Day Three, Part I: Climbing Gilboa
If one were a serious, if somewhat masochistic, bike rider, one could not design a more spectacular day than the one we experienced on Tuesday. But first, a report on my awful Monday night.
After riding in torrential rains all morning, navigating a difficult and steep descent from the Golan Heights, almost crashing because of some idiots and climbing Kochav Hayarden, I cruised into the Beit Shean Youth Hostel in the late afternoon. I brought my bike to the 'parking lot' and looked for my name on the list of room assignments. While not exactly Metropolis, I was still looking forward to spending the evening in Beit Shean. For one, we had been staying in Yenimsvilles
for two straight nights (not that there's anything wrong with that) and I hadn't even been able to get so much as a decent cup of coffee.
So, imagine my surprise when I looked for my name on the list and don't find it. I was then told to look at a second list. The satellite list. There it was. We were told that there was not enough room for everyone in the Beit Shean hostel and that some of us were being shipped 10 minutes away.
Of course ten minutes turned out to be 30 minutes which might as well have been Afula. (But Afula was a town; we weren't sent to a town). To make matters worse, I had to sit on the bus with soaking wet feet for 45 minutes before we pulled out. And, the place we went was mamash
a dump and the food borderline inedible.
To say I was less than pleased would be a slight understatement. Last year I was also dumped at the satellite in the Kayla Guest House (rather than Almog; you think they're trying to tell me something?). At least last year they warned you ahead of time.
I'm generally not a prima donna (you can't be a prima donna on this ride) but I was wondering what I did to deserve to be sent off to galus two years in a row (even though I was one of the more effective fundraisers in North America). In any event, my evening was ruined and I went to sleep as soon as I could.
Piling on, we were told that we had to leave the next morning ridiculously early in order to get to Beit Shean in time. I had about ten minutes to eat breakfast. This time I supplemented it with two peanut butter sandwiches that I made with my own and stuffed into my jersey pocket.
But we digress...
After joining back up with everyone
we left Beit Shean at around 7:30 and rode flat
for few miles until we reached the entrance to the Gilboa Mountain range. The climb to (almost) the peak of Har Gilboa was about 7.5 gruelling miles
. Serious climbing but the weather was beautiful and I felt strong. We got to a rest stop about a mile from the actual summit where there was a magnificent view of the Beit Shean Valley. After waiting for everyone to get to the summit (there were plenty of walkers), the faster riders took off again.
Now the fun began. After climbing another mile to the top we began a very cool descent into the Gilboa reserve. The roads were steep but long and winding (I think I should write a song about that) so we could really let loose. I reached speeds as high as 35 mph.
Now the fun ended. After the descent we had to trudge back up the mountain, this time through the glorious nature reserve. The beauty of the ride was matched by its difficulty. We were rewarded with another spectacular view
near the top and finally pulled into the second rest stop.
After the second rest stop came another huge descent through the steep and winding switchbacks in the Gilboa range. Here's where the worst accident of my two years on the ride happened. Shortly after we left the rest stop, one of the riders, not more than a couple of dozen riders in front of me, was zooming down the descent when he hit a pot hole and lost control. He went flying off his bike and landed, more or less, on his face. As I passed by, he was already being cared for and riders were being called to slow down. His face was all bloody. He ended up with a lot of stitches on his chin and at least one front tooth missing.
Viewing that accident certainly put a damper on the next segment of the ride. We negotiated the rest of the downhill and then had a few more serious ups and a few more downs, all through beautiful scenery. We stopped for lunch at Meggido. Now the waiting really began.