At the end of June 2002 my little cycling club went on a big trip over the sea to The Isle Of Man. This year was not a great year for me-I decided to give the cycling club a break –and in a spurt of madness I joined a gym. BIG BIG mistake. For a start I missed out on the Isle of Man trip AND I managed to put on almost 2 stone in weight ( 28lbs for my American readers). My cycling buddy has often mentioned this trip and for the past 2 or 3 years we have talked about a (well for him) a return visit-and this week we did.
Legend has it, that Finn MacCool was having a frequent row with some Scotish giant and he dug hi hands in the ground in Northern Ireland and threw it at him. The gap in the ground here is where our lough Neagh is and the lump of ground is-the Isle of Man. Now there IS a similarity in the shapes of the two-so I am not disagreeing here.
The Isle of Man is most famous for the big motor bike race –the TT and it is a somewhat tax haven. It has a population of about 85,000 –which is about the same as Belfast. And its main town (at the ferry landing spot, unsurprisingly) Douglas has a population of 30,00 –about the same as Derry (Northern Ireland, not over by Boston) .
On landing my buddy (Paul to save time) went straight to the hotel-but (to cut a complicated story short) we decided to double check the date of our depature. Now, from Belfast there are only 2 crossings a week Sunday and Wednesday. So we were out on the Sunday and back on the Wednesday. I thought it was odd the times were the same-turned out they made a mistake and the return trip was 3 or 4 hours earlier. If we had not checked we would have been stranded.
So we did a short little run, took us up round a road that was shut off to cars due to erosion and falling rocks-which is great for walkers and cyclists. We came across an abandoned resort that had gone to rack and ruin, despite being a very lively and upbeat place about 20 years ago. On the way back from here Paul decided on trying an offbeat route that looked good to him-this was more a mountain bike route which even my trusty gerdymobile (dawes galaxy) found tough. We eventually finished with our traditional end of day’s cycling pint of cider and crisps (potato chips usa peeps).
We were invited up to the house of a friend’s son for a bar-b-que. Which was a great way to end the day.
Next day was our first proper day’s cycling. We discussed this the previous night and were warned there was a hard climb en route (HARD? HARD?). At the start the weather was not great. I was looking for a new gillet and a water bottle from an I.O.M bike shop with their logo on it. Now hard was not the word for a few climbs that day. I did not know whether to cycle or wallpaper these climbs and there was at least one descent that scared the do das out me. En route we came across a fascinating junk shop called Junk Jurby-it was like stepping back in time 50 years and like inside of Dr Who’s Tardis. I would have needed 2 days in there in the record section alone. They were in no order and had bizarre titles. Given time I bet I could have found something really bizarre like “The Isle of Man Kazoo Orchestra Does AC/DC” or maybe even a rare Bruce Sprinsteen or mono rolling stones or beatles in mint condition for 50p. There was also a book selection-that I would have needed an extra week to look through as it was mayhem too. There was really old postcards and a bottomless box of buttons.
I set my new speedometer (OK Marni?) at the start of the trip –at the end Paul and I went for our traditional cider and crisps and we had a bet on the miles-he thought 60 but I thought 70-but for some reason the mileage froze at the junk shop stop and only said 32-we decided that was about half way.
We were shattered after that day and decided to request an easier route for the last day (ha ha). Looks like the isle of man has a lot of hills. After a bit of trying I eventually got the water bottle (gillet was easy enough). At a coffee stop we passed some scaffolding were there was workmen working –but a large chunk (and I do mean LARGE) chunk of wood fell of a hoist (or something) and very nearly hit the guy who was in front of me’s head. Not a word was said –no sorry. There were some police officers close by so my friend and Paul went over to report this. I noticed that the police woman they were talking too was pretty easy on the eye (and I have a thing about women in uniform), so I decided I needed to make my statement too.
All in the trip was great. Most of the time the weather was great. Pretty good scenery parts reminded me of some roads near home. Quite a few somewhat brutal hills. On the last day we were shown a kind of Greenway-an old railway track, that I was told they were working on as a route for walkers/runners and cyclists-and it was great (and obviously flat). Think the mileage this day was 47 miles. One place we stopped did a pretty good icecream-the sort that gives you a brain freeze. 6 am sea front below.
Isle of Man is great for cycling-BUT, like in most things, the weather helps. And I brought a stone from the top of the £$$%!!! brutal climb to place somewhere on the next ramble and will once again upset the balance of nature-and spelling mistakes, typos and wrong grammar are all my own work too-so there.