Day 6: The Wheels Come Off, A Little

Monday was our last day of riding. Derek went out early with the mumchim and climbed back out of the Arava Valley, me following in the mechanic’s truck with the tandem. We met back up at Neot Smadar, and I got back on the saddle. Ouch. The more than four hours of riding the day before had undone most of the healing of Shabbat.

We rode for about 12 or 15 miles to the next rest stop, I fueled up, and we started again. Ahead was at least 20 kilometers (12 miles) of more or less constant climbing. I made it about 3 kilometers before I couldn’t continue, mostly from the saddle pain. Ilan, our mechanic, picked me and the tandem up, Derek got back on his rented Pirello, and I watched the climbers from the truck. It was an interesting ride up, since we were literally riding along the Egyption border most of the way. Big fence. Lots of desert on the other side (in fairness, on both sides). I was told later that the fince is actually a bit on the Egyptian side, so some people could walk into what was technically Egypt at the rest stops.

Our plan was to meet back at the staging area for the final descent into Eilat. We got to the top of the climb, and Derek had already passed. Turns out that the meeting place was down a couple of short drops, and he was waiting there, but Ilan did not know that. As it turns out, Ilan is an experienced tandem captain, and we stopped at the top, he got out and said, “You’re going to ride down with me!” He was quite cheerful about it. I was worried. First, the stoker on a tandem is rarely as big as I am. Second, we’d never ridden together. Third, he’s a bike mechanic, and an Israeli, and..an Israeli bike mechanic. He asked me if I trusted him, I agreed, and we rode. Downhill. Rapidly. More wheeeee (and some silent profanity). After the first drop, he gave me some advice that made the second one go easier. But, wow. Much. More. Agressive. Than. Derek.

Ilan gave up the captain’s seat to Derek for the final descent into Eilat. Derek tells me ignorance is bliss. I had fun. He might have been a little terrified by the dump truck we were in danger of rear-ending. And the screaming brakes. In fairness, the latter made me a little nervous, too. I’m afraid the Guide Dog Center/Ken Velo will need to replace the disks and pads on the brakes ofter the abuse of all the downhills on the ride.

One more thing about the descent into Eilat. We could distinctly feel the heating of the air as we went from the hills to the sea. In about 5 minutes, the temperature went from about 91F to 107F. I have decided there are 3 weather reports for Eilat: Hot, Very Hot, and Please Do Not Wear Anything Flammable Outdoors.

After some pictures at the beach, we had lunch (grilled chicken, kebabs, merguez sausage) and headed back to the hotel for a few hours of rest. In the evening, we had our closing dinner (grilled chicken, kebabs, merguez suasage,and felafel) around the pool. Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Director of Ramah, asked Derek to speak briefly. He did, and movingly. Thank you, Derek, for everything.