Sunday we went down a steep hill to get to Keturah. Eilat is only 51 klms from Keturah on Highway 90, extremely busy road with cars, trucks and buses. Obviously, we wanted to avoid that highway at all costs so we backtracked and went up that gigantic hill to take a more quiet route to Eilat. The halutzim actually rode their bikes up that hill. It took them over an hour to reach the summit, the rest of us were bussed to the top to a previous days rest stop, Ne'ot Smadar, and agricultural kibbutz with organic desert farming techniques. There is a restaurant there that sells organic ice cream and other snacks which our group took advantage yesterday.
From there I began my 835 meter climb to Mt. Hizkiyahu. I don't remember whether it is the highest spot in Israel or just the Negev, but the ride was basically straight up. Near the top of the Mt. there is a short but extremely steep incline to reach the summit. I am happy to say that I finished strong. I fell behind Bruce Stanger who is in such great shape going up the mt, but passed him on that steep last incline. Not because I was showing off, but I felt if I stopped peddling as hard as I was, I would never get up that last grade. From the top of Mt Hizkiyahu, you can actually see 4 countries, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and of course Israel. That was pretty neat. There we ate lunch and waited for the haluzim to catch up to us. We were determined that they wouldn't lap us and they didn't. A small victory. Somehow out the blue an ice cream truck appeared selling their cool treats on a hot desert day. Hazon didn't order the truck to come. Somehow they knew there was going to be customers who would be very happy to cool down with some ice cream treats.
What goes up must come down. The ride down to Eilat was so scary to me. It was a long winding 5 mile descent. Cross winds were also a factor. As I wrote earlier one rider seriously got hurt going down the mt way too fast. He is still in the TLV hospital. I even felt at one juncture I was loosing control of my bike and I was afraid of falling. Thank God, I regained control of my bike and myself and continued downward. I stopped once to look at the view which was gorgeous of the Gulf of Eilat. I continued down to the rest stop. We were all shaken up from the descent and the terrible accident. So much so that we took the wrong route to the hotel. We didn't have a permit to ride thru the city so we were supposed to take some back roads which were safer anyway. The crew was blocking traffic at the circles to allow us to pass by safely. One crew member was taken away by the police for doing just that, but I am sure that it all worked out in the end and he was released.
We finally made it to the beach. I have to admit arriving there was a very emotional moment for me. Just processing that I had actually rode my bike from Jerusalem all the way to Eilat. What an accomplishment. Howie Hausman took my picture on the beach with my bike. After going into the water for a bit and enjoying some food left out for us, I went to the hotel, got in line to get my bike packed, and went up to my room for a shower. By the time I was all cleaned up, my bike was up for packing. I got that squared away and had free time until our final banquet.
The final banquet was just like camp. There were a variety of speakers and a slide show. One of the crew members took professional phots along the way. They were unbelievably beautiful and dramatic. I didn't see myself, but I didn't have the best view of the screen. We're all supposed to get a cd of those pics in the mail. I'll share them when I they arrive. We each got a certificate of completion and a group photo to take home.
The ride was officially over.