An overseas bicycle trip was something I had been thinking about for two or three years. I had never been to Ireland, and when plans for a more traditional trip to Ireland with a couple of friends fell through, I got on the Internet and started looking for a bike trip I could take by myself in Ireland.
Several companies organize bicycle tours, at widely varying levels of cost and comfort. I opted for one of the cheaper options, Irish Cycling Safaris. I figured I’d spend mot of my time riding, dining, hanging out it pubs and exploring towns and little conscious time in hotels and B&Bs, which seemed to be the biggest factor in the price of the different touring companies.
Our group assembled at a hotel in Killarney on a Saturday afternoon. We were a German family of four from near Dresden, a German couple from Nuremberg, two Swedish couples and three single Americans who had never met before.
Our Irish guide, Billy, told us that in previous years, a majority of the group might have been Americans. But the price of the dollar was clearly keeping some Americans away this summer.
The bikes supplied by Cycling Safaris were Trek T-40s, nowhere near as light or fast as my carbon-frame Specialized road bike, but just fine for a week of unhurried peddling over sometimes rough roads and hard-packed dirt paths.
To get ready for the trip, I tried to cycle at least 100 miles a week. Because it was a leisurely tour and we weren’t in any hurry to get to the end each day, I wasn’t worried about the mileage, which averaged about 30 miles a day.
I was concerned about the hills, because I could ride 50 miles from my home in Kansas and not see 400 feet in elevation change.
As it turned out, a 30-mile ride in Ireland would see three to five times that much elevation change. But again, because we weren’t in any hurry, it wasn’t a problem. If we got tired, we simply stopped to enjoy the scenery for a few minutes.
But I was ready for any wind Ireland could conjure up. Anybody who’s seen The Wizard of Oz knows how it can blow in Kansas.