You´ll never walk alone
“We can do this,” I said to my worried wife in the sidecar of our R60/2 in answer to her questions as to whether the motorcycle combination would survive the Ireland round trip and whether she would be safe in the right-hand sidecar in left-hand traffic. After all it had easily mastered tours to France, Malta and Greece.
The two-daydrive from Baden to the ferry in Cherbourg ran smoothly and to the satisfaction of my loved one, thanks to an overnight stay in the lovingly decorated chambre d’hôtes and a delicious dinner in a local inn.
The same cannot be said for our motorcycle, however, as just before the ferry it no longer wanted to perform at full capacity. We decided to cross the water first and then fix the problem, so we ended up occupying a six-bed cabin alone and had a relaxing overnight voyage.
On the following day around noon I managed to start the bike but only with difficulty and we rolled off the ferry in Rosslare. A problem, I suspected, either with the ignition or with the fuel intake. In the queue after the ferry, I spotted a lorry further up with the inscription: “overlanders.ie / made for adventure”and pictures of motorcycles on it. I knocked on the driver’s window and met Noel who was transporting motorcycles from a rally in Greece back to Ireland and who would accompany us throughout our holiday in Ireland.
After a brief consultation and cleaning of the spark plugs, the bike seemed to run properly again. We said goodbye and Noel left us his phone number in case we had any other problems on our trip in Ireland. A stroke of luck for us because after a short drive the BMW once again was running almost exclusively on the right cylinder.
It was Saturday, one call to Noel and a little while later we were standing in front of the building of the “overlanders” where four men immediately made a start on finding the problem. Spark plugs, ignition coils, carburettors, all possible causes of failure were checked without success.
As it had already become rather late, the bike was promptly loaded onto a trailer ready to ship. Meanwhile Derek, the boss of overlanders, lent us his GS 1200 which took us over beautiful lanes to our pre-booked accommodation in Wicklow Heather. On Sunday morning Noel took our bike to a BMW specialist residing in the idyllic Wicklow mountains.
John is a truly passionate grease monkey, as evidenced by several old BMW motorcycles, a Ner-a-Car and further treasures in his well-filled garage. Once everything had been disassembled, checked and properly adjusted again the error was finally found: a bit of dirt in a carburettor nozzle. Shit happens!
Sightseeing in Glendalough, “one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Ireland as the epitome of romance and nature” according to Lonely Planet, had to be sacrificed because of the repair work. But we were able to continue our journey.
Our plan was to circle the island counterclockwise in just over two weeks and spend the last two days in Dublin. After an overnight stay in the unimposing Dundalk, two nights in Belfast lay ahead.
Before we crossed the border to Northern Ireland, we visited the lively little town of Carlingford with its medieval ruins and whitewashed houses dating back to the time of the Vikings. The ferry from Greenore saved us the detour around the Carlingford Lough and took us to the coastal road towards Belfast.
The road was very narrow, as is often the case in Ireland, and the bumps in the road were transferred through the saddle and passenger seat. In general, my wife’s experience in our right-mounted sidecar was understandably not always pleasant due to the speed of the oncoming Irish traffic.
We reached Belfast and didn’t even need a satnav to find the accommodation we had booked in the north-west of the city. As we left the apartment in the evening to eat a pizza and noticed young lads prowling around, we didn’t have an especially good feeling. But there was no garage or yard to park the bike in.
Unfortunately our gut feeling had not deceived us. On my way to the bakery the next morning I discovered a note from the police in the hallway reading “stolen motorcycle” and instantly understood what had happened.
Our motorcycle combination had been stolen from in front of the house. We hoped that it had been found because the police knew where we were staying. We reported the incident at the relevant police station. Our hope was confirmed but then we found out that our bike had been set on fire. The shock ran deep. Who could do such a thing and why?
The young police officer tried to calm us down and drove us to where the bike had been found, about one or two kilometres from where it had been stolen. A colleague of his tried to secure tracks.
The tragic sight of our companion made us want to head home immediately.
A direct flight to Germany was not possible from Belfast and we also already had three more nights booked in the north of Ireland. We didn’t want to spend another night in Belfast after this experience. We wanted to rethink the rest of our trip so we rented an Opel Mokka for the time being at Belfast airport for a week, as apparently a cheaper model wasn’t available.
At the very least, the decision to continue our journey should turn out to be the right and a good decision.
The police in Belfast had, with our consent, posted about the theft on Facebook and thereby triggered an incredible wave of helpfulness from motorcyclists and strangers from all over the island. People offered us their own motorcycles and lodgings for the rest of our holiday and the community in which our bike had been stolen set up a donation appeal on the Internet for us. Compassion culminated in the serious offer from a stranger to gift us his Mercedes S-Class.
I also informed Noel, of course, who didn’t want to believe the story at first but then kept us informed about the developments on Facebook.
The Irish motto of helping each other in our short time here on earth was overwhelmingly confirmed in our predicament.
After an unplanned overnight stay in Ballycarry, a wonderful coastal road took us to Portrush in County Antrim. Before that we stopped at a filming location of Game of Thrones in Dark Hedges and marvelled at the ancient avenue of beech trees.
We ended the day in Portrush in a quaint harbour pub enjoying a pint of Guinness and some live music.
Even the locals were amazed by the persistent summery weather and the pleasant temperatures on the next day as we set off on the roughly 16-kilometre-long Causeway Coast walk, probably one of the most beautiful coastal sections of Ireland. After the magnificent hike we drove on to Letterkenny where Dillon’s Hotel in the middle of the city was expecting us. We used the stay to drive to Malin Head, the northernmost point of Ireland.
In the hotel we also booked the return flight from Dublin to Stuttgart as the ferry to the planned return journey over England had already been cancelled. We dearly missed our sidecar outfit.
While we were there, we also booked McCarthy’s in Westport, a picturesque little town on the west coast in County Mayo, as well as the accommodation for the following nights.
We experienced traditional live music throughout the evening in the bar. After a walk to Westport House, we headed on to Galway. On our route was Kylemore Abbey, a site worth a stop with a beautifully landscaped garden. A hike along the Cliffs of Moher offered us marvellous views of the coast before we plunged ourselves into the lively Galway nightlife.
The next day brought a welcome turn of events. The members of the Irish Sidecar Owners Club (ISOC) had not let up and rented us a nice Royal Enfield sidecar outfit for the rest of our holiday. The insurance was covered by them, and Chris from RetroVentures Ireland provided the Royal Enfield free of charge.
We returned the hire car and went on to Adare in County Limerick where a delegation from the ISOC was expecting us for the official handover of the sidecar. We were really overwhelmed by how everyone tried to compensate in all kinds of ways for what had happened to us.
Having the sidecar on the left was something I had to get used to but my passenger felt a lot more comfortable without having to face direct oncoming traffic.
The south-west of Ireland was the destination for the remaining days of our journey. The first rain for us in Ireland during the drive from Adare to Killorglin had stopped by the next morning and the sun then accompanied us for our ride on the scenic Ring of Kerry.
The changeable weather combined with the coastal landscape has a special charm and was something we experienced while exploring the Dingle Peninsula. A visit to the Guinness Brewery was not possible but our B&B host in the beautiful village of Dingle suggested visiting the distillery bearing the name of the village. It was a great idea for a visit, with whisky, gin and vodka of very good quality produced in small quantities.
After an overnight stay on the seafront in County Kerry, it rained again as we set off to Adare to return the Enfield. At Chris’s we met an American couple who had rented the Enfield and sidecar previously for the TT on the Isle of Man. Adare-Dublin-Gorey was the planned bus trip up to our friend Noel, whom we wanted to see again before our return journey.
Further generous offers finally filled our last day in Dublin. Paul, a biker suffering from a foot disease at the time, showed us what we wanted to see of Dublin and took us to an anniversary reception for the “Blood Bikers” with the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The “Blood Bikers” voluntarily transport bloodsupplies with provided motorcycles.
In the evening we were invited to the excellent restaurant “The Winding Stair” by its owner, another biker, along with an Irish motorcycling couple who provided us with lodging for the night.
Almost two months after the theft, Derek brought us our bike and luggage in his truck on his way to Memmingen in Germany. It is now safe in the garage for winter and waiting for reconstruction work.
One thing is for sure: we will be going back to Ireland.