Ireland

We’ve been away.

Jane initially suggested Greece but I thought “how the hell am I gonna keep the run going?” Momentum is everything, and when it gets disrupted, it’s helluva difficult to get going again. I treat Ride2Cure2 like it’s my new (unpaid) job.

I suggested we went to Ireland instead. 23 years ago, we did a tour, starting in Donegal, then taking in Connemara and Dublin, on our honeymoon and as we were looking at the same week, I thought it might be nice to revisit some of those old haunts: so we did.

It made my job a wee bit easier cos we were chucking two bikes in the back of the car, but the miles still had to be done to bag ten in a row. But as we were travelling Tursdee to Tursdee (see what I did there?) I had a bit of a problem: not wanting to wreck the holiday by spending four hours a day on two wheels, I pushed the boat out Monday thru Thursday and claimed 181 miles. I thought that would be enough to make it a skoosh.

I was wrong.

We got to Stranraer to find our boat was cancelled and that we’d been rebooked onto the next boat five hours later. To cut a long story short, we arrived in Donegal at 5:45pm with no miles in the bank for Friday: and no WiFi in the Airbnb gaff either.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to set a ten mile route on the Karoo before we left HQ. I’ll tell you now: with every single day that passes, I appreciate the Karoo more and more. I know it got R2C across Australia pretty much unscathed last year, but the software updates that have flowed since make this piece of kit an absolute joy to work with.

See the best bit, the absolute best bit, it’s the fact that you can download all of the roads onto the device, then as you’re cycling about the place, they’re there, on your handlebars: SatNav on a bike. I downloaded all of Ireland before we left home. It means you can explore and make stuff up on the fly without any fear of getting lost, because you always have the option of turning round and retracing your route. And the Karoo comes with a ten hour battery life.

Anyway, enough of that: I bagged everything I needed Friday to Sunday to make that elusive tenth 250. And on Saturday, I got to take Jane out into the wilds, on a route that we just made up as we went along, that made Sunday a doddle. Just as well because we had a five hour to drive down to Connemara.

Our destination was Renvyle House, which bills itself as an Atlantic resort, as in it sits 50m from the Atlantic Ocean fifty miles north west of Galway. We stayed there in 1996 and fell in love with the place but this was our first time back.

My tired body was already telling me that an eleventh 250 mile wasn’t happening, especially as we were based in a place that was (at least) twice as hilly as back home. So I parked the mile muncher in me and thought “fuck it, I’m on holiday, I’ll just go out and bag a few miles before breakfast so as not to wreck the day”.

And that’s how fate came to deal me a full house…

On Tuesday morning, just as I was coming up the final hill, I clocked a wee lad on a bike with a luminous rucksack on his back. I thought “fuck it, I’ll ride past the hotel and have a chat with this wee lad”. The conversation probably lasted less than two minutes because he was almost at school, so I wished him well and set off up another hill since it was there in order to bag an extra couple of miles.

The next morning, Wednesday, I took in a completely different route in order to come back with the wind. The result was that I found myself on that same stretch of road five minutes earlier, and there was the same lad, a mile further back down the hill, on his bike, on his way to school.

This time we had a proper wee chat. He asked about my jersey and I told him that I wore it when I rode solo across the outback of Australia this time last year. “We’re learning about Australia in school just now” he said, so I asked who his teacher was. “See when you get to school, tell Mr Gannon that you met the Ride2Cure man on your way to school and to Google “Ride2Cure Australia”.

Now roll the clock forward 24 hours.

We had a really long day scheduled yesterday, 300 miles of driving and the boat thrown in for recovery, so I was out on the R2C bike at half six just so I could claim some miles and keep the run going. That run now stretches to 75 days unbroken since R2C2 kicked in on July 1st. As luck would have it, I’d already measured the road around the Renvyle estate at exactly one mile so I thought “I know, I’ll do a Forever Five ride and make a Strava segment out of it”. So I did. Then I made the one mile version as well so folk can give it some welly after they’ve cycled up the hill from Letterfrack.

Anyway, when I went to check out at 8am, the lady on reception said she had a message for me. She said that a lady had phoned the hotel last night after her son had come home from school and told her that he’d met the Ride2Cure man while he was cycling to school in the morning. The lady had phoned the school (who’d already done their homework so they knew the story) and she wanted to know if I had time to visit the school and tell the kids about the ride across Australia.

We were leaving in half an hour.

But on the road back to the ferry, I made the call and spoke to the wee lad’s mum. She told me that the school have been trying to engage the kids in cycling, and that her son was excited to have met me, albeit briefly.

I told her that I would love to go back and tell the story. In the neuroblastoma game, awareness is everything. It was the Ride2Cure jersey that clinched the deal. I love that jersey. It tells a story.

And talking of telling stories, next week I’m going back into Shotts Prison to tell the same story to the guys who’ve expressed an interest in supporting research into neuroblastoma. It would be foolish of me to try and second guess how this is going to go, but suffice to say that the interest has been such that the prison have added an extra session to the day. This one matters. A lot.

I’m rapidly forming the opinion that the Australian Ride2Cure jersey was maybe the best thing that I ever did, apart from getting that folding bike six years ago. It opens doors….

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