Photography, Road Trips

On the trip of a lifetime, you power through your exhaustion and drink in every experience

Our first day in Ireland began at 10 am on Friday before Labor Day, as we drove north toward Chicago for our flight, and didn’t end until Saturday evening on Irish soil.

We flew from Chicago to Dublin, taking off at about 6:30 pm and touching down at about 8 am Irish time. That’s 3 am Indiana time. I caught a couple hours of solid sleep on the plane. Margaret dozed in and out.

From the Dublin airport we took a bus to a train station, where we boarded a train for Galway. We thought we might catch a nap on the train, but a delightful couple from northern California sat across from us and we spent the hours chatting.

In Galway, we rented a car and drove out of the city to a nearby village, Oughterard, where Margaret had booked us a B&B.

Crossriver B&B

We saw B&Bs all over Ireland, even in the remotest places we visited. It makes us think that tourism must be one of the country’s major industries.

I was already exhausted when we reached Galway, but driving the thirty minutes or so to Oughterard pushed me past my limits. In retrospect, it was a frightfully bad idea on that little sleep to do some mighty stressful driving. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, on the right side of the car, and shifting gears (stickshift!) with my left hand. And we were following skinty directions on narrow, twisty roads in a surprisingly heavy rain. My internal battery was already dangerously low, and this involved driving drained it past empty. I was starting to lose it toward the end, especially as we discovered that the Irish don’t always sign their streets and we couldn’t find the turnoff to the B&B. We drove back and forth through Oughterard, trying every street until we got the right one. When we finally reached our room, I fell onto the bed in the fetal position and passed out.

I woke up at some point, still not entirely myself. Margaret had come back from a walk and wanted to walk again with me to explore little Oughterard. “Some of the pubs are having traditional music tonight! Are you up for going?”

I was still mighty tired and on edge. But I told myself: don’t squander opportunity. Off we went. Dusk was falling.

Oughterard, Co. Galway

Oughterard, nestled among sheep and cattle farms along the Owenriff River and Lake Corrib, is charming. Though it isn’t far from bustling Galway, it feels remote. In the fading light it looked just like an Irish tourism brochure.

Oughterard, Co. Galway

In the midwestern US, towns as small as Oughterard — pop. 1,300 — are invariably in bad shape, their best days decades in the past. Don’t bother stopping, as there’s nothing to do there. But Oughterard, like small towns all over Ireland, was fresh and vital and thriving. Each town offered something special.

Breathnach's

We chose Breathnach’s Bar, est. 1839, for our dinner and entertainment. The joint was full! But we were allowed to take our dinner at the bar, which we figured out later is generally not done in Ireland. A very kind fellow gave up his seat so we could sit down, and finished his last beer standing nearby. He chatted us up pleasantly and told us of the places he’d been in the United States. The bar’s owner or manager, at any rate a fellow who carried the confidence of being fully in charge, also chatted genially with us and was suitably pleased for us to learn that we were on our honeymoon. After our dinners were finished, he brought us each a digestif of Bailey’s, on the house, to honor our marriage.

Here’s a selfie we took at the bar. Our happiness fully masked our dizzy exhaustion.

Us in Oughterard

The music had begun, so Margaret ordered another Guinness. The tunes were delightful! But our very long day had caught up with us both. After a handful of songs, Margaret’s glass empty, we walked back to our B&B.

Canon PowerShot S95 and iPhone 6S

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16 thoughts on “On the trip of a lifetime, you power through your exhaustion and drink in every experience

  1. As one who does not do well with little sleep, I commend you on your ability to power through your very, very long day.

    Your description of the vibrancy of small towns there makes me sad for those here which are just as you described them. Looking forward to more.

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  2. Gary Tyrrell says:

    This reminds me of every small town we saw in Ireland, and the adventure of driving there. At least the shift pattern is the same, even if the stick is left hand.

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    • What was weirdest for me was having my body on the right side of the lane. Everything else made sense. But the first couple days I kept finding myself drifting the car to the left, so my body could be on the left side of the lane where it belongs!

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  3. I know that feeling well and can empathize. Your mind feels out of phase, motor skills are 1 second too slow and you aren’t quite sure how you’re still going. I’m glad you powered through it, it makes for a better story later!

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  4. DougD says:

    I’ve done some driving in England, I just remember keep my body close to the middle line, that kept me from driving on the wrong side of the road. Pedals the same and shift pattern the same is good, but that 2-3 shift is mighty awkward compared to just pushing the lever away from yourself in North America.

    Town centers are still inhabited in Europe partially because of stricter land use laws. No sprawl, no unchecked business development along arterial roads, no knocking down old buildings. Of course folks emigrated to get away from being told what they could or couldn’t do, but look where that got us.

    Oughterard looks typically nice on Google maps, one business that pops up on the map is Oughterard Shrubbery. Just in case you need to find…. A SHRUBBERY!!

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    • Yeah, after a while I got used to my body being aligned with the centerline and I was fine. But boy, those first couple days were exhausting as driving that is automatic here in Indiana was ANYTHING BUT in Ireland.

      We had a little trouble with the 2-3 shift. But the Nissan Note had a rubbery blubbery shifter anyway, and we both had trouble finding reverse, and frequently did 4-3 when we meant 4-5, too.

      If Oughterard has a comfy cushion factory, I’m moving there to live.

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  5. Steve Miller says:

    Our trip to Ireland was self-guided from B&B to B&B. There’s a business that reps many, so you can do all your planning/booking at one place. I was a bit unsure about this idea (due to a couple American experiences), but we met some wonderful people, both hosts and guests. (I managed to stick Jane with the driving, BTW. I just kept shouting, “Left! Left! Left!”)

    One word about the “full Irish breakfast,” though. Skip the black pudding.

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  6. I was told by Rolls-Royce employees that they learned the hard way that having its employees returning from the States to Heathrow then to face the drive to Derby (a three hour drive under good conditions) was a deadly combination. As a result, they have a car service pick them up from the airport (and, presumably, drop them off). I was similarly fortunate in that I flew Virgin Atlantic and they dropped me off as part of the “Upper Class” service they provide. (Business class price, jaw-dropping first class service.)

    I enjoyed driving in England, and as designated driver for my merry band of engineers (Derby is near Nottingham…) I only came close to killing my passenger once. No damage, only raised heart rates. And a renewed commitment to look the correct direction when entering a traffic circle, which, to this day, I love with a passion, a love which my fellow New Englanders do no share for some reason. Alas and sigh…

    Congratulations to you and Margaret!

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    • There’s no doubt: driving that car even the 30 minutes after our long day was the dumbest, most dangerous thing we did on the trip. The Rolls-Royce people were smart to learn that lesson and provide transportation.

      In nearby Carmel we have roundabouts aplenty, and neither of us had any real trouble adjusting to looking right for traffic before we entered them. The most difficult thing about driving in Ireland was encountering a giant tour bus on a narrow curve or on a 1 1/2 lane road!

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  7. Michael McNeill says:

    I can empathise with your fatigue, Jim. I’ve done the O’Hare-Dub trip (followed by a bit of a drive) more than a few times and it’s brutal. You guys did really well. And photographs as well!

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