Gethsemane – an excerpt from The Death Ride
By Molly Hartle
I throw my bike in the car and drive it down hill to Maple Street. I could start the ride at my house, but I know after doing more than 3,000 feet of climbing, I won’t want to do another 500 to get back up the hill.
Driving is an act of self-love.
Once I reach Maple, I park on the side of the road and begin to unload my bike. First the body, then the wheel. Then I get outfitted, slipping on my cycling shoes and placing my helmet securely on my head. I pull the two plastic bottles full of electrolyte water out of my car and place them in the cages of my bike. My keys, driver’s license, credit cards and medical insurance card gets shoved into the right pocket of my jersey. The energy bar gets shoved into the left and the phone goes in the middle. I thread my headphone cord up through my jersey and out the open collar, placing the right bud into my ear.
Now for tunes.
I grab my phone from the back pocket of my jersey and search through my albums until I see Jesus Christ Superstar and find the one song guaranteed to get me up the hill—Gethsemane. I click on the tiny arrow next to the song, and the tinny sound of the electric guitar begins.
In this original Broadway version, Jeff Fenholt is Jesus. His voice is slow, smooth and steady.
“I only want to say … If there is a way …”
I click my right foot into the pedal and push down as my left foot searches for the other pedal. The bike effortlessly rolls down Maple Street to Shoreline. I go left on Shoreline and immediately start to climb. I always appreciate how Fenhold draws out “say” and “way” in this version of the musical. As I gingerly spin the pedals, my bike computer reports 113 beats per minute. No need to look at mileage or elevation until Panoramic. I already know that the distance between my car and Panoramic is 3.8 miles and 500 feet of elevation.
“Take this cup … Away from me … For I don’t want to taste its poison.” Fenholt nails “Away” while a truck passes me on the left. Driveways appear on my right. I am still passing houses when Fenholt sings, “Feel it burn me, I have changed. I am not as sure as when I started.”
I touch the speaker on my earbuds to replay the song until my favorite part coincides with the steeper part of the road. “But … if … I … die. See the saga through and do the things you ask of me. Let them hate, hit me, hurt me, nail me to a tree.” As the music intensifies, I pick up my pace as the road climbs into the eucalyptus forest. My heartrate soars to 155.
“Why … I … should … die? Would I be more noticed that I ever was before? Would the things I’ve said and done matter anymore?”
I increase my pace a second time and my heartrate pops to 168.
Fenton’s screaming now with the music picking up speed. “All … right! I’ll die. Ohhh … Just watch me die. See how I die. Ohhh … just watch me die.”
The trumpets chime in as I pick up my pace a third time. Once I reach Panoramic I break into an easy jog around the hairpin turn. My heart rate drops to 144 and I am flooded with a sense of relief and happiness. To my right, I can see the bay in the distance, dotted with white sail boats. As I continue to spin, I think about when I first started running in my teens. Typically, I would do a few miles before rounding the final bend to the street leading up to my house.
That’s when I would pick it up but not without first checking in with my body. How did it feel? Was it up for this? On good days, I could feel energy rising from my core to my legs and arms, filling me with a kind of strength or love. Then, I would simply unleash it like a racehorse exiting the gate, letting it flow harder and faster until it arrived at its happy conclusion.
By the time I get back to the house, I am tired but full of joy.
Molly lives in Mill Valley. A few years ago, she left her job as a senior writer at a medical staffing company to commit herself to non-profit work. When not volunteering, she loves to ride bikes—both mountain and road—and has a keen interest in learning surfing and K-pop dance. Molly did not sign up for the Death Ride to write a story. However, the story did help justify the insanity of riding 130 miles with over 15,000 feet of elevation in a single day.