Buncrana, Lough Swilly to Portrush

Day 134, Mon 15 May

It’s no good putting it off. The rain is not going to stop. On yer bike.

Well, it did stop. After just 20 miles, across the pre-Brexit invisible border, over the Foyle Bridge on the Coleraine road, the sun shone for over a minute. No more rain. Just as well. A mile later, all was not well with Fondo. A flat tyre. Rear, of course. Always is. I use the term “always” quite loosely. This was Fondo’s first puncture on this trip for well over 4,000 miles. And today, I think I know why.

With no border markings, it’s still easy, from a cyclists perspective, to know when you’re back in the UK. The cycle-friendly margins or designated paths/tracks don’t exactly disappear, but they become either useless or just dangerous. It’s as if bicycles must not, under any circumstances, be allowed a smooth tarmac surface to themselves. Only loose, broken, potholed, surfaces may be provided.  The dedicated lane must be interrupted at least once every hundred yards by 8″ sharp-edged drop kerbs or a raised grass verge. Manhole covers must be loose or missing. All stones, broken car mirrors, plastic trim, broken glass, nuts, bolts and other assorted debris must be brushed into the bicycle margin and left there. Perhaps this is a careful, safety-conscious ploy to prevent cyclists riding at dangerous speeds above 5mph. Well, today, it worked. After rumbling to a sad stop, Fondo was hastily unloaded, upturned, rear wheel released, tyre levered off, punctured tube extracted, offending item found (a needle-like shard of steel, like a headless pin) and discarded, new spare tube inserted (puncture repair is a kitchen or bathroom job at home, not on a busy main road-side), tyre re-seated, tube inflated to 95 psi, wheel refitted, Fondo righted, bags reloaded and back on the road.

Why, you may ask, was I cycling on a busy main road? Given a choice, I rarely do. Alas, there are occasions when the only coastal route is the main road between a large urban sprawl and the tide-line. The rest of the route was a lot more civilised, improving by the mile, via Coleraine and up to Portrush.

Today’s was one of the easiest-to-find types of Lifeboat Station. Into town, down to the harbour, there it is. A clearly flagged, blue & white Boathouse. Just in case you weren’t sure, centre stage, afloat in the harbour, is the mighty Severn Class Portrush Allweather Lifeboat.

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And tucked up in the cosy Lifeboat Station in the backgound are two major RNLI workhorses. A trusty D Class Inshore rescue boat … and Fondo.

Please click or tap Here to read the abridged history of one of the most distinguished RNLI Lifeboat Stations, including proud references to a couple of McAllisters. There are a good few of the clan to be found in the broader Lifeboat community. From Alderney in the Channel Islands via a few in Ireland and more in Scotland.

Many thanks to Judy (LPO), Anthony (mech), Des (Cox’n) and all the crew for the very kind gesture in sorting out my bed for the night, including the morning pre-fuelling!

To be continued tomorrow, after the planned morning visit to Portrush Lifeboat Station  …

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