Oct 23 – Mitspe Ramon to Eilat

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Our original plan for today wa s to ride to Neot Semadar and stay in one of their guest rooms tonight, but yesterday we talked a bit about riding all the way to Eilat instead. I even emailed Ilan inEilat and told him that we might be showing up a day early, though I didn’t really think we would do so. With this in mind we hoped to get an early start this morning, since it is dark by 5pm or so. I was quite frustrated that breakfast wasn’t served until about 7:45, but we rushed through breakfast a bit and were on the road by 8:15. Jodi still wasn’t feeling that great and we more or less put aside the idea of riding to Eilat today.

From Mitspe Ramon 40 descends into Maktesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) via some tightly stacked switchbacks which were quite spectacular to ride. Then we mostly rode through the Maktesh on easy grades with just a couple of ups that required some strong effort. We found ourselves at Neot Semadar about 12:30, and were very surprised as we pulled in to spot two fully loaded touring bikes outside. The bikes belonged to a French couple that had been on the road for 5 months already, and were headed to Jordan and on to Africa. Quite an amazing bike tour!

We had a wonderful lunch at the organic restaurant run my the folks from the kibbutz; Jodi had lasagna and I had a couple of stuffed peppers, all accompanied by glass after glass of water. Jodi said she was feeling better after eating, and we decided to try to make Eilat after all. We had about 3 1/2 hours of good light left and 65 kilometers to go so it was a bit of a challenge, but as it turned out it was a relatively easy and fun ride. There was one uphill left, then we descended steeply to Hwy 90, where we turned south for the run to Eilat. 90 was a steady stream of buses, trucks, and cars, but the road was almost a constant gentle downhill and we had a good tailwind. We made two stops for refreshments and cranked down the road at top speed, often doing 40 – 50 km/h.  The only negative was the very narrow shoulders. I did have one exciting moment when a truck in the oncoming lane decided to pass another truck and in doing so took most of the shoulder I was on as well.  It was quite intimidating to see him coming at me at 90km/h, and I barely managed to stay on the road. Jodi was well behind me and saw the whole thing unfold. She turned off on to the soft shoulder to avoid the whole thing.

After riding 152km (about 95 miles), we arrive in Eilat and found our way to the home of our Warmshowers host, where we have had a snack and a shower, and spent some time chatting and drinking beer. Soon dinner will be ready. A fun and pleasant end to a great day. It is both satisfying and sad that our cycling in Israel is complete.

Our flight back home isn’t until Thursday morning, so we have a few days to enjoy Eilat and figure out how to get ourselves and the bikes back to the airport.


Oct 22 – Mitspe Ramon

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I suppose we should have hiked down into the Crater, or taken a jeep tour or something, but we did none of those things. Jodi woke up with a bit of a stuffy head this morning and I am plenty tired in general, so we took it easy. We did take a walk out to the rim of the Maktesh and enjoyed the view, then we walked around to the corner to the coffee shop and just hung out for a couple of hours. We filed the afternoon with  couple of naps and some time watching CNN, which is the only English language channel on the TV at the hostel. We also watched a couple of reality TV programs in Hebrew, and made up our own dialogue. And that is about all we did today!

If you are cycling through the Negev Desert, duly striving to “Beware of Camels Near Road” and avoiding the “Danger Firing Area” that exists on both sides of the road, where do you stop for lunch? Well, you peer into the distance and notice the glowing golden arches of McDonalds, and you realize that civilization really does exist. A gas station, a coffee shop, and a McDonalds. All of the modern conveniences, or Mod Cons as the hip travel guide calls them.

By the way, we did see camels today, probably a dozen or so all together. Mostly they were too far from the road for photography, but one trio was quietly munching on whatever it is camels munch on along the roadside, and we stopped to stare at each other for a few minutes, and take a couple of snapshots.

Somewhere along the way to Mitspe Ramon we were passed by a group of club cyclists, then a bit later we passed them as they were stopped on the side of the road. Finally, just as we were getting to Mitspe Ramon, another cyclist caught us up from behind and chatted us up a bit. He flattered us by saying he had raced a bit to catch up to us. He was cycling with several others who soon caught up from behind, and they invited us to join them at a cafe for a bit of refreshment and conversation, then showed us where the hostel is. A very pleasant introduction to the town.

It is about a quarter after 5 now, which is dusk, and we just went out to look at Maktesh Ramon — Ramon Crater — which is just out in front of the hostel. It is quite impressive, though it is quite hazy tonight. I don’t know where all the haze in Israel is from. It can’t be moisture in the air, as it is so dry here. Also just outside the security fence of the hostel there are three Ibex browsing on the foliage of some irrigated plantings.

Pretty much everything in Israel has a security fence, and an armed guard. Hostels, hotels, malls, restaurants, pretty much any public place. Some towns and villages even have gates coming into and leaving town, with armed security guards. We also get checked out by nearly every cop that goes by on the road. None have ever stopped to talk to us, but almost all of them slow down for a good look. Security is serious business here.

We are staying two nights here. I am not sure what we are going to do tomorrow; I’ve left that up to Jodi as she wasn’t feeling all that strong today. Hopefully she was just a bit dehydrated and will be back in form tomorrow.


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New Photos


I have added new photos to https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011

The first new photo is https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011#5665586747189373810


Oct 20 – Ein Bokek to Dimona

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I was rather skeptical about this floating in the Dead Sea business. It seems such a cliche that you come to Israel and you have to go float in the Dead Sea, but we were there so I had to do it. Well, it is a very cool experience. And floating is the right word; it’s pretty much impossible to swim in the Dead Sea. We tried, but it just doesn’t work. We rolled face down and tried to kick, but our legs were so buoyant they came out of the water so we couldn’t kick. So we tried to see if we could actually submerge ourselves below the water, but couldn’t do it. We bobbed up like a cork. So we settled for what the “Special Instructions for Swimming In the Dead Sea” advised, floating on our backs. While floating your body is at least half out of the water. It is really quite amazing. You can just put your head back and lie perfectly still, and you will float forever.

But today we left the Dead Sea. And being the lowest place on earth, there was nowhere to go but up. So we climbed and climbed. Luckily there was a good breeze blowing today, and as we climbed the temperature dropped, so we stayed comfortably cool. That made a big difference in our day.

We also played leap-frog with a group of cyclists from a cycling club, and we stopped to chat with their SAG driver, who also topped up our water bottles with nice cold water. That also made a big difference because it meant we didn’t have to ration our water, as we otherwise would have had to do since we didn’t pass any place to replenish all day. We just cycled, mostly uphill, through the empty desert. On one long stretch of road every few kilometers we passed a large sign cautioning us to Beware of Camels Near Road,” but we never saw any.

We made it to Dimona early this afternoon. Dimona is a hard-scrabble, depressed, working class town. We had a bit of a hard time finding the Guest House as none of the signs are in English, and of the few people we passed on the street and tried to ask directions from, most spoke no English. Finally we asked one man who spoke just enough English to understand our query and pointed to the building right across the road from us. Not until we approached the front door did we spot the sign identifying it as the Guest House we were looking for. The woman here when we arrived didn’t speak English but she dialed the phone and handed it to me to speak with someone else who does. I believe we are the only people staying here tonight. It’s a rather large guest house and I can’t imagine who their clientele is; my only guess is people working at the electrical generating station down the road, or on the railroad serving the mineral quarries a bit further east.

There is a small shopping plaza down the road so hopefully we can find something to eat there. Tomorrow we will head south to Mitspe Ramon, on the lip of Maktesh Ramon (Ramon Crater).


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Oct 19 – Ein Bokek

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If you didn’t notice the elevation profile from yesterday’s ride, scroll down a bit and take a look at it. Notice the elevation we are at now? The Dead Sea is just shy of 400 meters, about 1,300 feet, below sea level. This is the lowest point on earth (and tomorrow we have to climb out of here!).

Yesterday we cycled past the turn off for Masada, and today we backtracked north to see it. We didn’t feel like cycling back in the heat, so we decided to take the bus. Well, the bus came and it was jammed full with people heading back to Jerusalem from Eilat (I suppose) so the driver would not let anyone board. In fact, one couple boarded with their bags through the rear door, and the driver spent the next few minutes yelling in Hebrew at them. Finally the man exited the rear door and walked up to the front door to talk to the driver. After a few more minutes he stepped off, the driver shut the door and started to drive away. Well, the wife was still aboard with their bags so the man started running along banging on the door, and the wife was yelling inside the bus, until the drive finally stopped and the wife got off the bus with their bags.

After that bit of excitement, we bargained for a ride on a sherut (shared taxi). Actually, the second sherut. The first time I bargained a bit too hard and he left without us. He offered to take us to Masada for 100 shekels and I offered him 50, then he left. The second sherut driver also offered 100, I countered at 70 and we agreed on 80.

Masada is amazing. All by itself it almost would be worth the entire trip to see it. The complex is much larger than I imagined, and a lot of the ruins remain. From on top of the plateau the camps of the Roman legion that besieged Masada are clearly visible, as is the massive ramp they built to finally reach and then breach the walls of the fortress.

Dusk is approaching and it’s cooling off a wee bit, so I think it’s time to head to the beach for a float in the Dead Sea before dinner. Bye for now.


Oct 18 – Jerusalem to Ein Bokek


We rode Hwy 1 from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea this morning. Hwy 1 is basically the only road to the Dead Sea, and is basically an interstate highway with reasonably heavy traffic, but so are a lot of other roads here in Israel. Right after we got onto 1 there was a section of road construction where the highway was reduced to one lane in each direction with no shoulders. Fortunately we were headed down quite a step grade so our speed was the same as the motor traffic, and we simply took the lane through that section. With the exception of one or two short upgrades we basically coasted the 40km from Jerusalem to the northern end of the Dead Sea. A great way to start the day.

Hwy one heading east from Jerusalem goes through the West Bank, but is in an area completely controlled by Israel. Once you cross into the West Bank the contrast with Israel is quite dramatic. The landscape is completely barren. Alongside this beautiful road, built to get Israelis to the Dead Sea and beyond, in pretty much every little wadi, is a shack with a few goats grazing on something completely invisible to me.

Once we reached the Dead Sea we turned south on Hwy 90. We stopped at a gas station / snack bar at the junction for s cold drink and a snack. There were crowds of Israelis standing watching the release of Galid Shalit unfold on TV. Ever since the announcement of the deal last weekend, the mood in Israel has been jubilant. There seems to be a variety of opinions as to whether the deal should have been made, but now that it has everyone is thrilled to have him home.

We cycled pretty much the entire length of the Dead Sea, 60 kilometers or so, to the little resort town of Ein Bokek (or Ein Boqeq). The town is one street that loops off of Hwy 90, lined with hotels, a few restaurants, and a McDonalds. Just after turning south we passed Quamran, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls that we saw yesterday in the Israel Museum, were found. Then about 15km before Ein Bokek we passed Masada. It is quite an impressive sight, even from the highway. We had planned to stay there but couldn’t get a room. We are staying here two nights so hopefully we can find a way to get back to Masada tomorrow for a proper visit. Jodi couldn’t wait for a float in the Dead Sea so as soon as we got here she headed out, but I will put that off until tomorrow and I just sat and enjoyed the view of the Dead Sea with the mountains in Jordan rising beyond it.

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Oct 17 – Jerusalem

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Internet access is ridiculously expensive at the Dan hotels, and I can’t bring myself to pay it. If the room rate includes electricity and water and cable TV, why doesn’t it include internet access? It makes no sense to me. So Jodi and I spent a couple of hours at a coffee shop down the street trying to nail down the details of the rest of our trip from here to Eilat. From here on we’ll be cycling in the Negev Desert with facilities few and far between, so we needed to make reservations for every night. It turns out that a couple of places we had planned to stay are not available when we will be there, so we had to adjust our plans a bit. We have all but one night confirmed and am waiting for the response to an email about that night. Later on I will head down to the coffee shop again to send this blog post and check for the expected email response.

After our morning planning session we walked over to the Israel Museum and spent a few hours there. The highlight was seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the clay jars they were found in.

I have added photos from Jerusalem to https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011

Oct 16 – Jerusalem

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While we were riding into town yesterday afternoon there were groups of young Jews walking and clapping and chanting. All of the hotels and restaurants had Succot tents set up. This morning we walked through the Jaffa Gate into the Old City, and it being Sunday the bells of all the Christian churches were ringing. At the same time, a steady stream of Jews hurried by as they made their way to the Western Wall where special services were being held for Succot. It all made for an amazing atmosphere.

We spent the day with one other couple and a guide, exploring what seemed like every nook and cranny of the Old City. Churches and temples and ancient fortifications and Roman ruins and mosques and ancient underground waterways. I’m afraid it was a bit of overload for me and by the end I couldn’t tell one ancient rock from another, but it was an amazing experience. I can’t write about each place in detail because there was just too much.

Oct 15 – Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

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I remember all the readings in church used to say “so and so went up to Jerusalem.” Well, it really is up to Jerusalem. After cruising along the beach promenade for a while, then working our way out of Jerusalem, we went up… and up… and up towards Jerusalem. It was a very scenic ride, but definitely a tough workout. Being Saturday, and therefore Shabbat — the Sabbath — there was almost no traffic in Jerusalem when we arrived. We got to the Agron Hostel about 4pm, and reception was closed for Shabbat. The security guard told us we could wait inside, and eventually we got to check with reception only to find they had no vacancies. Jodi stayed to watch our things while I made the circuit of hotels until I found a place for us. That is one of the risks of not planning a set schedule and reserving all our rooms ahead of time. Succot is a big holiday and many Jews come to Jerusalem, so accommodations are scarce. Nevertheless, we managed t get into our hotel just as it was getting dark, so no harm, no foul.

We are wickedly tired tonight so I’m not going to write much.

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More Photos

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I’ve added more photos here:


Oct 14 – Beit HaLevi to Tel Aviv

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Carmel, Oded & Tal’s 18-month old daughter, honored me this morning by asking me to read one of her story books to her. The only thing I know about reading Hebrew is that you read right to left, so I couldn’t actually read it to her, but we enjoyed looking at the pictures together.

After breakfast Tal put together a bunch of food for us to take with us, and we packed up, said our good-byes, and headed out for Tel Aviv. Our route for today included some more unpaved roads, but they proved much looser and more sandy than the ones we rode yesterday, and after pushing our bikes while the front tires snowplowed through the sand, we gave up and went to Plan B. We headed west to Hwy 4 and just rode the shoulder into Tel Aviv. Hwy 4 through here is like an interstate with 3 or 4 lanes in each direction and high speed entrance and exit ramps, some two lanes wide, so it made for interesting riding.

We managed to navigate to the Tel Aviv Guest House / Hostel with relative ease, and have been out for lunch and a walk down by the beach and back.

Tomorrow we are going to try to make it up to Jerusalem. It’s only about 80km but there is quite a bit of cimbing so we’ll see how it goes.

Allen & Jodi

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Oct 13 – Haifa to Beit HaLevi

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For some reason we got turned around as soon as we started out this morning, and wasted a good bit of time, and kilometers, climbing up and down hills in Haifa and getting nowhere. If you look at the track of todays’ ride you’ll see what I mean. It’s rather embarrassing, but there it is.

Once we found our way up to Haifa University, we were back on track and we enjoyed the mostly downhill run down through the Carmel Forest. We were following 672 south and as we got to the end of it at the little village of Even Yizhaq, we came to a gate across the road. We had sen these gates elsewhere but they had always been open. This one was closed. We couldn’t see anybody around so we went through the pedestrian gate, which was closed but unlocked. We weren’t sure of the purpose for the gate so weren’t sure if we were doing something wrong by entering, so were half-expecting to be accosted by some angry official, but nothing happened. We cycled through the village and turned west on a unpaved road which took us down towards Hwy 6, then we turned south on another unpaved road that paralleled Hwy 6. We followed a series of paved and unpaved roads roughly paralleling Hwy 6 before finally turning west to catch a short section of Hwy 4, then turned in towards the Moshav of Beit HaLevi. Here we noodled around until we found the house of Oded and Tal Danon, who are members of the WarmShowers list and had offered to put us up for the night.

The Danon’s make their living growing greens to be used in flower arrangements on 20 acres of land. After a shower and a wonderful dinner, Oded and their two children showed Jodi and I around a bit of their farm. Later this evening a friend of Oded’s stopped by and we spent some time discussing marine biology, israeli and US politics, cycling, and a host of other subjects. Now Jodi and I are tucked cozily up in the loft above the kitchen and ready for a good night’s sleep.

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Oct 12 – Haifa

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This was supposed to be a rest day, so we didn’t do too much. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel we decided we would walk down through the German Colony and on to downtown, then get a ride back up. Remember, Haifa is a city on a hill, or a series of hills to be more accurate.

Jodi wanted to walk down through the Ba’hai Gardens, which descend the hillside in a series of 11 (I think) terraces. Alas, they are open 6 days a week, and today, Wednesday, was the 7th day. We could still see the gardens from a couple of vantage points, then wended our way downhill on adjacent streets.

We strolled around for a while, then had lunch at a cafe on Ben Gurion St in the German Colony. I had the worst fish & chips ever. The menu declared it to be “the British Classic”. Well, I’ve had fish & chips in Britain, and this wasn’t it. Instead of a big, flaky fillet breaded and deep fried, I was served 8 or 10 little whole fish, no breading, fried, and as tasteless as could be. The chips were good.

Once we’d had enough exercise we headed to Paris Square to get on the Carmelit, Israel’s only subway system. It’s really an underground cable car system, with but six stations, that runs from Paris Square down at sea level uphill to Carmel Center. The stations and the trains are built terraced. The trains doors are angled, and the cars are a series of terraces so the passengers sit more or less level while the train moves up and down the hill. There ate only two trains, with one going up as the other comes down. The tunnel is but one track wide except for a short section in the middle where the two trains pass on each trip.

We spent a bit of time hanging out at the pool this afternoon, then this evening we had drinks at the bar, where I had to explain to the bartender how to make a Cosmopolitan for Jodi, then we went out and got a falafel for dinner at a store-front shop.

October 11 – Akko to Haifa

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We rode the rather short section from Akko (Acre) to Haifa today. We are getting into the heavily populated coastal area that extends from here down past Tel Aviv, so we did our best to avoid riding on Hwy 4. We did have to ride 4 for a bit where there was no alternative. It is fine when there is a shoulder, or a sidewalk, but there were sections with neither and trying to share a lane with drivers who are not willing to share can be a bit, ummm, exciting. So, we took a bit of a circuitous route that wended through some residential areas but mostly through industrial areas of scrap yards and trucking terminals and power substations and the like.

As we got into Haifa the road we were following through an industrial wasteland petered out and we hauled our bikes over the guardrail onto one of the main roads into town and rode the dwindling shoulder. Once we got to Haifa we had to climb the hills (Carmel) as we wanted to go to the Eshkol Tower at Haifa University. The university is right at the top of Carmel, and it was a tough haul of about 8 or 10km, many of which we simply walked up on the sidewalk to avoid playing tag with 4 lanes of furious drivers.

When we were in sight of Eshkol Tower Jodi noticed she had a soft rear wheel, and within moments it was flat, so we stopped on a bench in the shade to change her tube. We have both had one flat now, both on the rear wheel, which is the more difficult to deal with.

The view from the Observation Level of the tower was impressive, giving views in all directions, from Haifa Harbor to the west all the way across the Carmel Forest to the west.

Our original plan was to descend down to the German Colony area and spend the night in a guest house there, but after making the hard climb up Carmel we decided we didn’t want to have to do it again, so we changed our plans and headed for the Dan Panorama Hotel, which is much higher up. We also decided to spend two nights here, so we won’t be leaving until Thursday. We will spend tomorrow being tourists, patching our flat tubes, and likely swimming in the very nice pool at our hotel. On Thursday we will head west through the Carmel Forest and then turn south and start making our way towards Tel Aviv.

Allen & Jodi

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Oct 10 – Nahariya to Akko

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Another easy day today; we rode the short distance from Nahariya to Akko (Acre). We rode down the seafront promenade to the edge of Nahariya, then turned inland to Hwy 4 for a bit before turning off for Akko’s Old City. We got a room at the Akkotel, which is built into the city wall next to the Land Gate.

We spent some time sitting outside at the waterfront drinking Cokes and snacking, then played tourist in the afternoon, visiting some of the sites from the era of the Crusaders.

Tomorrow will be another very short riding day when we head for Haifa, though riding the busy Hwy 4 is no picnic.

Allen & Jodi

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After yesterday’s epic ride we took it very easy today. After sleeping for 13 hours we settled up with the hostel and set out in search of breakfast. We had a easy, short ride down to the coast, then turned north for the short ride up to Rosh HaNikra, on the border with Lebanon. We were here to visit the grottoes, but first we had to eat. The restaurant kitchen wasn’t open yet, so we sat for about an hour sipping coffee and tea, and when the kitchen finally opened we had our first meal in 24 hours. We enjoyed our visit, then heading down a side road along the water front until we got to Akhziv National Park, where we stopped to have a swim in the warm, blue waters of the Mediterranean, and to sit around in the shade for a while enjoying the view and the breeze off the water.

Finally we left there and continued easily along the coast until we reached Nahariya. It took a bit of circling around but eventually we found the Carlton Hotel on Ga’aton Street where we got a very nice room at a very reasonable price. Nahariya is a beach town and Ga’aton is the main strip of restaurants and shops. We ate sitting outside watching the world go by on the sidewalk, then took an after dinner stroll down along the waterfront promenade. It gets dark early, around 5:30, and with the dusk comes relief from the heat. Everybody is outside, and the parks and playgrounds along the promenade are full of kids playing. The parks are also full of feral cats, which I understand are endemic in Israel. I find it kind of creepy to see people feeding herds of wild cats liker you sometimes see people feeding pigeons back home.

We are going to have another easy day tomorrow. We’ll head down to Akko which is only about 10km from here. Depending on how much time we spend exploring there, we will either stay there or continue south to Haifa.


I have also added more photos to https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011

Allen & Jodi

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Yesterday evening Jodi and I went for a walk through the neighborhood around our hotel. Since Yom Kippur started at sundown, and nobody drives on Yom Kippur, the streets were taken over by kids on bikes and skateboards and just running and playing in the street. It was really awesome to see, and amazing how quiet the city is without traffic.

This morning, after a mediocre breakfast (scrambled eggs fresh from the refrigerator), we set out early knowing we had a hard day ahead of us. Our goal was Shlomi, just a few kilometers from Rosh HaNikra, the northernmost point of Israel on the Mediterranean. To get there we would have to climb out of the basin Yam Kinneret is located in, up to the Hare Meron (Meron Forest) and finally descend down towards sea level. Our maps doesn’t give any elevation detail so we didn’t know exactly how much climbing we had to do, or exactly where we would stop climbing and start descending again, but looking at the mountains surrounding us we knew we were in for some work. Being Yom Kippur we knew we wouldn’t have to contend with much traffic, so we decided to use the main roads figuring they would take the easiest route through the hills and have the gentlest grades.

We left Tiberias heading north on 90, soon passing Karei Desche where we stayed the night before last, completing our circumnavigation of the Sea of Galilee. This time instead of turning east at the north end of the lake, we continued north on 90 and immediately started climbing. It was wickedly hot grinding up switchback after switchback in our lowest gear, with the sun beating down on us. The temperature was already 29C in the shade (of which there was none), and in the low 30s out on the road in the sun. We stopped once for snacks in the shade of a bus stop shelter, then pressed on. Eventually we made it to the junction with Hwy 89, turned west, and continued to climb.

Around noon we reached the town of Zefat. At the bottom of the road that entered Zefat from 89 there was a police checkpoint, and we asked them if there was someplace we could get some water. They conferred for a minute and suggested the hospital, “500 or 600 meters up the road.” It certainly was up and we climbed and climbed until finally reaching the hospital, where we filled our water bottles and bought a coke from a vending machine. I’m not sure but this might be the most expensive Coke I’ve ever bought. The machine too credit cards, and not being able to read Hebrew I’m not sure I did the transaction right. I suspect this Coke cost be 10 shekels.

By now we were high enough that the temperature dropped a bit, and some intermittent cloud cover came in that also helped relieve the heat. We kept thinking we must be at the point where we stop climbing and start descending more than ascending, but it was not to be. We just kept climbing and climbing. Somewhere along here we pulled off the road under some trees for another snack break. We didn’t realize it until we were back on the road, but we rolled our bikes through a thorn patch. We were soon pulling thorns out of our tires and hoping we wouldn’t have any punctures. Alas, we were not so lucky. A bit short of the town of Jish my rear tire went soft and we stopped at another bus shelter to change the tube and dig the offending thorn out of the tire.

Eventually we reached the Druze town of Hurfeish where shops were open and we stopped at a gas station/convenience store and bought another coke and some candy bars.When we left here we had a nice downhill, but then the road turned upwards yet again. Luckily, not too long after this the road turned much more down than up for us, and we started making decent time. We were thinking we might make it to Shlomi by 4:30 or so, and in fact we were within a few minutes of that guess. We had a little bit of trouble finding the Hostel / Guest House but after stopping twice to ask directions of random passers by we found it.

When we pulled up to the gate we weren’t surprised to find it locked, as security is serious business in Israel, but the parking lot was empty and the hostel was dark. Uh oh! We rang the bell at the gate but got no response. We thought/hoped there was a chance they would be opening after Yom Kippur ended at sunset, which was only a few minutes away, so we decided to wait until 5pm. At 5 we tried the buzzer again, and this time the security guard appeared and told us the hostel was closed. We told him we had a reservation, and after a few minutes of discussion he let us into the compound while he made some phone calls to try to figure out the situation. Eventually it was decided to let us stay, and he opened a room for us and turned the power on. We had the whole hostel to ourselves! Unfortunately there was no food, and won’t be any breakfast in the morning. We haven’t had anything but junk food to eat since breakfast so we will be going to be hungry, but we have a shower, a bed, and AC for a comfortable night’s sleep.

A tough day, but it feels good to have made it.

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The guest house we stayed at last night is only about 10km from
Tiberias, but of course we had to take the long way here,
circumnavigating Yam Kinneret. It was still only about 51 km, and
being more or less flat we rode it in about 3 1/2 hours. We got online
this morning and reserved a room in a hotel here. We came into town
riding along the shore of the lake, and our hotel sits way up atop a
hill. It was a very long, steep climb, and we had lots of impatient
and aggressive drivers honking and passing way too closely. I was
starting to lose my temper and was feeling myself get ready to have a
confrontation with the next person who tried to bully me aside, so I
pulled off onto the sidewalk and we walked the rest of the way up.

We got here about 1pm so had to shower quickly and head out in search
of food since everything closes around 2 or 3 pm; this being Yom
Kippur Eve. The front desk clerk told us all the restaurants were back
down at the bottom of the hill (of course!) so we rushed down there
and believe it or not we ended up eating at a McDonalds, being one of
the few places still open. The menu is a bit different here and we
ended upo having a “Big New York” and a “Big Texas”. They are both
huge burgers at 250grams of meat; a bit over a half pound. The place
was closing as we ate, so we left there and walked back up the hill to
our hotel.

It’s about a quarter to five now and I can hear only a few vehicles
out on the street. We have been listening to what sounds to us like
some loud religious music through our open window, but it has just

We had been planning to go to Zefat (Tszfat, Safed, pick a spelling!),
which is a Jewish holy city, but tomorrow being Yom Kippur everything
will be closed, and we don’t want to be those insensitive cloddish
tourists that make the locals feel like they are an exhibit on one of
their holiest days, so we are going to skip it. We just made
reservations at the Shlomi Guiest House, which is just east of Rosh
HaNikra, the northernmost town in Israel along the Mediterranean
coast. We plan to take advantage of the fact that nobody will be
driving tomorrow and ride without worrying about which roads have the
least traffic. It looks like the country between here and Shlomi is
hilly, but it is only about 65km.

Oh, I almost forgot. While riding around the Sea of Galilee today we
discovered that there is a bike path along the south-eastern part of
the sea. Road cycling seems to be a rather new phenomenon in Israel,
and it seems they haven’t quite figured out how to integrate it. We
were riding along the shoulder of the road and noticed the beginning
of a bike path to our right, but the path didn’t actually connect to
the road. We had to drop off the curb, ride across some loose gravel,
then climb up the edge of the bike path. The path also ended a couple
of times at locked gates, forcing us to turn around and find a way
back out to the road. And in one section, the path was completely
overgrown with overhanging palm branches that we had to bull through
with our heads down. It made a simple cycle path quite an adventure!

Jodi just got back from a trip out to investigate the music.
Apparently many of the towns people are dressed in their finest and
walking to temple.

Allen & Jodi




Photos can be found here: https://picasaweb.google.com/117957848509101633801/Israel2011

Yesterday was about grindingly trudging uphill. Today was gloriously rolling along the Golan Heights and coasting for miles on the way down to Yam Kinneret.

We were the only guests at the motel we stayed in last night, and the proprietress cooked breakfast for us this morning. She also gave me some aloe vera lotion to soothe my sunburned face. We left there a bit after 9:00am, and did a bit more climbing heading towards the town of Nimrod and our turn south onto Hwy 98. Along the way we had a view down onto Nimrod Fortress, where we had stopped to explore yesterday.

Once on 98 we headed south along Ha Golan; the Golan Heights. The terrains was quite beautiful, and the road had a few rollers but was much more down than up for us. While passing through the Druze town of Mas’ada I spotted a store open that looked like we would find some snack foods there, so we stopped. The woman behind the counter did not speak English, but I managed to ask in mime whether she had any sun screen, and to my complete surprise — surprise because none of the people we saw in town were exposing much if any skin — she did! I was thrilled that I managed to get some sunscreen, because otherwise I would have been in agony by the end of today.

Along one of the long, gentle downhills we passed a large group of cyclists heading uphill in the opposite direction. I was very happy to be headed the way we were! A bit further on we passed a Syrian tank destroyed in the 1973 war, and I even spotted the rusty tail of a bomb sticking out of the dirt alongside the road. Again today in many places there were warning about mines, and we also saw old bunkers from the war. From a view-point a couple of kilometers north of En Ziwan we could see the fence that marks the UN Demilitarized Zone between Israel and Syria, and a bit later we passed the entrance to a UN camp.
We thoroughly enjoyed  the Golan Heights, but eventually we turned southwest onto Hwy 87 and coasted over 30km down to the northeast coast of Yam Kinneret / The Sea of Galilee. Tonight we are staying at the Karei Desch Guest House, which is in/near Tabgha. It is a beautiful hostel located on the shore of Yam Kinneret, and we spent a bit of time swimming and sitting on the beach in the shade of a tarp.
Our plan was to stay here both tonight and tomorrow night. That way we could leave our panniers here and circumnavigate the Lake on our unladen bikes tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Eve of Yom Kippur, so staying here would ensure we could get dinner even after most businesses close for the holiday tomorrow afternoon. Then on Saturday (Yom Kippur) we could ride Hwy 89 west towards the Mediterranean with no traffic on the roads. But we were informed that they are fully reserved for tomorrow so unless they get a cancellation by tomorrow morning, that plan isn’t going to work. That is one of the risks we run by not planning every day of our trips ahead of time, but we enjoy being able to change plans as we go. We have worked out a couple of tentative alternatives, so we will just wait and see what happens.
Paul asked about the weather. The weather has been wonderful. It has been in the 80’s during the day, and the high 60’s overnight. The air is dry and if you are sitting in the shade it feels about as perfect as it could be. But the sun is surprisingly strong, and it feels very hot when laboring slowly uphill. The sun rises and sets very quickly; there isn’t much of a twilight. The sun is up about 5:30am, and sets at 5:30pm. We have to stay cognizant of that and make sure we reach a destination by about 5pm so as not to get caught out on the road after dark.
I will upload pictures this evening and post a link when I do.
That’s all for now. We are waiting for dinner, which is in about an hour, at 7pm.
Allen & Jodi

We only covered 40km today, and yet it totally devastated me. I hate to contemplate it, but I suspect it might be due to my getting old, fat, and out of shape.

Jodi was looking at the guide book last night and decided she wanted to go to Metula today. Metula is only a few km north of Tel Hai, where we stayed last night, and sits directly on the border with Lebanon. So, after we had breakfast this morning — a somewhat chaotic breakfast since we were sharing the cafeteria with 3 bus-loads of school kids that stayed at the hostel last night — we set out north, and uphill, for Metula. While Metula is only a few km from Tel Hai, it is about 1,000′ higher, so quite a stiff climb. I even walked some of the steeper bits, though Jodi powered up them, as Jodi usually does.

Metula is a small resort town, though it is out of season currently, since the season ends with Rosh Hoshanna. We stopped at a beautiful restaurant that was open, and ordered breakfast. Yes, I know we already ate breakfast. I’ve said it before: if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not eat it twice? We had a great meal made with all local, fresh ingredients. Fresh baked bread, a couple of kinds of olives (Jodi likes olives; I don’t), fresh butter, cream cheese, fig preserves, some kind of jam, a green omelette (an omelette with chopped greens in it, not an omelette of green eggs!), and fresh apple juice. The apple juice was something else, it was heavy and dark and cloudy, and had a head on it. It tasted just like biting into a tart, crispy apple.

We ended up chatting with the owner and his son, and they pored over our map with us and gave us lots of advice on outed to take and places to stay. They also clued us in to which towns are Arab or Druze and thus should have businesses open during the upcoming Yom Kippur holiday. He also gave us his phone number and insisted that we call him if we had any problems he could help with. Meetings like this are the very best part of traveling.

After saying goodbye we cycled the last bit of the street until we reached the border fence and could gaze past it into Lebanon.

Finally we left Metula, and headed back down the 1,000′ we had climbed. Cycling sure is awesome when coasting downhill! The downhill run ended all to soon,and we turned east and started climbing again. First gently, then more and more steeply. We were heading to Mount Hermon, the highest point in Israel. We climbed and climbed on a road with no shoulders, bordered with barbed wire with signs on every other fence post warning of land mines. I also noticed a sign with an arrow pointing down and the single word “SHELTER” where the road passed over a culvert. If you’re driving on the road and rockets start landing, you take shelter in the culvert.

Our first goal was Nimrod Fortress, a hill-top fortress built and rebuilt from the 13th to the 17th centuries, which controlled the road to Damascus. I ended up walking about 2 1/2 of the last 4 km to Nimrod, but it was definitely worth the effort. We had a wonderful time exploring it, but finally had to leave to push on, still climbing, the last 4km to Neve Ativ, where we have a way over-priced room in a motel and ate a fairly priced but poorly prepared dinner at a hotel/restaurant next door.

Tomorrow we are planning to head south towards Yam Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee). We have a couple of possible routes and will decide which to take when we get to the diverging point. Hopefully it will mostly be downhill and we can make it in a reasonable time. We climbed about 3,000′ to get to Neve Ativ, so combined with the 1,000′ this morning to get to Metula, it was a 4,000′ day. I don’t have another one of those in me for a while!

Oh, I also heard from someone from the WarmShowers.com list that I had previously contacted, and Jodi and I have a place to stay about halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, when we get to that area. We are really looking forward to meeting Tal and his wife and children, and sharing their home for a night.


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Today isn’t really about riding; it’s about completing our journey to the starting point of our ride.

Yesterday morning we ate (early) breakfast in Boston. Then we went to the airport and got on a plane hurtling through the atmosphere at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. While thus occupied we had what British Airways called brunch, but which I decided to consider lunch. Then we had dinner in London (actually at Heathrow Airport while between flights) , then this morning we should have had breakfast in Tel Aviv, but ended up skipping it. I know many people find air travel annoying (me too!) and blase, but I just can’t be blase about it. I think it is amazing that you can wake up on one continent and go to sleep on another.

To make a long story short — because I am dead tired — we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport at 4:30 this morning, just as scheduled. We went through passport control, we retrieved our luggage to find the huge, heavy-gauge plastic bags our bikes were wrapped in rather worse for wear, and some of the bits on the bikes twisted out of alignment, but nothing actually broken. Phew! From here we went through customs then found an ATM machine to get some shekels in our pockets. I don’t actually know what they call an ATM machine here since we don’t read Hebrew, but it’s pretty easy to recognize one when you see one.

It took a couple of minutes but we found where the Sixt car rental desk was and found an elevator large enough to carry us and our still wrapped bikes up to it. The guy behind the counter was super helpful. We had an issue in that their shuttle van running between the airport and the lot wasn’t big enough to fit our bikes in, so David walked us out and showed Jodi where she could wait with our bikes, thn he rode the shuttle back to their lot with me, got our car, helped me figure out how to put the rear seats down, then gave me directions how to get back to the airport to pick up Jodi and our luggage.

Of course I am dead tired while all this is going on, so I’m not sure how much of a dullard I appeared to David. We were up at 4am yesterday morning to get ready and get to the airport in time for our flight, and Jodi and I both only managed to sleep the last 45 minutes or so of our flight to Tel Aviv, so we were running on fumes.

Once we got everything loaded into the car I gave Jodi the map and we headed out to drive north-east to Kiryat Shmona (or Qiryat Shemona or any of several other spellings I’ve seen so far). We headed west on Hwy 1 towards Tel Aviv, then turned north on Hwy 4 for a while before heading northeast towards Tiberias and then due north to our destination. We did a pretty good job of navigating, making only one mistake. We turned left when we should have turned right and ended up going through Nazareth. We took a wrong turn and ended up in Nazareth. I think that’s pretty darned cool. How many places in the world can you make a simple wrong turn and end up in a Biblical city?

As we got closer to Kiryat Shmona we saw a UN vehicle heading the other way down the road. We are probably less than 30km from the UN-patrolled Demilitarized Zone to the east.

So, this is getting tedious, isn’t it? We finally got to Kiryat Shmona and our first order of business was to get some food and drink. We found a bakery and bought a couple of goodies and some kind of banana-strawberry flavored drink, then we walked around town a bit and found what I thought was the rental car return location. I recognized the Sixt logo and colors, though I couldn’t read any of the Hebrew signs. We stopped at a gas station and filled up the car, though I had to ask the clerk how to start the pump. Then we drove to the Sixt place, unloaded and assembled the bikes, then went in to turn in the car. Ha! This was not the rental car location after all. One of the guys there gave me directions to where we were actually supposed to return the car, we put Jodi’s bike back in the car, she got behind the wheel and drove the car over while I rode my bike.

So finally we got the car off our hands and had the freedom of our bikes back. We rode back up the hill into town and stopped at a little place that looked like a restaurant. Of course we couldn’t read the menu but the guy behind the counter spoke English and when I asked him what he had he replied “falafals.” So we had some nice falafals for lunch along with some chips (french fries) and three drinks between us. We sat outside at a table in the shade watching the world go by outside and eventually nearly fell asleep, so we paid our bill and got going. We are staying at an IYHA hostel that is just a few km north of downtown, so it took only a few minutes to ride up here. Thank goodness because being as tired as we are, and dehydrated from all the flying, well, let’s just say we weren’t powering up the hill out of town.

The hostel is gorgeous. We have a room to ourselves with en suite bath. We have our own little patio with views north of Mount Hermon and to the northeast the long ridge of the Golan Heights. With both doors open we have wonderful breezes blowing through. Just as a reminder of where we are — just a few km from the Syrian border — underneath the hostel building is a bomb shelter.

We probably will do an easy day tomorrow, heading east 25 or 30km to Neve Ativ (or Newe Atif) at the base of Mount Hermon, with a stop at Nimrod Fortress along the way. For right now, I am just trying to stay awake until some semblance of evening approaches, though Jodi gave in and is sleeping peacefully next to me.



Planned Route


Here is our planned route in Israel. The very last bit that follows Hwy 12 along the Egyptian border into Eilat is likely going to have to change as that is where the attack from Gaza via the Sinai occurred last month.

The whole route is only about 600 miles — Israel is a small country — and considering that we have more than 3 weeks for our trip, we will have plenty of time to stop and explore along the way.

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Looking Back / Looking Forward

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Today is the 30th of September. 3 days ago was the 2nd anniversary of the day I completed my AT thru-hike by climbing Mount Katahdin in Maine. Jodi drove up to Maine to share that day with me.

And 3 days from now, on October 3, Jodi and I will be leaving for our trip to Israel. We have been so busy the last few weeks that we haven’t really had time to do much int he way of preparation, but finally we are winding up the work projects that need to be done before we leave, and we spent some time today getting our bikes in order and gathering panniers and clothing and travel documents, so now it really feels like we are about to go. So exciting!

We did quite a bit of cycling this summer and got ourselves into better cycling condition than most years, but as I said we have been furiously busy the last few weeks and have gotten almost no exercise. It is a cruel truth that it can take months to build fitness, but only days to lose it. As usual, it looks like I am going to start this trip under-trained and overweight.