Day 6 July 2
Home - 101.5 miles, 25.11 ah
As you might guess from the energy used, this was a lot easier than it might seem. First, the B&B
was everything that could be wished for: friendly, quiet, a proper bath, lots of interesting books to read, proper wi-fi and of course, a full Irish breakfast in the morning.
I hit the road just before 9.00 am, in a light drizzle, taking the main route through Warrenpoint to Newry. It was a fast road with fairly heavy traffic, but had a good cycle lane on a wide shoulder for most of the way. Market stall were just being put out on the main square of Warrenpoint as I passed by. What wind there was must have been from the south, because I found myself buzzing along at 20+ mph, hardly using any power. Just under 1ah in ten miles!
I knew the main road to Armagh would be busy, with a stiff climb out of town, so I was looking for Sustrans Route 9, the old canal towpath that runs north towards Lough Neagh. There are two canals in the centre of Newry, and I had to stop and ask a few times to make sure I had the right one. Apart from crossing roads, this route is traffic-free as far as Jerretspass, and there were quite a few walkers, joggers and other cyclists out. Gentle cycling, but the power assistance was still welcome after negotiating the road crossings.
At Scarva I left the canal to link up for a while with the long distance cycle route from Ballyshannon to Belfast. Once again I missed a signpost, and once again I followed my usual rule of not backtracking if an alternative route would serve. So I found myself in Tandragee, where the road into town passed between red brick animal feed mills that seem to date from the 19th century. With the smell of ground maize in my nostrils I headed west, and soon found the official route, which leads into Armagh following minor roads.
I love thin roads, especially those with grass up the middle. They twisted and turned and led up and down hill, but I knew I would soon be in Armagh so I did not have to worry about using the throttle. Fun!!
Now for the first time in the distance I could see the hills at the east end of the Sperrins and the Clogher Valley - almost but not quite familiar. A old song began playing in my head:
"Though they're highland hills, they're not my-land hills
Though they're green hills like the hills I love
They are not the hills of home"
Then - I made another wrong turning, and was spat out onto a main road. The only sign was the road name "Tandragee Road," which was not very helpful. Tandragee Road from where? and in which direction?
When asked if he ever got lost, Daniel Boone replied "No, but I was once mighty confused for about three days." Confused was exactly how I felt. There was a house at the crossroads and I knocked on the door, but got no answer, so I began to think. I'd gone north from the Markethill Road and, judging from the sun, I had hit this road on its north side. Any other road going to Tandragee I would have come at from the south. So this must be the same road, nearer Markethill, and I should turn right. And so it proved, and I came into Armagh by a rather faster route than I expected.
It was about noon, but I wasn't remotely hungry yet, so I locked the bike and had a wander round. Two cathedrals, a Planetarium, several museums and libraries - Armagh is one of those towns you could wander round for days and not get bored. But my journey was not yet half done - nor was my battery. A light lunch and a recharge, and I was on my way again.
This time I was looking for the Navan Fort Road, which ran west parallel to the main Killylea Road. My maps were unclear was to how I would get there but it should be simple, I thought. Main road a bit out of town, then first right, first left.
First left led to a narrow lane with a bollard in the middle, and thence to a housing estate. I could see the Navan Fort road in the distance, but no road between. Concrete steps led down a steep grass bank. There was no path at the bottom, just a beaten track between weeds and nettles, but it came out on the road.
Navan Fort, now just a shape in the ground, was once at the centre of pre-Christian Ulster. There I found a group of adults and children, waiting for "men in masks" - the Armagh Rhymers
. I heard one kid say "They might be ZOMBIES!!!".
Nearby was a notice warning "Caution Road Bowling
in Progress." I didn't much fancy getting in the way of a cast iron "bullet" the size of a tennis ball, but I was assured that the "score" had taken place the day before.
At Tynan I had a decision to make. The most direct route home was west by Caledon, Aughnacloy and the Clogher Valley - another 40 miles. The long distance trail turned north to Cookstown before heading west to Gortin and then south to within 200 yards of home - 108 miles. I could turn south-west across the border through Monaghan to meet the Kingfisher Trail at Clones. That would be another 70-80 miles all the way but I knew several interesting short cuts, so that's the way I headed. I'd been part of the way in the other direction and I remembered a rough track beside a demense wall, but it soon turned out I was going the wrong way, and ended up in Caldeon.
I've never liked the road from Caledon to Aughnacloy. It is straight and dull, with a lot of identical small rises, so you are always thinking you are nearly there and finding you are not. Every time I have cycled that road to or from Belfast I have got off and walked at some point, just to relieve the monotony. It's still a dull road, but that ghost is now laid!
From Aughnacloy I'm on roads I know well, where I could find a dozen different ways home without maps. With just over 60 miles gone the CA shows 15ah used. This is where I would have stopped if I had not recharged in Armagh.
4 hours 20 minutes riding at an average speed of 14.5 mph (including a lot of wheeling)
8.8 watt hours per mile!
If I was very careful I might perhaps make it home on what was left, but I was in no mood to be careful. Let's make it a century!
I slipped into Fivemiletown on back roads, going faster now that I knew where I was, and stopped at the Valley Hotel just as the rain started. A pot of tea, a beef sandwich and 30 minutes recharge while I waited for the rain to stop. It didn't, but it was
lighter and I was keen to get home. To Tempo, again by back roads. From there it was only eight miles straight home, but that would still leave me 8 miles short of the century, so I headed on to towards Enniskillen.
There is a wonderful road round Topped, but not in this weather. The rain was falling heavily now as I passed through Enniskillen and followed the lough shore out to Ballycassidy before finally turning for home. I arrived just after seven, in time to join Avis and Mum watching the highlights of the Tour de France!
101.5 miles, 932.75 wh, 9.2 wh/mi
Maxs 32.9 mph, AvgS 15.2 mph Riding time 6hrs 39 min 56 secs.
I make that an average speed of about 17.5 mph for the last 40 miles.