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A Challenging Day In Northern Ireland

Ride Date 17 September 2021

By Ren Withnell

Today is going to be an odd one, possibly not a good one either. The reasons are convoluted but I'll try to keep this simple.

Mark's hernia is giving him real grief. This isn't being helped by the BMW R1100RT, a lovely machine but it does have its own gravity well. Sharon and I are sailing at 1730 from Larne but Mark and Rob are overnighting from Belfast to Liverpool, departing at 2230. As such Mark faces ALL DAY on the big Beemer then an uncomfortable recliner overnight before a 2 hour ride home. Urgh, 'tain't good. 

Rob2 and Janine were due to go with the others back to Liverpool but in a random twist they've departed early this morning to catch the early Larne to Cairnryan ferry then are off to the Isle of Arran for a few days. I'm impressed by their off-the-cuff planning and go-for-it attitude. Impressed, and somewhat envious. I have to plan. Everything. I'm dull like that.

We're due to be out of the rental house by 1000. We are indeed packed and ready to roll by 1015, yet we remain. We have all day and the more we can drag this out the more time Mark can rest and the less we need to find things to do. No-one arrives to kick us out so after a final brew and tidy up we depart at 1130.

Rob's VFR800 sounds a little sluggish on the starter motor. Hmmmm. 

First stop Portstewart Tesco. Mark fills the already heavy Beemer with Irish whiskey. I can't decide if he's got his priorities all wrong, or all right. Then Rob's VFR makes a disheartening "click" on the starter button. And it's now raining, hard. Fabulous, just great. One demic, one dead motorcycle and rain. 

Sharon in waterproofs looking soggy in a Tesco car park
Look at the joy on her face on this lovely glorious day!

Much to my surprise bump starting Rob's VFR works well, although I'm out of puff and it can't have helped Mark's hernia. Onwards. South, to Ballymoney and Joey Dunlop's Bar. The rain is heavy, visibility is low and this is hard going as Rob's sat-nav is determined to take us down every backroad and through every awkward junction it can find. 

Opposite Joey's Bar is a motorcycle shop, Millsport Motorcycles. It's a (fairly) shiny Ducati dealership. They're likely to have a battery for Rob's bike, or at least "something that'll do". But then it could be the alternator that's gone? No point fitting a battery if it's only going to be dead in another few hours. But it could get them to the ferry, maybe on the ferry? Oh what to do.

Being a shiny posh Ducati dealership I expected them to be as helpful as a chocolate teapot. Nope. They searched their catalogues, checked their stock, discussed much and scratched various chins and even got the multimeter out! It's not the *right* battery but it fits and works, and the alternator is pumping 14.something volts. Kudos to Millsport Motorcycles. 

Joey's Bar is, errr, a bar? There's plenty of Dunlop memorabilia and imagery upon the walls but otherwise it's as regular a pub as any. To Mark who's a huge fan of The TT, North West 200 and such this is a shrine. For Sharon and I it's merely interesting.

Sharon stands in front of a large cabinet that contains a Honda racing motorcycle and some race leathers
I'm not sure Sharon or I understand the full significance.

Across the street is a burger van. Thinking ahead Sharon and I grab a sausage butty there. The owner talks, a lot. His accent is so heavy and fast I can tell it is English but I'm only getting the occasional words, no actual sentences. Something about racing motocross, he knew Joey Dunlop, what did we think of Northern Ireland and hope we get home safe. I think. He could have been swearing at us incessantly, I wouldn't know. Tasty sausages though.

It's probably an hour or so ride to Larne from Ballymoney. It's 1430 now and by the time we've kitted up and filled with fuel time will be marching on. We bid Mark and Rob farewell and head out in the rain once again. 

The petrol station is wet, busy and suffers a confusion of lanes without obvious routes. The navigational phone is hard to read in the plastic sandwich bag that keeps the rain out. There seems to be far too many junctions and roundabouts. I'm not miserable but I'm working on it. I am glad, very glad indeed, that I'm not on that overnight ferry to Liverpool.

Aaah Larne, sweet Larne. The rain has eased as we check in, security gives us both a short, firm yet polite grilling then a prod in the luggage then the cafe brings tea and a moment to unwind. We are here, in good time, in good order and now in good spirits. We join the queue with a handful of other riders. 

The two bikes with the large tarmac area and the ferry in the background at Larne
Ferry time again.

The ferry is short and smooth so that's good. The ride from the terminal to the hotel is cold in the evening air but dry. It takes a few moments to work out which driveway leads to the hotel but we are here. 

I say! Our hotel is not posh in the sense of opulence or grandeur, it's quite an ordinary building albeit far better looking than our usual Travelodges. It is posh in the sense of fit and finish and quality. It is obvious our host has an eye for details. She welcomes us in, leads us to our room and informs us of that which we need to know. We unload the bikes and settle in.

The oval bath is subtly lit from the floor with dark tiles and excellent finish
Well it's certainly not a Travelodge.

This hotel has a pool. Some of you reading this might think that's a perfectly normal thing for a hotel to have. Those who know me and my "prudent" ways will understand that this is more than remarkable for any hotel I would pay for. This is Sharon's doing, she wanted somewhere "nice". While it's already quite late, 2100 hours, we really ought to make use of our luxuries. 

We have the pool to ourselves. Logically I know we have paid for this and we are well with our rights to be here. And yet I feel as though we have snuck in and we are breaking all kinds of laws by being here. It feels so wrong to be in a dimly lit pool, splashing around while it's dark outside and then wrapping ourselves in sumptuous dressing gowns that belong to someone else. 

Today hasn't been the best of days, overall though it could have been a lot lot worse. I thought the day would drag but it hasn't. I thought Rob would be organising recovery for his VFR and Mark would need an ambulance but the last text message informs me they're both on the ferry now. The hotel has been a blessing this evening, comfortable and peaceful. I don't so much as fall asleep as pass out on the bed. 

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The Whyfors Of Our Impending Return Ren unnecessarily tries to justify their return to Northern Ireland. Sharon takes out Ren with a fiscal left hook. Is there any hope?
Sauntering Up To Dumfries It's a slow slow start to this year's Northern Irish adventure. There's no rush and not rushing is something Ren isn't very good at. On the other hand Sharon is so laid back she's horizontal.
Of Work And Holiday Fears In between working far too hard and the fear of middle aged spread Sharon manages to squeeze into her bike gear and change into holiday mode. It's time to try and forget work and enjoy the ride.
A Ferry, Some Mist And Strangers It's time to cross the vast ocean betwixt Scotland and Northern Ireland. What will the Irish weather hold in store and there's some strangers to be met.
Of Mist And Magic With little sleep and the prospect of a ferry Sharon is doing her best to keep calm and concentrate. It's a bit of a mixed kinda day for the motorcycling hobbit.
West Of The Causeway Exploring the coast west of Giant's Causeway turns out to be more interesting than Ren expected. It's all a question of attitude apparently.
So Are The Days Of Our Lives It seems maturity won't let today's less than ideal weather spoil Sharon's day exploring Northern Ireland's northern coastline.
Underwhelmed In The Sperrins It's time to explore some hills, maybe mountains in Northern Ireland. Thing is Ren's not sure they're up to the task in hand.
Dull Grey Day With A Dash Of Orange Sharon is exploring the hinterlands of The Republic Of Ireland. To be honest it appears she's entirely underwhelmed by it all. Oh well, it can't be all wonderful can it.
Captivating Coastlines And Countryside Culture Sharon and Ren are joined by Rob as they take on familiar ground, an easy day's ride in alluring surroundings. There's a little culture shock to round off the last evening.
A Challenging Day In Northern Ireland It's time to leave Northern Ireland but logistics, health and electricity are conspiring against The Dynamic Muppets.
Time To Go Home It's the final day and all that's left to do is ride home. It's also time for Ren to reflect on this excursion.

Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
You've a real knack of describing something that is ostensibly good in a really dim light. Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh, cry, thank my lucky stars or go and sulk in a darkened room. Thanks for the prose.....I think??

23/12/2021 13:11:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
"ostensibly"?!? You've opened your Christmas dictionary early haven't you.

You have a way of commenting such that I don't know if I've been insulted or not. So thanks... I think??
23/12/2021 19:28:34 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
If in doubt, always best to assume you've been insulted. But never by me of course.

Happy Christmas and a pleasant and safe New Year to all by the way.
24/12/2021 14:21:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Merry Christmas to all and a big BAH HUMBUG for good measure.
25/12/2021 13:29:12 UTC
nab301 said :-
Yes , Bah humbug to all !!
25/12/2021 14:03:30 UTC
Steve S. said :-
‘‘Tis the season to be jolly like Ren. He forgot it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
25/12/2021 14:33:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The most wonderful time of the year definitely ain't Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year is whenever I'm off exploring somewhere beautiful and tranquil and the weather is pleasant. I'm enduring the season's festivities well enough but my mind is already dreaming of my next adventure.
25/12/2021 17:45:27 UTC

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