It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... This morning the sky was mostly cloudy, and there was almost no wind. So I went along with Dan, Brian, James, and Joanna to do the mast ride. This was an optional 8 mile ride for the before breakfast crowd. The main feature of this ride was an 840 (Padraic said 250, but the GPS showed the lie) foot climb. Most of that 840 feet was in the last 3/4 of a mile. For those of you from Decorah just imagine the First Lutheran hill extended to 3/4 of a mile.
The view from the mast was fantastic, we could see the ocean and a couple of beautiful lakes. The hill was so steep, and the roads were just a little bit damp, that I actually had to walk my bike the last 100 yards, because I could not get enough traction when I was sitting on the bike and pedaling! The ride down was almost as exciting, in fact it seemed quite a bit more dangerous than the ride up as it was difficult to keep your speed down without skidding all over the place.
After finishing that ride I was very ready for my breakfast back at Rosleague Manor. I had a ham and cheese omelet with some of the best croissants ever. To wash down the omelet I had a glass of grapefruit juice and a cup of black coffee. The manor employs a great French chef, and they have an exchange program to bring over young people from france to learn Irish service customs.
After breakfast there was another optional ride. From Rosleague we rode to Letterfrack, then out on the Connemara loop, past Molly the pirate queen's castle, and then on to Renvyle, Tulley, Tulley Cross, and then back to Letterfrack by a different road. Once again we had fantastic views, we saw a small vertical wind turbine, and learned about Grace O'Malley the pirate queen. Back in the 1500's she was a very powerful woman who enjoyed plundering the english royal ships that were in turn plundering all of Ireland. She and queen Elizabeth met to try and resolve the issue but as long as Elizabeth was unwilling to stop plundering Ireland, Grace O'Malley was unwilling to stop sinking and plundering their ships. Apparently they ended up agreeing to disagree, but I'm sure it was an exciting meeting.
We met up with the rest of the group in Letterfrack for lunch at Currachs. Although three courses were offered as part of lunch most of us could not imagine eating more than one course and maybe a bit of dessert. Many of us had the Irish pizza and it was quite good. A nice change from the last couple of days. I also had a chocolate chip cookie for desert which was excellent but a bad choice as the chocolate muffin was clearly superior. Kaia had snicker bar pie which would have been a close second or third I'm sure. Jane and Josh had apple pie and ice cream.
Here's where the story of the day takes a turn for the worse. Just as we were finishing up, the weather forecast for the day came true. Rain after noon. We rode to the Kylmore Abbey in a torrential rain. At one point we came out from behind a wind break and I was nearly stopped in my tracks by the strength of the wind. My little water resistant biking wind breaker was doing nothing to stop this rain and I was wet and chilled by the time we got to the Abbey. The Abbey was pretty impressive in the oppressive weather, and I'm sure it would have been brilliant in good weather.
After the Abbey I seriously considered buying a new waterproof winter coat, but instead I borrowed one of Padriac's extra rain jackets. We had 17 additional miles to get to Ballynahinch (pronounced like bal-in-the-hinch if you say it really fast) Castle. After a half a mile we were all soaked through completely, my shoes were completely soaked, my pants were soaked, all of my layers were soaked. And the headwind was horrific. After a while we realized that there was no possible way we could get any wetter, so we might just as well accept our fate and enjoy the ride. Once again, I'm sure that in reasonable weather it would have been beautiful. As it was I was still nice.
Now we are at the castle, showered, dried, and warm. Our clothes have been sent off to be dried, and the porter will collect our shoes to leave them in the boiler room to dry over night. All is well, as DuVine takes good care of us. Our only remaining decision for the day is whether to stay here at the castle and eat at the pub or to go into town and try one of the restaurants there.