I'm home again, the 2008 Israel Ride behind me. I've come home with my favorite souvenirs - plenty of photos and videos. I haven't made an album (yet?), but I have posted a complete set of the photos to Flickr and Picasa. The links are at the end of this posting.
I come home reminded that the Israel Ride is definitely a ride, not a race. Through the course of the ride, we learn, make new friends, challenge ourselves, and come back as part of a community that has shared a very special experience. Cycling is just the route that we use to get there!
That said, the cycling is pretty special! Every day of this year's route had something that made it stand out -- the ride through the Jerusalem Hills on the first day, the transition into the desert on the second, the off road biking at Sde Boker and the climb to Mitzpeh Ramon on the third, the spectacular ride through Machtesh Ramon and the final descent to Kibbutz Ketura on the fourth, and, on the fifth, the ride down the mountain road into Eilat, with the city and the Red Sea rising up before us as we sped down the road. Yes, even though I had done it before, each day of riding had something special to offer, something that left you saying to yourself, "wow, I can't believe that I'm here, and doing this...it's incredible!".
Each day of riding also had plenty of time, mostly in the rolling hills and flats, that offered a chance to get to know our fellow riders. From that, I've come home not just with the photographs, but also with friends that I know that I will keep in touch with for a long time to come, and hopefully also see on a future ride.
And, finally, every day was a learning experience. We had the benefit of Bill, a wonderful guide and a resident of Kibbutz Ketura, as a guide throughout the ride, as well as Alon and Noam to provide very helpful environmental education and insight. We also learned from the crew and volunteers on the ride, many of whom were alumni of the Arava Institute. The result is that this is not just a ride (though it is a spectacular ride), but also a community building/learning experience.
Of course, I did take a few photos on the ride. I've split them into two albums on Flickr. The first is of the "pre-ride", including the JNF's Northern Exposure tour on the Monday before the ride. The second is from the ride. The links to both albums are:
pre-ride (including the Monday "northern exposure" trip): http://flickr.com/photos/eisenbergfamily/sets/72157609650308972/
Or, both can also be found by going to my "Israel Collection" on Flickr, which includes this ride as well as photos from some other trips to Israel. That link is: http://flickr.com/photos/eisenbergfamily/collections/72157594587355686/
If you have any questions about the ride, or the great organizations that it supports, don't hesitate to ask!