Sunday, April 06, 2008

This is Our Life

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.


At 6 April 2008 at 11:38, Blogger SwampAngel65 said...

Glad to hear you persevered and continued with your journey. Sounds like you really did end up having a wonderful day. That picture of Toby is so cute! It's like he's saying "I'm here!. I'm happy!. Take my picture so I can show my grandkids one day!"

And good job with your bluetooth thingy. I'm not the advanced yet. Hell, my phone doesn't even have a camera in it!

At 6 April 2008 at 12:17, Blogger laurie said...

i deeply admire you for continuing on your journey. i'm not sure i would have.

but isn't the dingle peninsula beautiful? we've been there several times, through the harrowing connor pass to dingle town and ventry.

sadly, dog-less, though. i think the fun factor would be way magnified.

At 6 April 2008 at 12:23, Blogger Babaloo said...

What an outing! You can't just do nice and easy, can you? ;-) Glad you continued, though.
I can only recommend the AA - even if you never use them, you know you can call them anytime, anywhere and they have to come and help you.
That photo of Toby is fantastic! He looks like he's really, really enjoying himself. We do live in a beautiful part of the world, I agree.

At 6 April 2008 at 12:57, Blogger Sweet Irene said...

Oh Ann, what an adventure. At least you had the gumption to finish your trip and make it worth your while and Toby's too! I would have been pretty downcast after the pothole.

I did picture you and Toby very clearly on the beach from your vivid description. Great job!

At 6 April 2008 at 15:50, Blogger Carrie Sue said...

Sounds like a lovely life! Your writing is great, I could completely picture yours and Toby's day, one adventure after another. Toby is the picture of happiness, perfect shot.

At 7 April 2008 at 00:02, Blogger Career Guy said...

Wow--I can hardly wait to see that beach! I love his ears in that photo--what a good dog to pose for you. Thanks for calling today. Your mother is much relieved.

At 7 April 2008 at 04:36, Blogger Kaycie said...

That was a big pay off, wasn't it? Toby looks absolutely delighted. He has the best ears.

At 7 April 2008 at 13:03, Blogger Rose said...

My husband and I visited the Dingle Peninsula last year on our trip to Ireland. It was breathtaking. Thanks for prompting me to look at our pictures again and relive the trip just a little. Glad it all worked out for you!

At 7 April 2008 at 15:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you for continuing! The Ann of a few years ago may have not ventured out so far nor risked the chance for further complications once she did hit a snag. I'm happy for you! Your life is much more rich and full when you push past your anxiety and fear. YAY!

- Shane

At 8 April 2008 at 06:07, Blogger ped crossing said...

I think Toby's picture sums it up nicely.

At 9 April 2008 at 04:37, Blogger Alison said...

how wonderful that you didn't allow a flat tire to ruin your day. Sounds like it was wonderful!!

At 9 April 2008 at 14:29, Blogger Babaloo said...

Award for you at my place.... :)

At 9 April 2008 at 23:36, Blogger Cynthia said...

What a great day!

At 10 April 2008 at 08:29, OpenID conortje said...

I'm so jealous because Dingle is my favourite place in the world. I know wine strand very well.... Glad the tyre problems worked out - it just goes to show that when things go wrong you are more than capable of dealing with them!

At 12 April 2008 at 20:17, Blogger -Ann said...

Swampangel - Thanks. It was a great trip, well worth the hassle.

Laurie - Cheers. The fun factor is definitely magnified with pups.

Babaloo - All the interesting things are difficult. It's part of the charm. Thanks for the award!

SI - Thanks. The pothole really sucked.

Carrie Sue - Thanks - I'm much better at 'reporting' things that happen than at making stuff up.

Dad - Sorry I had you guys worried. It never occurred to me to call.

Kaycie - Those ears are the whole reason we have Toby. Perhaps a topic for its own post.

Rose - Your trip sounds great - how about posting some pictures? :)

Shane - Thanks. I know you understand where I've come from and what it takes to keep going into the scary unknown.

PC - I love that picture. I have it as the wallpaper on my mobile and I've been admiring it all week.

Alison - Cheers. It was a lovely day.

Cynthia - :) It was.

Conortje - Thanks. It's funny - here you are, jetting off to NYC and Paris, when it's really Dingle that you miss. You really are a Kerryman. (And I mean that in the kindest, truest way.)


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