Posted by: brendanodornan | August 14, 2012

How Far Did I Go This Weekend? Part 2 – Ballycastle, Bushmills, Armoy, Loughguile

After the Vanishing Lake photo stop we continued onwards skirting the edge of Ballypatrick Forest and descended towards Ballycastle, passing the Golf Course on our right and the ruin of Benamargy Friary on the left. This ruined building is of fascinating historical significance and if you’re in the area is worth a visit. It was a Franciscan monastery founded in the 15th Century and is said to be haunted by the ghost of Julie McQuillan ‘The Black Nun’. I don’t have any information about why she was referred to as ‘The Black Nun’ – perhaps she practised the Dark Arts or maybe she just had dirty habits! Old jokes are — just old.

We turned right at the roundabout in Ballycastle taking us onto North Street. I was hoping my cycling colleague would suggest a stop at one of the several inviting coffee shops here but alas this was not to be. We headed up the 10% gradient on North Street and out of the town on Clare Road. This was a tough climb. I’d never been up here before and the views were excellent. The dark skies had cleared and we were now in bright sunshine. There was a very clear view across to Rathlin Island.

We continued on for several miles enjoying the sun, the views and the cycling. A car park area on the right with several tour buses tempted us to pull in to investigate and perhaps take a few pictures. A couple of American ladies got talking with us and took our picture. They were from ‘up state Noo Yawk’ and were really impressed with how ‘bootiful the scenery is in Ireland’. I lapsed into fluent American and wished them a pleasant stay for the rest of their ‘vacation’. The view of Rathlin Island from here was stunning on such a clear day.

Having done our promotional bit for Tourism N Ireland we set off again heading west along the coast road towards Bushmills. We passed Carrickarede Rope Bridge and the Giants Causeway, reaching Bushmills at a little after 11am. Bushmills was really busy and there were bikes parked everywhere outside the coffee shops. We chose one just on the left at the main square and queued for what seemed like ages to order coffee and cake. I ordered a large black coffee and Mal ordered an ‘americano’ – it looked like we both got the same thing. I had a large and delicious piece of chocolate cake and Mal had a slice of something that looked equally good but I was too busy getting stuck into my cake to notice what it was. When he finished he still looked hungry so I shared a bit of my cake with him.

Before leaving the cafe, I visited the Gents to answer a call of nature. On the way back through the door and in full view of the cafe clientele, my left cycling shoe slid on something wet on the floor, my leg flew four feet in the air, both my arms extended in an involuntary action to try and regain my balance and the momentum swung me around 180 degrees causing me to lose my footing. I fell back onto my well padded derriere. Coffee drinkers at several tables thought this was hilarious! Needless to say, I sheepishly picked myself up, grabbed my cycling helmet and gloves and left with as much dignity as I could muster under the circumstances.

I was so embarrassed I didn’t dare stop to ask for directions of how to get to Straid Rd., which was our route out of Bushmills. Thankfully we found the road several hundred metres further on the left and that was when we realised the strength of the headwind! We were now cycling directly uphill into a 15mph wind with gusts of up to 30mph! This was tough! We had to pedal really hard just to make forward progress. As if that wasn’t bad enough a quick calculation told us we would have to cover about 25 miles in this.

The road out of Bushmills towards Armoy was long, straight, uphill and with little natural shelter from the wind. We suffered. Well, I suffered. Mal, the machine, powered on regardless. On several occasions he slowed a little so I could catch up. Eventually we turned right onto the road into Armoy and we got a little respite from the wind, but not for long as we soon passed the Armoy Round Tower and made a sharp right turn onto the long uphill section towards home. A long, straight, uphill ride of many Km into the wind.

I thought this last 7 or 8 miles were the toughest of all. Even though this section was only a category five climb, my legs were hurting and my lungs were bursting. I could feel the chocolate cake lying in my stomach like concrete. Mal was by now half a mile or so ahead and had slowed again to ensure that he didn’t leave me completely behind.

After a long hard slog into the relentless, blasting wind I reached the summit and started downhill. I still had to pedal because the wind was so strong it wasn’t possible to freewheel down the hill. Eventually home-base (our finish point, not the DIY store) came into view and Mal sprinted for the finish. I watched him disappear into the distance as I crawled along in second gear barely able to turn the cranks.

As I got off the bike I checked the odometer and we had covered exactly 70.0 miles. We had spent 4hr and 53 minutes cycling. I was feeling ill. I couldnt eat. I had to rest.
The next day I was hurting in places that I didn’t even know I had places.

Bring on the Lough at 81 miles!!

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