It was chilly and windy when we convened in the garage of our hotel in Arad. We received final instructions and information about the route that morning. One of the most important things to take note of was the wind, especially at the beginning when we were going to bike directly into the desert and the wind.
They weren’t kidding.
We fought our way to the Arad Airfield against the wind the entire way uphill. On the airfield the wind got worse, and I thought that it couldn’t get any worse. That was until we turned into the desert. Rolling hills of sand-swept off-road path threw themselves at us.
Struggling uphill I had to orient my bike hard to the right and lean into the right in order to stay upright and on the path. At one point I was blown off to the left the wind was so strong.
Once the wind had settled a little bit, we came out of our hiding place to continue on the route down to the Dead Sea. The further down into the desert we went, the warmer it got. There was also less wind the further we went, so we pressed on.
When the organizers said that the last day was going to be the most technically challenging, they were not joking at all. Paths were hard to navigate because you couldn’t get the tires to catch traction and it was littered with rocks on top of the track and poking out of the sandy road.
After finally reaching desert we made our way towards the Dead Sea. Twinkling in the distance it was a goal we needed to reach. Up and down through the valleys of dried out river beds we would our way around the hills until we finally made it to an overlook to see Ein Bokek. It was an incredible view to see.
But we didn’t look at the view for too long. We needed to make it to Masada. Deeper into the desert we went.
We approached one last descent that we needed to tackle before our last small climbs before dropping into Masada. I knew it was going to be a challenge and waited to be one of the last to go down. I had been having a hard time riding in the pack because some of the younger riders were not always looking to their sides before changing their direction.
Down the hill I went. I was careful to keep my hand near the rear brake, but I wanted to feel the air whipping past as I went down the hill. Like the day before, I picked a line of attack and went for it. Passed the point I had picked out, rounded the corner and picked a new line to ride down.
I worked my way down the hill and saw that I was at the last descent of the ride. That is it and I was done.
We were only 8-10km from Masada and I was ready to Cautiously I worked my way down the steep path as rocks skidded out from under my tires. I could see the bottom of the last descent, I picked a line I wanted to follow around the rocks at the bottom, loosened up on the brake a little and started down.
It was going great until I realized that I didn't have the best approach towards these last few rocks I needed to get around. I tried to correct my path but I couldn't change direction even though I was moving pretty slowly. I hit the rocks and expected that the shock-absorbers would do the trick and get me around it.
I felt my front wheel stop short and the back wheel start to come off the ground. The next thing I know I'm upside down and my bike is coming right after me. I had the presence to kick it away so it didn't land on me and I hit the ground with a thud. I looked to see if anyone was coming behind me, and it was clear. I made sure I wasn't broken anywhere, and I was fine.
Then I picked up my bike and started walking it towards the group that was waiting. The shifting mechanism on the handlebars was bent, and the deraileur was bent into the spokes of my rear wheel. With only 8 km until Masada, I thought I was going to hop into the truck and be taken there.
I think these are the rocks that I couldn't avoid. I don't remember which ones exactly
I don't know if the resolution is good enough, but the derailleur is bent into the spokes.
Instead, our amazing volunteers did the best they could to bend the deraileur back into position and perform a mini-tune up to let me ride it out.
It took a long time to get through to the end because I was fighting the machinery on my bike. It didn’t shift as quickly as I hoped and I was stuck working in gears that are not good for riding down hill, especially into a headwind. But I finally made it out of the desert paths and onto the road.
A short, snaked, paved road and I made it to the end. Waiting at the bottom of the hill was a group of the Israeli Rabbis who had been staying in Arad for their convention. They were singing and clapping as we flew into the park and hopped off our bikes for lunch in the shadow of Masada.
About ten minutes later a bus full of HUC students joined us to celebrate the completion of our long journey. It was amazing!