Maggido to Jerusalem
Our last day of riding! And there was definitely anticipation about riding into Jerusalem. We knew that there were going to be significant climbs but experiencing some challenges in arriving in Jerusalem seemed apt.
The morning began with an outstanding breakfast at our hotel, the Tel Aviv Dan. This was the kind of breakfast that we would have enjoyed lingering over for hours but there was only about fifteen minutes allocated for breakfast. Although we could not lounge over breakfast all of us took significantly more time than allocated. This meant that we boarded the bus 45 minutes later than scheduled to begin our ride at Latrun. Latrun was chosen as the started point rather than Tel Aviv to avoid the heavy traffic around Tel Aviv.
Given that we were starting later than planned the 108 km route was altered to reduce the distance to 70 km. This met with our approval given that we had already ridden for 4 days over many mountains in extreme heat.
When we arrive at Latrun, I began looking for Edov and our tandem but I could find neither. When I questioned Nimrod, the manager of Bike Israel, I was told that they forgot the tandem in Tel Aviv and I would have to ride my own bike if I wished to ride. I couldn’t believe this had happened, I had ridden this far and there was no way I was not going to do the last part of the ride into Jerusalem. But how was I going to be able to do this considering there were significant hills and I would need to use my left hand to brake on the downhills. There needed to be a resolution to this problem!
We finally agreed that I would ride my bike up the hills and mountains and if there was a significant downhill I would ride the bus. And they would try to get a tandem for me as we approached Jerusalem so I could ride down the hill into Jerusalem. Although this was not what I had expected or hoped for it was a plan I could live with. When Edov arrived I think he was more upset than I was but I reassured him that this was doable for me.
Actually it felt great to be on my own bike and have control of the speed and the cadence. I was doing fine on the climbs and did jump in the bus at the first significant downhill. It seemed rather ironic to me that I was riding the bus in the part that would be considered easy for most people.
Before a very long and difficult climb we stopped at the HaElah junction. The significance of this spot is it is referred to in the bible as the exact site of the battle between David and Goliath. So we began our climb where a hero overcame seemingly insurmountable odds.
After climbing for over an hour we reached the lunch stop that was to be followed by a long and steep downhill. I had already prepared myself psychologically to jump in the bus down to the bottom of the mountain. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had acquired a tandem that I could ride to Jerusalem. I was a bit disappointed that I could not ride with Edov but I was told that I could ride with a strong rider named Alon.
[Rick] The hill was long and difficult , my guess is around 12%, and seemed to go on forever. Around every turn there was a new peak that had to be climbed. At one point there were a number of riders stopped for a drink, but there was an extra steep section (probably around 15% grade) just beyond. I decided to push through without stopping. I was glad when the that steep section was done, and soon that climb was over.
I had spoken to Alon previously and in conversation he told me that he had done a number of Ironman Triathlons. So I knew that he was a strong rider. I begged him to that the downhill slowly since I found it terrifying being in the back of the tandem with no control. He promised that he would not go too fast. Famous last words! We flew down that mountain passing all other riders but surprisingly I felt that he really had control. On the climbs he attacked with strength that forced me to push myself to my limits. The climb up the Hadasseh way into Jerusalem was challenging and of a significant grade. But with him as captain we arrived at the top of the mountain significantly before most other riders.
[Rick] The last climb of the ride took us to Jerusalem. This might have been the steepest climb, or we just might have been tireed from all the hills we'd done. At the top of this hill was the Hadassa hospital, so at least we had something to aim for. However, once we got there, there was another kilometer to go. It was the hardest distance, not because it was steep, but because we had relaxed a bit thinking we had finished the ride.
At the top we met the hand bike riders and eventually assembled for our final descent to Beit Halochem. It was quite a site to see the procession of riders led by the handbikers descend the hill to end our ride. We were greeted by a cheering committee followed by a reception as we ended our very significant journey.