Day 9: Westport to Sligo City (106.2km)
Firstly, a gratuitous plug for Stephen Mullane of Chain Driven Cycles - the fastest bike repairman in Sligo (and possibly Ireland - who happens also to stock beautiful Italian Bottecchia cycles). I'll just add this is not a blogger's inflated statement in return for a freebie as I paid for my repair.
Anyway, it was 4.20pm when I limped into Stephen's cycle shop with a damaged crank. Basically, my pedal fell off my bike - in layman's terms. It's hard cycling with one pedal. I tried. Swore loudly. And admitted defeat.
So If I'm sounding a little 'cranky' ... well ... not all multi-day cycle adventures go to plan, everyday. It's a rather grey overcast evening here in Sligo City, which I reached a few hours ago after 100km cycle northeastwards on day 9 of my attempt to cycle the length of Ireland on the Mizmal cycle. And CFDT (Carbon Fibre Death Trap, as a friend nicknamed my bike, after my last crash) went straight to the repair shop.
It's been a gruelling day along what Paul Kennedy, our leader, calls the 'never ending road' to Sligo. But there was no hint of any mechanicals ahead when I left Westport. It's not an outstandingly scenic day as we crossed into County Sligo from Mayo but there were beautiful lakes, particularly around Pontoon, and some impressive religious icons and churches.
The shrine to the Virgin Mary was snapped at our first tea-break (pecan slices again... delicious). And, well, I'm not a religious man but my rather sacrilegious quip that I might substitute my cycling helmet for the icon's crown of thorns for a tasteless snap may have incurred divine wrath. Basically, within 2 miles of departing the icon my pedal fell off as the crank cross-threaded. I tried taping it back on, using the foil of a Twix bar to create grip, and then limped to the lunch spot cursing and fearing my odyssey was in jeopardy. I shall never harbour such irreverent humour again around the sacred icon of the blessed virgin.
By now, the effort of trying to pedal one-legged and the stress of mechanical failure was beginning to tell. Not least because the way to Sligo is a long, long, road of never ceasing humps. But Paul had laid on a great lunch today - including a bouquet of red roses and apple pie - so I imbibed enough vigour to tackle a tough afternoon.
Paul also leant me his bike for the afternoon's 50km on the 'never-ending' road. Up and down, undulation after undulation, headwind usually in the face. My sense of humour cracking as badly as the potholed roads as I struggled through very simple farmland.
My crankiness reached a new high when I mistook the 'chevrons' (route markers) on my Wahoo (GPS - a great piece of kit for which once again I have not received as a freebie but borrowed from Paul ... along with his bike). I found myself cycling down the hard shoulder of the N4 - unsure over legality of cycling on such a grade of road. Nonetheless I hurried off at the first junction and was absolutely delighted to reach Sligo City.
In Gaelic The Sligo translates something like 'shelly city'. A sign on the way in tells me I am entering 'Yeats' country (poet not the British cycling twins). But the city feels very working class. A little bit removed from some of the wealth of the cities to the south we'd pedalled through over the past 8 days. I particularly loved the old cinema - still showing an advert for 'Jaws'.
Anyway, all's well that end's well. Wearily I found Stephan Mullane's bike shop and he had it repaired within an hour. It meant that I didn't have to resort to the desperate measure of replacing my beloved if somewhat temperamental CFDT.
Donegal beckons tomorrow. So, apparently, the heavens may open too!