We’ll always have Starbucks

Gorgeous day on Sunday, as 11 of us took to the road. We cycled to the University of Limerick the back-way (Garrykennedy>Ballina>Cloonlara>UL, before stopping at the Castletroy Shopping Centre for the customary coffee. Then we set out for Murroe and Newport, before going on to Ballinahinch and the N7, and hence back to Nenagh. 102km in total, at a slow enough 27.5kph. You can put that down to the dog-rough road between Newport and Ballinahinch, and the easterly headwind we came up against on the N7 back into Nenagh.

Leading out was well spread throughout the group, but with Liam and Andy doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the latter half. A new feature of the customary Nenagh – Portroe route was the turn-off to Garrykennedy, and then the detour via the Slate Quarries back to the Ballina Road, bypassing Portroe Hill. This was a try-out of the planned Tour de Lough Derg route, and it proved successful.

And then these was the coffee-stop in Castletroy Shopping Centre, chiefly Starbucks. How did we ever manage in the old days before we had the trendy, multinational, ethical coffee-chains? Tea and black coffee I seem to remember. It seems the world is full of coffee-drinkers now, and they’re all ahead of me in the queue. I’m a tea or milk man myself, but I’ve nothing against the coffee-drinking tribe per se. It’s just the endless delays and queuing. This is what the old Soviet Union must have seemed like.

Here’s how it worked on Sunday. Queue going out the door. Stutter forward and halt again. Americano here, Latte there, Mucho on the right of you, Mucho on the left of you. Five minute delay. Then the line stutters to live again. “Would you like some chocolate shavings?”. Bloody hell, what’s this – an ice-cream cone? Long delay, move forward 3 steps and – stop. “Would you like that foamed, Madam?”. For f***’s sake, can’t she blow her own bubbles? MOVE can’t you? Finally I get to the top of the queue. Not that the Barrista (or ‘Partner’ as they refer to their staff) takes the slightest notice of me. No, he decides that now is a good time to start sticking price labels all over the place. And sod you too, Sir, says I to myself), quitting the queue and the Store.

I fall back on my bike bottle of diluted Mi-Wadi Orange, and the lads give me a couple of current buns. Just like the good old days.

And then there was the fall, as young Mike pulled the old ‘I’m stuck in my cleats’ trick for his very first time. Mike went down pretty sharpish at a crossroads in Newport. Now, in my painful experience, there are two types of ‘stuck in the cleats’ fall. There’s the sudden quick (“Oh Shit”, Bang) one, and the longer, more protracted (“Oooooooh Shiiiiiit”, Bang) one. The long one is the one to avoid. Although, if you’ve your wits about you, you can collapse on to another rider, and that helps break your fall.

Such falls rarely cause more than a skinned knee and hurt pride. But try to avoid a newly tarred road, or a situation where girls witness you falling like a moron. That hurts! But in the overall scheme of things, it’s a sissy injury. It’s when other cyclists come over to you with a worried face, and ask you with compassion in their voices “How’s your bike?” that you need to worry.

Anyway, back to young Mike, who’d had a quick one. It didn’t knock anything out of him. Straight back on the bike again, smile on his face. I think we’ve a good ‘un in young Mike. He raises the average speed a bit when he rides with us, and lowers the average age a LOT. I reckon he’s got a great future ahead of him.

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