Without further fiasco I pulled into Mrs. O’Shea’s establishment around dinnertime. I was nauseous from the emotional stress of the accidents and exhausted from the intense concentration driving demanded. As my shaky legs stepped out of the car, I noticed to my rekindled chagrin that the left side mirror was folded back. It must have happened when it kissed the angel lady’s mirror. Fortunately, it was easily snapped into its original position. At least that was one blessing this brand-new car could bestow! Scared to risk further inspection but compelled to do so, I discovered I was missing a rear hubcap, as well.
WHAT? How had THAT happened?
In a flash, my intuition presented me with a cellular memory I had not consciously registered at the time of occurrence: what seemed a lifetime ago but happened only earlier that day. While driving from Limerick to Adare on another narrow winding country path, I now recall that oncoming truck lumbering toward me at breakneck speed smack in the center of the no-room-for-both-of-us road! I leaned into the shoulder as closely as I could to avert collision. But there was no shoulder to lean on. Just a bunch of rocks. Like a puzzle piece clicking into place, I am certain that was the moment Clio’s hubcap ran away from home.
This inauspicious day transitioned to a restless night of bad dreams and cold sweats. I was still nauseous at breakfast the next morning. Terror continued to squeeze my intestines like a vise. But I decided I would continue my trip and not call it quits. At least not yet.
Unaware of yesterday’s trauma, my chatty hostess suggested I take a lovely drive through Conor Pass on my way to Dingle. It was the highest mountain pass in Ireland. Sure enough, it could be challenging, but Irish luck was smiling upon us, a clear day was dawning, and the views would be spectacular.
I thanked her for the wonderful idea but repelled it with an inner tremor.
I made a brief stop in town to visit the Tralee Museum before resuming my itinerary. The sun was shining brilliantly now; its warm, friendly companionship reassuring me all was well. My spirits were buoyed.
Maybe I should try Conor Pass? I remained noncommittal and decided I would decide upon reaching the proverbial fork in the road.
The Sign came into view. Without hesitation I turned onto the exit ramp to follow the arrow. No way could I allow fear to prevent me from experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even the warning at the foot of the Pass did not deter me. “Attention: Turn Back Now” was boldly stated in three languages on a large yellow placard amplified by the stone-grey mountain backdrop.
The warning wasn’t meant for ALL drivers. It prohibited tour buses, large campers, and heavy trucks because the road was narrow and serpentine with certain stretches so constricted automobiles could not pass each other safely. There was a startling graphic of a car teetering on a vertical cliff with a precipitous drop.
I began the drive slowly and cautiously. As promised, the views were stunning. As I continued the ascent, however, it felt unwise to take my eyes off the road to enjoy them. The path was very twisty-turny. My anxiety escalated proportionately with increased altitude. The absence of guardrails on the cliff’s edge was an unexpected shock. With my excellent peripheral vision, I could see the abyss lurking within inches of my tires. I prayed without ceasing.
At the top of the Pass, I parked and got out of the car to stretch my legs and take in the vast panorama. It was a chance to relax the ghost-knuckled grip of my cramping hands, as well. Fortunately, the traffic had been sparse, and no game of chicken had presented itself.
Breathing in the elevated air and appreciating the glorious vista, my senses were lured by a lone harpist perched on a rock in the distance. Her exquisite music wafted on the wings of the wind into the portal of my delighted ears. I was overwhelmed by the ethereal, magical, mystical beauty that completely infused me. It was so Irish.
With one last inhalation of melody, I returned reluctantly to Clio’s four walls and began the long, steep descent. I remained in second gear the entire way. Thank God, my prayers were answered. Not one car appeared to thwart my trajectory.
Arrival in Dingle flooded me with indescribable relief and a feeling of exultant victory. I had overcome my fear of driving by traversing what was likely the most difficult road I would encounter in Ireland, perhaps anywhere. I was exhilarated recalling the miracle of that harpist’s transcendent music, like God’s own voice drifting with the clouds high above the world. An incredible gift I would have missed had I succumbed to my craving for safety and comfort. As an extra-added bonus, I was emboldened now with a courage I had not embodied just hours ago. Conor Pass reminded me that, regardless of any fear we face, there is always safe deliverance to terra firma.
The remainder of my time in Ireland offered many more adventures, triggered more fears, and presented more delights, but from this point forward a four-leaf clover was my constant traveling companion.