Peter was up in Dublin yesterday, so I decided it was time for my most ambitious solo outing yet: a trip to the Dingle peninsula
. After the wet pants incident at Barley Cove
, I have become much more careful about preparing for these little trips. I packed up the car with a full change of clothes, a large packed lunch, a thermos of tea, a towel, my mobile phone, Emily the GPS unit, and, of course, Toby. We were out the door around 9.30, ready for anything.
The drive should take about two hours, so I was zipping along, enjoying the freedom and the sun peeking out behind the clouds. The drive to Killarney was old hat for me, but the other side was a mystery. At my turnoff for Dingle, the road narrowed noticeably. Not a huge deal, except that a few miles later, I learned an important equation:
Narrow Road + Oncoming Truck + Gaping Hole Directly in Front of Tyre = Disaster
The only question was how bad of a disaster. In a situation like this, you have a choice of how screwed you are. The best case scenario for each of the options all have downsides-
stay on course, you'll probably wreck your tyre.
creep over the median to avoid the hole, you'll probably lose your wing mirror.
swerve to avoid...since the only place to swerve as into the path of the truck, I don't think this option even has a best case scenario. Except for maybe escaping alive to drive another day.
It all happened rather quickly. I had some hope that I'd misjudged the size of the hole and that (ah sure) it would be grand. That hope evaporated when a car-shaking thud confirmed that I'd hit the pothole, which on closer examination was more like a gaping portal to hell. The car was still driving, but I could feel the steering wheel starting to pull to the left. With no place to pull over, I carried on until I found a rocky median in front of a building site.
One look at the tyre confirmed my diagnosis: bent rim. I could hear the air escaping and could feel the tyre was a bit softer. I knew (thanks to Emily) that I was only a few kilometers from Milltown, so I decided to risk driving there. I figured I had a better chance of finding help (and maybe even a mechanic) than I did at a vacant building site on a narrow road.
The drive was excruciating, as I crept along just hoping the tyre wouldn't catastrophically deflate. I found a petrol station with a Londis and parked the car.
A word about my car. It's a 12-year old Peugeot hatchback and it's a marvel of French engineering: everything is just a little bit different than you'd expect. For example, the horn isn't in the middle of the steering wheel. It's a little press button on the end of the little stick that controls the lights and the indicators. You can't even really see the button, so cleverly is it built into the stick. I don't have to use the horn very often, but when I do, I invariably waste precious time pounding on the steering wheel.
The spare tyre is also not where you'd expect. Since Peter already had to change the tyre for me once, I knew it wasn't just in the boot of the car like a normal spare. It's carried in a little cage that's part of the undercarriage of the car. (Poor Peter had to figure all this out in the pouring rain about a month after I got the car.) I didn't know how you got the tyre out of the cage, so I rang Peter. After laughing ruefully, he informed me that if I pulled up the carpet in the boot, I'd find a little nut, which I could then use the reverse end of tyre iron to loosen, which would lower the cage and free the tyre.
I started to work away but I couldn't get the nut to budge even the tiniest bit. A white van pulled up one spot away from me and a guy wearing working jeans got out. I called out to him "Excuse me, do you think you could please help me out? I need to get this loosened." I really only intended to have him get the nut loosened, but he was a prince among men. He refused to let me touch anything and completely changed the tyre. I felt awful, since getting the tyre out of the cage pretty much involves lying on the ground.
I also felt awful because every time the guy had to go near the open boot, Toby growled and barked ferociously. I didn't want to look like one of those eejits that reasons with their dogs, but I knew Toby could sense my anxiety and was attributing it to the guy. In reality, of course, I was upset about the tyre and was quite relieved to have the guy helping me. Since the car's a hatchback, there was only the flimsy boot cover separating my rescuer from Toby and his shiny white teeth. I told Toby to knock it off and eventually he did, sighing in his frustrated way and flopping down on the back seat, as if to say "Hey, I warned you. Don't come crying to me when this guy turns out to be Ted Bundy's Irish cousin."
The spare looked much worse for wear than I remembered. It was an old tyre that I'd replaced last year and the rubber was all cracked at the edges. You know how cheap shoes look just before the soles come away from the uppers? Well, the tyre looked a lot like that. The guy cautioned me not to drive too far on the spare, that it would have to replaced soon. I thanked him profusely and decided my best course of action was to return to Killarney, where I was confident I'd be able to find a tyre replacement place.
Two+ hours, one straighten rim/reinflated tyre, one new spare, lots of growls from Toby, and 60 euro later, we were finally back on track for Dingle. It took every ounce of willpower and sense of adventure I possessed to continue with our outing. Having a tyre go like that made me think of all the other things that can go wrong. It made me feel vulnerable and alone and I feared getting stranded. (Although, in a situation like that, the idea of Toby the Heavy-Duty Guarding Alsatian does provide some measure of comfort.)
I figured I'd already had my dose of bad luck for the trip and (ah sure) it really would be grand. I drove to Wine Strand beach in Ballyferriter, a beautiful strip of sand with spectacular views.
When we approached the beach, there was a hippie-looking guy walking around barefoot on the sand. I took Toby up along a ridge of sand dunes, so we could have a little walk. When the guy left, Toby and I went down onto the sand. We were the only ones on the beach and it felt like our own private world. I'm an introvert and I live for moments like these: peaceful, serene, blissful isolation in beautiful surroundings.
I let Toby off the leash and he made like a bronco bursting out of the holding pen. He was so excited - he leapt around the beach, dashing and play-bowing and generally acting like a puppy. I found a good piece of driftwood and we spent the next hour playing fetch. Toby also had a good time racing up to the incoming tide, and then retreating just in front of it.
Sometimes, when I'm taking Toby for a walk or we're frolicking during an outing, he'll do this thing where he walks right beside me and nudges my hand with his nose. When I look down, he's looking up at me with a giant grin, as if to say "This is fantastic! Can you believe that this is our life? That we live here?" He did that a few times during our time on Wine Strand. He's right, of course, I often can't believe that this is my life now.
When we returned to the car, my fingers were nearly frozen and my face was covered in salt spray. Toby's face was covered in sand. I gave him a bowl of water while I had a cup of tea and enjoyed the view from the parking lot. The whole trip, adversity and all, was well worth it.Toby on the dunes at Wine Strand. I uploaded this picture to my laptop from my phone using Bluetooth, which I learned how to do using this fantastic tutorial.