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When you think of a vacation outdoors, it's difficult not to think of Ireland. Ireland has a long tradition of roaming the countryside, either on horseback or walking. When you're there, all you need is a sturdy carved stick, good rain gear and you're ready to walk over lush, green hills and past centuries-old stone walls.

Sounds like heaven, right? Well, we sent humorist Cash Peters to Ireland for few days of hearty Irish activity -- and we don't mean lifting pints. Like he always does, Cash. found absurdity in what most of us consider to be the "idyllic outdoor trip."

Great Outdoors

By Cash Peters, 5/17/2002

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According to ancient myth, when God finished making Great Britain, He found He had this tiny little bit left over, and this He decided to call Ireland. Anyway, it's a lush, green, wonderful place. I know this because the Irish Tourist Board was foolish enough to invite me and a bunch of journalists over there, for free, to sample southern Ireland's outdoor activities. Our first stop was Bannanstown Riding School near Dublin for a spot of what experts call "horseback-riding."

Cash: "What's the trick?"

Rider: "The trick to horses? Respect them, like them, enjoy them."

Cash: "You got that from a leaflet, didn't you?"

Rider: "No, I didn't." (laughs)

Trainer: "Hold on to the front of the saddle -- most of the horses have manes."

Rider Guy: "People mostly have an exaggerated opinion of their ability to ride. I once saw a girl who told me she rode a lot getting on the wrong side of a horse and facing backwards. She must surely have had an exaggerated opinion of her own ability."

Cash: "How much have you ridden before?"

Rider: "Well, I rode as a teenager, but that was a very long time ago. So, we'll see what happens when we get going."

Cash: "This one looks like a very old kitchen table with a head."

Rider: "She's a little scruffy this morning. She needs to have her hair combed."

Trainer: "Okay, let's all trot on, then, and if we could all close up..."

Well, I'm sorry -- no way were they getting me on one of these galloping death traps. I don't horse-ride and I don't Riverdance -- these are the two rules I live by. And the school's owner, Jane Kennedy, thought I was very wise.

Jane: "If you really don't want to do it and you're afraid, then your fear is going to take over, and I think you were probably wise, because there's no point doing something you don't want to do -- makes the horse tense."

Precisely. So instead, while everyone rode their horses, I did the next best thing: I ran alongside.

Cash: "Because this is radio, everybody will think I'm on a horse... Oh, the joys of horse-riding. I feel really comfortable in the saddle." (laughs)

Trainer: "You obviously had a bad experience."

Cash: "I got manure up my nose."

Trainer: "Oh, very pleasant."

(sound of someone singing)

This is our coach driver. Most Irish songs have, on average, 177 verses and take the best part of a week to sing, so it's a good way to pass the time. Anyway, if you're not into riding, why not try cycling around Ireland? After all, what's a bike, but a horse with wheels? Or, if that's too strenuous, walk. Catherine Fulvio runs walking tours from Ballyknocken Farm in County Wicklow. She doesn't believe her guests should have to rough it.

Catherine: "You do have to look after your walkers -- they like that."

You see, now here's a woman who understands my needs. Although, be warned, if you do go walking in Wicklow, you'll be the laughing stock of the locals.

Catherine: "I do know of farmers in the mountains who think it's absolutely hysterical that people will pay money to come on holidays to walk across the land that farmers own. When the farmer goes to get the sheep -- for him that's a chore, to walk -- he can't believe that somebody would pay money to do that."

Me neither. That's why I stayed in the coach. I also stayed behind in the coach while the group climbed a mountain, and I tried to stay behind while they went on a boat trip up the River Shannon.

Guide: "Are you coming?"

Cash: "I don't know. Will it be wobbly?"

Guide: "Michael, this man is...."

Heckler: "A wimp."

Guide: "...has had a bad water experience."

Cash: "A psychic told me not to go on boats 'cuz I might drown."

Captain: "You won't drown."

Cash: "Do you have insurance?"

Captain: "Doesn't matter -- you won't drown."

Guide: "This is a novelty trip on a Viking boat because you can dress up as a Viking."

Cash: "Why would I want to dress up as a Viking?"

Guide: "It's part of the atmosphere. It's a replica boat and the Vikings did sail these waters."

Cash: (Coughing)

Guide: "Yes, a little bit of smog there."

He's still going. Actually, the Viking Tours trip was very exhilarating, although, to be honest, the wind on the river is strong enough to rip the hairs from your nostrils. Finally, though, back to the horse-riding. After an hour up a mountain in horizontal rain, the group returned.

Cash: "Welcome back. We missed you."

First Woman: "You missed me?"

Cash: "Actually, I didn't give you a thought from the moment I said goodbye."

Rider: "The hardest part was getting off the horse."

Cash: "Why?"

Rider: "My muscles aren't attuned to that sort of activity -- getting off horses. I feel like a drink, but I think I'll be rubbing it on, rather than drinking it." (laughs)

Cash: "So how was it?"

Second Woman: "I can't feel my legs. My bum is so sore -- you don't want to know. But it was great, the scenery was worth it. It was fabulous."

She's right, it is fabulous. And whether you hike across mountains, cycle dreamily along winding country lanes, or just do as I did -- stay on the coach staring wistfully at your airline ticket home, you're sure to enjoy it. In Dublin, southern Ireland, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.

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