The itinerary for my first ever road trip left nothing up to chance: put on a big smile, start the car, take the coastal route out of Belfast, hop across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, eat a picnic lunch, have a dander around Giant’s Causeway, eat some cake to celebrate a day well spent. The only thing I could not plan in advance was the weather…
As my two friends and I drove out of Belfast, we were wearing a uniform of Barbie T-Shirts, floral crowns and wide smiles. Nothing was going to ruin this for us. Sure, we could not locate the coastal route and had to drive through a series of winding, mildly scenic roads overrun by sheep and weeds. But the sun was high up in the sky and our spirits even higher.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
When we arrived to the site of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, we could not help but notice the midnight-blue storm clouds overhead. “It looks like it might start raining soon,” my friend tried to warn me, but I refused to listen. This day has to be perfect! My first ever road trip shall not be ruined by bad weather!
In my mind, the setting for my first ever road trip had to be fairy tale perfect. Do you see the writing on that telescope? I thought it was a modern poem written by someone called G. M. K. Vending. That’s how excited I was! Did I mention this was my first ever road trip?
As we neared the bridge, its ropes were swaying in the wind and I noticed a little pebble skip off its edge and fall into the crystal water below. Gulp. I put my first foot forward and began to walk across. I could feel drops of perspiration on my forehead. Damn, I hadn’t realised I was so nervous, I thought.
Well, I wasn’t. It was the rain, trying to shatter my perfect fairy tale. It’s just a little sprinkle! I smiled and frolicked onward, full of self-denial. But it wasn’t. Soon enough, ropes of cold water were whipping us back and forth as we searched for shelter. Then, keeping with the general fairy tale theme I’d established in my head earlier, I noticed a tiny wisp of smoke rising from a little white chimney. Warmth. Shelter.
The little white chimney was attached to a little white fisherman’s cottage. We huddled near the fire and listened as a shriveled up old grandmother told us stories of its past. Fine, she may have been a blonde twentysomething employee of Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge centre – please don’t rain on my parade. I mean it – please stop raining on it! Anyway, the stories!
Once upon a time, when salmon fishing was a flourishing industry in Carrick-a-Rede, four fishermen lived in the house, catching hundred of fish every day. That was back in 1755, when the first rope bridge was built on the island. Generations of fishermen worked in the area, working hard to provide everyone along the North Coast with delicious pink salmon. But then, at the beginning of the 21st century, everything changed. Sea pollution, dirt flowing in from the nearby rivers and excessive fishing pressure brought the local industry to a halt. In 2002, the last fisherman had to abandon his nets, leaving the house exactly as it was and not bothering to take anything with him. It seems he had bigger fish to fry. Yes, I regret that awful pun now. No, I can’t take it back.
Warmed by the fire, we decided to venture out again. It’s just a little water, I kept telling myself and my friends. Fighting back against years of unfair prejudice Amy – the blondest of the roadtripping Barbie trio – proved to be the smartest, having packed a sturdy rain jacket, but even without it we could all still muster enough excitement to pose for a happy picture on the bridge. Our happiness did not last long. Soon, the rain took on astronomic proportions and our shoes slowly began to turn into portable foot baths. It was like a million shitty, unwanted pedicures rolled into one.
As abruptly as it had started, the rain came to a sudden halt. The grey sky turned blue again, pretending to be all innocent. The day was perfect again! I could resume my pretend fairy tale road trip! We wolfed down our sandwiches in the car – a slight step-down from the lavish picnic I’d imagined, but nothing could stop me now. I even bought a £1.50 rain poncho on my way back so that I could soak up the wonders of Northern Irish countryside with every morsel of my being, but not as literally as before.
As we drove toward our next stop, I was back to full Disney mode. I even found a giant pink tractor to ride into my private battle against bad weather and I had more animal helpers than Snow White herself. Look at that little sheep in the corner, looking at me with pure unadulterated adoration!
So, what do you think came next? More sunshine for my happy road trip? Negative. Black skies, ugly rain and ponchos. But you know what? Screw Disney for filling my childhood ears with deceptively cheerful graphics! I don’t know why it took me so long to realise that no amount of rain could ever stop me from enjoying my very own roadtrippin’ fairy tale.
No amount of rain could prevent me from posing on top of the stones of Giant’s Causeway like a cross between a mermaid and a deranged tourist.
No amount of bad weather was going to stop us, because – come rain or come shine – we’d planned to have an amazing day. Like I said before, the itinerary for my first ever road trip left nothing up to chance: put on a big smile, start the car, take the coastal route out of Belfast, hop across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, eat a picnic lunch, have a dander around Giant’s Causeway, eat some cake to celebrate a day well spent.
So we ran back to the car and began working on the last item on our list – cake eating. As we sat in the car, ripping off pieces of cake with our hands and laughing like maniacs, the rain stopped again and we could see a beautiful rainbow forming in the distance. They say there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, but I wouldn’t have traded my soggy piece of cake for any amount of it.
Have you ever been on a trip during which everything went to spectacularly wrong that it ended up being absolutely incredible? Share your stories with me – I’d love to hear them!