Thursday, August 23, 2007

19.8.07: Hastings - the finale

11.05 am:
Temperature 23C, humidity 53%, wind light south-westerly, overcast. Distance: 12 miles

Ride with Hastings Urban Bikes
Waiting at Rye Harbour at the end of the road, HUB cyclists appear in the distance. As they get nearer, we can see there are quite a few. How amazing that they have turned out on this dull day when heavy rain is forecast. They include members of Age Concern HUB, a senior cycling group who come under the HUB umbrella and are here under their ride theme "Breath of Life".

We set off towards the river mouth and along Rye Harbour Nature Reserve track - National Cycle route 2. About three miles along we stop at Winchesea Beach Cafe. The cakes are flamboyant but we all manage to resist.

One of the Age Concern cyclists tells me his balance is affected by a recent minor stroke. He has just fallen off, but luckily onto the grassy side of the track. Neil tells me he lives with "farmers' lung". But they still cycle, these people. They are truly intrepid.

It begins to rain and we don our waterproofs. The seniors turn round at this point; their ride will be a circular eight miles and I have been honoured by their presence.

The remaining HUB cyclists, Nick, Michael, Michael, and Gavin are sticking with me. The climb up the hill goes much as my Monday ride, except that it is pouring and we are all soaked. I suggest the others go ahead and I join them at Fairlight Lodge Hotel, our stop-off point at the top. They are concerned but I assure them I will be better on my own, as anxiety and self-consciousness at my slow walking pace is likely to make my breathing even worse. And Rita is standing by with the car in case of problems.

After lunch and another photo, both Michaels go their separate ways home, and Nick and I start the heady, euphoric descent into Hastings. Before Nick heads for home on the west side of the town, we take a celebratory photo.

The ride, however soggy and exhausting, has been the perfect end to this Drawing Breath project. I hope I can ride with HUB again. Down on the front, delaying the ending of my journey, I'm drawn to the fun fair. When I photographed it in May it was asleep. It is now going at full blast though with few takers, probably due to the rain.

For some reason it makes me remember the terror of my COPD diagnosis in 2000. And how, despite its severity and undoubted bad days, things haven't turned out so bad after all.