April 9, 2011
We met up with Chip and Chip's mom (name de blog MOC) in Newark and made it to Belfast after an all night flight arriving at 9 in the morning. Imagine our surprise when after printing out the ten day forcast for the area and seeing, rain, chance of showers, rain, chance of showers every day for the entire time, we arrived to a beautiful and sunny spring day in Northern Ireland.
We picked up our rental car, a seven passenger van – I thought well that will be enough room for the five of us and all our luggage. Just barely, but my beloved made it work and off we went down the narrow roads toward our home away from home during our stay here.
We had arranged to stay Crawfordsburn Co. Down at a place called Rosevale Farm Cottages. So we follow the “wee” little directions the guy at the rental car place gave us. I was the only one brave enough to drive and I will say that I drove around and around a few roundabouts (that seem to occur every quarter of of a mile or so). We finally got on the A2 with the help of Chip reading the map and my beloved getting the GPS working and off we went down the narrow roads.
You may have noticed I said narrow roads twice, so far. Well, not only are they narrow, but you are driving on the opposite side of the road. Think about it, not just driving on the other side, but the steering wheel is on the opposite side, you operate the drive shift on the left, not the right. It is all very disconcerting, to say the least.
So, as I said off down the A2. Everything was going fine, every once in a while my beloved would say, you are too close to the curb, pull to the right and I would for the most part. Then I did not. Curbs are a funny thing, they let you know where the road ends and the sidwalk begins in some places. They keep the surface of the road from washing away. They give trash someplace to cling to. They also put a big freaking hole in the side of your tire if you hit one hard enough. Which is what happened to me. My beloved told me I was too close to the curb, I did not think I was and then boom – I hit the curb and after the initial shock realized I had a flat tire. So I pulled over at the end of the driveway to a place called Hugh's Fuel. We got out and looked at the tire, it was beautiful, if you enjoy flats. This was a good one. Two holes in the tire, the rim all banged up and flatter than a pancake. So, out comes all the luggage only to discover that there is no spare???? What is up with that we wonder.
So, Chip and I go up the hill to Hugh's Fuels to see if we can find someone to help us out. And we found Ryan. Ryan is now my new best friend. He took us into the office and helped us call the rental car company and tell them where we were. So, they tell me that there is no spare in these cars, there is only a little can to fill the tire up. I explain to them that this is really not going to help me, since the tire has a big hole in it and I did confess that I hit a curb. Well, they say we are going to have to get back to you in a little while about what to do. So, Chip and I hang out with Ryan.
We know that Ryan grew up in the area, in fact he lives right on the other side of that hill over there and that today is a bbq kind of day. He works half day, he gets off at half twelve, which I take to mean twelve thirty. He does not enjoy going someplace where he has to drive on the opposite side of the road either. He went to Italy and drove a smart car on the wrong side of the road and he was stressed the entire time. We learned that he is engaged to be married, hence the reason for the trip, to check out the venue where they want to marry. While we were there, the fiance called and he told her he had two American women in the office that had just hit a curb and blown a tire in front of their place. She did not really believe him at first. Come on, who makes up a story like that.
Ryan says he knows someone that owns a tyre shop (that's the way it is spelled here) down the road a piece that will help us out if we need it. He rings them up and they will come out if we need them (even if it is not a working day for them) and we sit back to wait for the manager of the car hire (that's how they refer to it here) to ring us back. After an hour or so, in which Ryan is very hospitable and has a very nice bathroom, we call them back to be told that they are working on it, they need to find a tyre and no, there are not other 7 passenger vans they can bring us to switch with us and they will ring back. Which they do about twenty minutes later to tell us that the tyre is our responsibilty and if we can get someone to come and change it... Really wish they would have told us that an hour and a half ago...
So Ryan calls up his friend. Ian Conner and his friend Dave show up about half and hour later in little blue car thing. Not jeep, not van – it kind of looks like those John Deere mule things, but WWII vintage. They take a look at the tyre and discuss what to do. Well, maybe Ian will just drive it down to the shop, not going to hurt the tyre too much more, right. Then they look at the rim and decide that might not be a good idea.
Then Chip walks into sight and Dave (who is about 60, maybe older hard to tell) falls in love and they decide they will just drive a “wee” bit down the road to the shop and bring back a jack and then take the tyre off and go back and fix it. We all decide, well Chief Matron Mare, says perhaps Chip should just take one for the team since Dave is so enamoured with her and funny but we all agree, except maybe her mother, but hey if it gets us back on the road...
So off they go and a few minutes later they return, jack up the car and pop the tyre off. Now Chip's mom had already said – this tire is bald, it is a bad tire (I'll say) and this is not our fault. Ian and Dave agree with her and can't believe that they (the car hire) sent us off with this tyre, it is not safe. Chip's mom asks them to write that down so we can give it to Hertz.
So, off they go again back to the shop with tyre in the truck and then we waited. Standing on the side of the narrow road as trucks, motorcylces and cars rush by on the wrong side of the road. No one stops to see if we need help, no one waves, we are just there.
Back come Ian and Dave and on goes the new tyre, down comes the jack and out comes the bill. Not cheap, I'll say that much and Ian makes a little fuss about the fact that I want to give him more. I tell him, please take it. I know that you were not even working today and I really appreciate it, so please take it. And he does.
They ask us where we are staying and I say over by BANGOR. They both look at me and say well around here we call it BAGER, but ok. Now you must stop at Coultra on your way and have a little lunch, for Christ sake! OK, for Christ's sake we will do that.
We find out that Ian's daughters had visited San Francisco last year and how he had not slept until they returned and he hoped that someone would have helped them out if they had needed it. Ian tells us that there are good and bad people everywhere (his shop had just been robbed of 6000 pounds worth of cigarrettes the other night, but that was the first time in 12 years this had happened).
He also wrote up a little blurb on the bill that the tyre was not legal to be on the road and that the car hire can give him a call and he will speak with them.
So, now I have my souvenir of the trip (perhaps my only one) a bald tyre in the back of the van. Of course, I will not be taking it on as carryon for the trip home, it will be given back to the car hire when we return the car on our way home.
And we were off to find our home away from home with me at the wheel again and my beloved reminding me that the moral of this story is to listen to her. So as irratated as it makes me, I listen to her when she says I am too close to the curb. I am trying to pay attention to the little sign on the visor that says stay to the left (but no too close to the left) and we made it to Roseville Farm Cottages without further incident. Very cute place. We are staying at Hugh's cottage and from out our back door we have a beautiful view of the rolling hills of Ireland. It is lovely place to hang our hats for the next week. Part of me wishes that I could just stay and not have to get back out on the wrong side of the road, but alas there are places to go and more nice people to meet.