To be a Sheep in Ireland


Saturday morning we cycled in the mist to Slieve League, cliffs that rise more than 1900 feet over the coast in County Donegal. It was a 5.5km ride down and mostly up the road from Carrick, where we spent Friday night.

day 3 slieve league

Dave, Elizabeth, and I left our bikes at the first parking lot. Noah (surprise!) cycled to the top parking lot, and then we all hiked a bit further up. Had it been sunny, I think we might have attempted to go to the top, but the view was going to be obscured no matter where we were, and we had a long cycle ahead of us (30 km) to Ardara.

day 3 fog at slieve league
There were loads of sheep grazing in the fields atop the cliffs.

day 3 sheep life

They looked quite at home. In fact, some of them looked downright smug, if one can attribute such an expression to livestock.

day 3 why is this sheep smiling

Elizabeth said, “I think it’s so funny that these sheep live by the ocean. They have prime real estate.”

day 3 more sheep by sea
I think that’s why they look so smug.

Dorie, a fellow Ireland-by-bike(r), whom we ran into (not literally) on our way out of Carrick later on Saturday, said that when she dies, she wants to come back as a sheep in Ireland so she can lounge by the ocean for the rest of her life.

day 3 sheep by sea big view

We saw many less-smug-looking sheep on the rainy ride from Carrick to Ardara between noon and 2:30. These were the country cousins of the seaside sheep, and there was pretty near an endless line of them, as we were cycling through pastoral grazing lands.

I would like to report that the countryside was beautiful, but it was hard to see through the rain coating my glasses: it rained pretty much the entire trip, and when it wasn’t raining, it was misting.

On the plus side, the rain made it difficult to see when we were approaching a hill, which meant that I had no time to anticipate how much effort it would take to get up the hill, because I didn’t realize there was a hill until it was literally right in front of me. On the negative side, I still had to climb the hill. And there were a lot of hills.

The biggest challenge, though, was the downhill ride: once we reached the summit of whatever nightmarish pass it was that we had climbed, we were faced with a descent worthy of one of those Tour-de-France cycles through the Alps. It would have been great, were it not for the fact that it was pouring, my brakes were squeaking, and even though our Ireland-by-bike equipment has been nothing but dependable, squeaky brakes and a slick road do not scream “this is fun!” At least, not to me, the person who goes to DisneyLand not for the rides but to admire the flowers in hanging pots.

Speaking of the Tour-de-France, after two days of what a professional cyclist would consider less than a warm-up ride, I have newfound admiration for those riders. It’s one thing to get on a bike to travel a long distance for one day. To do it day in and out for weeks? That’s amazing. Or insane. Or both. At last, I understand why Lance Armstrong was so enamored of blood doping. I was ready for a little blood doping at around 1 pm yesterday. Or at the very least, a bike with an electric motor.


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