage to negotiate the severity of the situation with much aplomb.|
|My original intentions were to ride the Ring Of Beara today and then go to the B&B. However, the GPS decided that my route was to be ignored and directs us straight to Kenmare. I have a name for such behavior - it's called being 'GPSed' - and it appropriately describes the frustration and the feeling when this occurs.|
|Once we get into Kenmare proper, I have lost all faith in the ZUMO 550 GPS to have our best interests at heart. I head in the direction that I think we should go. Once we cross a bridge, I see a couple walking along the roadside so I stop to ask if they know if the B&B is nearby. They promptly direct us in the opposite direction, which makes my internal compass go off. But I figure they are locals and should know such stuff. But then I should know better, having been through this before. It always amazes me how folks who live in an area don't know where local stuff is located. I turn around after a little jaunt and head back to the place we met up with our misdirection. Fifty yards beyond where we stopped to asked for directions is the sign for the B&B!|
|The Water's Edge is a lovely place with a gorgeous view of the water. And on top of all of that, there is this fierce biscuit eater, Gypsi, who protects the manor - when she's not taking a break of course.|
|Miss Noreen comes out and gets us all fixed up with our upstairs room, which is very spacious and faces the water. The deck out front looks like a nice place to unwind after a good day of riding. So we unload the bike and decide we will head out for the Ring of Beara since there is plenty of daylight left.|
|It's a short hop the beginning of the Ring, and we are off for our adventure - once again trusting our GPS to take us on the routes that I have given it to digest.|
|I firmly believe that the ZUMO 550 really wanted to guide us but it must have sensed my skepticism, since I had a back up paper route in hand.|
|So after we travel a bit on the main road, it decides that we need to traverse a path that even a good pig would hesitate to go down. Once again we have been 'GPSed' by this electronic fiend, disguised as 'mother's little helper'.|
|I can't complain about the views, but I just keep wondering whose driveway I am being directed down. Fortunately they don't have many guns over here so maybe we won't get shot.|
|The flowers and shrubbery are lovely but driving through them courtesy of Garmin is not my idea of a good route.|
|Finally we do get to the road that will take us over the Healy Pass, a route that a fellow ST ride - Stephen - who lives in the area has recommended. There is nothing that can compare to local rider knowledge and I will benefit from his on more than one occasion while I am in Ireland.|
|The road winds between Adrigole in Co. Cork and Lauragh in Co. Kerr, traversing the Caha Mountains.|
|The Pass rises 334 meters (1096 feet for you metrically challenged folks) above sea level and passes between two of the highest peaks of the Caha range|
|It's a great ride on the bike and we enjoy seeing but we have to be careful as it is 'open range' with woolly traffic jams here and there.|
|The road surface is good and the bends are better and we make good haste as we descend the other side.|
|Near the bottom is a local shepherd herding his sheep out to pasture with the help of an ever watchful dog.|
|When the sheep see us, they decide that they will take the first exit off the interstate. But that is not the way they are supposed to go, and Mr. Dog persuades them with great relish to head in the other direction.|
When the elderly shepherd walks up to us, we chat a bit. I notice that his sheep have what appears to be spray paint on their backs. Being the curious feller that I am, I asked him -
"What is the purpose of the paint on the sheep? I notice most of them around here have it. Is it some sort of medicine?"
"No, it marks who they belong to" he tells me.
"So it works like branding does back in the States" I add.
Off to our right is a lovely water fall and small pond, and the sheep are heading in that general direction - 'encouraged' by the ever diligent dog. He reminds me of a dog my maternal great grandfather had out on his farm. When it came time to milk the cows, he'd just say to his dog -
"Shep, go get the cows up"
and old Shep would head up into the Tennessee hills and bring them to the barn.
|But daylight is wasting and I don't know how many more pig paths Mr. GPS will send us on, so we bid our shepherd friend good bye and are off to explore some more. We pass through towns with names like Castletownbere, Ballydonegan, Ardgroom and a host of others that I could not even begin to pronounce.|
|But the views from the heights are lovely, the traffic is all but nonexistent, and roads are twisty - what more could I want?|
|And every now and then, the remnants of an ancient old estate catches our eyes. No doubt most of them were built a long time before Columbus ever set foot on my native shores.|
|The blue of the ocean makes the blue of the sky pale in comparison. It's a lovely day to be out and about with my lovely wife.|
|We take the R572, a little branch of the Ring of Beara, to see what might be out there. I wonder how many chilly, winter blasts the white house below has endured over the years.|
|On our way back out to the main Ring, the patchwork framed by the rock walls reminds me of the quilts that used to be made out in the hills where I grew up. Quilting parties were a time for the ladies to get together, tell stories, and get some work done. If we were careful kids, we could play under the quilting frame as long as we didn't get on the ladies' feet. Sitting under a quilting frame is a lot like life. From the view down there, all you see is a lot of loose threads and the ragged edges of the material. But when you come out and get the view from the top, you see a beautiful work of art. One day my Lord Jesus will take me out from under the quilting frame of this life and let me look at the masterpiece from 'on top' that He is working on.|
|The sturdy dual chimneys of the houses below remind be of just how cold it must get in the winter around here. Even in June, the brisk sea air has a nice bite to it that probably gets a lot more teeth in it along about November.|
|This is a pretty interesting single track before us as we make our way back to toward Kenmare - just the sort of road the VFR1200 is good for.|
|The more I travel the world, the more I realize how similar the landscapes are. There are many places in the hills of Tennessee that look like this view.|
|Before long we are over the hill, and back out by the ever present, blue ocean.|
|I do not fancy riding on gravel roads, but this is the only way back unless we want to turn around. I am finding that the road surfaces in Ireland leave a lot to be desired in many places.|
But then there are nice sections like this that are just as smooth as a feller could ask for. Since we are back a little early, I tell Sharyn -
"Let's stop and get gas on the way back in so we'll have a full tank for tomorrow."
She's ridden with me for 35+ years and completely trusts my judgment about such things.
I remember a gas station on the way we came in, so I head back to it. It's been a long two days since we landed and I can tell that Sharyn is physically tired. The VFR1200, as we have discovered, it not easy for her to mount and dismount since the pillion position is quite high. When we pull into the pumps, I make a fateful decision that will have long reaching effects. I turn to her and say -
"Honey, I know you're tired so you can just stay on the bike. I'm going to leave it on the side stand and let you stay on the bike, cause I know you're tired. But please don't move or wiggle or shift your weight."
She is thankful to avoid another dismount, and I very carefully make sure the bike is tilted properly on the side stand and it is in gear. I dismount and pump the fuel then go inside to pay, since they do not have credit card readers at the pump. I pick up a couple of soft drinks for us to carry back to sip on at the B&B. When I get back out to the bike, I ask her -
"Babe, can you hold these a minute for me?"
In the blink of a eye, she shifts her weight backwards as she reached for the drinks and the VFR1200 starts to fall away from off of the side stand It happens in slow motion like a scene in a bad movie as I am grabbing for the bike but only come up with air. The bike hits the ground with a loud crack and she is tossed to the pavement. I am in a momentary state of shock as I try to comprehend what has just happened. I can tell that she is really hurt even though she has on full protective gear. Fortunately, the Lord happens to have an Irish doctor named John at the pumps who is on vacation. He immediately comes to our rescue and assesses the situation. She can barely get up, but we manage to get her on her feet. He tells me -
"I'll take her back to the B&B in my car."
"You can just follow me" I tell him.
We help her carefully into his car, not knowing at this point the extent of her injuries. Some kind folks also help me get the VFR back up and we slowly head out. Fortunately it is a short distance back to Water's Edge and we get her into the house as easily as possible and into a chair. The doctor and I walk back outside, and I tell him -
"You have been a real blessing. Thank you so very much for your help."
He gives me his name and phone number if he can be of any more help.
Meanwhile, Miss Noreen has sprung into action trying to determine what our best alternative is for getting medical care. She called the local 'doc in a box' which is all that Kenmare has, and gets him on the way. When he arrives, his English is not the best, and he it ain't cause he's from Ireland. After much head scratching, at least he writes a 'permission' slip so we can go get an x-ray of it - and so I am welcomed to National Health Care, Irish style. As it turns out, the nearest hospital with a x-ray machine is in Tralee, about 75 miles away. Since we are on the bike, traveling by two wheels is out of the question. But once again Miss Noreen comes to our rescue and summons a cab that she has established a long term relationship with, Denis Griffin. He's there in a flash and we carefully get Sharyn into the back seat. He;s brought a very nice VW Diesel road car and he knows the roads like the back of his hand and knows how to drive. When we arrive at the hospital, he tells me -
"You just call me when you are ready to go back, and I'll be here."
We go inside and get through the paper work, present our 'permission' slip, and they come to wheel Sharyn back to x-ray. I figure I'll follow unless they stop me, and they don't. But it's a strange set up as there is nobody around, just this sign in the waiting area.
Soon enough, a live human shows up and takes Sharyn back and does the business. I follow them as they wheel us back up front to the waiting area. All of the staff, from the nurses to the doctors are extremely kind and caring. In fact, a nurse's aid brings us out a tea silver tea service and some toast since they know that Sharyn is a diabetic. I tell her -
"Well, this is the first time I've ever been served tea and toast in an emergency room!" and we both laugh.
But I get the feeling by looking around that this facility is extremely under funded All the equipment and fixtures show signs of long term use and the wear that accompanies it. They usher Sharyn and me back into the treatment area and I meet the ortho doctor on duty. Sharyn is over in a stall being tended to, and he takes me over to look at the x-rays. They are not pretty as her right shoulder socket is split, and the ball is crushed. I can only wince when I see what has happened to my lovely wife, knowing that this is a life changing event for her. The doctor speaks of pins, screws, and metal plates and I get sicker by the moment. When he finishes describing the plan of treatment, I have to make a hard decision - do we proceed here or do I try to get her back to the States? Knowing this will be a long surgery and a long recovery, the option seems pretty obvious to me. I ask him -
"Doc, please understand that I am putting absolutely no pressure on you at all. But we are from the States and on vacation and this situation will get really complicated really quick with American insurance and such. Do you think it is possible to safely immobilize her shoulder so I can get her on a plane back to the States without endangering her?"
There is a long silence as he considers my question. He responds -
"Yes, I think that would be possible. But you will have to sign a release and I want to take some more x-rays to make sure that her lungs and internal organs are not punctured or damaged."
"Fine then, let me check with her to be sure and I will let you know."
I go back to Sharyn and lay out my thinking, and she is all for it. All she wants to do now is to get home and be treated by the doctors she knows.
With that matter settled, I tell the doctor to show me where to sign and shoot what x-rays he needs to shoot. I follow her back to the x-ray chamber, and wait since I know the drill now. Once they get her back to the treatment area, they give her some more pain medicine and a prescription for several days worth. Meanwhile I call Denis and lets me know it will be about 30 minutes. They get Sharyn fitted into a proper sling and explain to us how to adjust and such. Once again, I have never seen any more professional, caring, and kind medical professionals in my life. Once Sharyn is released into the lobby area, I go outside so I can see Denis when I arrives. A Saturday night 'regular' who has obviously been sloshing the sauce shows up. He gets a little belligerent and the head nurse sends him packing outside right into the arms of the local security who deal with him as need be. When they come back, I notice one of them ain't even Irish. I ask him,
"Okay, I can tell by your accent you ain't from around here. My guess is New York. So what's the story?"
He grins and says
"You're right - New York City."
"Which borough you from?" I ask.
"I bet you know where 79 Madison Avenue is" where my former company rented some space.
"Yep I do. Born and raised there."
"So how did you end up doing hospital security in Ireland?"
"Ah, all for the love of an Irish woman" he tells me.
"Well, I reckon that's good enough. Hope it was worth the trip" I tell him.
He just grins and head back to his work.
Soon Denis pulls in and I go get Sharyn, who is quite a bit worse for the wear. We get her back into rear seat, and I jump back up front and we're off. I'm awful glad that Denis knows the roads cause it's 11 PM at night, pitch black, and the highways are not exactly straight nor well maintained. He gets back to Water's Edge in record time, and I get Sharyn inside. I come back out to settle up and tell him -
"Thanks a bunch. You've been a mighty big blessing to us tonight."
He tells me "Just call me when you need me again" and he's off into the night.
I go back upstairs and see that Sharyn is settled into bed as comfortable as she can be. I am so tired from the emotional and physical strain of the day, I tell her -
"Babe, I'll just tend to getting you out of here in the morning. We both need to get some rest as best we can."
Fortunately, our room has two beds, so she can get some rest without me bouncing her around as I toss and turn. I climb into the other bed after I'm sure she has what she needs. I wrongly assume that the worst part of this adventure is over as I drift off to a troubled sleep.