Sometimes with Cycling Jordan we do normal things, like our regular rides between Amman and Madaba, a distance of about 35KM or so. Sometimes we do extraordinary things, like create relay teams that cover 252KM between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. Sometimes we do downright crazy things like burning-sands treks through 90KM of desert (and certain bicyclists feel like they’d like to lie down and die). However, none of us have ever cycled thousands of kilometers across dozens of borders to share a message of peace from the Pope to the Emir of Saudi Arabia. And that’s exactly what the men and women of the Rotary Club’s Cycle Tour for Peace is doing at this very moment.

Cycling Jordan has the honor of acting as the escorts and guides of this team of approximately 30 European cyclists for the next week, starting yesterday when they crossed into Jordan at the Syrian border. I was there with about 10 other Cycling Jordan guides and enthusiasts to greet them and cheer them on when they passed customs and were allowed to slide their slick-looking road bikes into the parking lot next to the Jordanian Border headquarters. Below, Sa’ad introduces my friend and colleague Sari as the trip leader for the week, summing him up as “thin but very strong.”

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We certainly weren’t alone in welcoming them. The Jordanian branch of the Rotary club had pulled out all the stops to give them a hero’s welcome. Military officers standing at attention, media teams, a phalanx of Jordanian tourist police, and a 10-member band…with two bagpipers! It was all rather insane, but I knew it was going to be a good day when the ten of us riders, plus Sa’ad and his son Karim of course, were given official green and gold bike jerseys commemorating the event and our part in assisting them. I’ve never owned a jersey with sponsorship on it. It was so excellent that I feel like I should be sponsoring things all the time! (Written on a Dell Inspiron laptop.)

Lining up at the Duty Free

This stint brought to you by Jordanian Duty Free Shops™! (Are you listening, companies? I’m willing to sponsor your products!)

Anyway, it was quite the experience to join these weathered, tough-looking riders for the first part of their stint in Jordan. They were older than we thought, it’s true, but they were incredibly coordinated, organized, and enduring. For us Jordanian cyclists, we were a little shocked at first at how they smoothly glided in and out of perfect two-by-two positions to draft each other and always keep a fresh rider in front to keep a continuous pace of 25KM/h. It didn’t seem very fast while I was in the middle of the pack, but after one break when Sari and I were a minute late in getting back on our cycles, we found that no matter how hard we pushed ourselves, we simply could not catch them. Without a team to draft off of, the wind blew us backwards in every hill, and distance between us and the specks of green and gold grew wider every moment.

Leaving the Jaber Border Crossing behind and pointing our tires towards Amman

Leaving the Jaber Border Crossing behind and pointing our tires towards Amman

The reaction from the car drivers around us varied, between the usual honking and cheering, to complete open-mouthed dumbfoundedness, to the typical idiot drive-around-and-cut-off-cyclists-while-laughing-madly. Those people make me wish I carried a pistol. However, the joke was on them this time, because although people like that can get away with that 99% with Jordanian cyclists, this time we had police escorts at the front of the pack, so this time they were written up and ticketed. It felt so, so right to watch them get their just desserts.

I took this picture by holding the camera upside-down behind me and firing off madly. Out off 20 shots this was the least blurry one.

I took this picture by holding the camera upside-down behind me and firing off madly. Out off 20 shots this was the least blurry one.

Although it seemed like both the Europeans and the welcoming team wanted to bike the entire 86KM from the border to Amman, they had to continue their debutante-like schedule and needed to be in Amman at 4PM to make a dinner party thrown by someone named Prince Hassan. As we had left the border at noon, there was no way we’d be able to get to the city in four hours, and their backup bus took them the rest of the way after about 40KM. I asked one of their riders if they’d needed to do that before. Her face twisted with regret and she told me that they had once in Greece, but they felt terribly guilty to do it, but unfortunately the Rotary Club required them to make all these meetings and parties and schedules for their sponsors.

I wish that I was able to join Sari in guiding this amazing team for the next 6 days as they travel south towards Aqaba and the Saudi border, and Sa’ad asked me a month ago if I would guide with him, but of course I have work responsibilities that prevented me from accepting their offer. I’ll just have to cheer them on from here in Amman – and of course, I have an amazing looking green and gold jersey to use from now on!

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