A Dream Realised - Walter's Story of the Ireland End to End
Walter joined us from the USA on our 12-Day Ireland End to End cycle tour in September 2021. We hope you enjoy reading his story in his own words.
On my first trip to Ireland, my dream was fulfilled when I rented a bike in Westport and cycled through County Mayo to the Achill Island. The beauty of the hills and small villages was breathtaking. The next year I learned of Wild Atlantic Cycling’s twelve day Ireland End to End ride from Mizen Head to Malen Head. A new dream was formed!
I knew this would be one of the most challenging efforts of my life since regaining the ability to walk after polio in my first year of life. But during my adolescence I slowly came to realize the only thing stopping me from achieving anything in life was my mind, eventually going from the boy lagging behind on Boy Scout hikes, to the one in the lead and setting the pace. I’ve continued to challenge myself throughout my life.
Having biked casual from adolescence through adulthood, decades later my son & I became passionate about cycling. In 2012 we started cycling further, eventually building endurance for +40 mile rides. I joined several cycling groups, slowly increasing distance and speed … all the while knowing steep climbs are my achilles. Last year I began cycling 5 to 6 times per week, 50 – 75 miles per day in preparation of Ireland. While Michigan doesn’t have Ireland’s mountains I had my determination and continued improving my fitness.
The day finally arrived, bike disassembled, bags packed, I arrived in Ireland for my End to End cycle challenge. Meeting Paul Kennedy, his team, John & Lisa, and the 17 other cyclists was pure elation. Five of us from the States, three from Ireland and ten from UK, we got along swimmingly from the start. Edward from Hawaii, David from London and Cormac from Dublin became good friends, along with Jenny, Julie, Peter and many more.
Being from the States, cycling on the left was a slight adjustment, some roads were narrow, others wide however potholes appear to have been outlawed, I counted two ! But the attitude of motorists was an absolute breath of fresh air. Most motorists in the countryside were incredibly considerate, often pulling off to the side, allowing us to pass unimpeded. The beauty of the Irish countryside was beyond my expectations … seeing the country from a bike added a new dimension you cannot achieve from a motor vehicle. As expected climbing the mountains was challenging, however somehow the scenery and the people nullified the fatigue and aches disappeared with the cool breezes. Whether cycling up a mountain, sailing down the backside, pedaling along the sea, past reservoirs, or through villages, the shear beauty of the country shown bright upon us.
The hotels, restaurants, coffee stops, and especially the Irish folks we met were fantastic! Whether at breakfast, coffee, lunch stops, pubs or dinner everyone seemed happy to see and served us with pride. They were certainly well suited for our needs and comfort and we always felt welcomed, even if they were busy.
Even speaking with locals was a joy when stopping for a casual chat along many routes. But I’ll admit conversing with locals during one lunch stop was a bit challenging, I needed to listen closely and decipher the thick accent to properly answer their questions about my bike and gear, which made it even more of a delight!
During the trip, we occasionally heard “sorry, tomorrow’s weather doesn’t look good” but somehow we had no rain except the last day of the cycle tour when it only rained occasionally. Days were sometimes cool, warm, cloudy, sunny, mixed but always grand. Many evenings were glorious enough to allow hikes, swims in the Atlantic or just sitting alfresco enjoying a Murphy, Guinness or gin & tonic on a veranda, village square or a beer garden. The Ireland End to End cycle with Wild Atlantic Cycling is much more than about just the bike ride.
As often happens on a trip, the final day meant farewells were imminent and some watery eyed goodbyes were shared while completion medals were cheerfully awarded to all. On returning to my cycling friends several commented that I had visibly improved speed, endurance and lost weight, a marvelous side effect of Wild Atlantic Cycling. I’ve related my Ireland experience to so many, shared photos/videos and answered the most asked question “would you do it again?” … YES !
Walter Mrotz MizMal 2021