Jerusalem- Patrol Road- Shekef
60km/37mi distance; 1540m/5050ft ascent
After the send off ceremony at Malha, Jerusalem we ride through the Mediterranean forest of the Shalmon and Koby ranges of the Judean Hills. After a long ascent from Koby Bridge we stop for coffee at the Menta gas station at Mevo Betar and rest after completing the difficult part of the day.
We cross Tzur Hadassah and join the Old Patrol Road, the length of which we will ride until the end of the day.
First, we will descend westwards on the slopes of the Sansan Range with views of the Ellah Valley near the route of the 35 fighters on their way to the besieged Gush Etzion. We will stop for lunch near Moshav Aderet and continue through the the Adulam Strip towards the Lachish Strip in the Judean foothills. Our winding route will take us past rolling chalky hills and views of many historical sites and the extensive system of hiding places used during the Bar Kochba rebellion.
We will end the day’s riding at Moshav Shekef with a short ceremony for the one day GalgAlyn riders. The bikes will be taken to Lahav and we will go by bus to Beer Sheva for the night.
The “Tip of the Blade” group – those who ride faster - have the option to continue to Lahav (FYI: “lahav” when translated into Hebrew means “blade”!!!) which is an additional 18 kilometers of fast riding. The latest time that this group can leave Moshav Shekef is 2.45 p.m. The “Tip of the Blade” Group will have transportation from Lahav to Beer Sheva.
I am so nervous that I will oversleep that I find it nearly impossible to sleep the night before the ride and find myself waking up every few hours to anxiously check the clock. By the time morning rolls around I am already wiped. When Natalie comes by to pick me up at 6AM, I discover she has had the same experience and is similarly tired. No worries—I am sure that there will be coffee waiting for us at the starting point. Shockingly, this is not the case. Fortunately, it turns out that Malcha Mall, in addition to featuring a huge parking lot just right for bike-ride send-offs and many fine bathrooms, also has an Aroma which is open and is doing a brisk business in sales of caffeine to sleep-deprived bikers. I buy myself a café au-lait for the road.
The Ride is officially kicked off with a deeply moving opening ceremony. In the interests of full disclosure, I do not actually know that the opening ceremony is moving because, as usual, I cannot hear a damn thing. Rather, I am making an assumption. I think my assumption is fairly safe; G-d forbid one have an event chock full of tourists (much less an opening ceremony full of tourists) without it being "deeply moving ".
And now, with the speed and grace of a drunk, obese water buffalo, over five hundred bikers try to hit the road, all at once. Fortunately, no one is seriously injured in the process. Eventually, I am off as well. Once there, I soon discover that my training was, to put it mildly, insufficient.
I mean, I knew it was insufficient. Mandy, my official Alyn Posse person, trained religiously all summer—going out to ride several times a week and really pushing herself on uphills and downhills. Every so often, she would check in by email. "My friends and I biked up and down Mount Hermon last Friday. I don't know…I mean, it wasn't that bad, but still, do you think I am ready?" As for me, for most of the summer, the primary action that my bike got was in the form of fifteen-minute (round trip) jaunts to Ibn Gvirol to get ice cream at Vaniglia and THAT was only because biking was faster and cooler than walking and because the cookies 'n cream ice cream at Vaniglia beats anything offered at the local merkolet, hands down. It was only once September hit and I realized "oh yes, I have a five day bike ride coming up in two months", that I really started to work. Alas, it was too little, too late and coming after several months of seriously heavy cookies 'n cream ice cream consumption.
So yes, I did realize I was in deep shit.
I just did not fully comprehend the depth of the shit I was in.
Now I do. I am to spend the next five days riding my bike up and down hills and through rocks and gravel and up and down hills covered with rocks and gravel…and not only am I not physically ready, I also do not have the slightest clue as to how one actually does this, apart from 1) walking my bike for five days straight or 2) falling off my bike and killing myself.
More experienced riders see me struggling and take pity on me. One of them, Moshe (G-d bless him), gives me a crash course in how to ride down hills. "Push your butt back as far as you can. Keep your back straight and your arms loose—put the weight on your legs and not your arms. Go slowly. Focus on the path ahead and not the part directly in front of you. Do not try to brake while riding over loose rocks or gravel". As best as I can, I follow try to follow these guidelines. For the next five days, every time I go down a hill, I keep up a running commentary with myself. "Slow, slow, ass backbackback….yes, you can do it. Tighten your thighs, weight back, push the back of the bike dooooooown. Keep the arms loose…loosen up your hands. No no no, don't look at that rock—you already know it is there, it is what it is—look ahead. Up you go! Down--don't panic, you got it. NICE! Good for you! Okay, don't get too cocky. Slow…look aheadaheadahead. Okay, gravel, watch the brakes Gila…. Youcandoityoucandoit. Ass back, bike down. Gently now. Don't brake here…no…wait…yes, brake now…okay and now let off the brakes. Go you!"
Not surprisingly, I am plagued with headaches the first three days of the ride. Furthermore, by mid-day of Day One, my thighs are cramping up from the unaccustomed stress. Apparently, keeping ones' ass back, especially when said ass is the size of mine, taxes the thigh muscles considerably. Each time I get a cramp I am forced to get off my bike and hobble along, sloshing back Gatorade, until the cramp passes and I can straighten my legs again.
Mandy, of course, is doing great.
Finally, finally, it is over. The "tip of the blade" fast riders (read "suckers") are to do another 18 kilometers. But I am not anywhere near the tip of the blade. I am more like the end bits of the ceremonial tassel on the hilt, so for me this is the end of the road. Granted, maybe in the morning, before we started, I did think that maybe I would like to do that extra 18 kilometers. You know, to challenge myself. Because I like to challenge myself. By lunchtime, I accepted that this was not particularly realistic. By the time I get to the end, all I want to do was collapse and die.
A few bananas and a cup of coffee later, I am slightly more revived. As the other riders watch the Deeply Moving Short Ceremony for the one-day Galgalyn riders, I call my friend Kayla to update her.
"Where are you?" she asks.
"Somewhere between BeerSheva and Jerusalem that has real coffee, bananas and that does not require me to ride my bike".
Somehow she manages to figure out from this that I am in Moshav Shekef. I am not entirely sure where I am. But the coffee is tasty and I have officially survived Day One so I am happy.
Tonight, at 6.30, we will have the treat of seeing and hearing about some of the children being treated at ALYN Hospital for whom YOU are riding this week and also about those whose rehabilitation has been supported from funds raised by those riders who have participated in previous WOL Rides. A very special and dramatic surprise is planned this year during this presentation by Brenda Hirsch. Not to be missed!!
The presentation starts as I am enjoying a chat with MOChassid. He is scooped up to attend. I, of course, do not attend. If there was one thing I have learned from my nearly seven years experience as a Poor Sad Heroic Victim of Terror, it is that anything denoted as "special and dramatic" should absolutely be missed. On a similar yet only marginally related note, over my seven-plus years in Israel I have also learned to avoid any class, seminar or lecture which includes as part of its title any one of the following words or phrases: spirituality, consciousness, mysticism, soul/neshama, self-expression, healing, interpretive dance, moving, emotional, relationship, search for happiness… and anything else which hints at happy-clappy content.
You know, this is probably why I am not married.