Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm not dead yet

I am sorry that I haven't blogged throughout the entire bike ride. Either computers weren't available or I was so tired that as soon as supper was over I started going to bed.  Something about riding 60 +/- miles a day up and down mountains tires a person out.

I'm now back in Jerusalem and borrowing my friend's computer until he needs it. So if I sign off in the middle it is because he has first dibs on it.

The riders were grouped into 3 groups.  Advanced who rode the farthest and the fastest, the medium and the beginner who rode the first half of the day and then went sight seeing the rest of the day.  I rode with the medium group called Tzofim.

We were still in the middle of a terrible heat wave the first day of the ride.  Before lunch the temps got as high as 113 degrees F!  I heard that somebody was carrying a cell phone in his back pocket and the plastic part of it melted!  Because of the extreme heat, the officials of the tour cut the ride short.  We rode only 23 miles in that heat before lunch.  We took a lot of pit stops.  I remember just sitting down on the lip of the trunk and drinking water bottle after water bottle of water.  And that was after taking sips of water every few minutes coupled with sips of an energy drink.  My mouth was always dry.  Believe it or not the weather broke after lunch.  It was probably only in the mid 90s.We had an option to ride the SAG bus to our hotel in Ashkelon or continue riding.  The advance group called Halutzim not only continued but still rode their extra miles.  They were averaging 20 mph even in that heat.  I decided to push on and off course had my first and only flat tower.  The mechanics couldn't stop were I was so they loaded the bike on the SAG bus, I jumped on the bus and rode for a couple of miles until we reached a bus stop.  They fixed my flat (thank God, my only one) and I continued my ride.  I had to push to catch up to the group.  The road flat with rolling hills.  The sweep rider from the crew complimented me for riding so fast.  Apparently he had some doubts about my ability since he didn't know me or know how hard I trained.  I made it to Ashkelon on my bike, 53 miles in that heat, but boy was I exhausted by the end of the day.

To back up for a moment.  We left Jerusalem and rode past Har Herzl and Yad Vashem.  We took a turn down a very steep hill.   It was the first of 3 major declines.  I've learned that no matter how much I might complain about riding up hill, down hills scare me even more.  To my chagrin, each down hill became steeper and more dangerous especially since we couldn't block traffic.  Israeli drivers had two different honks.  One was a loud angry horn saying get out of my way the other which I have to admit was much more frequent, people beeped us encouraging honks and waved.  They were probably laughing on the inside looking at so many of us crazy people (approx. 120 of us including the crew)  riding in this weather.

Once we got into our hotel, we showered and ate.  Bruce Stanger, my friend who talked me into this ride, called on some of our mutual Israeli camp friends who live in a near by moshav.  They came and welcome us.  I was so tired I could barely speak so I listened a lot.  I went up to my room to get my camera and take their picture.  I was so tired I forgot to take out the camera from my pocket to take their picture.  I only realized it when I went to bed and undressed.

We had to go to bed early because wake up was at 4:30 am so we could be on the rode by 5:45 am and beat some of the heat.

Going to Ashkelon was basically going down hill from Jerusalem.  On Thursday we started our journey to the Machtash Rimon in the center of the Negev and it was basically uphill all the way.  We climbed over 830 meters to get to the Machtash over two days.  Thursday we climbed about a third of the way and Friday we climbed the rest of the way to our hotel.

This week's Torah portion Vayera was perfect for this ride.  One of our rest stops was at a gas station in Gerar.  Once again Abraham tried to pass off Sarah as his sister instead of his wife.  He was afraid that Avimelech, king of Gerar would kill him and take his wife.  I didn't know until our tour guide pointed out that Gerar was outside of Israel's borders up and until David became king.  That's why it was so dangerous and Abraham was willing to use that ploy again.  Why anyone would want to set up a kingdom in that desolate area beats me.

Later we stopped at Gan Golda, named after Golda Meir.  There is a natural pool of water that has been expanded my human beings.  According to Beduin tradition this is the well that saved Ishmael's life when Abraham expelled him from his camp with his mother.  We read this story on the first day of Rosh Hashana and this past Shabbat.  We passed Paran where the Torah says Ishmael and his descendants lived.  It was neat how it made the Torah portion for Shabbat to come even more alive.

As we climbed to our hotel in Mishabey Sadeh, I was happy to live in Northeast Queens.  Climbing 61st Ave and Douglaston Parkway/Winchester really helped me a lot.  Many of my friends from Spfld marveled at my climbing ability.  They began to take it for granted that when I would make my move, I would pass them by.  In their eyes I was speeding along. I didn't let that get to my ego because I knew if I moved up to the Halutzim I would be a straggler.  If fact one day I did pass the Tzofim by and at a rest stop I joined some stragglers from Halutzim with their lead biker.  They left me in the dust.  By the end of the day's ride I had covered 71 miles a personal high for me.

I am turning over the computer to Peretz now so I'll sign off for a bit.

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