Now it’s real

That was a long day to start with.

I woke up a little before six on Friday morning in Vancouver, made coffee, eventually got Adele up for work, had breakfast. Made some final packing decisions, and then waited for our good friend Valerie to fetch me to the airport, ridiculously early, so I could wait some more. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I had enough time to eat lunch before boarding, browse a little in the shops (a whole lot of overpriced crap, mostly), and listen to some music. They started boarding nearly an hour before take off.

I lucked out and got the section of three seats I was sitting in to myself. Actually, I inadvertently sat in the wrong seat, but it worked out for everyone, the plane being only about half full. Because, really, who in their right mind flies Air Canada if they don’t have to? When I booked the flight, I had planned to ship my bike. You get a better rate from AC if you fly yourself with them, as well as your bike. It would have been worth it. But since then, I decided to rent a bike in Ireland. I wish I’d made that decision sooner.

Having three seats to myself was a good thing. I could stretch out by contorting myself just a little, and was even able to lie across them, curled up like a cooked shrimp, and doze in brief, restless fits and starts between the episodic “fasten your seatbelt for turbulence” announcements. Sadly, the entertainment options were desperately limited, and the film I downloaded from Netflix for offline use wouldn’t play.

The flight left on time at 3:20 p.m., local time. They served “dinner” at about 5 p.m. – microwaved chicken in a bland tomato sauce with watery cooked quinoa, a still-frozen roll, hard butter pat included to test the mettle of the plastic knife, some kind of unappetizing salad thing, which I didn’t bother to taste, and a brownie, which it would be nearly impossible to ruin. I ate as much as I could, and wondered why they served food on flights that made you wish you were in the hospital instead. A few hours later they came and asked if we’d like something to drink, and then a couple hours after that, while I was dozing, they left a yogurt, but no spoon. Just before landing they came to pick up garbage, which in my case included the unopened yogurt.

We landed in Dublin around 8 a.m., local time, and I was deplaned, through customs, and bags in hand before 9. There was a shop in the airport that sold SIM cards, but they didn’t have the one I was looking for, so I kept the phone in airplane mode to avoid roaming fees, and set off to find a bus to Lisburn. This apparently doesn’t exist, and I ended up on a bus to Belfast, which stopped at a place where I could get another bus to Lisburn. (It also, incidentally, stopped about 3 miles from Lisburn, but I didn’t know it at the time.)

I gave up on avoiding roaming fees so I could find the bike rental shop using Google Maps. I don’t think I’ll regret the $10, even though Google placed me one street over from where I needed to be. (Something to do with the postal code, apparently.)

I got to Phillip McCallen Motorcycles, in an industrial park on the edge of Lisburn, around 1 p.m. I still hadn’t eaten anything since the crappy dinner on the plane. I figured, I’d get things sorted at the bike shop, then go find something to eat & maybe pick up a SIM card.

The bike was ready to go when I arrived. A beautiful, new (less than 1200 miles on it) Triumph Tiger 800. (I’ll post pictures later. I was too tired to even think about taking any yesterday.) The luggage and gear were in the back of the shop. After paperwork and payment were sorted, I took my things to the back and started the process of fitting my stuff into the cases. This took a fair bit of time, because no matter how lightly you think you’ve packed, motorcycle cases have strict limits and odd dimensions, and you may find it difficult to fit everything as-is. I did end up leaving my duffle bag at the shop, but pretty much everything else was able to be squeezed into place.

They gave me a quick run-through of the bike’s features, and a brief demo of the GPS, and suggested I might want to take a few spins around the block to get used to the bike. Once I was all geared up, and the bike loaded, I headed off to a shop they told me would have SIM Cards. They did, but still not what I was looking for, and more expensive than the ones in the Dublin airport. I decided I’d wait another day and pick up the SIM card in Dublin instead.

By this time – it was about 3 p.m., and I’d been up for most of the past 25 hours – I decided the best thing would be to check into my hotel, shower, go get something to eat, and then pass out for a while. Easier said that done.

Although we’d programmed the hotel into the GPS at the bike shop, the device was set to just kind of point to where you want to be, rather than providing a route to follow. This was a pain in the ass, since I never really knew when to turn, or in which direction. I eventually made it here, without straying onto the wrong side of the road more than once, and without getting killed in a roundabout.

By the time I unloaded the bike and hauled everything up to my room, I was a tired, sweaty mess. I showered, dried myself off with the sandpaper-like towels (have they never heard of fabric softener?), got dressed and walked the just-under-a-mile to the “second oldest pub in Norther Ireland”. The Speckled Hen – “voted Best Pub 2017” – was a fairly nondescript place, with decent food, better beer, and lousy service, accompanied by hard Ulster accents, which bear little resemblance to those heard in the Republic. After eating my fish & chips and drinking one Irish Pale Ale (just tasted like IPA to me), I nearly fell asleep at the table waiting for the bill.

I came back to the hotel and passed out for a few hours. Then stayed up a few more. Then went back to sleep to get myself on a local footing re time. Now, here I am. It’s quarter past seven. I’m waiting for the dining room to open for breakfast (a one hour window, from 8 to 9), and I’ll be on my way back down to Dublin after that. I’ve familiarized myself better with the GPS, and I think I have the route to my hotel ready to go. But if not, hey, there’s a reason it’s called an adventure.

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