John says, in his ever-softening Irish lilt, “I am always trying to describe Ireland to people, and one of the things I say is ‘it’s just a rock, stuck in the ocean.'”
John Bayley and Pamela Blalock, collectively the Blayleys, are fixtures here in our Boston cycling community. We know of no couple who log more miles in a year than these two, everything from the Mt. Washington Hill Climb to Dirty Kanza to rambling tours of John’s home country. This fall, they spent three weeks day-tripping around the Emerald Isle, riding out and back from John’s home in Dublin, before heading to the west coast and then north to Donegal, a pilgrimage of sorts to many of Ireland’s natural, national treasures.
This churchyard sits in an idyllic corner of County Meath, north of Dublin. Many of the old buildings in Ireland can be hard to date just based on appearance. Some are quite old. Others are classic reproductions built in an older style by the wealthy landowners of the 16th and 17th centuries. Some are ruins. Some are museums. And they are all beautiful.
This is Ducketts Grove built in 1830, near Carlow, 60 miles south of Dublin. Surrounded by farmland, the approach to the old estate house is flat, if the road surface leaves something to be desired.
John says, “The riding there, it’s like mountain biking, but on tarmac. The roads curve and twist and undulate.” Over the years, he and Pamela have had good luck with the notoriously wet, Irish weather, but this trip delivered on all the damp, gray promise of that reputation. Pamela rode her Axiom SLX with S&S couplers, a bike we might call an Airheart SLX now, while John rode an Evergreen SL.
Here, Pamela climbs up a forbidding steep alongside a farm. Fenders can be a good idea here, if only to keep the ever-present manure off your backside. The Evergreen’s disc brakes, she reported, keep the bike cleaner, given the conditions, than a traditional rim brake.
John says everything about Ireland is “elemental.” The rain, the wind, the sun, the shift between them, constantly testing your mettle.
It was in their first week, while still based in Dublin, that Pamela encountered her first ever tail wind. Up to that point, she maintained, she had never felt the wind at her back. Sure, she had ridden miles into steady breezes, turned and felt fast on her return, but that was just well-earned speed.
Then, while riding the coast north of the city with their friend Declan on another “elemental” day, she finally felt it, a wind so strong she was able to pass miles without pedaling at all.
Come back to see more from the Blayley’s Irish adventure, and their pilgrimage to the west of the country, or read more of their adventures on their own cycling blog.