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Home Travel StoriesSouthern Ireland 2015

Holy Men To Holyhead

By Ren Withnell

I'm awake and up at 0530 because I need to be at the ferry terminal by 0730 at the very very latest. SM is also up with me but I can tell this is not his normal modus operandi and he's working very hard to keep his sense of humour intact. He manages with good grace to furnish me with a cereal breakfast and a hot tea while I load the bike and sort myself out. I feel some guilt over waking him up and also some sadness over departing. It could have been so awkward and so strange to catch up with a friend I've not seen for 23 years yet it has transpired to be a refreshingly worthwhile experience. 

SM points graciously to the breakfast he has laid out for Ren
"Breakfast is served Sir." "Why thank you Jeeves, it looks most splendid."

Leave I must and at 0650 I depart with a wave and hit the roads. It is but a mere 5 miles to the ferry terminal and at this ungodly hour on a Saturday morning the traffic should be light. Straight up this road, turn left then right over the river, follow the river eastbound and I can't help but end up at the port. Dublin street planners have other ideas for me though. I can make the first left turn but then to turn right over the bridge? No way Hose A (sic)! It's all one way, and none of it takes me over the river. I end up what must be a mile from my plan before I cross and then I have to battle with back lanes and no entry signs. All I know is that the sun ought to be roughly east at this time of day so I head for that. At least it's not raining I suppose.

I hate cities! It's a damn good job I left myself plenty of time, it's 0720 by the time I find the blooming port. Anyone that knows me knows that's a close call in my book. I'm directed to the various queues and join to wait. It's not long before I'm herded onto the "Ulysses" and into a suitable parking space. It seems this time I am alone and I must work out how to strap my own bike down. Then as I make a start I'm joined by 5 or 6 roughty toughty biker types on big loud Harleys. Hells Angels? Satans Slaves? Quite the opposite in fact, their patches declare themselves to be followers of Jesus, the CMA (Christian Motorcycle Association). 

The overladen cbf 125 at Dublin ferry terminal, in the queue
Phew! just in the nick of time. 

I have no faith myself but I have a certain admiration of those who do, particularly those who choose to put their faith and energy into making the world a better place. My sum total experience with the CMA starts and ends with drinking hot tea in their "Holy Joe's" tents on various rallies over the years. I've always found them to be peaceful friendly folk and sober too. As I'm teetotal myself it can be a blessing (sic) to talk to someone in control of all their faculties when all around are blind drunk. We introduce ourselves and already I feel a sense of warm calmness between them. They might call this the holy spirit, I would call it kinship between people with the common cause of being decent folk.

I came to Ireland on the ship Epsilon. While the facilities and standards on that ship were certainly up to scratch I must say that this ship, Ulysses, is a marked improvement. It's much more swish and smart with more space. I'm invited to join the CMA members so I sit around a table with them to drink hot tea and chat the next few hours away. While they are all passionate about their beliefs and have their own stories of how they found god, they are just a bunch of regular chaps out for a long weekend's jolly to London. They tease each other, they laugh at each other and they all love their bikes. 

A CMA member stands in the bowels of the ship next to the motorcycles strapped down
"Mick" and the bikes all ready to hit Holyhead port. 

The time passes all too quickly. No sooner have I settled down with my brew and walked with a few of them to the deck, are we getting ready to leave. Those 3.5 hours have passed in a matter of minutes. I suppose that's the cruel twist of time, it passes quickly when you're happy and slowly when you're not. Down in the belly of the ship we make a little time for a photo opportunity then bid each other farewell. Outside in the sun we're stuck in traffic for a few minutes then I peel away from them to take a sneaky back road to the A55.

The return leg down the A55 passes without incident and a lot of thought. Why don't I have a belief? I suppose I do, I believe in science and hard facts but science can no more disprove an afterlife, a god or the mystical world than a Christian can prove it. Scientific "facts" change as we learn new things. Newton's gravity was fact but now Einstein's version of gravity is now fact. Sooner or later another version of gravity will become fact. So these aren't really facts? Quantum mechanics is so bewilderingly counter intuitive most scientists call it a model because it's just so weird we dare not think of it as fact. Maybe there is a god or even lots of gods. Maybe there isn't. 

These thoughts pass the time as myself and my CBF 125 wander along the A55 and the M56 at a steady 50 mph. Cars whizz by, even trucks roll past. I've been to Ireland. I've been meaning to go to Ireland for quite some time. I've achieved something, well done me. Now though it's time to focus on the things that matter - avoiding being run off the Runcorn Bridge and getting a nice hot cup of tea at the gf's place.   

Glorious sun in clear skies is reflected off the sea as we return to Holyhead from Dublin
A beautiful day for a happy crossing. Perhaps the sun does shine on the righteous.

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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