Your best bicycle ride is your most recent solo ride.
Or the most recent time you rode with a friend.
Or the time you rode by yourself and your friend caught up with you on Grange Hall Road, not in a planned way but in that way that people who used to ride together every day but haven’t ridden together in years respond to opportunity and weather and potential routes the same way on the same day at very nearly the same time.
(You use the word serendipity because of rides like that and because serendipity is a fun word to say. Hey, you’ve got the time here. Go ahead and say it: serendipity. Fun, right? Your friend, by the way, used to say the word plethora. A lot. Like, all the time. All. The. Frickin’. Time. Despite that, you’re still friends. And that’s a good thing. After all, it’s not like you have a plethora of friends.)
Your friend was about to have a second child, about to name that child after a box of graham crackers, though upon reflection, you now concede that conversation was a long time ago and so it was less likely that crackers were in fact discussed by the nomenclature committee. Which you were not invited to join though you had plenty of suggestions. Graham. Wasn’t that a car maker back in the thirties? Does that make any more sense than the crackers? By the way, you seem to be out of graham crackers. Again.
Maybe the best ride was that time you challenged yourself.
Or maybe the best ride was the only race you ever won, more than forty years ago, because you counted laps in Mount Sterling and sprinted away from a pack filled with riders stronger than you who assumed someone else would count laps and that someone else would not be you. Because, let’s face it, you weren’t—you aren’t—that good at racing. Or math.
Forget that: The best ride was the time you outran that storm.
Or maybe it was the time you didn’t—the time you spent the afternoon at the Spirit of St. Louis airport drying out and drinking coffee. You and your friends cheering the landing and departure of each small airplane.
(There’s that friends thing again. But what do friends have to do with a great bicycle ride? You have to pedal your own bike, unless you’re hanging onto the saddle of an especially strong friend just cranking away between Danvers and Normal. Now that was a ride, like coasting down an amazing hill in a place you hadn’t seen a hill before or since.)
Or maybe the best ride was when a family outside of Jefferson City invited you to roll out your sleeping bag in the living room after a long day pedaling in weather colder than you were ready for. That was the first time you ate fried rabbit, remember? And it was good. Have you had rabbit in any of the years following that ride? No. You have not. Still, you remember that rabbit in Missouri every time one of its relatives tops the green beans in your garden in Illinois.
(You don’t even like green beans. Why do you care?)
But today, today was a great ride. Was it the longest? No. Was it the fastest? God no. Have you ever stepped on a scale without double-checking the warranty? No. You have not.
If you’re like me you’re a steady rider. Your current, average and maximum speeds during any given ride are so slow and so close to being the same thing that sometimes you stop by the side of the road to figure out whether you’re confusing your sense of momentum with your rate of metabolism.
You rest a finger along a prominent vein. You count your pulse for ten seconds and multiply by six. You are not good at math. But you know your pulse is racing.
That means, friends, that you are winning. That this is the best ride.
And it’s not over. Not yet.