350 kilometre bike ride on a knife-edge
IHAD an early morning appointment in Tralee on Friday, September 11. It meant I had to travel from Dublin to Kerry the previous day. The plan was to take the 07.00 Heuston service to Tralee on Thursday. In the time of Covid I find it safest to take either early or late trains as they are the quietest of the day.
Cycling home from work on the Wednesday a wild thought entered my head. Why not drive the motorbike to Kerry? In the last 12 months it has seen few outings. I had driven it to Brittas Bay for a swim on a balmy day in August. It was I who was swimming not the bike.
But driving from Dublin to West Kerry was a different story. For people who have never driven a motorbike, maybe the best way to explain how exposed you are on a bike is to say that you’re really sitting on top of an engine with no protection.
The weather forecast was reasonably good. Maybe one or two light showers and no wind. They were important factors in my decision making.
By any stretch of the imagination I’m no Evel Knievel. No chance of that at 71 years of age.
Once I had made my decision to take the bike I found myself experiencing moments of terrible angst. What would I do if I had an accident, broke a leg, or worse? The mantra was to drive carefully, take my time and always keep to the speed limit.
The most tedious aspect of driving a motor bike is donning all the gear, padded trousers and jacket, back protector, gloves and helmet and then trying to squeeze my glasses on under the helmet.
I’m exhausted before I ever throw my leg over the bike. Part of the exhaustion is due to all the worry and nervous tension that descended on me the moment I decided to drive the bike to Kerry.
Once out on the motorway I feel like a vulnerable fly, who could be swatted within seconds by a marauding giant of a truck. I’m so nervous I stay in the slow lane, travelling at no more than 80 km/h. Everything on the road passes me but I’m not embarrassed. Let them off. I want to stay alive.
Slowly but surely the nerves calm down and some sort of confidence seems to be taking over. Somewhere near Newbridge I’m feeling relaxed. It seems as if the motorway is not as nasty a place as I thought it was 40 minutes earlier, and it’s a little quieter. I am too.
I notice the needle on the speedometer begins to edge up. I’m relaxed, enjoying an Ireland that’s looking its best.
East of Limerick I experience a pins and needles sensation in my hands. Best to stop and take a break at the next parking facility. A quick few strides, check the phone and off again.
On the top of the hill, west of Abbeyfeale the Kerry mountains come into view. Magic.
Arriving in the West Kerry village of Castlegregory a lovely sense of achievement comes over me. I’m delighted with myself. The fear and nerves have been replaced by excitement and yes, euphoria too. I did it.