Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesSouthern Ireland 2015

A Ferry And A Friend - Dublin

By Ren Withnell

Because of my rather uncomfortable rib and a mind awash with thoughts about missing the ferry even though I have my alarm set, I am wide awake at 0430. Damn. I mean I wanted to be up early and ready but not this early, this is just stupid. I while away some time checking the weather, posting nonsense on Facebook, editing some writing for the website and losing at chess. How can a cheap tablet be so damn good at chess?

There is something different in me recently. I would typically expect to be packed and ready at 0600 and be waiting at the port for ages. I'm running a little slower these days and I don't know why. I seem happier doing nothing and that makes me think I am getting old. Should I fight this? Should I embrace this? Anyhow I haven't got time to solve this dilemma because the tent needs packing and the bike needs loading. I'm packed and ready to roll at 0700 which is probably about right, not too early but not so late as to be panicking.

After the 3 minute ride from the campsite to the port I am surprised to find I am not the first in the queue. There are already many cars here and a couple of fellow motorcyclists. I join the other riders and soon there are around 10 machines in the queue. I chat to a couple from Yorkshire who have 2 weeks booked in various BnB's and cast a slightly envious eye over their luxurious BMW. Then I think of how much fuel it will use and smile at my 125.

The strapping down on ferries never seems to be sufficient, I guess it's just paranoia as the bikes never seem to fall over. This time I leave my helmet on the floor next to the bike, I wouldn't normally but this is the new me and I hate carrying the blasted thing around. The sailing goes well with smooth seas and the captain manages to avoid the other shipping. At one point I'm joined by a GS1200 rider as I sip some hot tea. It transpires that he knows PS, one of the members of my bike club! It is a small world and six degrees of separation seems too many. The crossing passes quickly today.

Looking over the rear of the ferry as we cross in sunshine to Dublin
Beautiful weather and calm seas makes for a fabulous crossing.

One huge relief about riding in Ireland is that they drive on the left, the correct side of the road, not like the rest of those accursed Europeans. That being said navigating the busy and bustling streets of Dublin is still a horrible experience. I...well...I guess it's not Dublin's fault, I just hate cities. I hate the traffic I hate the one way systems I hate the confusing multiple lanes I hate the suicidal pedestrians I hate the taxis cutting me up and I hate not knowing where I am going. It's the same for all cities I go to. I just have to grit my teeth and concentrate as best I can.

Dublin harbour with 2 distinct chimneys
Dublin Harbour. 

If I get a moment in a queue at the lights I look around trying to see if Dublin has it's own character. The river dominates the part near the port and that at least suggests something individual but once I'm away from that it looks like any other city. I get lost around the suburbs, I expected this and I have to keep on stopping to refer to my map app on the tablet. Luckily it's not raining. 

An ordinary street in dublin that looks like any other
Dublin's suburbs could be the suburbs of anywhere.

My friend from 25 years ago is in his apartment. Presently he's residing in the halls of residence for the students some 5 miles out of town. It's a modern and rather characterless collection of blocks but it serves its purpose and this being the summer break there are very few youths around making the place look untidy. To see him standing before me creates a peculiar set of emotions. There are memories of my youth, our band, the girls we chased and rock pubs we attended. There is also a massive 23 year gap where we have both become older, maybe wiser and probably a lot more cynical. 

He looks well enough, just a bit more weight, a lot more beard and the first signs of age in his face, I know this applies to myself in equal measure. Other than that he is instantly recognisable and to be frank it seems he's hardly changed. What catches me off guard is the subtle Irish accent that keeps on slipping into his conversation. It's SM's voice alright, I recognise that, but the accent seems to add a comedy effect and I find it hard to take him seriously when he say's "It's grand to see ya". 

SM, Ren's friend, smiling outside the halls of residence
The Nutty Professor AKA me owd mucka SM. Looking well.

Amidst sorting out his two children and making tea we start to catch up on where the last 23 years have taken us. He's been married and is now going through a difficult divorce. He's been to college in Glasgow and came to Dublin to further his studies. He has travelled to many places around Europe with his work. He has a new girlfriend in Wales whom he knew from his early studies. He seems to have worked his way through the ranks of academia in a rather ad-hoc fashion to achieve his present position of Professor. He's written books and published papers, presented talks and worked as a consultant. I'm starting to feel like something of an underachiever.

Once the basic picture is painted we start to relax. Talking to SM is a bright revelation and a refreshing challenge. Most folks have their opinions fixed and their mind is closed to the possibility of another way of thinking. SM is not like that. He can listen to my ideas and counter with his own without ever devaluing either one. He is well informed yet doesn't brag or use it to beat up my philosophy. The only issue in our half day long talk is that there are so many subjects we could cover we keep on setting off on various tangents. Between all this his 6 year old demands father's attention while his 12 year old is happy to read or chat with her friends online. 

I am fed a tasty curry, supplied with endless cups of tea and given the use of the shower. At the end of our massive talkathon it is time for bed but I could have stayed up all night if it weren't for my drooping eyelids. I struggle to sleep as my mind races with ideas and questions, every question leads me to another question. There is so much to know and so little time to learn it all. As my mind spins with the new ideas and fresh thinking SM has placed in my mind sleep takes its time in coming.

It's been a good day this one.

Prologue Ren's getting a plan together for a trip to Ireland. What can he expect and is he too tight to prepare his bike properly?
Cruising To Holyhead It's a slow ride into the headwinds as Ren heads off to the port of Holyhead on his overloaded CBF 125.
A Ferry And A Friend - Dublin The ferry to Ireland is fine but Dublin brings confusion. The rest of the day is spent catching up with an old friend filled with philosophy.
Across Ireland To Adare After a great breakfast Ren starts out across Ireland in search of what makes this place unique
The Dingle Peninsula Is the Wild Atlantic Way as wild as it's name suggests? As Ren reaches the West of Ireland will he find what makes this place special and unique?
Kerry's Ring And Skibbereen Will the famous Ring Of Kerry live up to the hype? Has Ren spotted the real Father Jack? Will the Germans ever get their Motorrad fixed? Oooooh the excitement is killing me.
The Southern Coastline Ireland's southern coastline provides a mix of beauty and disadvantage along with sunshine and rain. There's also a small ferry as long as he doesn't get lost again.
East Coast Session With time to spare Ren is meandering around the South Eastern coast of Ireland and thinking too much. He also finds a Session...sort of.
Dublin And Chillin' On his last day in Ireland Ren has time to spare and yet there's never enough time. Time is the most precious thing we have.
Holy Men To Holyhead Upon his return to Holyhead Ren is joined by a group of fellow bikers on a mission from God. This gets Ren thinking about life, the universe and everything. 42.
Epilogue - Southern Ireland 2015 Ren sums up his thoughts on Ireland. He's also coming to terms with the fact that the way he travels may no longer be right for him. Is this the end of Bikes And Travels?!

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