The Road Less Travelled

12 Oct

I don’t think I’ve really talked about roads here in general, but I know I mentioned “The Bog Road” and the hedges on its edges and the bumpy-curvy nature of it. 

Not "The Bog Road" but very similar

So imagine trying to drive the posted speed limit of 80kph (or 50mph) down the road pictured above.  Yeah right.  You’d likely be in the bushes or someone’s field in about a minute. 

As a new arrival I find these roads both charming and adrenaline producing.  But I had an enlightening experience last Saturday that give me some insight into how the native population views the roads – and I wonder how long it will take before I feel the same way.

Here’s the story:

Because we are sharing Jim’s car, there is a logistical planning element to any trip taken such as taking the girls to school or picking them up, going shopping, etc.  Often we need to coordinate with Madeleine and Jim both as to where anyone needs to be and when and how they are going to get there. 

Sean and Trish live about two miles up the road in Quin (now you know why our address is “Quin Road” – because that’s what it is: the road to Quin).  Last week Trish’s car was out of service so there was an extra element of logistical planning as regards car travel since their two girls sometimes need shuttling from one place to another like ours do.

Quin Abbey with Sean's house among those just behind it

Trish needed the car in the morning Saturday morning, so Jim and Madeleine carpooled up to Galway Friday night in Madeleine’s car and dropped Jim’s car to Quin on the way.  This meant that Jim and Madeleine had a little less autonomy than usual, but we all appreciated their sacrifice and we made sure that we didn’t need to go anywhere Friday evening.  

On Saturday the rowers planned to meet at the boathouse at 2:00pm to go have a row, so right on schedule Trish came by our place with Jim’s car at 1:00pm and I jumped into it to drop her home and head off to Limerick for the rowing. 

Normally it would take me 25 minutes to get from our house to the boathouse, but as because of the Quin detour I figured on a longer trip.  As I discussed logistics with Jim on Friday afternoon, he casually mentions to me that I wouldn’t have to come back toward Ennis once I was in Quin, that I could “just keep on going directly from Quin and head straight down to Limerick”. 

So like a complete eejit (nice Irish word which I think may be derived from the english “Idiot”: Idiot->Idjit->Eejit)…anyway, like a complete eejit, after I dropped Trish and the girls off at her house in Quin, I “just keep on going” to head straight down to Limerick. 

If I had stopped and asked someone at a local pub about how to get from Quin to Limerick, it probably would have started a heated debate amongst the regulars because the towns in Ireland are connected like a spiderweb and are probably the inspiration for the theoretical math problem called “The Travelling Salesman” where you have to plan the most efficient route through many points…I digress…but…if I had asked for directions in the pub,  there certainly would have been an older fellow who would say something like “well you’d head out down the road there through Rathluby to Kilmurry and then down to Sixmilebridge where you’ll go through the town and just the other side you’ll see the road to Cratloe…” and then someone would have interrupted this guy and said “no no no, you wouldn’t want to head through Kilmurry now, the so-and-so funeral is this afternoon and you won’t get through the town at all, no, you’d want to take the turnoff before Rathluby down past Finn Lough and head on into Newmarket-on-Fergus…”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the good sense to stop into this mythical pub and ask directions. Neither did I consult a map before heading out, I just went.  I took the first route described above – to Kilmurry, and the roads were curvy, and bumpy and although they were wide enough for two cars to pass, you’d want to be careful about it.  

Missing the advice of the mythical second guy in the mythical pub, I ran straight into somebody’s funeral which meant that on the just-barely-wide-enough-for-two-cars width of the road, one half was taken up by parked cars snuggled into the hedges/fences at the edge of a cemetary.  The other half of the road which I would have normally been driving on, was taken up with people walking slowly from their cars, or directly from the church up to the cemetary and the odd car  creeping along amongst the walkers only to find itself bumper to frontbumper with another car and someone has to back up till someone can get by, but there are too many people around to go anywhere anyway and now there’s another car behind that one…and so on. 

Much slower than a funeral procession which might have been orderly and have had something of a start and a finish, the meanderings of the mourners was rather slow as I sat there idling in the car as they passed around me.  Many of them actually looked old enough to be participating more centrally in the event.  At one point I considered actually attending the burial since I was there anyway, but I figured my rowing gear wouldn’t be well recieved although it was mostly black.

In the end though, I made it past the funeral and curved and bounced my way down through Sixmilebridge and Cratloe into Limerick and to the boathouse in a total of about 40 minutes – arriving with 2 minutes to spare.

So when I told the guys about my adventure and the route I took, they all had the same reaction:  “oh, those roads are awful, you should have gone…”  even when I told Jim Lyons about the comment that he had made that inspired the adventure, he said almost word-for-word the same thing. 

I’m finding that the Irish have very strong opinions about the roads and their condition which rivals only their opinions about the weather and it’s (varying degrees of) awfulness.  I’ve written several entries about how I don’t think the weather is as bad as everyone else thinks it is, and now here I am thinking that the roads aren’t as bad as people think they are. 

Mary, Grace, and Aideen on the "original" Quin Road from Ennis that runs behind the field behind our house

Now that I’m thinking about it though, I can imagine that when you have to drive these roads every day of your life and you’ve got places to be and your time is scarce, and your attention is split by all the things you’re thinking, you may not have the headspace to appreciate the charm of the curvy-bumpy road, or for that matter the sunny spaces in between the clouds.

I hope that when I’m used to this place, I still manage keep the space in my mind to appreciate the little things I find so wonderful while I’m in discovery mode.

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One Response to “The Road Less Travelled”

  1. Guadalupe Pollock October 13, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    We’ll remind you. Eejit is idiot. And it just wouldn’t be Ireland if the roads weren’t like that. The whole country and it’s people would be different if they had different roads! They are much more charming, though, when someone else is doing all the driving. I think I say this every time, but “keep it comin”!

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