What if your last ride was just that, your last ride ever? Would it make a difference if you knew it was the last ever, and if you knew that, where would you go, what would you do?
I have been off the bike with a cold for over a week. It's a bit of a slow burning cold, this one, and even an hour of housework has me knocked out, faint and back on the sofa. I imagine riding even a three mile trail to the local cafe would have me wondering just how I was going to get home.
And I remember the last ride.
The last ride was just over a week ago. The Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend. The plan was that it was the first of three days riding. I took the road bike out; after a summer of neglect while I'd waited for plans and weather to work out. Checked brakes, gears, noted that it needed a proper clean and new handlebar tape, oiled the somewhat sticky pedals and off I went. I'd found a route used by the Audax people which seemed worth trying, a 100km ride which started about 5 miles down the road. Mixing imperial and metric with gay abandon. Just five miles from home it took me off my beaten track, found me a hill climb I didn't know, and led me onto roads I wasn't familiar with ... but loved. A route stitched together by someone who clearly has spent a lot, some may say too many, hours in the saddle, exploring, learning, identifying which roads were quiet to traffic and which weren't. It was a most cunningly devised thing, and totally and utterly joyous. It took me further south than I've been, it pulled together familiar stretches with undiscovered short cuts. There were hills, and there was gravel and there were smiles.
Six hours, I was out there, pedals turning in the last of the summer sunshine, just cool enough that I didn't take the gilet off all day, but just warm enough that I drank my way through nearly both bottles.
The next day I woke up with a sore throat and that, as they say, was that.
The nostalgia of the last ride is staying with me, just until I'm back in the saddle again, until this illness has left me able to breathe without coughing and move without dizziness.
I know that this too shall pass, but just imagine, what if it didn't. Would the last ride have been the same?