November 13, 2010

Alyn Bike Ride 2010 - Day 4

Wednesday October 27
Kibbutz Mashabei Sade to Besor Wadi Be’eri

Distance: 78 km/48 mi
Ascent: 400 m/1310 ft

I woke to a garden budding with yellow shirts and blooming with white socks. It looked like the morning after a party – except everyone was up early, looking healthy, vibrant and fresh. The cyclists were soon out tuning their bikes, all ready for a brand new day of cycling.

I felt my daily angst but was assuaged by the fact that the first 30 km this morning would be on road – a great relief as for me, the more technical off road riding involves balancing intense concentration with sheer terror.

We left this morning at 7:45 feeling fresh and positive. As we cycled down the flat paved road from Revivim to Tze'elim, I felt that life was good and the day would surely be easy. The landscape looked more like Arizona as the red sharp mountains gave way to soft dunes. Army bases dotted the road side and we saw tanks creeping over the dunes and firing deep booming shots. Army jeeps raced on paths beside us, sending a wave of choking sand and grit at us. We also passed huge pens of ostriches that would run in a panic every time they heard a boom – which must have been every few minutes. The ostriches actually looked more freaked out than me. Some of them were so out of control in their panicked run, they practically fell over their own bulky wings. We also passed a huge city on the horizon with high rise towers and minarets. ‘This is a fake city used for army practice,’ one of the cyclists shouted out as we pedaled by.

After a quick roadside stop where we had cold water and sweet pears, we continued on road into the heat of the day. Our next stop was at a bird watching park and then back onto the road until we stopped for lunch. This was the 30 km point - now we just had 50 km of off roads before us! As the desert landscape gave way, we traded rocks for sand and pushed ourselves onward. We were hot and tired, sandy and sweaty but pedaled on. We rode up and around fields of oranges and tomatoes, edged by hedges of cacti covered with plump red dragon fruit.

Amir stuck an ostrich feather into his helmet and was hard to lose in the crowd of yellow shirts. But we did lose our way soon after. Instead of looking for the telltale yellow Alyn signs planted at all crossings, we simply followed the biker in front of us – and missed a turn. We only discovered that we were lost after we saw that there were no bike tracks on the path. Barry had flown ahead and we could not catch him. So we waited a bit and then turned back to find our mistake. The sweeper jeep had already passed by and had plucked the sign, so it returned to show us the way. We had just added an extra half hour to our already challenging day and we were now officially at the back of the pack. But at least it was quiet and calm here at the back.

The day grew hotter and the backs of my legs started to burn. When we finally arrived at the next rest stop, most bikers had left and the volunteers were packing up. We forfeited our rest and kept going, following a very rocky dry river bed. We then entered the Be’eri Park, famous for the red carpets of blooming kalaniot each spring.

We followed a trail through a eucalyptus grove and then a field of bizarre humps that looked like moguls planted solely for bikers. We entered onto a paved road just as the sun was dipping into the sky and the shadows were growing longer. There were hills and more hills. Although the path was paved, I was so tired, dusty and fed up, I decided to pedal furiously, hoping to reach the end sooner. I arrived at the end around 4 pm and was told to jump on a bus to Ashkelon. I dumped my bike and hobbled onto the bus. As we arrived in Ashkelon outside our hotel, everyone got up with a huge groan – no one could move their legs!

There was a gala event to honor veteran bikers, some of whom had participated ten years in a row! We could not keep our eyes open and soon after, we fell into our beds.

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