The following post comes from Lev Meirowitz Nelson via email:
It’s been a remarkable three days of biking, and I write to you now from Mitzpe Ramon, where Eliana has joined me for Shabbat. Surprisingly, I am only a little bit sore. I think that, somehow, I have acquired the resilient bodyâ€”in addition to the faceâ€”of an 18-year old. I can only imagine that there must be an 18-year-old someplace who is stuck with the body of a 28-year-old…but I guess there’s not much I can do about that.
We left Jerusalem Wednesday morning and biked downhill through the Jerusalem forestâ€”very pretty. Then the police did us a huge favor: the day before, they rescinded the permit they had granted for us to bike up a huge hill. Hazon had to bus us 15 miles, which was a godsend for me and made the rest of the day possible. We were biking through a weather pattern that Israelis call sharavâ€”intense heat (around 104 F) and serious headwind. Veteran riders said it was the hottest they’d ever experienced. I thought for a while after lunch that I wasn’t going to make it, but my headache went away as the afternoon cooled off, and I rode proudly into Ashkelon around 4:00, having biked 50 miles.
Day two was our longest day of biking, at 70 miles, but it was mostly flatâ€”with a gradual, gentle rise that never let up. The morning flew by, and not just subjectivelyâ€”we pulled into our lunch stop, after 40 miles, at 10:50. I thought the afternoon would be more of same, but alas, it was not. Mile after monotonous mile went by as the landscape turned to desert, and by the last ten miles I was totally worn out. It didn’t help that I am a slow rider, at least on my mountain bike fitted with hybrid tires, as compared to the road bikes most other people have. By Thursday evening, I had started to identify with the main character in an important book from my early childhoodâ€”The Little Red Caboose Always Came Last. On the upside, having done two full days of riding without once getting on the bus, I was pretty confident that I could continue.
Friday I opted out of an off-road excursion so I could get to the hotel at about the same time as Eliana. Instead, we biked a mere (ha!) 36 miles, getting in around 1:00. I made a great discovery: while I may be slow on flat stretches, I’m strong on uphill climbs. This was billed as a really hard ride, with one hill “almost straight up.” I found, however, that when I came to it, I put my bike into low gear and just rode. And I was only using 1-3, not even my lowest gear. There I was, passing people who had passed me on the straightaway and were walking their bikesâ€”and not that I was taking pleasure in their challenge, but I was proud that I could keep going, that I’m good at some part of this.
On Sunday we’ll be descending into Machtesh Ramon, an erosion crater, before climbing out and heading down to Kibbutz Ketura, home of the Arava Institute. Then Monday from Ketura to Eilat and the Red Sea. Eliana will post this email for me when she gets back to Jerusalem, and I look forward to telling you about the last part of the trip when I return on Tuesday.