Monday, 30 May 2016

Travel Tales: Irish Hop

It was Tuesday 28th May 1991, I had just serviced the newly acquired Honda CB750F1 (seven owners and 20,000 miles to be precise). Lynne (my girlfriend) and I planned to see Southern Ireland, so this was it. l tore the grab rail off the bike and fitted a rack instead. We put our two small suitcases on the rack, threw over the saddlebags, sleeping bags and Wendy house (aka tent) with the aid of some useful bungees.

We were off! Our ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare sailed at 3pm, so we left Caerphilly at 11am, got there at 2pm. Perfect. After tying the bike to the rail on the lower deck we went up to the top deck to take some photos. Three and a half hours later, the sun was shining as we arrived at Rosslare harbour at 6.50pm precisely.

Filled the tank up outside the ferry port and rode 12 miles to Wexford town. No problem with the B & B (£12 each), had a quick cup of tea and an even quicker shower as the water was cold. We went out to sample the Irish stout and Guinness, very nice. Next morning, after breakfast, we loaded up the Honda and set off. But nothing happened. I think it was something to do with not first taking the combination lock and chain off from around the back wheel (must be the Guinness). No damage.

We then set off for Jerpoint Abbey and Killkenny on the N25 and R700. A mixture of road conditions that the heavily laden CB did not take to very well. A tendency to run wide when bends tightened up suddenly had the whole chassis wobbling as I hurled the beast back on line. Arrived at Killkenny, well invigorated, consulted our borrowed travel book from the library which said there was a campsite on the outskirts of the town. We pulled in and a young girl came out of the house shouting, ”Yer okay, two pounds each, pitch your tent in the long grass.” The shower was rather quaint, an outside device where you were supposed to throw water over yourself. Not so bad for me but I think Lynne was a bit put off by the thought of stripping to the waist to have a quick swill.

Anyway, that evening it was more beer, staggering back to the tent arm in arm, hitting the pillow (rolled up jacket) and waking up the next morning. Consulted the map, then set off to Cahir and Connel town. Found a campsite only this time a real one called the Apple Camping and Caravan Park, it is located on the main road between the two towns. The site has free hot showers, a tennis court, a pool room and even a piano for the musically minded. A nice field to camp on so we spent the night there (£2.25 each), ready to leave the next morning for the coast.

We headed for Tipperary, Bruff, Ballingarry and Foynes on the S59; some beautiful scenery to be seen here, but I had to pay attention to the road as staring gobsmacked at the surroundings was likely to encourage the Honda to wander off towards the side of the road or into oncoming traffic. Road surfaces were not that bad but the CB’s suspension was down to the stops under all the weight so there was not much travel left to absorb the bumps. We were not hard charging across the countryside, averaging not much more than a 100 miles a day, we were in a relaxed mood; one which the Honda seemed ready to share.

We made our way down to Killamey (a mistake). Rode into town wishing we hadn't. It's a yuppie and tourist paradise, so we went back to the campsite. Next day we took off for Molls Gap and Kemnare on the N71. Some unforgettable scenery, so we took plenty of photographs. We stopped on one steep mountainside for one last photo, going back to the bike I found there was no ignition, just a clicking sound.

I checked the fuses then located the trouble in a loose battery connection. I tightened it up and soon we were off again towards Cork on the N22 and N25. Arrived at Kilmeadon, which is six miles from Waterford, the sun was still shining so we camped on what's left of the field after the Custom Bike Show. Had a few Budweisers in the local pub which is just across the field. The Sweep Bar has a thatched roof, bikers, music, the lot. Highly recommended.

Left the next day for the ferry home. We stopped for directions, not wishing to take the N25 via New Ross Wexford, we were told to take the back roads to the R783, but he forgot to mention that after 9 miles you come to an estuary and harbour which needs a ferry to cross. I wondered what the V had meant on my map. Riding back to Waterford was enlivened when my sleeping bag fell off, something to do with the back end leaping about, I think.

It was just gone eight o'clock and we were supposed to check in on the ferry an hour before it sailed at nine o'clock. I rode like a mad dog to try to make the ferry, reaching 90mph, which was a bit hair raising with a pillion wearing an open face helmet and two suitcases leaping around on the rack. We eventually reached the check point at 8.55 and were told, not surprisingly, that we were too late. All that effort for nothing, so I rode to the edge of the pier to watch the ferry gracefully sail away.

What a wonderful sight, so after muttering some bad language, I picked up my helmet and returned to the waiting area. Having just been informed the next sailing is at 9.40 that night, we had to keep ourselves amused for twelve hours. We had £15 left so I bought a plate of chips and a cup of tea for the two of us. God, those twelve hours were boring, it was like watching paint dry. If I looked at the clock once I must have looked at it a 1000 times but eventually the time came to board the ferry, so we put the bike on and went up to the top deck to try to sleep through the three and half hour night crossing, which was not too bad considering how rough was the sea.

We reached Fishguard at 1.15am next morning, so we put on our wetsuits knowing how cold it would be riding back the 115 miles at that time of the morning. The seven quid we had left I used to fill up the tank just outside the port, like everyone else did as petrol was cheaper there than in Ireland. We set off on our journey, I had my leather gloves which were absolutely useless, and Lynne had a pair of ankle socks over her hands to act as gloves; but you know women. My fingers were so cold they were tingling with pain. God knows what Lynne's fingers felt like but I kept a steady 65 to 70mph most of the way, praying nothing went wrong with the bike because it was too cold to stop.

I was thinking ,who the hell in their right mind would ride a motorcycle in this climate Anyway, we got to Lynne's place at 3.15 in the morning, she struggled to dismount, she was stiff with the cold. I had to undo her helmet strap because she could not move her fingers. I rode the extra mile to my house, put the bike in the shed and locked it up. I went into the house and made myself the best cup of tea I've had in ages. After sleeping on the ground for a few days you appreciate a real bed all the more.

The CB is an excellent bike to tour on, being comfortable, powerful with a good range, and with adequate handling with the new Phantoms I'd fitted. We managed to cover a total of 817 miles in seven days. The Irish people we met were very friendly and helpful. One old chap we stopped to ask for directions in Tipperary began telling us about the Gold Flash he once owned and how much it would be worth nowadays.

We are saving up our money for another trip, next time we will be staying a lot longer as there is a hell of a lot to see.

Gareth Pascoe

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