It started as a dream never fulfilled and evolved into a tribute to our beloved Michele’s deep belief in good deeds to cope with adversity. The ride in Israel allowed me a personal transformation from out of shape and sad to my best physical level and the great sensations one discover when contributing to something as worthwhile as the care for ALYN’s Hospital Children.
I am grateful for it all for in the end I stood the top beneficiary of the effort made. In truth I could not have made it without the support of so many around me. Sue and the family who immediately engaged in making sure the ride would happen. Jim and Jeff for joining in the training. The guys on the road who gave daily “kudos” for each achieved progress, and of course ALYN staff and the hundred or more who contributed generously to the fundraising.
In a couple of weeks I will turn 72 years old and will start to get ready for my next challenge. In the process of fulfilling this one, The Wheels of Love ride took me, in style and comfort, to places I haunted 50 years ago, penniless and down and out. It was a marvelous journey, full of the beauty of magic, but also a journey back to a suffering land that peace has yet to grace. For three weeks, I once again touched people struggling to solve huge problems that are hard to understand from the distance and comfort of our country. I wish them well and hope to see them succeed. Perhaps there is a lesson here when I looked at our experience with the Ride. We rode in harmony, united by a selfless purpose: Jews and Christians, Muslims.Israelis and riders from 13 countries and most amazing of all: a team of young Palestinian from East Jerusalem. The kids for whom we rode may not know yet but I hope they will that in the end it is the giver who benefit from the gift well before others and for this I am grateful I was one of them. Thank you all who joined me there.
Kol Hakavod. I think it means “well done”
we went to see Petra and like millions before us, we loved it. Two days we walked and gasped in awe. Looking up and finding more delight for our eyes. What a magic place to visit. Sue kept exclaiming as she snapped one picture after another. Thrilled by the natural shapes of the rocks’ formations.
We must have walked ten miles in the time that we spend visiting. The trip was coming to an end, we could feel it and the last few days went fast, traveling as we did through the Negev desert and back to the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem where we picked up our bikes and Tell Aviv where we said our goodbyes to Israel
The plane was to take us early, but we did manage a long walk on Tel Aviv beach, a look at the sun sinking in the sea, a last dinner on a sidewalk restaurant enjoying people-watching, frowning at the smokers of which there are still too many. We were ready to go home
I stood where I, once upon the lived. That very spot that was mine on a beach practically empty but now filled with restaurants, clubs, myriads of hotels and attraction. It was emotion filled to just place my feet where I remembered sleeping. Then I laughed and moved on as I did long before
The final swip up north swung back to Kineret. Along the lake we touched on Tiberias and Nazareth and then it was Goodby Haifa in the sunset.
Long drive south to once again feel the desert magic and the flood of memories of a long walk there Long Long time ago.
The 5th and last day was not just a parade even if our emotions ran high and made the pedaling quite ginger from the start on. We departed from Mini Israel resort where we were bussed early in the morning. For this ride all the groups were gathered together but started one by one, with enough time separating each group. The slower ones going first and the Challenge group starting last as we are presumed to be the fastest. Our group strength was once again augmented by a good number of fresh local racers and we were assured that we could enjoy fast speed until the lunch stop located at the top of our last truly challenging Long and arduous climb.
The joyful atmosphere continued to rise as we slowly reeled waves after waves of slower riders. We gradually grew into a quarter mile long peloton fast approaching Jerusalem from the south west valleys along the Eim Kerem Street. This colorfully dressed group snaked itself up all the way to Alyn Hospital entrance.
With police escort back and front blasting their sirens and flashing their top lights, we followed the children rolling their special bikes up the toad through an extatic, loud cheering crowd of more than a thousand people. The moment was so intense and emotionally charged that I barely could restrain from sobbing.
Off the bike, we milled around searching for familiar faces, embrassing each other’s in congratulatory hugs. The crowd was thick of well wishers and the kids were handing each rider a medal to honor our performance while all around in various stalls, a large variety of local food was dispensed to every person willing to stand on line. I was too keyed up to eat and intent to reunite with Sue,Jim, and a few of the Challenge New. York riders. We managed to settle down finally and clapped when key members of the staff were called to the podium to be recognized and applauded for the amazing logistic works that facilitated 4 different types of rides through many roads and long distances. The flags of the 13 countries represented in the ride were raised for all to see and a special tribute was given to a sizesble group of young Palestinian partipating in the event for the first time. We cheered the top fund raisers, particularly those who had ridden with us in the Challenge group. The staff of the Hospital did a well orchestrated dance for in gratitude and we could not help to stand and dance with them while it was announced that we had collectively raised over two millions five hundred thousand dollars with still another few months to continue to fundraisers toward the goal of reaching three millions.
The sunset brought Jerusalem cool evening breeze and we finally settled down and dispersed in all directions, in some way separation and yet forever linked by the special bond of a common wish to make a difference for these kids and by the ties created.along the winding road we shared for 500 kilometers.
We packed our bags and said goodbye to Ramot. Today, we were told, was for recovery mode. Well, after yesterday’s grueling ride, that prospect was welcome and it was almost real but for the ill famed ” garbage Hill” apparently nested right in the middle of the ride. The name alone spelled trouble: Jim and I train on a hill by that nickname in NY and that is where we lost Jeff when he fell and broke his hip. This here hill was some other sort of catastrophe. Not longer than a couple of miles but steep with passages at 10,11 or even 12 %, the hill was an annoying experience made unplaisant by the heat and the wind carrying that very fowl smell characteristic of decaying refuses which constituted the hips of men made mounts the road was serpenting through. As If that was not bad enough, we had to deal with flies and bugs and the worse yet: a road surface filled with crater like potholes, pretty much graveled and cracked by the constant up and down traffic of huge garbage trucks shuttling up and down the slopes. However all that misery was redeemed at the top by a most beautiful view of the Jordan river valley, the Kineret Lake and the mountains of the Golan in the background. Wonderful parting vista. A last look at the point in the horizon where Israel, Jordan and Syria met geographically.
The descent was considered dangerous and we negotiated it a slow place, something I found frustrating as going fast downhill is one of my cycling pleasure .
The rest of the ride was pleasant enough and at the end we managed to meet for the first time all the other groups of cyclists for the first time since the start of the trip in an atmosphere of giddiness inside of a welcoming kibbutz. We then boarded our respective buses and drove down to Jerusalem through the West Bank while our Near 600 Bike’s we’re transported to what would be tomorrow final departure location. Logistic nightmare for the mechanical team.
In Jerusalem I reunited with Susan. She was in town since morning and fresh enough from a pleasant trip to actually have toured to Yad VaShen and the Western wall. We were thrilled to be together finally and later after dinner with the riders at the hotel, Jim, Sue and I attended the ceremonies presented by the organizers.