I've been talking about looking forward to the Hazon ride all year, and now I can report on a marvellous ride.
Early on Sunday morning... 6am... Hannah and I tried to eat a big breakfast before the start of the 2007 NY Jewish Environmental Bike Ride. It was cold and we were wearing cycling gear with added leggings and sleeves and very fashionable 2007 NY Ride cycling jackets (photo by Jon Drill). The dining room was an open sided tent at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat center, and that meant it was cold inside as well.
Unlike last year, however, it was a beautiful morning - the mist was rising from the pond, and the sun was peeking through the trees at the horizon line. Hannah again read the Traveller's Prayer (tefilat haderech) in English, and someone else read it in Hebrew. Then with a shofar blast off we went. It took an hour or two to warm up, and then it was a glorious, wonderful day. The weather really was perfect both days.
Unlike last year Hannah's bike behaved wonderfully and my bike was fine (after I replaced a flat inner tube late Saturday night before we even started). It was such a pleasure to ride with Hannah for both days ... we had a great deal of fun just chatting and riding. The route was very similar to last year and is through absolutely gorgeous scenery mostly on very quiet roads (photo by Marni Mandell). This year I rode up the 3 mile ascent with Nigel Savage - he chatted with me all the way up - and I made it all the way and able to chat right back. This was unlike last year when I did pretty poorly on the same stretch. I have been enjoying riding pretty strenuously with friends all spring and summer - and it clearly paid off: thanks Guy, Jason and all my other riding companions.
Day one ended well for almost everyone, although one dear friend fell when she tried to avoid a dead animal on the road and lost control of her bike. We were all pretty worried initially and she ended up with a broken bone (or two) in her left shoulder. She was in hospital overnight for observation but able to join in the closing celebrations at the end of the ride in Manhattan. The safety and incident plan, always meticulously prepared ahead of time, kicked in very well, and although a broken bone is very serious we were all glad it was not anything worse and that the system for taking care of an injured rider worked well.
This year the Hazon ride was more special because of the number friends who joined us. We had a bus full from Boston, including parents and children riding together from our shul (synagogue) and the kids' schools, as well as others who we met for the first time. On top of that we got to see old friends from LA with their wonderful five kids, as well as reconnecting with Hazon ride friends from last year.
The keynote lecture - always given on Friday evening at the shabbaton that precedes the ride itself - was given this year by my old friend Rabbi Mike Comins of TorahTrek. I met Mike in the 1980's and we shared an apartment in Jerusalem together around 20 years ago. He and I have stayed loosely in touch and it was wonderful to see him, meet his fiance Jody, and hear him speak so beautifully about his work. On Shabbat (Saturday) afternoon, I was also privileged to hear Nehemia Polen teach (he was also a rider with his wife and one of his daughters). He lives in Boston and teaches at Hebrew College, but this was my first opportunity to hear him and it was wonderful.
Day two of the ride was a little easier in some ways because we started with breakfast inside (and hence, warmer). It was certainly an easier route than last year. Most of the day was spent on the Westchester Rail Trail - a wonderful zero motor-traffic riding experience. However day two follows day one and so the physical exertion felt harder even though it was basically downhill most of the day. The end of the ride is down the Greenway in Riverside Park to the Boat Basin, and then a critical mass ride to the JCC at 76th and Amsterdam. Six miles from the end I got another flat, but good friend Hue Rhodes helped me out, and we made it in. It was a wonderful high for Hannah and I, with other friends, to ride in and see Dorit with Asher and Rina cheering us in.
The closing circle was held, as usual, on the roof of the JCC. Lots of participants shared how amazing they found the entire experience. For myself, well, I cycled 100+ miles over the two days, spent wonderful time with my daughter, many great friends, and a diverse community of Jews and non-Jews who really feel we can make a difference in the world. I also found that even a book-loving, desk-bound, computer geek can be fitter this year than last.