Posted by: Dana | 2010/01/15

Jan 11 – Flight to Cairo

(I wrote this on the flight from JFK to Cairo but couldn’t post it until now.)

I am one hour into the flight to Cairo and already I feel very far from home. The woman sitting to my right is completely veiled except for her eyes and her young daughter, sitting between us, is covered except for her face. I feel oddly calm at the moment, maybe a little numb. The whirlwind that has been the last few weeks is now behind me and the excitement and adventure that will start in Cairo is an ocean away.

The past several weeks have been hectic, exhausting, stressful, expensive, and very exciting at the same time. The amount of cycling gear, equipment, and apparel, camping gear, first aid supplies, electronics, etc that I needed to buy was astounding. Each purchase required research because so much of this was new to me. The decisions about which items to bring became the biggest source of stress, quite honestly, because it felt so consequential. If I chose the wrong camera, I would be disappointed with the pictures. If I selected the wrong tires, I would be downright screwed. I carefully plucked off new sales tags from my purchases, so that when I arrive in Cairo I don’t appear to be as big of a newbie as I am. But the truth is, almost everything is new. The bike, the shoes, the helmet, the tent, the sleeping bag, the camera, the netbook, the headlamp, the duffle bags, and the list goes on and on. Practically nothing is broken in. On the first night, when I struggle to set up my tent, it will be painfully obvious. And when I can’t figure out how to work the solar charger for my electronics, I hope there will be someone who can help. I feel a little like the person planning to run a marathon who runs out the night before to buy new shoes.

So after the careful acquisition of supplies, now I’m worried that I’ve exceeded the allowable load (100 pounds per rider, not including the bike). I can’t imagine what I will leave on the sidewalk because almost every item seems essential. I guess with the exception of one pair of jeans, a frisbee, and a brown skirt. The crazy creek chair is probably considered a luxury item, even though it’s just a folded piece of canvas to support one’s back while sitting in the dirt. I didn’t even bring the nail polish I had previously decided would be my indulgence on the ride.

This past week was a total rush. After packing up my apartment, I left DC, had lunch with cousins in NY, and spent a couple of days in CT visiting friends and my accountant (yes, I’ll be away for April 15th!). Then I headed up to Boston where I stayed with my sister and her family using her prime location next to “Shopper’s World” as my base of operation. I spent one day in Rhode Island and got my bike packed into a box, visited two close friends with very new babies, and had dinner with other friends who didn’t just have babies. I celebrated my nieces’ 4th birthday by bringing cupcakes in to her preschool class and joining in the fun at her bday party. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not going to be away for that long—four months will go by in the blink of an eye. But still, it didn’t escape me that in the four months I’ll be away, I’ll miss other birthday celebrations (including my mom’s next week, Maya turning 7, Aviva turning 5), births of more friends’ kids, Passover, a Hagerty retreat, and the day-to-day routine of seeing friends, walking Jackson, and just doing my normal thing.
The support and encouragement from family and friends has been incredible and I’m sincere when I say that it will buoy me during the tough times on this ride. I want to give a shout out to thank a few individuals who deserve special mention (who doesn’t, really?):

Loren and Brad—my sis and her hubby—for a million things but especially for being completely behind me and for taking care of my dog, Jackson, during the dead of a very cold Boston winter. I know not everyone thinks of taking care of Jackson as a “gift”, but I know you do, and hope he brings a lot of joy into your home (on the rare occasions when he is not asleep).

My folks for getting behind me on this crazy trip, even though it baffles and confounds them! My dad made a special trip from FL to take me to the airport today, which meant a lot. And by the way, and completely unrelated, my mom just got her fourth hole in one!!
Aunt Margie who offers heartfelt support and expressions of pride and lots of reminders not to forget the small stuff (“did you make copies of your passport?”).

Jeremy for initiating the scrapbook and recruiting friends and family to participate, and for the painstaking technical work that I can imagine went into creating it (in addition to being my trip technology consultant). In just the first few minutes of the flight, I opened the first couple of messages sent by friends and Aunt Margie, and it totally delighted me.

Steve, the manager at Spokes, Etc. in Alexandria, VA, for his patience, expertise, and recommendations. Spokes is an awesome bike shop and they helped get me equipped and ready for this.

My friend and former co-worker, Nick, a young and hip blogster, who offered advice, guidance, trouble-shooting, and web hosting of my blog.

Greg and Denise from the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation who became fast friends of mine and two of my biggest supporters. Tied by our unfortunate link to melanoma, we share a commitment to educating about and preventing this disease. Greg and Denise (through their partner, Endurafit) made awesome customized shirts for me that I will wear on the ride with the map of the route, the Foundation logo, etc.

Eythan for so much and a meaningful send-off.

This trip provided me with a great excuse to catch up with many important people in my life and surround myself with those I love. I wish I had recorded this past week in photos (but I didn’t have my new camera yet…only got it two days ago!). I’ll take with me many nuggets of encouragement and wisdom, including my cousin Mona’s comment that she’ll love me if I finish the ride but she’ll love me just the same if I don’t. Gotta love family and the pragmatism of elders (no, Mona, I didn’t call you elderly!!)

So now it’s time to shift from preparation to execution! I’ll be in Cairo for several days, staying in a hotel with others on the ride. We have a series of meetings and workshops planned on safety, logistics, bike mechanics, etc and will hopefully have some time to tour the sites, as well. I guess I’m a little nervous to meet others in the group knowing that these are the folks who will either drive me mad or help sustain me over the course of the next few months. 56 full tour riders from all over the world will be participating. I can imagine that anticipation and nerves will be running high in Cairo.

On the morning of the 16th we meet at the pyramids in Giza for our opening ceremony. I hear our first day will lift and then break our spirits. Riding by the base of the pyramids will thrill us initially, but nearly 100 miles later, I’m sure the reality of this will start to settle in. Hopefully, ibuprofen and my comfy new sleeping bag will help.

I’ll do my best to stay in touch and I hope you will all do the same.

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