bike feat 88 298.
(photo credit: )
It was a tenacious, obstinate plan. They didn't ride along the highway on hard shoulders, they kept to rugged, brutal terrain that started in the desert under the scorching sun of Passover, mid-April, 2006. They followed dirt tracks over rocks and boulders, defying obstacles, acknowledging the raw land. The heat was already dry and piercing.
Whether from the Arava or the Galilee, except for the change in scenery, photos of the group look similar. There's the grandfather, Moshe Frank, 71 years old; his son, Baruch 47; his son, Segev, a slender 14-year-old and Segev's friend, Nadav. They pose in their helmets, or without, alongside their mountain bikes or leaning into the wind, ready to start the next lap. The quartet began in Eilat and worked their way north on the Israel cross-country route, covering 950 km. A direct ride would be 600 km.
Linking the most impressive existing trails, the Israel cross-country route forms consecutive passage from north to south. Identified by orange, blue and white markings, it is the only three-colored route. Basically a footpath, it is also negotiable by bike. When impassable, however, the group was able to find parallel trails.
Over a two-month period, Moshe and his group cycled on holidays and weekends, averaging 50 km. a day, then returned home. They'd live their regular lives through the next week or two, then return to their bikes and resume at the point where they had left off. They cycled northward in seven stages.
From Eilat, they headed for Mitzpe Ramon, along often insurmountable paths on mountain ridges where they passed sanctuaries and altars formed out of caves.
A magazine featured them, and cyclists offered support vehicles, pick-ups, overnight stays, and would even ride alongside, bring food and medical supplies.
Getting lost was easy. Map reading was vital, so Baruch packed more maps than food, followed his compass dutifully. It was inevitable they'd go astray, need to backtrack, turn again and again to the compass, spread maps over thorny scrub, take a new reading, redirect.
On the approach to Mitzpe Ramon from Yotvata, the path abruptly twisted. The grandfather flew off his bike, bashing his helmet. Immediately he felt sharp pain. Thinking he'd cracked a rib, he lay by the side for some time, but when he felt his muscles stiffen, he knew he had to get up. He was determined to continue. Although his son debated giving up the trek, getting help, his father knew he must get back on his bike and ride on. They had just completed three days of a six-day lap. The following three days were painfully long and tense as the grandfather struggled to focus on the trail, rather than his throbbing chest.
Then to Sde Boker, at times forced to walk their bikes through dense rock-strewn areas, often caught in tangles of thorny underbrush, then suddenly trekking through fresh water streams. Once they had to stop for an ibex and two wolves crossing their trail. The land showed more green as they traveled north.
Beit Guvrin to Jerusalem was a grueling climb. Friends from Jerusalem rode with them to the Ben Shemen Forest, and more joined them on the way to Tel Aviv and along the coast to Caesarea.
They confronted rigorous, challenging terrain from the Carmel Mountains to Karnei Hitim through Wadi Hamam and Migdal. On the way to the Kinneret, they were followed by stunning kingfisher birds.
Finally they reached their destination, a point between Kibbutz Sde Nehemia and Moshav She'ar Yashuv on June 27th, in time to celebrate the grandfather's 72nd birthday.
The persistent foursome were joined on the last 10 km. of the expedition by the grandmother on her bike, children, grandchildren and friends from all over Israel who completed the route with them - cycling, driving jeeps and mini-tractors or running, jogging and walking. The crowd boisterously applauded the resolve of the son and his son to offer the grandfather a birthday gift of another kind: to experience the country in an exceptional, candid way, through trails they'd have to chart themselves.
The crowd cheered the champions, just like at the Olympics.