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32 Counties International Pigeon Racing by Michael Feeney - 19-08-21

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The first road trip of my lifetime started on Friday the 6th of August at approximately 8:00 PM. Myself and John Heffernan made our way to Dublin Port with a view to driving across Europe to collect the 32 Counties International Pigeon Racing trailer. This trailer is the culmination of approximately 10 months work by myself. The reason for the road trip was very, very simple. After ordering and paying for the trailer by April 2021. I was then let down three times by individuals who said they would collect and deliver the trailer to Ireland from Poland.

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So I decided to do a little video and an article to show people what actually happened over the last few days and explain the rigmaroles of actually doing something like this for yourself. The journey itself was fairly uneventful. Personally driving with John Heffernan, it was good company and there was never a moment of quiet times, it was actually very pleasant to spend so much time in close proximity to somebody like him. I have known John probably since I was about eight years of age and although John doesn't remember me at that age I remember him. When I was about 15 whilst I was loading transporters with crates loaded with pigeons, lifting them on my own, he gave me sound advice about looking after my own body for years to come. Something that has stuck with me since.

After the first individual let me down collecting the trailer I start putting contingencies in place that if it came to this I would have everything ready to go should I actually have to do this myself. I talked to John and talked to anybody that was relevant around me that needed to know what was going on, I was lucky enough that John agreed to come with me. More than that John’s experience of driving the continent himself in his lifetime it has been absolutely amazing to be able to draw on that knowledge as I was driving across the continent with him.

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Obviously from Dublin we could either start out from Dublin or Rosslare. The decision was made to travel from Dublin because although it made an extra hour travelling through the UK it was the thought this would be better than having an extra 2 hours travelling coming from Rosslare to Dublin when arriving home. The boat trip was pretty uneventful we got a berth to put our heads down for a couple of hours and then offloaded ourselves at Holyhead. We drove across the UK from Holyhead to Dover. The only thing we did throughout the journey apart from driving was stopped to refuel and use facilities. All in all a pretty uneventful trip across the UK on the way out. After landing in Dover we were then on the ferry to Calais in France. This is where it got interesting for the first time. After previously refilling we were now down to approximately 100 kilometres left and the tank we decided we would drive onto the motorway and stop at the fuel service station to refuel. I can tell you it was a bit funny when we had reached 40 kilometres left in the tank and still haven’t seen a service station and we're almost out of France almost through Dunkirk. We actually ended up leaving the motorway heading into towards Dunkirk just to find a petrol station to refuel. After driving around in circles for about 15 minutes and having no luck actually even seeing a petrol station. At a bus stop I saw some French people and used my smattering of French “Alo Alo” I said to get their attention. These nice people after me pointing at the petrol tank understood what I wanted and pointed us in the right direction. This was the first of not so many incidents that where easily solved throughout the journey. Back on the road we went and simply carried on driving.

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When I say carry on driving it wasn't as easy as that. We left Calais approximately 9:30 AM and I can tell you it was drive drive, drive, drive. We passed through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany then arrived at our destination in Poland. Although it was a constant drive it wasn't without its ups and downs. We were following as you do in this day and age Google Maps. For the most part Google Maps was absolutely fantastic. We only had a few hairy moments when we had to veer off right and then there was immediate forks left and right and at one point we did end up going cross country from one motorway to another somewhere in Germany. We travelled the autobahn and I can honestly tell you it was like driving in another world compared to Ireland or the UK. The speeds some of these cars were doing was absolutely crazy and we were not going slow ourselves. It was roughly 1200 kilometres from Calais to our destination just West of Poznan in Poland. After a long, long drive starting at 9:00 AM from Calais we eventually landed at 10:45 at the hotel. Most lads would have a few beers just to wind down after such a journey. For us it was a bite to eat and head down ready for the next morning and breakfast before their return journey started.

We landed at the yard of the company where the trailer was made. It was 8:00 AM and this is where we came across a minor complication regarding the electrics connecting the trailer electrics to the van electrics. the male and female connections were completely different. Myself and Dariusz from the company checked a couple of garages to get an adapter and eventually found a motor mechanic store that was closed as it was Sunday.

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Luckily enough Dariusz woke up the owner of the shop who lived next door and was lucky enough for me that she opened the store and had an adapter for me. From there it was plain sailing and a very, very long drive on the return journey back to Calais after taking roughly 13 hours one way took 17 hours back. The drawing was relatively smooth the trailer was easy to pull the van was well capable however our speeds were now no more than 80 to 90 kilometres an hour approximately 50 miles an hour. this simply meant added time on the drive back. It felt like it will never end. To be constantly driving for those 17 hours I have to say is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

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I was lucky enough to be sharing the driving with John as we have done the previous day but that didn't change the fact that both of us were moving constantly for that time. We didn’t take any breaks apart from refilling stations. We just kept moving on to our destination like I said after leaving at 9:00 AM morning we arrived 3:30 AM Sunday morning at Calais Port. The next ferry was approximately 4:15 AM which we were on from Calais to Dover. We were off the boat at approximately 6:00 AM (5 AM UK time) and the last long leg began. I was very happy to be driving on the right side of the road again as we set off for Holyhead. In all fairness after having roughly an hour sleep on the Calais ferry to Dover this was probably the most difficult part of the journey. The rain as we left Dover was so heavy our speeds had to be reduced even further not that this was an issue as safety was paramount and making sure we got home safely.

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It then took approximately 10 hours to drive from Dover to Holyhead. Again it was non-stop only stopping to refuel grab a sandwich and a coffee and keep moving. The only eventful thing that really happened along the way was that the van got a puncture. Not something we could not do anything about in reality except change the tyre which we did and again kept moving. Finally landing in Holyhead us 3:30 pm the next both was at 5:30 pm. We were on this boat and again pretty uneventful have a bite to eat and try to get a few minutes sleep, but as this was swift sailing we landed in Dublin 2 hours later. One of the best things I have ever seen arriving in Dublin was the port tunnel that meant we had a short journey to home from the boat.

At this point I would like to make it very clear that this would never have happened without the help of the 32 individual fanciers that gave me a pigeon each for a sale in order to help Irish long distance pigeon racing go further. My intention has always been to push long and extreme distance racing into Ireland which is not done on a regular basis at present. I started this process pushing with the BICC  Irish racing to a point where we have 129 Irish members of the BICC. This trailer now in Ireland will be used by 32 Counties International Pigeon Racing to promote encourage and foster long and extreme distance racing into Ireland right out to international level. This has been a goal of mine for a very long time and will be able to facilitative easier with this trailer.

Personally I can honestly say I couldn't be happier with the outcome of what I set out to do and what I have achieved to help Irish distance racing into Ireland so far. This has only whetted my appetite to continue to promote, foster and encourage bigger distance racing into Ireland. I look forward to more and more fancier's north South East and West of the country taking part whenever they want to.

As you can see along the way we got a couple of snaps. John caught me sleeping on the Dover to Calais run. One of our cross country trip after missing an exit in Germany and of course after the couple of the trailer we have the main man himself changing the flat. All in all a very successful trip.

Until next time

Michael

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