Ireland Intro

So… Large hostel dorms suck leprechaun balls…

Yesterday was a really long day, bouncing across countries takes it out of you! I could really have done with a good nights sleep, in a proper bed, with a mug of coco, and a warm lady beside me, while we are making a wish-list. Instead I got a rickety bunk bed that wasn’t long enough [ SOMEONE FOR FUDGE SAKE MAKE LONGER BEDS ] nowhere to charge my phone and a scratchy blanket. You know, the brown ones with extra added scratchiness from the 1900’s that must be made out of hay rather than cotton. And on top of all this luxury, some drunk irish prick wandered in at god knows what hour. He helpfully went to sleep right in the middle of the floor (presumably because he was too drunk to find his bed) and started snoring like a lethargic pneumatic drill…. Needless to say it was not my best nights sleep, and the Irishman was lucky to survive the night…

Seriously though, lets get this straight. If you run a hostel you know that (barely) adults are going to be staying there, most of which grew out of bunk beds over a decade ago. If you must use bunk beds, then please make them 7ft long so we dont have to sleep in the fetal position. Or better than that, dont give them solid ends so our feet can just hang in free space! Trust me, if you are vertically afflicted with 6ft plus of pure awesomeness, beds without ends are a must. Im sure the government should give us a grant or something for special mattresses???

I am midway through a project so after bringing myself off the boil with a tea and muffin at nero, I set to work on the train to Colerain. This is the major advantage over driving, you get to multiply your time on the train. Not only am I off to somewhere cool, but I’m working enroute and provided the signal is good enough I can even have a skype call. It wasn’t, but one-day it will be. This made the trip go quicker and gave me a productivity tick for the day which meant once I had arrived, I could just enjoy the rest of the fun, guilt-free.

I was in ireland at the invitation of Phil and his friend Howard. Howard is a bike nut and travels around the UK watching motorbike racing and road racing. He even bought a house in ireland and lived there for a few years so he was close to the action. We were now here, in his old stomping grounds to witness the NW200 Road Race. Frighteningly fast, the track was public roads just 2 hours before the event with all the hazards any biker would expect to find; trees, kerbs, signs, manholes, white lines. White lines at 180+ mph are a very dangerous thing. They are like riding over a snake and make the bike squirm uncomfortably at… ahem 90 mph… so I can only imagine what they do at double that speed!

We chatted with a couple of the riders about this. Hitting 180 mph on the roads is something that you just can’t do in “real life” so these road races allow people to enter a parallel universe. A universe where they can pretend to be running from the cops as fast as their bike can carry them and as fast as their nerve allows. We walked around the paddock chating with loads of bikers, being introduced by Howard. He’s been following the scene for years and knows them all by name and gave us the history and inside track on what was going on. I love bikes but I don’t follow racing, im just not interested in who wins. I enjoy seeing a good ride and the battle for position. We were chatting to one rider who was having trouble with his bike. It seems the manufacturer’s limiter was kicking in at 180 mph and stopping him maintaining position on the long straights of this track. He’s one of the only guys on the track running a Suzuki GSXR  and the latest one hasn’t had all the kinks worked out. A team with a bigger budget had worked it out but they weren’t about to give up the competitive advantage.

The track at this point was a public road, normal traffic was flowing, even busses! The Start/Finish straight is off to one side of a main bit of the coast road with its own grandstand. This had been cordoned off and trials riders were giving a demonstration. We got right up close to them as they hopped and buzzed up and over hazards like they weren’t even there. It’s incredible how versatile a motorcycle is, yet how specific they can be designed to deal with a set of circumstances. These ones can climb literal vertical walls and hop about within their on wheelbase and the ones racing tomorrow will out accelerate anything else on the road and go around corners like they are on rails.  I’m sure you could put each bike in the others place and it would be hilarious, if pointless to watch the resulting action unfold. The race for sure would take AGES….

When I was choosing which degree I wanted to do I had looked at studying motorcycle engineering design.  It would have been easy, and supported my passion all the while i’d get to stay at home so living would be cheap and i’d be at a top london university… all compelling reasons to do it, however I decided otherwise.  I was likely to only do one degree in my life and the job prospects with that degree were very specific and limited. There is one major motorcycle manufacturer in the uk, Triumph, and if I didn’t get a job with them what would I do? I’d also be applying against all the others on my course, because there is only one employer. The nail in the coffin was that if I was only going to do university once, I wanted to experience it in depth. Living at home is all well and good and financially and practically a smarter choice. But then so is waiting till the plane lands before stepping out the door, yet hundreds of people a year skydive to get the full experience of flying. I chose to jump out the plane and went to a university 150 miles from home where I would have to get involved with all the cliche, traditional and eclectic aspects of the life. It was definitely the best choice. This did mean that now I had been an engineer for 5 years working on cranes, I was limited in the crossover knowledge I had available to talk to the bikers about. This didnt stop me tho and working on bikes in my spare time over the years gave me bits of knowledge and common ground to talk about.

The promenade at Portstewart was the place to be in the evening. There were fireworks organised that were incredibly impressive. I thought they gave the london new years display a run for their money, especially as they were free for us to watch. I’m never going to forgive mayor of london for charging to watch the fireworks after they had been free for so long! It used to be a nice little tradition to grab a case of beer and head into london and be crushed onto embankment to watch the show… no more. After a fish and chip supper we had a beer at the Anchor pub. The traditional place that the riders all stayed at during the race weekend. We had hoped to meet a few but they must have been getting an early night for the race tomorrow. This wasn’t such a bad idea for ourselves so we headed off after only one pint.

Phil had brought his sleeping bag and sourced a cheap £10 tent from Tesco for us to hide in. technically anywhere we pitched up would have been naughty if not illegal but there literally was no other option. I had wanted to come across in the campervan but a £600 round trip ferry ticket put to rest that plan… There was nothing for it, we had to find a scrap of quiet land to pitch our demi-tent on. Luckily, Phil had found a clear space behind a rose garden away from prying eyes and drunken oiks. It was on a slope but proved comfortable enough after I had scavenged some carpet from a skip… classy