We awoke early the next morning to find that the girl sleeping in the bunk next to us had woken Zach up twice during the night –once to tell him that Trav was snoring, once to tell him that he himself was snoring. We’re still not exactly sure what she expected him to do about the situation, but we had a good early morning laugh about it as the three of us heard the story told in the way only Zach can tell it. He really has a gift.
While we went to go grab a quick bite of breakfast in the kitchen area, Trav ran to the bus station to get tickets for our day’s adventures. After Trav enthusiastically corralled the less ebullient of the brothers to the bus stop, we quickly realized that the actual departing time of this vessel was different then what our tickets indicated. Thanks to Trav’s persistent prodding however, we made our bus by the skin of our teeth, and were succesfully aboard this two-tiered beauty. After a sleepy and grey 90-minute bus ride, we made it to the dock point where we would board another 30-minute ferry that would eventually take us to the beautiful Aran Islands of Ireland.
During our bus and ferry ride, a number of people inquired about our suits – more people than usual it seemed. We thought it would be fun to begin asking others what they thought they were all about before answering them. Their responses were quite entertaining. Some thought we were a boy band, others thought we were strippers. Some were even sure that we were a professional hurling team. I guess we have the hair for it. When we finally told them that this was a bachelor party and that we were all brothers, most people responded “You mean, like fraternity brothers?” or “So like, from the ‘hood’ kind of brothers?” For some reason we don’t have nearly the family resemblance in Europe that we do in the states.
Once we docked the stunningly beautiful main island, we made our way to a bicycle rental station, gave them €10 for each silver stallion and were on our merry, boy-band way. As we rode around this incredible atoll, I knew immediately that the rumors of how gorgeous Ireland was were all true. Even in the rain, the deep greens and blues made this landscape truly unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was exactly how I had pictured it, and yet still somehow a thousand times better. Like finally being back to a place you’d been homesick for your whole life but never actually been.
As we pedaled past small farmhouses and crumbling stonewalls, I sensed a deep familial history that ran deep through these villages. I felt the weight of years of religious, political, and economic tension and struggle, and yet the even stronger emerging family and community victor. There was a light rain, which was exactly how I hoped to experience this small island. To have it be completely clear seemed to be, for me, out of character for this place, and I wanted the real deal. The island as it was.
After some friendly dialogue with our fellow riders and a few attempts at exploration, we stopped to leave our beloved “SN’10” trademark once more. We found a field with enough clearing for our little project, and began moving the scattered stones into place. After about twenty minutes or so, we realized that this project was going to take us far longer than we had originally anticipated, but we were too deep into it (and stubborn) to give up. So we persisted.
Moving rocks much heavier than they appeared and laying them into strategic locations on the ground to for our emblematic brilliance. It wasn’t until after we were all done that we realized we may have put the letters too close to the nearby wall for us to take a decent picture of it. We tried to snap a shot from all sorts of angles until I decided that I was going to climb this shaky wall and get a picture from up there. Trav of course had to awkwardly, and tenderly hold my legs to keep me from slipping on the crumbling wall below me. Some passerbyers enjoyed that display, I think. Some even asked if we were shooting some sort of cologne ad, to which we, of course, responded “yes”.
We mounted our trusty steeds once more and made our way to the “Seven Churches” graveyard where we feasted on our previously prepared gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In hindsight, I realize that this was a little morbid to plan for a meal in a graveyard, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone at the time. I suppose that's not a reasonable gauge for determining appropriate interaction though, either. When we were done with our refection, we sassed some cows, climbed some walls, made friends with a kitty, and were on our way once again.
Next, we journeyed to “Dun Aonghasa”- a spectacular circular Celtic stone fort built in 2000 B.C. by Celtic tribesman. At this point it was clear enough that we could even see Mt. Brandon in Kerry. It was truly breathtaking.
After taking a cheesy and relatively pointless picture with a miniature house that has no significance whatsoever, we reached the top of this incredible peak overlooking the stunning Irish Sea. Of course, each of us had to rush right to the edge, taunting the rocks and waves that lay 350 feet below us –each of us, except for Zach that is. Zach did not want to get any closer than a solid 10 feet from this cliff’s edge, and was getting increasingly solicitous with every one of our ridiculous cliff side antics. We eventually convinced him to work his way the edge for the sake of a photo op, but once those images were captured, it was back to the safety of distance. I can’t say that I blame him, actually. It was pretty terrifying. It’s just always entertaining for me to see our strong, rugby playing brother get uneasy and frightened about something that doesn’t even really show up on our radars, even though it probably should have. Then again, he was the first to be asked for his autograph in this country, so who’s the real winner here?
On our way back down from this incredible spot (and in an effort to throw the old Asian woman who had been following us off our scent), we climbed over a small wall to an area that Sam and Trav had discovered in their time here the previous year. I found it funny that a shaky, two-foot wall was all that really kept us from wandering into territory that we weren’t supposed to be wandering into, but we took that as an open invitation and were happy to oblige. As we walked through the mysterious placed rock patters that were so meticulously aligned with one another in the fields we crossed, we come upon a paralyzing cliff over-hang, standing far out above the water below.
After barely managing to inch ourselves to the edge of this thin cliff –probably only three or four feet wide-, I came up with the brilliant idea to take some “jump shots” from this spot ala Mary Tyler Moore. Even Zach managed to crawl out to this most intimidating of spots to grace us all with an angry tiger growl and a sexy dance. To top off the experience, Sam discovered our newly found, unnamed plastic superheroe companion on our way back - a comrade who would remain with us for the duration of this vagrancy, and beyond. We were all quite satisfied with the deviation.
We then quickened our pace (much in the style of the “scamper on there lads” that Trav and I had received from a butcher earlier in our trip), grabbed our trusty silver steeds, and began hastily making our way to the site of “Dun Duchachair” (The Black Fort) before our ferry departed. Unfortunately the chain on Zach’s bike kept falling off, and we were unable to make it in time. The good news is that my ride, the ever elusive “Wackly Wobbler”, amidst its wackiness, rode strong the entire day. I was so proud of my old boy.
We returned our bikes and began walking toward where our ferry was when we noticed that the sailboat that had been beached in the morning when we departed, was now fully afloat four hours later. Amazingly, the water had risen more than thirty feet from the time that we were first there, and we found that to be absolutely amazing. I’m sure it was obvious to all within earshot that we were not, in fact, "beach babies" by any means.
The ferry brought us back to our bus stop where we again boarded our double-decker tour ride, and struck up conversation with our other fellow travelers once more. We had a lovely conversation with a group of girls (the leader of which we affectionately named “Scowly Girl” because of her seemingly relentless aversion to ever showing positive emotions whatsoever) and exchange stories of our adventures thus far. It was a convention I was rather enjoying –hearing of the exciting and exhilarating things that people from all over the world did to feel inspired. It was quite fascinating to simply sit back and observe, really.
After some debate as to where exactly we should exit to disembark on our next saga, we finally found a reasonable spot and decided to walk along the river to try and locate a church that Trav and Sam had unsuccessfully tried to visit the last time they were here. We walked through small neighborhoods, past some interesting architecture and graffiti, and even spotted the same moped at the bottom of the river the two brothers had seen on their previous visit. But by the time we reached the beautiful church that we had been searching for, the doors were no longer open. We hugged each other for an hour or so, drying our tears in the shoulders of our warm embrace, and then decided it was time to hunt down some food. Well, purchase food at least.
Oh, and we also made some new friends during our ambling -both bronze and otherwise.
We eventually were drawn in, as most men would be, by the shimmering wonderment of the man-worn triangle advertisement sign in the town "square", and simply couldn’t ignore its sweet calling. It read “Boogala Burger This Way” and upon reading these words, we knew we were in for a treat. Chang beer, naan bread, guacamole lamb burgers –this was Irish cuisine at its finest. It actually was incredibly tasty, and we all were glad to be dry, immobile, and eating real food for the first time this day. It’s strange how much a good burger can lift your spirits.
After our delicious meal at a shared table with an unsuspecting couple, we went back to the hostel to snag some flight info, got Zach to a call-center to call his beloved Anne, grabbed some Powers, and were back on the town. We began making our way to “Roisin Dubh”, the bar recommended to me by my flight companion Serena Flemming on the airplane ride to Dublin, but on our way, Scowly Girl and her posse actually spotted us walking. “What are the odds?” we thought, so we stopped and chatted with them for a bit. SG made some sarcastic comments and of course, we returned in kind, and were on our way once again. As we walked, numerous clubs, bars, and pubs stopped us along the way to offer us deals, stickers, stamps, wristbands, and all sorts of other sparkly incentives to visit their establishment. We felt a little bit like celebrities and simply ignored the fact that every other person was receiving the same treatment.
A few minutes later, a second group of friends from the day’s adventures called out to us as we walked by, so we stopped to catch up with them as well. We than gathered a few more stamps and stickers as we walked until finally, the third group of friends from Canada and Chicago that we had met during our cycling stopped us and we began exchanging the ridiculous stories of our lives we all loved to share with total strangers in circumstances like these.
After an hour or so of wonderful discursive outside this unknown bar, the group invited us to join them inside. Fairly certain that we wouldn’t make it to Rosin Dubh before it closed, we decided to take them up on their offer. I mean, heck, we were in suits. Might as well make good use of them, eh? No sense wandering in the dark with our thrift store beauties (and Trav’s actual tailored ensemble) when there are well lit areas available for them to shine.
As we walked through the crowded halfway, Zach and I walked past a group of older ladies that we had met earlier that day, and got our pictures with them. We got a sense pretty quickly that the men they were with were not fond of our jubilant presence, so we kept our wagon trail moving right along so as to not stir up a tussle. We certainly weren’t dressed for any fisticuffs. We made our way to the center of this fine rathskeller to partake in a pint of Guinness as generously provided for by the ever-magnanimous Samuel R. Simkins, which was then followed by dance moves the likes of which Americans have never seen before. A drunk gentleman barely able to stand, gave a display on the old dance floor that even MJ would be proud of. Mesmerizing. We were asked to sing a tune or two as well, and we were again, happy to oblige.
At about 1am we decided it was high time to venture out and make good on all of the VIP stamps, stickers, slap bracelets, and hair ties that we had received earlier in the day. So our new friends and dance companions joined us as we aimlessly jaunted towards the thumping bass beat that annoyed us the least. We ended up at a cheeky looking club called “Cuba”, but as we approached the entrance, the bouncer tried to charge us €5 each just to get in. When the doorman at “903” (the club literally next door) saw this, he waved us over and said that we were all welcome at his place free of charge. So we proverbially shook the dust of our sandals at Cuba, and swaggered on over to 903 to get our lame excuse for dancing on.
After twenty minutes or so of utter-domination under the flashing lights, Zach noticed that the suit jackets and bags that we had stacked up against a nearby pillar were now missing. As hard as it was, we all stopped dancing and began frantically searching the club for our belongings until we found them stashed in a corner on the opposite side of the club in a pile with someone else’s possessions. I won’t get into the details of the ordeal here, but it involved security guards, a couple hammered and slurring ladies, a handful of overly aggressive Irish chaps, purse searching, a missing flask, and Zach threatening to rip off some guy’s arm and beat him with it. All in all, it was what most of us Simkins types would classify as perfect fodder for an outstanding story.
But did we let this attempt at petty theft get us down? Don’t be foolish. We stayed and danced all the heartier, not because we wanted to, but because Ireland needed us to. And I say this, not as a joke by any means, but numerous people actually approached me throughout the evening and complimented me on my dance moves. As honestly as sun rises and sets each day, it happened. I’m assuming that none of them actually saw me lose three buttons off of my suit in the process when they made those statements, however. But I was happy to take the encouragement either way.
After we had successfully and with great fervor made sure that club 903’s rug was, in fact, tore up, we decided to venture across the street for some grub and "Street Hokey Pokey". Of course at this point, all of the exciting nightlife was out in full colors, yelling absurdities and dancing with plastic bags on their heads. It was the most I had felt at home thus far. One kind and drunken gentleman even invited us to the incredibly exclusive party that was being held at the prestigious location of his basement. Having to fight our urges to be thrown headfirst once more into what was sure to be a smashing story in the future, we declined and walked the ladies to their hostel.
After we bid them all adieu, we tottered majestically to our own hostel, stumbling with pure exhaustion to the reception desk at about 3am. Now it’s important to note here that because our flight the next day was at 6am, we decided it would be economical of us resourceful chaps to not pay for another night at the hostel, and simply catch a ride to the airport and sleep in the airport lobby before our flight. So we gathered our things from the incredibly nice gentleman receptionist who had allowed us to stuff our luggage behind the kitchen counter, fell down the stairs, and hailed a cab.
This driver wasn’t nearly as enthralling as our previous driver had been, but he was certainly pleasant nonetheless. We arrived at the airport at 4am, longing for the sweet cushiony goodness of airport seating, only to find that the teeny weeny Galway airport didn’t even open until 5:30am. Luckily a few of us had managed to survive in the Boy Scouts of America for a few weeks long enough to learn some resourcefulness and had taken the small fleece blankets from a previous flight. So we all huddle together, in our suits, under the small bus station in front of the airport, clenching our small navy blue blanket as tightly as we could, and tried to sleep. Thankfully the night guard saw this paltry scene and about thirty minutes later he took pity on us poor saps, opened up the doors, and allowed us to pass out in their fine lobby.
An hour later we awoke to the sounds of sweet Irish announcements over the loudspeakers, gathered our things, and we were on our way to London.