Saturday, 10 November 2012

Day 15&16 Time to visit the Northern Ireland Trio.

Thursday 8th November – Days 15/16                         Daily Mileage 668– Total  6002

Initially I had a bit of a dilemma, “should I post this as “Day 15” as I was on the road for 23 and a half hours, or should I post it as “Days 15/16” because I actually set off at 10.30pm on Wednesday. To be honest I don’t really think anyone would give a damn but I do and so in the interest of truth and fairness to myself  Day 15/16 wins out.

Looking at Stena Line ferries on Sunday afternoon  I fully intended sailing from Liverpool to Belfast until I noticed two things that put me off straight away, £160 return and being stuck on the ferry for 8 hours each way would have sent me mad.

So it was Stanraer, well Cairnyan to be 100% accurate, to Belfast. A nice quick 2 hour 15 minute crossing preceded by a steady 230 mile ride up from Rochdale. Strange really that this is the second time of visiting Ireland this year, yet I never served over there in the 12 and half years I spent in the Army as a chef.  

The ferry was booked for 4.00am departure arriving in Belfast at 6.15am and so our Wednesday night out sadly  had to be cut short so I could leave at 10.30pm. The route is was very easy,M62/M61/M6 which would take care of the first 120 miles then onto the glorious A75 for a further 110 miles, “Simple’s”.

Heading North to Cairnyan Dock

As absolutely nothing noteworthy happened I skip straight to the dock arriving at 3.00am and making an awful video of myself explaining where I was and what my plan for the day was. After watching it on my return I thought I’d spare everyone the trauma of having to watch it and immediately deleted it!

Mr T and I were the first to be loaded and so had first dib’s at the comfy seats in the bar area. Jacket off, folded into a pillow, “dosbag” out, boots off and that was me out  like a light. The first thing I heard was the 15 minute arrival announcement by the captain.

Belfast – The first Gold Post Box was just 6 miles up the road on the Northern edge of the city. I took just 10 minutes to get there, photo taken and as per usual I was off no messing.

Antrim Road Belfast Northern Ireland 
Micheal McKillop  - Gold Medal Athletics Men's 800 & 1500 meters T37

Eglington – Gold Post box number two was just short of Londonderry some 62 miles away down the M2 for 12 miles then onto the A6 which took me straight across Northern Ireland. I turned right off of Foreglen Road ( still marked as the A6) onto Brockagh, then along Craigbrack Road which turned out to be a never ending lane which took me all the way to the coast. Left  onto Killylane Road for a mile and I was at Gold Post Box number 100! What a brilliant feeling that was.

It took three attempts to get a good photo with me stood at the side of the Gold Post Box painted to celebrate Jason Smyth’s achievements in both the 100 & 200 meter athletics. My first attempt was to ask a couple of school boys to take the picture which looked OK but not as good as Gold Post Box number 100 deserved. Second attempt was using the mini tri pod “Gorilla” on my top box but I had it pointed out to me by a passing gentleman that I’d just chopped my head off! Third and final, successful picture was taken by said gentleman. Thank you.

Woodvale Road Eglington Northern Ireland 
Jason Smyth - Gold Medal Athletics Men's 100 & 200 meters T13

Seaforde – As I only had three Gold Post Boxes to visit I had planned a route that would take me around the south shore of Lough Neagh and through what turned out to be “An area of outstanding beauty” as all the road side signs kept reminding me. My ferry was booked for 3.30pm and so I had plenty of time to cover the 105 miles to Seaforde near Newcastle in County Down.

The signs were not wrong, the ride was superb and well worth the semi sleepless night. Initially I headed back along the A6 then cut South tracking the westerly shore of Lough Neagh but never actually laying eyes on the lake. The North Sperrins Heritage Trail is stunning and well worth a visit if ever you find yourself in Northern Ireland with a couple of hours to spare. Predominantly a dual track lane with no road markings and all the wildlife you would expect of a country side retreat. 

As nice as it is to escape on the Moydamlaght Road
You still have to be on your toes.

The only down side to the whole ride was the fact the it lead to the M1 dual carriageway motorway where I ended up in a 25 minute traffic jam instigated and controlled by the police. Yes you read it right the police had coned off one lane totally in order to bring the motorway traffic to a walking pace in order to make you read their notices. David Black had been shot dead on 1st November as he drove to work along the M1 in County Armagh. It worked as I even remembered the victim’s name. I do hope someone was able to remember more about the “Blue Toyota”.  BBC Northern Ireland New report "Police revisit M1 scene of David Black murder"

Once through the traffic it was not long before I arrived at the final Gold Post Box for the day and my 101st Gold Post Box of my journey.

Newcastle Road Seaforde County Down Northern Ireland
Bethany Firth - Gold Medal Swiming Womens 100 meter Backstroke S14

Heading back to Belfast docks which was just 30 miles north I arrived 15 minutes late for the earlier ferry, I was gutted! Three hours to waste with absolutely nothing to do, you see my approach to the challenge as with everything else I do is so “single minded” that I’m at a loss once the task is complete. As it happens I chose to fill up at the dock petrol station and have a bite to eat. £3.95 for Chicken, chips and gravy, what a bargain! Still by the time I’d eaten and drunk my coffee I still had two hours to kill so I decided to revisit the first Gold Post Box of the day and take a picture in the daylight.

Antrim Road Belfast Northern Ireland 
Micheal McKillop  - Gold Medal Athletics Men's 800 & 1500 meters T37
In the daylight!

Update - I had the great pleasure of meeting
Micheal McKillop at Kidz-up-North
What an absolutely inspirational gentleman,
Micheal you made my year, thank you.

Parked up at the front of lane 14 alone, one of the “container jockeys” pulled up alongside in his truck towing the biggest container I’ve ever seen and announced “I’ve got one of them” pointing at Mr T. We chatted for a good ten minutes before he carried on with his work. That’s about as exciting as the two hour wait on Belfast docks got. I even Tweeted Stena Line to tell them how bored I was but got no reply.

Arriving back in Scotland at 6.30pm in the dark with the 230 mile ride ahead of me left me feeling a little low purely due to the fact  I would not get home in time for “Snugllie Bugglie” with Lilie Rose and Ben. Still the glorious A75 made up a little for missing out with the children.

Homeward Bound
Blinded by the light.......... thank's!

I walked in the house at 10.00pm on the dot to a nice homecoming hug from Jeannie who had decided to wait up for even after having yet another sleepless night alone. Not long now and my Gold Post Box Journey will be complete sweetheart then no more lonely nights alone.

Day Fifteen/Sixteen - 3 Gold Post Boxes

So what’s next, well I’m delighted to say Royal mail have provided me with the “Official List of 110 Gold Post Boxes”. I have cross checked all the locations and found three, yes THREE missing Gold Post Boxes all of which I have now plotted into my MapSource file.

Sunday morning will see me collecting the final 8 Gold Post boxes, 7 in and around London and one in Cheadle Hulme. Tuesday I will be on the Isle of Man to collect the penultimate photograph and to ride the IOM Race Circuit once again. Not 28 times consecutively this time I may add.

The very last Gold Post Box in my journey will be something of a special occasion to for me as Jeannie and quite a few of my Manc Rider Friends will accompany me into Manchester on Sunday the 25th of November to help celebrate the end of “The Wandering Walton’s Quest for Olympic Gold  …… Post Boxes Obviously!”

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