First of all, thanks to everyone on TA for your information and insights! Now, here are some observations and thoughts from my May trip to Ireland with my daughter, Ashley. Please bear with my wordiness.
It looked like our carefully-planned itinerary would be undone by visits by the Queen and Obama. Fortunately, the five-day shutdown of the Rock of Cashel did not interfere. A cold, driving rain did, however.
Living in the western US, flying to and from Ireland seems to take infinitely longer than flying from the eastern US. Travelers back east have it easier – unless, of course, they’re dealing with delays at the NY area airports. We flew via Chicago to avoid that.
After 7 hours in transatlantic coach class, we eyed the first-class seats with envy. But of course, those passengers paid more for their comfort.
One of our “spinner” bags lost a wheel somewhere between Phoenix and Dublin. I imagine that some baggage handler has a display case holding his vast collection of broken luggage wheels – the same way that most people display their prized snow globes or cow creamers.
The first day of driving was NOT fun, especially after getting little sleep on the flight over. A right-hand steering wheel and driving on the left were new experiences for me. And sitting in the left seat, panic and terror were new experiences for Ashley. I finally realized that “nap of the earth” driving was not necessary. So I learned to become very intimate with the road’s centerline, then I progressed to easing a bit over a bit when we had no oncoming traffic. All of this reduced our stress levels dramatically.
“Sharing the road” takes on a new meaning in Ireland – especially on narrow rural roads and in small towns. I learned to look ahead for pull-over spots in case I met someone. I appreciated the rare straightaways on back roads. Driving at 50 kph on those stretches felt like we were nearly going sonic. One back road was so narrow that both sides of our car got brushed by foliage – at the same time! Early in our trip, I was unimpressed with the “R” roads, but I was thankful to get back on an “R” again. I’ll never speak unkindly of them again.
After the fifth day of driving, I progressed to the point where I could drive a curvy road with oncoming traffic and still hold a conversation that required more than one-word responses.
We appreciated the “count-down” signs we saw before exits, on the “M” and “N” roads. A sign with three stripes, then a sign with two stripes, then one with one stripe, then the exit. Very handy.
Because I always hold a steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, I couldn’t easily wave to oncoming drivers as we negotiated our way past each other. I don’t wish to be rude, so I’ll have to invent “The Waver”, a motorized fake hand mounted on the dashboard. It will be voice activated to give a friendly wave. “Wave On!” “Wave Off!” The Waver!
We learned that after you accidentally drive over a tree branch in the road, if you see fluid dripping from underneath you car, you should check the color and smell of the fluid. In our case, I was afraid it was oil or transmission fluid. But the mechanic determined that it was just water condensate from our air conditioner. Waiting for his arrival cost us 2 hours, but we adjusted our plans. He phoned while en route to see where we were parked. When I replied that we were in our car next to a pub, he asked, “Well, why aren’t ye in the pub, getting a pint?!” It was an excellent question, but I had no excellent answer. Alas, I missed an opportunity to enjoy another Smithwick’s.
Before this trip, I despised roundabouts in the US. I still don’t love them, but they do work well in Ireland – at least the ones without stoplights in them.