Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider
By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011
Page 20 of 21: Monday, May 30th: No Petrol Stations to be Found
Up early and dark – we'd not yet seen a sunrise here, since the sun rose before 5:30am, but today is the day for that.
We packed, headed out, and got on the main road – and then did a very foolish thing, and listened to TomTom. I could have been smart and stayed on the N road the map said headed to Shannon, but I was still sleepy, and listened to the SatNav – and it took us across country roads to the N20. Possibly a shorter route (by two minutes?) but one that had no towns, villages, or cities on the way.
This wouldn't have been a problem, either, if it weren't for rental car policy that gave a full tank of gas when you rented a car, and asked that you return it with an empty tank. Of course, no one wants to waste money on gas if they are going to lose it, so I figured I had enough to get me to the airport.
I was wrong.
The TomTom said it was 100 miles to the airport. The car said there was 125 left in gas, fine, no problem, just about perfect – but that was km, NOT miles... so we had nowhere near enough to get us to the airport. And it was 5am on a Monday, and nothing is open in Ireland at 5am. Also, all the gas pumps we had seen are operated by clerks, none take credit cards at the pump like those in the US, so they need to be manned in order to get gas. And villages don't have any gas stations, much less 24-hour manned ones.
We made it to a decent city, Charleyville, pretty much on fumes. The gauge had been saying empty for quite a while at this point, and we were very nervous about it. We found one gas station that looked like it might be open, but it wasn't – yet. It was now 6am, our flight left from Shannon (45 minutes away still) at 9am. The station opened at 7am. We could do it, but it would make us very nervous being so late to check into an international flight.
I walked down to the Aldi next door, and was able to knock on the window, and get the attention of one of the stock guys. He said there was another gas station down the road that was 24 hours, not too far down, about half a mile. I got back and V said the store clerk (she didn't have the keys, was just early for work) said the same thing. We went down the road, and found a very closed-looking gas station. The windows were covered in paper, and no amount of knocking summoned anyone. I asked a guy on his way to work, he said no, there was another farther down the road.
This was Mecca – a true 24-hour gas station, glory be hallelujah! Let the angels sing and the light shine down from the heavens! We quickly put in about €12 of gas and started off on our last dash to the airport. I sped the rest of the way on N and M roads. We got there around 7:00.
The weather today was beautiful, of course, on the day we left. We even saw another rainbow as we emerged from the tunnel that bypasses Limerick.
We dropped our car off at Dan Dooley – and I want to say, I've rented cars in Ireland four times and the UK three other times, and this was the smoothest, most helpful agency I've ever dealt with. They were quick, efficient, no hidden charges at checkout, and very friendly. I highly recommend them! I told the clerk I was concerned about making my flight – he said no problem, he knew the pilot and that he would wait for us (yeah, right).
We took the shuttle into the airport, and got into line to check in – and now I realized why the clerk was so sanguine about our flight. It looked like the only flight leaving that morning, and we were all in line to check in for it. Customs came with little laptops on rolling desks to pre-screen us. There were four or five clerks, so the line moved somewhat quickly, but we were still in line for about a half hour. Everyone was on the same flight, though, so I wasn't too concerned.
I found the VAT windows to turn in my receipts without problem, and a small wait. They are more efficient at it than they were. If more shops took the new VAT card, it would be even easier – that meant no paperwork, just swipe the card at the shop and swipe it at the airport, and voila! All done.
We got to the gate just as boarding started, couldn't be more perfect. Since this was a day flight, I gave up thought of sleeping (it's hard enough on an overnight, dark flight), and watched movies. I watched This is Spinal Tap, Music & Lyrics, Inglorious Bastards and Season of the Witch. None was great, but all had some entertainment value and kept me occupied.
Getting into Newark, we had a four hour wait, but we had electronic entertainment and snacky bits; we were fine. Our gate was moved, and it was a strange little add-on gate. The flight was late boarding by about 45 minutes (was late getting in) but we had no other flights to catch, so I was unworried.
When we got back to PIT, we collected our luggage, I called my shuttle, found my car, and drove the 1.5 hours home. I was pretty exhausted, but happy that most of the trip went without major hitch. The most worrying part was the gasless drive back to the airport that morning, and we did what we could.
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