Bristol to Naas

24-27th July - Bristol to Naas - The emotional return

So, I’m home.  And that’s quite an emotive thing to say.  Home means so much.  Four letters, but so powerful.  We spent so many summers and Christmases with Mum heading home, and to her home was always Tipperary.  I could never understand this as to me home was Bristol.

Well as I sang Take Me Home Country Roads today (for the second day in a row), I eventually realised exactly what it meant when Mum said that so many years ago.  It is possible to have two homes and I’ve just cycled between both of them and back along a route I’ve been on so many times since we moved to the South West of England in 1973.

The emotion of being on the ferry is also something that’s incredible.  Again, it’s fused with so many memories.  This time, it was more like the Marie Celeste though.  No longer the heaving bars, fruit machines in every corridor and lack of stabilisers having a rather unpleasant impact.  The ferry in the time of Covid is a very small number of people, nothing open, lots of face-masks and a very different experience, with stabilisers well deployed on moderate seas.

Anyway, the trip:  I left Bristol on Friday morning.  It was tough leaving Mum & Dad and much tougher this time (that’s also a mirror to Mum leaving ‘home’ way back when too).  I gave myself two and a half days to get to Rosslare, partly because of awkward ferry times, but also because the route chosen was 40-50k longer than the outbound.

The journey itself was more familiar.  While I didn’t travel along the M4, I followed the same basic approach.  That said, I never got to see the Newport steel works, the chimneys of Port Talbot or the docks of Cardiff in as much detail from the car.  At the same time, I never got to experience an amazing cycle path across the edge of the Gower Peninsula, Wisemans Bridge & Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire (in fact all of Pembrokeshire was stunning).

Miraculously, after the more challenged outbound route, I made it through without any more ‘mechanicals’, so no need for replacement wheels at the last minute.

I’m writing this from my home-office in Naas, so everything is fairly fresh.  Today was both exhilarating and again challenging.  Seeing the Welcome to Kildare sign in the  Castledermot area when I didn’t expect it, was an absolute treat.  The sunshine as I drive throughout Kildare was uninterrupted and thankfully even the wind was behind me then.

As I got to the edge of Naas, I could smell home (or maybe it was the dog).  At this point the old adage about the number of accidents that happen within 2-3 miles of the front door nearly came to haunt me.  A car pulled out on me from the opposite side of the road and I hammered the brakes.  The bike went into a skid, which thankfully pulled me parallel to the car and I missed it by inches.  Apparently I hadn’t been seen.  Lots of people came to give me attention, but thankfully I was still miraculously upright, although I’m not sure I’d have wanted a blood pressure test at that point.  Only later when reviewing the Garmin data did I see that I’d been cycling at 43-44kph at the time.  Someone, somewhere was looking out for me.  What staggered me is how well the technology works.  My bike computer sent messages to both my wife and my parents to tell then I’d been in an accident.  So after ringing my parents and popping into the parish office where my wife works to let them know I was fine I went home.

What can I say.  This has been an amazing experience.  I been well outside of my comfort zone (well admittedly I stayed in the odd nice hotel or Shepherd’s hut), I’ve seen my parents and shared new wonderful memories, and all of you have helped to raise an astonishing amount of money for Breakthrough Cancer Research, currently €8.6k which is simply staggering.  Thank you and love you all xxx

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