Essay Non-Fiction posted January 10, 2019

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Tales from the Road

Look Right, Turn Left

by beencounter

Nearly comatose after traveling 14 hours, we were on the rental car shuttle. I leaned against the window and slightly dozed. This from a person who doesn't take naps. The six-hour time change produced an indescribably wicked combination of exhaustion, headache, and brain fog. At least every time we take a red eye, it's that way for me. How can the middle of the night magically become 6:30 AM at our destination? That's crazy talk.

In the rental shuttle, a voice came from the front of the van. "Look right, turn left." Huh? Then I remembered things were different here. The driver was talking about traffic circles and my husband was daring the ultimate: driving on the other side of the road (legally). There was no way on God's green earth I was going to attempt it. Green being the key word here because we were now in Ireland.

We decided to rent a car and stay at bed and breakfasts so that we could experience the "real" Ireland. No useless staring out dirty tour bus windows for us. Map in hand, we embarked on the adventure, not once, not twice, but three times (well, the last time was without a map but I digress).

Now before we begin, let me share a few observations about Ireland. The people are warm and caring; to date not one grouchy, rude person ever has been found. Do these folks ever have a bad day? I also have to tell you about the roads. First, a roadway shared by two vehicles was about 2/3 the size of a traffic lane in the U.S. The roads were very curvy and came complete with a canopy of trees that made it appear as if we were in a tunnel. I know, beautiful doesn't begin to describe it.

Our first trip to the Emerald Isle was for three weeks. Landing in Shannon airport, we traveled the country clockwise, returning back to Shannon. On this trip we were graced with our 16-year-old son, which provided many pleasurable moments, not. Prying him out of bed in the morning required food, bargaining, or physical dragging off the mattress.

Once on the Irish road, touring daylight burned quickly despite the many heaving sighs coming from the back seat. We really wanted to listen to local music played in the pubs. The good thing was that the laws recently changed to ban smoking in them. The bad thing was that we didn't hear much of the lovely music, because you had to be at least 18 years old after 9:00 PM. And being the neurotic mom that I am, we seldom left our son alone; a foreign country you know!

Our second trip to Ireland was for two weeks and we traveled with our close friends, Mike and Ann. We quickly found that you don't really know a person until you've spent two weeks in a tiny rental car with them. By the end of the trip, we all knew more about one another than we ever really wanted to.

Our base camp was a renovated horse stable in Enis, County Clare. And yeah, the guys made a lot of jokes about the name. That was, until we took owner's shuttle to the local pub in Feakle. Yes, Feakle. I'm not making this up. And the music was grand.

Mike was very sociable, and it was through him that we began to meet many Irish people. We also learned that in Ireland pubs, you sit at the bar to chat. Sit at a table, and you'll generally be left alone. That explains a lot from our first Irish trip. One of the first pubs we visited this time was near where a scene from the movie "Braveheart" was filmed. By the way, the folks in the pub had nothing good to say about Mel Gibson. What did come out of that visit was Mike found the pub owner, who proceeded to pour us nonstop free whiskey samples. Who knew Ireland had so many different kinds? As the closing time approached, we got up to leave. The owner urged us to stay and try more. When asked about the closing time, he replied, "It's just a guideline." This phrase became the trip's rallying cry.

Our third trip to Ireland was back to just me and my husband. While on the first two trips we used a paper map, on this trip we brought technology -- the Ireland GPS. And we learned that the most important thing to remember when driving on Ireland's roads is to never, ever listen to your GPS.

Case in point: The Irish GPS program led us down many trails, Jeep tracks, and lanes of unknown definition. On a cool, rainy Sunday, the GPS led us up a windy pasture and steep hill, with a sharp downward slope and bend to the right. My husband, AKA Mario Andretti, took the bend too quickly. The car slid off to the left into a gully and somehow landed completely on its side. We climbed up the passenger side door and exited the vehicle. Now what? There was absolutely no one in sight and we found that Ireland doesn't have 911 (it's 999 or 112). Plus, emergency services only respond if there is a fire, an accident causing injury, or you find yourself accidentally in the sea and in need of the Coast Guard. Since our predicament fell under none of those provisions, we tried calling the rental company. That was productive. Not. The only option was to leave a voicemail message.

Leaning on the upturned car, the romantic Irish mist soon turned into a drizzle and then an outright icy downpour. At last someone appeared on the road, a woman who lived nearby. She stopped, offered us shelter in her warm car, and called for a tow truck using her cell phone. While we were waiting, the woman's car battery died, so her son drove to us and jumped her car. Several hours later, the tow truck appeared, but the truck driver couldn't figure out how to tow our sideways-turned car. Efforts to right it were in vain. At long last, the tow truck driver dragged the car, scraping down the road. And here is evidence of Irish hospitality: The woman proceeded to then drive us 30 miles back to where we were staying. A few hours later, we got a ride to the rental car company. When we entered the rental car center, although nothing was said, we felt the vibe that we were naughty children. Thankfully, my husband had purchased all the rental insurance he could get and we left in another rental car after paying a small fee. Did this experience slow down our Mario Andretti? Nope.

It was on this visit that we decided to go to Northern Ireland to view the Giant's Causeway. My husband, (remember: geology), wanted to see this unique rock formation. At the border to Northern Ireland, I was surprised to find that the only way to tell it was a different country was that the mileage signs changed from kilometers to miles. The Causeway was scenic, but marred by too many tourists using selfie sticks. I'd like to strangle the person who invented selfie sticks.

Later that evening after checking into our B&B, we went out for dinner and a drink at the bar. A man sitting next to us struck up a conversation. We talked about Ireland, Northern Ireland and the state of Colorado, from which we came. The discussion turned to the fact that Colorado had approved recreational use of marijuana. It was at this point I needed to visit the ladies'. When I returned, the man was gone and there was a strange look on my husband's face. He confided that as the man left he shook my husband's hand, leaving something in it. The guy had discretely slipped my husband some marijuana. In a foreign country where the stuff is illegal. In downright freak out mode, I pictured the two of us in some Irish castle dungeon after being caught with the stuff. My husband tried to flush it down the toilet in the Men's room, but the packet wouldn't go down. Hearts beating fiercely, we quickly left the restaurant/bar (after paying, of course). My husband flung the illegal stuff into the bushes. As we drove back to the B&B, I pictured the packet eroding and little tiny marijuana plants blossoming in the rich soil and the Irish rain.

Will there be a fourth trip? That remains to be determined. And, by the way, we do travel to other spots, but Ireland is our first love. And remember when traveling the Irish road, look right, turn left.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


Names were changed to protect the innocent.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by jgrace at

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