'Wheels of Love': Day 2 in the rain

Saul Singer is chronicling the five-day "Wheels of Love" charity ride for Alyn Hospital. Monday was Day 2. It could be worse. It could be… raining. Yesterday we rode in the shadow of enormous rain clouds, which miraculously waited to unload themselves until that evening after we had safely eaten dinner and collapsed in the spartan rooms in Moshav Keshet on the Golan. This morning, our luck ran out. A dense fog greeted us when we peeked outside. At breakfast, we were told that it looked like the weather would hold for a (normally easy) 40-kilometer level ride south across the Golan plateau - or, at most, drizzle. But it poured. We seemed to be riding into a cloud that was sitting on the ground, depositing all it had on top of us and reducing visibility to a wet cocoon around the road. Most of us were wearing rain jackets and jury-rigged accoutrements, like shower caps over our helmets and bags over our shoes, but almost everyone was soaked somewhere or other. At some point, however, a certain giddiness came over us as the rain eased slightly and the fog moved back. We were cold and wet, but the worst had happened and it hadn't stopped us - the biking equivalent of dodging a bullet. Inevitable choruses of "Singing in the Rain" broke out. What couldn't stop us would make us stronger. Individually, the riders would not stand out as such hardy folk. Many are in their fifties, sixties or even seventies, from places woefully bereft of hills to train on, such as Miami, New York, Chicago and London. But they keep coming back for more. The Alyn Ride has grown every year as veterans return and first-timers like me hear what a great experience it is. Many people had to be turned away, since registration was capped at 330 riders. Though there are many inspiring stories among the riders of overcoming cancer or disability to join what is a grueling physical challenge for a non-athlete, what is striking is what "normal" lawyers, businesspeople, grandparents and children (there is a 15-year-old diabetic kid with us) can do when inspired by each other for a cause they believe in. Now, after the day's ride, we are relaxing in the Beit She'an Guest House and girding ourselves for tomorrow, which may be the toughest day of the trip - across the whole country to the coast, ending at Zichron Ya'acov after climbing Mount Gilboa.