Saturday, December 05, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

GAELIC GETAWAY, Chapter 5:  

Day 5:  Kilkenny to Waterford

Before telling the story of what happened on our way from Powerscourt to Glendalough yesterday, we have to begin at the Dublin airport.  When we arrived on Tuesday, we were tired.  Yes, we enjoyed some sleep on the way across the Atlantic, but by the time our flight from Paris landed in Dublin, we were pretty much running on fumes.

So when we reached the Hertz desk and found that the car we reserved was not waiting for us to get in and drive away, we were putty in a slick Hertz agent's hands.  Rather than being truthful and disclosing the obvious fact that they had no cars of the type we reserved, he persuaded us to upgrade to a bigger car—and pay for the upgrade!  That's a measure of how brain dead we were, overlooking two critical factors:  1) If the car we ordered was unavailable, Hertz is responsible for giving us an upgrade at no cost.  2) On the narrow, winding roads of Europe, the last thing we needed was a bigger car.

Yet we allowed ourselves to be artfully led into paying a premium price for a Citroen Cactus, a car we didn't want.  Now that's tired!  After driving the car from the airport to the Hilton in Dublin, we left it in the hotel garage until we left the city yesterday morning.  As soon as we got on the road, we knew we needed to exchange it for a smaller car.  Preferably the one we had reserved.

Citroen Cactus
Some European country roads are no wider than a single lane on a well-maintained U.S. road, and they're often lined with thick hedges or stone walls at the road's edge.  To further complicate matters in Ireland and the UK, we're in the unfamiliar position of driving in the left lane from what still feels like the passenger side of the car.

No doubt you see what's coming by now.  And you're right.  But before you suspect speed as a factor, let me assure you it was not.  Still trying to re-orient himself to left-side driving, Ken was proceeding very cautiously.  And all was going well until, on a wee slip of a road, a car was approaching from the opposite direction at the same we were passing a curbside garbage can that a) was loaded with heavy debris and b) had encroached into the road.

Aw, snap!
Whack!  The contents of the trash container were so weighty that it did not budge when the side mirror of a 2,200-pound car smacked into it.  We stopped a few yards down the road, and I ran back to retrieve the car's amputated wing.  Thinking I could help others avoid the same fate, I attempted to roll the can back into the driveway proper.  Not a chance.  I wasn't nearly strong enough.

So our mission today after driving the 35 miles from Kilkenny to Waterford in torrential rain was sorting out our car issues.  When we arrived at the Waterford airport several hours before the Hertz desk there was scheduled to close, we found it unattended and the remainder of the small airport eerily quiet.  Calling the number posted on a sign at the Hertz desk put us in touch with Rachel, the agent on duty, whose shift was split because a flight was due later in the day.  We explained our problem and made arrangements to meet her a couple of hours later when she'd be returning to deliver cars to incoming passengers.  That gave us time to drive to our hotel, check in, and unload that prickly Cactus. Did we mention the fact that the car was so basic it had only one cup holder—in the entire four-door car?

Only when we returned to the airport for our appointment with the winsome Rachel later did we remember to inform her that we really, really wanted a car with an automatic transmission.  (No need to add operating a stick shift with the left hand to the driving adjustments!)  That's when we learned that 95% of cars rented at smaller airports in Ireland have manual transmissions because Americans and Canadians are pretty much the only ones who ask for automatics and most of us fly into Dublin or Shannon.

Rachel scoured her inventory and came up with two automatics—one that was considerably larger than the one we had maimed and a tiny Seat Mii (say-aht mee), a leprechaun-sized vehicle not much bigger than a Smart car.  There was no hesitation; it was definitely Mii first.  Patiently, Rachel completed the paperwork for our accidental damage and issued us the keys to the Mii.

Oh, Mii!  Oh, my!
The heavy rain and strong winds tested the little Mii's mettle on our way back to the hotel, and it did fine.  Glad the hotel had a restaurant, we ate an adequate meal and called it a day.  The storms we have been seeing are part of a series of winter systems that have been punishing the west and southwest coast of Ireland with gale-force wind and widespread flooding.  We've decided to slow down our journey and hang in Waterford a few days before moving in that direction.
Daily Stats:
  • Started in Cactus, ended in Mii
  • Mileage -  81  (Trip total: 5,140)
  • Weather - 50° to 52° with rain and wind and more rain and more wind