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Snyder, Texas; mile 45,480 (KM 72,420) November 15, 2009

Posted by marcusbest in Uncategorized.
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Irish lobster.

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Simon checking his lobster traps, Connemara

Ireland was everything I had hoped it would be. I circled around the perimeter of most of the island, spending most of my time along the west coast. Though many of the most attractive parts of Ireland are overdeveloped and bustling with tourism, turning down an obscure one-lane country road is a quick escape from the tourist track and reveals the peaceful, welcoming, beautiful Ireland that I will remember. Connemara is my kind of place: untamed, on the edge of civilization, elemental, rugged, timeless. Other highlights include the windy drive around the Beara Peninsula, the fairy-tale forests of Kilarney, the eclectic pubs of Cork, and the music, food, and late nights in Dublin.

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Cork county, Ireland

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Beara Peninsula, Ireland

Because I found a significantly cheaper flight back to the U.S. for Jesse from Manchester, I ferried back to the UK and spent a few days in the Snowdonia region of Wales, which turned out to be one of my favorite spots in the UK. Fall was at its peak, and ancient forests crowded the valleys between majestic mountains; a beautiful place. Manchester itself turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Where I expected to see an industrial city dominated by smokestacks and warehouses, I found universities, museums, cafes, a thriving music scene, and a huge variety of international cuisine. After dropping Jesse off at the freight warehouse, I felt a bit lost, a bit of separation anxiety I suppose. The last few days, the last few weeks in Europe went by incredibly fast, as I guessed they would, and suddenly I found myself scrunched into a window seat, headed for New York City.

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Central Park, New York City

I had mixed feelings when I landed in New York. During my trip, I had determined that there’s no place I’d rather live than the United States, and my pride in my country has grown since I left 16 months ago. So I felt the great relief of coming home, punctuated by the solid thump of an entry stamp delivered by a smartly dressed United States immigrations officer, grey haired, dignified, and with a confident Brooklyn accent. But at the same time, I felt out of place, on the subway surrounded by people going about their daily lives, commuting to work, on the way to the park, going shopping. My jeans were stained with oil, faded, and threadbare. There was a frazzled hole torn in the right lower leg from the exhausting day in Cameroon when Jesse was up to her belly in sand and the starter wasn’t working. I had attempted unsuccessfully to kickstart the engine, tearing the hole in my jeans, and eventually collapsed under a scraggly bush by the side of the road, the only shade in sight. These jeans had stories to tell. Grand stories. I had stories to tell. The people around me sat and stood quietly, reading the paper, listening to MP3 players, dozing off, and toying with IPhones. I felt completely disconnected, distant, and foreign, as if I had just been transplanted to another world, yet I knew it was my world, the world from which I came and to which I have returned.

I spent a week in New York visiting old friends and soaking up the energy of the city, then off to Newark to pick up Jesse. With all papers in order and the crate opened and tossed aside, Jesse and I were reunited, and we said goodbye to the city and continued westward, stopping to visit Tim in Virginia, with whom I had traveled in Syria and Jordan.

A close call on the final stretch:

Somewhere on the interstate in West Virginia my front tire had a blowout. I was going about 70 mph, passing a car on my right, and with almost no warning, the tire went completely flat and the rim was grinding into the asphalt. I was preparing for impact with the highway, but Jesse wasn’t ready to hit the ground, and somehow we made it to the safety of the shoulder. After fixing the flat (one of my old patches covering a gash in the inner tube had failed), I continued west and, a few hours later, pulled into a rest stop for a break. When I tried to start the bike again, I discovered that the battery was dead and the charging system had failed. While considering what in the world I would do to solve the problem, up walked Craig, who had driven by and seen me on the side of the road after I had repaired my flat tire and now could see that I needed help. He had just purchased a motorbike on the east coast and he and his wife Julie had picked it up and were returning home to Missouri. Incredibly, they had just enough space to fit me and Jesse into their panel van, along with Molly, their enormous, affectionate Italian mastiff. We loaded up and headed to my sister’s house in St. Louis, two states away. I was amazed at the level of hospitality and generosity I was shown in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and I often wondered if it would be the same in my home country, if people would go out of their way to help a scruffy stranded traveler. And before I could even pull out my AAA card, there they were to save the day. Thank you again, Craig and Julie.

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just enough room

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Julie, Molly, Jesse, and Craig

After being dropped off at my sister’s house, I contacted the owner of the company that makes my specialized charging system (Motorrad Elektrik), and he graciously offered to overnight a replacement part to me at no charge (please forgive the pun). So a flat tire and a major mechanical problem resulted in two new friends, a new alternator rotor, and an extra day spent with my sister and her family. As Shakespeare says: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Now I’m back in my hometown of Snyder, Texas to spend time with my family before heading to Taos, my final destination, only a day’s drive away.

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Scurry County, Texas; land of cotton

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Comments»

1. Jen - November 15, 2009

I do hope that you’ll continue writing and taking pictures. You’re good at both. I’ve been reading this blog since you passed through Russia, my area of interest. Thank you so much for blogging about your journey!

2. BV - November 15, 2009

Welcome back!

3. Chris Woods - November 16, 2009

Well done! Glad you are still in one piece. Have been following you since the Dead Sea and have enjoyed your writings and photos. I hope you can keep the blog going – maybe visit here in Australia for a ride or three? Another continent to conquer?
Best wishes.
Chris

4. Kamil - November 18, 2009

Is nice to know, that still works.
As a far as you go, always come back.
Enjoy that feeling.
Kamil

5. Lief - November 19, 2009

Hi Marcus-
Good to hear you made it back. I’ve enjoyed following your progress via the blog/photos. Good luck with your assimilation and best wishes for whatever is next.

Cheers,
Lief Bjelland
(Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk)

6. Mag - November 26, 2009

Hey Marcus!

I wish you all the best back home! I would like to be there to welcome you! you followed the adventure til the end… I’m glad that you went to the Conemara. you remember: we spoke about it before you left Spain. It is one of my dreams. There is a beautiful song from a french artist (Michel Sardou) “les lacs du Conemara”, who describes those lakes. I love it. Just look for it on the youtube, you’ll find it.
Have a nice return..
lovely,
Mag


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