The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Ride: Day One - Climbing the Golan

After an inadequate breakfast, I pulled out of the Ramot Guesthouse along with the other 324 riders. I usually try to start way in the front in order to reduce my chances of crashing into inexperienced riders, but I was too late in getting to the start so I waited until almost everyone else had left.

After much deliberation about weather conditions, I decided to play it safe. I wore a long sleeve base shirt under my jersey, a windbreaker and shoe covers over my bike shoes. I also stuffed polyurethane sleeves into my jersey pocket in case it got really cold.

After a few minutes of flat riding, the interminable climbing began. It was about 8 miles up to Katzrin, our first stop. Although there were never extremely steep gradients, it felt that we were consistently doing about 6%. I was shvitzing like nobody's business. The sun was shining and the temps were probably in the low 70s. I was thinking that I was really stupid for being so conservative and was looking forward to the rest stop so that I could remove some layers.

No sooner did those thoughts cross my mind than the sun ducked behind the clouds. That was to be the last we would see of the sun until the next afternoon. It immediately became much cooler, and cooler still the higher we got.

Because the police, who escort us the entire ride, they require us to bunch up from time to time. Consequently, the stronger riders were made to wait until the last riders made it up the hill from Ramot before proceeding to the next leg. I waited for well over an hour. And got cold. And colder. And colder. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it was for the many riders who dressed inappropriately for the weather.

We continued to climb and climb along a a steady gradient until we reached the Druze village of Mas'ede. By this time it was about 11:30. We were given an option of climbing half way up Mount Hermon, about an 8 mile ride (and, of course, 8 miles down). I had fully expected to do this ride and I actually pulled out with the group going to the top. Just before the climb, we were givenm the chance to back out. In a rare moment of clarity and maturity, I reluctantly decided to bug out. I was incredibly uncomfortable because of the cold, very hungry because I had a miserable breakfast and feeling very weak. I decided that 62 miles would be enough for the day and continued on to the lunch stop.

In all, we climbed for almost 40 straight miles before leveling off and riding another 22 miles into the guest house at Keshet. It was one of the most gruelling days of riding I had ever experienced. Although the guest house was very far from being the Waldorf, I don't recall enjoying a hot shower quite as much as I did that afternoon.

The next day promised to be a relatively easy day, mostly flat through the Golan, a very steep and tricky descent back to the Galil, an optional climb to Kochav Hayarden and a ride into Beit Shean. But the Aibishte works in his own mysterious way and the next day would prove to be one of the strangest days of riding I ever experienced.


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