4:15 AM (Pacific Time) – Our alarms, set the evening before, go off simultaneously, jerking us out of a fitful nights sleep. I was barely able to sleep a wink throughout the night due to anxiety and excitement. Bobby claims he slept well but having been restlessly awake for the majority of the night, I can tell you his sleep was anything but soundless. Still, the of the day had us up and excited in no time. After packing a few last items we were ready for the walk to the light rail station.
4:55 – Thankfully, I had watched the news the previous night and the weather man’s warning about early morning rain showers was precisely what we were greeted with. While packing the previous night, we made sure to keep our rain jackets out. So we donned our waterproof gear and walked out into the rainy darkness. The mile walk to the light rail station was colder than expected but uneventful.
5:20 – The light rail train that would take us to SEATAC airport arrives at Westlake station.
6:00 – Arrive at SEATAC. We were nervous because we were flying an airline we had never flown with before. United Airlines was to take us Chicago O’Hare airport and from there an Aer Lingus plane would carry us to Dublin. Because we had to get our passport information verified at the airport we weren’t able to fully check-in online before the flight. We soon learned that United is not one of our favorite airlines. We waited in a short but slow moving line to get to a computer kiosk where we were to complete the check-in process. They seem to be attempting to eliminate the human element from their process so there were very few employees there to help passengers check-in and navigate the often broken kiosk machines. Bobby had not been assigned a seat and the kiosk claimed that he would have to pay $40 for any seat that was still available. Bobby, being Bobby, refused to give in to this type of corporate bullying and didn’t select a seat. He was intent on speaking to the ticketing agent that would greet us at the gate. We did have a very helpful United employee get us large plastic bags to put our backpacks in so we didn’t have to worry about tying down all the loose straps or removing the hip belts.
6:45 – We had successfully made it through security and found breakfast. Now it was time to sort out the whole seat snafu. Sadly, there was no one working the kiosk at the gate and a sign informed us that they wouldn’t arrive until an hour before the flight. We sat and supped on the bagel breakfast sandwich and yogurt parfait we had gotten while we waited. Bobby pounced when an airline employee arrived and was the first to speak to her about having us seated together. She said she would fix it for us and to wait for our name to be called.
7:20 – The plane began boarding. The line of people waiting to speak to the clearly stressed ticketing agents has grown to at least 10 people deep. I began to get anxious…
7:55 – With only twenty minutes left until takeoff and still no boarding passes (she had taken them from Bobby when he originally had spoken to her) I went and joined the seven or so people still in line and waiting to have various issues resolved.
8:00 – (Our flight was supposed to takeoff at 8:15) Still no boarding passes and still in line. An older couple decide their need was greater than ours and as we finally neared the podium they budged, telling us that they were just waiting to have new seats assigned. We informed them that we were waiting for the same thing but that didn’t deter them from forging ahead of us without looking back… Two women behind us were getting very anxious and were exclaiming loudly how they were going to be the last ones on the plane and how ridiculous it would be. Meanwhile several standby passengers were waiting patiently as they hoped to board the flight at the last minute. Soon, a supervisor took the two women behind us and found them seats and let them board. We are now finally being helped by the elderly woman Bobby had originally spoken to. As she continues to struggle with the computer program the supervisor begins to call standby passengers… We were literally the last people at the gate… We still didn’t have boarding passes and the flight was supposed to take off in five minutes… Bobby kept trying to calm me saying that we’ll get a seat.
8:12 – We were finally boarding the plane with our crisp new boarding passes and seat assignments. We had been placed in an exit row free of charge! As we settled into our overly spacious seats and the bulkhead doors closed we heaved a sigh of relief. Despite the fact that we didn’t have boarding passes for the next leg of the journey we decided to simply sit back and enjoy the comfort of the nearly four hour long flight.
1:50 PM (Central Time) – Landed safely in Chicago! The departures board said that we must head to Terminal 5 to catch our connecting flight. Our layover was close to two hours long and we were hoping to get some lunch while in Chicago. That wasn’t going to happen… Turns out we had to leave the airport, walk a petty good distance, catch a train to Terminal 5 and go through security again.
2:40 – Well, we didn’t have boarding passes for the next flight so after finally making our way to Terminal 5 (the international terminal) we found the Aer Lingus ticketing counter and were helped immediately by a knowledgeable employee who got us boarding passes, verified our passports, and gave us the required customs documents we would need upon landing. Security was a breeze and we were at our gate in no time.
3:00 – Boarding our flight to Dublin was the opposite experience of the flight to Chicago. We had paid for seats in their “preferred seating section”. There is a small cabin directly behind first class with only two rows of seats where we would be sitting. Therefore, we boarded immediately after first class. Normally boarding that early might have been obnoxious but we had just gotten some lunch from the nearest takeaway place, Big Bowl, and we ate as the seats behind us boarded without ever being aware of it besides hearing the chatter and clatter of hundreds of people as the clamored onboard.
3:50 – Airborne for Ireland!! Estimated flying time: close to 7 hours.
4:55 AM the next day (Dublin Time) we land in Dublin! The flight was what you would expect; uncomfortable, smelly, exhausting, exciting, boring…. It was also surprising at times. We were shocked to have meal service included not once, but twice. About two hours after takeoff we were given a full dinner. Less than an hour before landing they handed out croissant sandwiches and orange juice as breakfast. We were very glad we hadn’t gone through with our original plan of buying crappy airport sandwiches and bringing them along for dinner on the plane!
5:30 – Customs was a breeze, our luggage, miraculously, made it safely, A quick stop at the ATM and we were soon speeding along the streets of Dublin in a taxi with a wonderfully nice, and informative, cabby. He was taking us to the train station where we still needed to catch a train to Killarney. As we arrived at the station the cabby, before giving us the total informed us that we shouldn’t tip like we do in the states. He said, “don’t try to tip me I won’t take it.” He proceeded to tell us how it’s different in Ireland and that we needn’t worry about it as much here as we do at home. Grateful for his honesty we gave him the fare and Bobby asked him if he was sure he didn’t want a tip, we really wanted to give him one because we was so kind and helpful but he outright refused. It will be a strange cultural difference to get used to.
7:00 – Our train departed from Dublin station with a final destination of Cork. We had to get off and change trains before that in a town called Mallow. We had close to two hours before that happened but thanks to a somewhat shady character who I caught eyeing us up as we attempted to sleep and the fear of missing our connection we decided to take turns sleeping. It’s strange traveling with such expensive gear, we don’t want anything to happen to any of it and are far more protective of our packs than we usually are of our suitcases.
9:00 – We successfully changed trains and had less than an hour left before finally arriving in Killarney! I was selfish and slept most of the way to Killarney. It was 1:00 am our time and the sleep deprivation had begun to catch up with me. Bobby stayed awake, he had more success sleeping on the plane than I did so he was a little bit more alert, but not by much.
10:00 – We made it to Killarney!!! We walked through town center and managed to stumble upon the two shops we wanted to find. We were able to purchase a very cheap pay as you go phone from a cell phone shop. We stopped at a small bookstore and purchased the necessary, detailed maps, that cover the majority of the Kerry Way. We have downloaded maps onto our phones which will be our GPS devices for the next nine days but in case something goes wrong I feel it necessary to also bring along a compass and maps. We managed to get lost looking for our B&B and did almost a complete circle of the town. The day was bright and brisk and the walk was welcome after the endless hours of sitting. However, the exhaustion was setting in and nerves were frayed…
11:30 – Finally found the B&B we had reservations at but we knew it was ridiculously early to check in but we popped in and asked what time we might be able to check in. The charming woman working the front desk, with her beautiful lilting accent, showed no frustration with us and checked to see how quickly they could make our room up for us. She came back and cheerily informed us that it would be ready in 30 minutes! We couldn’t believe our luck! The inn sits just on the outskirts of town directly on the Kerry Way so we trudged back into town in search of some lunch. We found a cafe in a hotel that wasn’t serving full lunch, but, they were serving soup and sandwiches. Perfect! Bobby and I were both dizzy and queasy by the time we had sat down due to exhaustion and hunger. It seemed the wait staff at the cafe were aware of our plight because the food came out hot and fast. We gobbled up the sandwiches as if we hadn’t eaten in days. We were craving the energy the calories would infuse our body with.
12:30 – With full bellies we checked into the inn and were soon napping. We had originally planned on staying up throughout the day in an attempt to break the jet lag as quickly as possible but our bodies were screaming loud and clear what they needed. We set an alarm for three hours later.
4:30 – Here we are, awake, forcing ourselves to keep our sleepy eyeballs open and alert. We have high hopes that the unbelievably sunny weather we were greeted with today becomes a common theme on our trip! The locals claim the weather looks good for the next two weeks so we may not see as much rain as we had originally anticipated. Although, it is colder than expected. With highs in the low 50s it feels chilly in the shade and the wind has a bite to it. But we are a new hybrid of hiker. Born and raised in MN we withstood the tundra-like conditions the Midwest has to offer for the majority of the year. Having lived in Seattle for a year we have become immune to ever letting something as silly as a little rain stop us from having an amazing adventure! So here’s hoping our hardy nature helps us through whatever Ireland’s weather has in store for us!
In 2013 we hiked The Kerry Way over a 10 day period (we had 2 rest days). Read all of the posts in this series: