A TRIP TO SIDON - Bill Isely '43
Saturdays at ACS were a special time, particularly when you lived in the boarding department and had Miss Mathews for a house mother. Weekdays were full of school and Sundays were mandated attendance at church. Vacations we had to go home to wherever we came from. In the 1939-1940 season, there were some memorable Saturday trips to the Krack de Chevalier, the caves at Dog River, the ruins at Balbeck, and the cedars in the mountains to the east of Beirut. Of course, there was swimming below the University campus and many dances hosted by high school classmates where one escorted one's steady to the dance; but the most memorable occasion for me was a bicycle trip to Sidon.
Roger G., Jim S., and I decided to make the trip one Friday in May of 1940 and set out the next Saturday morning. Jim came over to the BD and met Roger and me there. We went down to the shore boulevard to start, and looking North, saw a submarine surface and proceed into the harbor. We turned left on the boulevard going past Pigeon Rocks, knowing that if we stayed on the road, we would come to Sidon.
None of us had extensive touring experience on bicycles, so we set off at a fast speed, not pacing ourselves for the long haul. It was a glorious day with white clouds along the Mediterranean, and the black asphalt paving made the ride smooth. There were olive trees going up the hills to our left away from the sea. There was almost no traffic, in retrospect no doubt due to a wartime shortage of petrel. By late morning we arrived at Sidon and, having made no provision for lunch,bought some oranges and that great Lebanese bread with sesame seeds that looks like an oversized doughnut and is hollow inside. Compared to the countryside, Sidon was noisy and dirty, so we didn't stay long and started back for Beirut.
Going back was a drag. We had overdone going to Sidon and were tired. Several times we stopped and rested in the shade of the ever present olive trees. Then a truck came lumbering along. We had been told to be careful of vehicles, but we were tired and didn't care, so we maneuvered ourselves directly behind the truck to be in its air stream. This pulled us along for a number of miles with very little effort. I think we never went faster than downhill behind that truck.
Nearing Beirut, we left the pull of the truck, and wended our several ways home. As I arrived at the boarding department I became concerned that maybe I should have asked for permission to go to Sidon, so I sneaked my bike back into the bicycle shed when no one was looking so no one would ask where I had been.
Looking back after all these years I think that we did fairly well, considering that it was in the days before geared bicycles, at least in Beirut. Our guardian angels must have been looking after us, since we had no mishaps and no one found out about our great adventure.