No Hill Too Steep
Posted on October 29th, 2010
The crazy thing about the hill was that you could see it from miles away. We had ridden from our campsite in the middle of the Negev and had seen it off in the distance, rising from the desert floor to the sky. At first there we lots of discussion among the riders whether it was possible to get up it while staying on the bikes.
We tried to guess the factors that would determine whether the climb was feasible: The angle of the grade, the condition of the trail surface, the amount of loose rock, etc. As we got closer, everyone stopped talking and began thinking about how much they were willing to suffer to go up without stopping.
This was Day Three of the five day annual bike ride to raise money for the Alyn Children’s hospital in Jerusalem. Obviously, in the larger view it did not matter if anyone was able to ride all the way up this one hill or not. What really mattered is that the ride, with its hundreds of participants, had already raised more money than ever for Alyn. So while we were having fun pretending to be Lance Armstrong, children at Alyn were receiving the advanced treatments that could only be paid for through the money raised from the ride.
One evening we heard the story of a child who was hit by shrapnel from a mortar fired from Gaza. His injuries were so extreme, that other hospitals had already said there was nothing they could do. Then Alyn stepped in and because they cared and had the resources to make a difference, they went to work on this child. Because of Alyn, this young man was there to greet us himself. For a child to go through years of therapy just to learn to walk and talk again takes far more courage than riding a bike up any hill.
Then there is my Mom. As I wrote in my last post, I dedicated my ride to her this year. She is climbing her own steep hill called cancer and must find the courage to keep going when she faces months of horrible chemo treatments. For those who have been following her story, I am happy to say that at the moment she has had a series of “good” days and will resume chemo next week. So, with hundreds of children and my Mom to think of, you better believe that I was going to ride like I have never ridden before.
This year, the smart folks at Alyn made a section of the ride a bit tricky for us folks who plead for harder rides each year. One day we rode through the desert up and down some of the most technical terrain I have ridden. The last few kilometers that day were through a dry river bed where the surface was composed of very lose gravel that made it seem like you were riding through glue.
We then arrived at our accommodations: a tent campsite deep in the heart of the Negev. I had a fun time taking a “shower” while sitting under a tap set up for hand washing. The closest we were to civilization was a few hours jeep ride away. In fact, there was only one man made thing anywhere near our campsite. It was railroad tracks for trains carrying minerals from the desert mines to the coast. By the way, if you ever happen to be near Chava Wadi campsite in the Negev, the train comes through around 4:27 in the morning. You really don’t need to set an alarm. Just don’t be alarmed when you feel the ground start to shake.
Next morning we were up bright and early (easy to do when you are sitting in the middle of the desert) and rode a fast twenty kilometers to join up with those who had felt the need for real beds at night. While we were waiting, a few of us decided to jump in an ice cold spring nearby and get some relief from the desert heat. Not only did it provide a refreshing break from the sun, but riding with wet biking shorts can keep you nice and cool for awhile in the desert.
This was my fifth Alyn Ride and it was by far the best. Part of what made it so great was the trails. But the other part was riding with some of the same people you see every year. Of course, we had five riders from Neve Daniel participating which has to be a record from a yishuv our size. But besides the guys I ride with all the time, there were the other people I see once a year.
My friend Bob has a daughter my age, a bike older than my son, and still can ride with the best. We both started Alyn five years ago and received our yellow jackets (given to those who complete five Alyn rides) together this year. Bob took a couple hard falls that got us all concerned this year. But this guy is indestructible. No matter what happened, he kept coming back. As long as Bob is riding, none of us “kids” can complain that the ride is just too hard.
Unlike last year when storms caused the cancellation of a whole day’s riding, the weather was incredible this year. Yes, it did get a bit hot on the last day. With temperatures going over 90 around the Mata Spring, the organizers decided to cancel the last twenty kilometers which were to have included two serious climbs and a bit of rough riding. So buses were ordered up to transport the riders to the finish at the hospital. However, it seemed that a pair of riders disagreed with this decision and set off on their own to ride the final 20 kilometers. What a couple of lunatics!
But I think for me, the whole ride could be summed up in those few minutes as we approached the climb in the middle of the Negev. Yes, it can be easy to give up and play it safe by getting off and walking. Many riders did. It may also seem like the right thing to do when you feel your heart beating like crazy and every meter you go up, you slip back a bit on the loose gravel. Yet sometimes, you need to turn off the brain and push yourself like crazy. Then you will be astounded with what you can accomplish.
The jacket is on the way Mom. I hope it helps.
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