Biria Forest, 6AM
I wake up in the daylight in a rumpled plastic bag in the dirt. I pedaled a gap last night. A real pirate takes no prisoners.
I pack my bags, drink my juice and get back on the bike. I climb steep hills through the forest to single-track, up a clearing and down the pavement to Jish. The town is still asleep, but the bakery is open. I buy a stack of Druze flatbread, labane and zata with sesame seeds.
The track takes me by a salon and the dump and back to the forest. I stop to eat a can of sardines and mop up the chili oil with bread.
I’m onto a section of the Israel National Trail. Orange, white and blue blazes sign me over loose rocks and between branches. I ride when I can and hike to the pavement and familiar domed ruins. We camped here two weeks ago in a rainstorm. It’s overcast and cool. I keep to the pavement to finish the climb. It’s a workout: heart rate up, legs burning and lots of standing. I like this.
Back on dirt I wind around Mount Meron, breezing past hikers. A man yells after me asking if I need help. I reach another highpoint in the clouds and start descending back to the Galilee– slow down chunky rock roads, fast on pavement through two communities and bumpy on cow tracks.
I cross over the highway and edge down a steep drainage. I grip the brakes for stability like an old man with a walker. A steep hike up a grassy hill and a smooth dirt descent lead me to the dreaded Gospel Trail. The trail consistently traverses swamp and thorn. It feels like penance. I wouldn’t recommend it.
But there’s Nick! He’s whooping and hollering with his arms in the air. He shouts: You’re crazy. You made it to the top of Meron nine hours faster than anybody last year.
And I’m whooping and hollering and grinning. And I don’t care that we’re on the Gospel Trail. I’m crushing the little wadis.
We hit the gas station. I order chicken schnitzel and omelet sandwiches to go. Nick rides with me to Golani Junction. A couple of kids on electric bikes pace us uphill past an Arab village. We push through thorns where we got lost in the dark on our last time through. My brain starts getting really goofy, so I eat another sandwich.
Nick splits. He might meet in Jerusalem. The forecast calls for definite rain in the dark. I’m aiming to make it as far as I can before that happens.
I ride hours of flowy single-track to the bike shop at Alon HaGalil. The shop is closed. A dad and two sons are camped under the covering.
Are you the American girl?
Someone is looking for you.
I go looking for water.
An older man finds me. He’s excited and shakes my hand.
What you’re doing is amazing. My wife has a hot shower waiting for you. He holds out a couple of candy bars.
I’m sorry, I can’t take them. It’s against the rules.
But I brought you fish and crackers.
I smile and thank him and he understands.
His name is Israel.
I fill up my water bottle and push into the night.
It starts sprinkling and turns into real rain, but it’s not cold. I keep pedaling along, but slower and slower and then I’m not.
I push my bike a few steps and stop to grab handfuls of mud off of my front tire. After ten slow minutes, I lift my bike by the chainstays and rest my saddle on my shoulder and trudge forward. It’s slow, but moving keeps me warm.
Two hours pass. It’s dark. I’m tired. It’s raining. I’m not going to make it to the next gas station soon. I think about leaving my bike on the route and hiking to a community to find cover to sleep. Then I see a tree with dense boughs, but it’s on a steep hillside. I push under it, lay my bike at my feet, pull the emergency bivy over my head and I’m out. I wake up somersaulted against my bike. I push my feet into my frame to straighten out and fall back asleep.