The reception from the pupils staff and parents at St. Ita’s Special School was warm and enthusiastic. Bikers could see for themselves where the fundraising money was being spent and they could meet the pupils themselves. They could see the excellent work that is being undertaken by the staff, teachers and parents on behalf of the pupils. It is a lovely feeling to give of your time and effort to help those who need and appreciate the support you are offering.
The sun shone on the 22nd of May 2010 and temperatures were to reach the mid twenties in the early afternoon. It was perfect weather for a charity motorcycle 235 mile tour through the Drumlin Belt which consists of tens of thousands of tightly-packed hillocks, in a wide belt extending from county Down to Donegal Bay. This is the essence of The Run Of The Country.
Registration was at St. Ita’s Special school where the parents association provided a wonderful freshly cooked Irish breakfast with the meat supplied by our local award winning Tuites butcher.
Riders got their lucky first card for the poker run and also the route map. The route is for Ballybay through the leafy Boyne Valley road to Slane. Then the ride is across country on the tight up and down road to Kelberry cross and from there the big wide road onto Nobber. After Nobber, it’s the twisties for the rest of the day. Climbing up into Kingscourt with panoramic views to the east over the drumlins and then a really tight road to Sercoc. There were only a few sheep on the way this time. Then around Lough Sheelan , more up hills, down dales with more and bends on the outstanding R162 road into Ballybay. What a start, 40 miles of real biking roads. Check point was at a petrol station. The riders picked up their next lucky card and the route for stage 2.
The route left Ballybay and headed for Clones on the R183. This was drumlin country all the way. Quite back roads meander through the small hills and green dairy pasture land to bring you to Clones and further on up the road to Butlers Bridge, Belturbet , Ballyconnell with the check point in Swanlinbar. These roads are unsurpassed for bike touring with lakes, woods, the Breifne Mountains and quiet villages. West Cavan is hidden Ireland at its best. This was 50 miles of pure heaven. Check point, then another card and another route in hand for the next stage.
Stage 3 is another 50 miles tour of Fermanagh, Lough Erne and the Dartry Mountains . The route is now heading north for the beautiful Erne side city of Enniskillen passing the old fort on the right as the riders enter the city. In Enniskillen the route turns west along the shores of Lower Lough Erne on the majestic A42 to Belleek. Woodlands and the Dartry Mountains to the left, lakes to the right, and stretching in front miles of outstanding motorcycling lay ahead. Just before Belleek the route turned south, through picturesque Garrison and over the mountains to the checkpoint in Manorhamilton. This is make or break time for the poker run. The fourth card is drawn at this stage. New route card and onwards the riders go.
Leave Manorhamilton behind and head south along the R280 overlooking Lough Allen on the left, part of the Shannon waterway. Iron Mountain looks down on the rides where the famous poor coal was mined at Arigna. Long sweeping bends and excellent visibility is a feature of this road. This is the most open road on the route. Drumshambo to Ballinamore is again a more tight and challenging road with lakes, hills and rushy fields on all sides. From Ballinamore to Cavan through Newtown Gore and Crossdowney the motorcyclist will be thrilled with the tour and the challenge. At Cavan check point and the riders are getting tired after this 60 mile stage. Directions to last check point are at hand and the final card for the poker run is drawn.
Cavan to Ballybay through Cootehill is more up down and around roads. Maybe some of the riders have seen enough lakes, and roads and bends. Indeed they are glad to be back in their billets to rest. “This has been the best days biking I ever had” was heard all evening. Around every bend was another bend and the scenery was spectacular all along the route. The route was marvellous, challenging, and just the correct distance at 235 miles. All the riders had smiles on their faces and tired and very happy.
Overnight accommodation was in the Riverdale Hotel in Ballybay which is a comfortable one star guest house with soft beds, hot showers and great food and drink.
The evening meal was great. There were four choices for starters, main course and dessert. The food was tasty, well presented and there were generous country portions for hungry bikers. The prizes for the poker run were given out and spot prizes were won. There was plenty of chat and a post mortem of the route. “Them’s real bikin roads” was the summary statement of the event