The following are excerpts from my journal, written on my bike trip over the past week:
28 September 2007 – 13:11
Route for Day One
Greetings from Be’er Sheva! The only problem is that I was supposed to be in Arad by now, thirty miles east.
The morning started off great – I got up at 5:15 – okay, maybe it didn’t start off great. I hate getting up early. Hate it hate it hate it. And yet, for some odd reason, I’m going to be doing this voluntarily for the next week. Go figure.
So… got up. Went to the Tel Aviv Central Bust Station. Let me restate that. Fooled around for an hour trying to find the Central Bus Station. At least I didn’t have problems trying to find my platform. The Central Bus Station is supposed to be one of the worst designed buildings in the history of mankind (source: Wikipedia) and I can definitely see how that might be. To get to the Egged platforms on floor six, you have to take the elevator to the Dan platforms on floor five, take the escalator to the Dan platforms on floor six (the elevator doesn’t go to floor six, even though there’s a button for it), and finally get to the Egged platforms.
The bus I took was an hour later than the one I had originally intended to take, and it was delayed, and if you had put me on the bus blindfolded and then removed the blindfold, I would have sworn it was a military transport. About eighty percent of the passengers were wearing the olive green or tan of the IDF, and about half of those were from an officer training school, which I assume is near Be’er Sheva. The bus was filled to over-capacity. I and a few others ended up sitting on the floor in the central aisle. I would have liked to see out the windows, but, hey, it got me there, so I’m not complaining.
Ready to hit the road
Then came the frantic figuring out which streets would get me to the highway.
And I was not ten kilometers out of Be’er Sheva when this nasty little nail decided to introduce itself to my tire – point first.
Okay. A minor inconvenience, as I had thoughtfully included some tools, a pump, and a spare tube in my equipment.
But not a socket wrench. I wrestled with the nuts on my back wheel for half an hour by the side of the road, and made absolutely no progress.
I considered, and decided to walk back to Be’er Sheva, where I had seen a hardware store. Dang. However, on the outskirts of the city, what should the first blessed signs of civilization be but a massive car dealership! And cars mean garages and workshops, and that in turn means more tools than you can shake a stick at.
At the GM dealership I walked in, asked for somebody who spoke English (I have no clue how you say “wrench” or “flat tire” in Hebrew), and made my request. One of the mechanics was extremely helpful – although he did tell me I was supposed to be able to change a tire in three minutes – and I was out of there in fifteen minutes. At this point I wasn’t worried about the time. It is freakishly hot in the sun, but quite nice in the shade, with a great breeze.
Since I won’t be able to get going until at least three, I’m sitting in the shade of a gas station, doing a really long lunch break. Note to self: Egg salad pita sandwiches are, in retrospect, not a good idea. They tend to sog over the course of seven hours.
The gas station/convenience store guy came out a little while ago for a cigarette, and we got to talking. We got to the inevitable “where are you from” bit, and on hearing my response (his English is excellent) said something along the lines of, “if you’re from Tel Aviv, what in God’s sweet name are you doing in Be’er Sheva?” implying that this is the most utterly Godforsaken place on the face of the planet. It certainly doesn’t have a lot going for it.
And just now, while I was writing the above, a random guy, maybe in his thirties, asked me where I was going. This conversation was in Hebrew, so I couldn’t quite follow it all, but I think he offered me a lift in his pickup to Ein Gedi. Which would kind of spoil the purpose of a bike trip.
I do have to be at Ein Gedi by eight, though, so if I’m not well past Masada by seven, I’ll – get a bus or something.
On the way to Arad