Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to Kilkenny

If soccer is a BIG sport here, then driving is the KING of sports.  Anyone can play as long as you have wheels.  Dublin is a walking city and we’ve been on our feet for a week.  Off we go to the airport on our last morning to pick up a sleek, midnight blue VW Passat for our road trip.

Terry is a private pilot and rated for helicopters.  I am confident as the captain of our team; he will take us to victory in what appears to me to be the topsy turvy, Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass world of driving where everything is backwards.

It is odd to watch him open the right hand door and climb behind the wheel to start the engine.  The motor purrs and with a quick look over his right shoulder he noses the car into traffic.  We’re off!

Our side of the roadway is barely sufficient for ONE car. My heart is racing and I know my knuckles would be turning white if I were gripping the steering wheel.  I feel my anxiety mount and am sweating bullets as he keeps the car barreling down the left side of the road.

I see the needle hit 100 Km per hour.  It feels like we are flying.  He keeps the right side of the car near the center white line.  Meanwhile on my side of the car, the plants hanging into the roadway slap the bumper and door.   I’ve never been in what would be the driver’s seat in the US without a steering wheel.  He is using his left hand to shift through the gears of a standard transmission.  My jaw tightens.  The car is twisting and turning.  Who says you have to go to Monte Carlo for La Mans?  It seems like a head on collusion will happen at any given moment…..perhaps around the next bend?  I don’t say a word.  He is passing oncoming cars so closely the rear view mirrors “high five” each other before going on their merry way.

Terry had mentioned he thought driving in the big cities might be difficult.  HAHAHA.   They are a piece of cake compared to driving in rural Ireland.

I’ve been charged with navigation which seems perfect since I don’t have a “sense” of direction.   When the navigation menu asks “would you like a faster shorter route”, DON”T take it.  It’s a BIG mistake.  I, however, didn’t know any better and clicked to the new route.   We are now diverted to a back country, Irish “lane”.   The lane has two-way traffic but the roadway is only wide enough for one car.  There is grass growing in the middle of the worn and cracked asphalt.   There are brilliant green trees, bushes flowering in Technicolor, red berries on wild brambles and small leaf hedges growing on both sides of the lane.  I can’t see over this mish mash.  We are completely surrounded by this lush greenery growing so tall the trunks, vines and leaves embrace each other at the top creating a green leafy tunnel.  Oh, it’s so beautiful!

Then I scream.  A red harvester, as big as an elephant, has popped up from over the hill and is directly in our path.  Without missing a beat, the driver tips his hat and deftly turns out of our way. Next we pass a farmer who waves from a rusted gate.  His flock of sheep is just behind him waiting to cross the road.  Every once in a while we get a glimpse of a thatched roof stone cottage. We take photos of a dreamy lake and with a little church, a field of poppies swaying in the breeze and stone walls covered in lilacs blossoms.  This is the place of story books.

There are no bike lanes and yet there are bicyclists a plenty.  They are all dressed up in their racing regalia….bright lemon yellow, turquoise blue, brilliant orange and black with little racing caps.  Up and down hill and dale they ride.  Those of us in cars, trucks, hay bailers and the like drive patiently in first gear behind them waiting to pass.  At one time we, too thought of riding bikes through the countryside.  I’m not taking the chance of having the rear view mirror on a truck whack me on the back of the head.  I draw a big black line through “bike riding” on my list of things to do.

So far we have not seen any smashed cars or squashed livestock so Terry and I agree perhaps the only real dangers here are the other tourists driving the back roads.  Everyone else seems to know exactly what to do.