One of the joys of being back in Ocala is having my dear friend Jude close by. Seven years ago she started to ride her bike with me and it turned into something close to a ritual. We're quite competitive but in a friendly way, our biking is more about the fellowship between us and the people we cross along the way.
So on this sparkling Saturday morning, with the sun inching up into the solid blue sky we set off on our cycle along the Greenway. I felt electric and I was beaming as we pushed our pedals up the hill, puffing, grunting and trying all the time to carry on a normal conversation.
We greeted everyone going the other way. Parents and their children, lone in-line skaters, runners, other cyclists, the old and the young and the young at heart.
The best part was when we stopped to help two Asian ladies as they attempted to figure out the trails for the first time.
They weren't sure they could make it round. We were able to show them where the maps were at regular intervals, explain the inner loops and the outer loos and assure them that they would be just fine. Every road leads back to the main road.
"Tell you what," Jude said to them "We're going round the 5 mile loop again so we'll look out for you. Make sure you're not lost or collapsed!" They both broke out into radiant smiles.
"Thank you!" they chorused, "That sounds good!"
Then we all went our separate ways.
Half an hour later we saw them as we turned the corner, walking along without a care, carrying three of the largest pine cones I'd ever seen in my life.
"Hi! Looks like you're doing great!" I called out pointing to their treasures.
"Hi!" They grinned back delighted "You found us! And we didn't even have to take the short cut."
"Enjoy the beautiful day then!" Called Jude as we both whizzed past them.
There's a snapshot in my mind of their round brown faces shining in the sunlight, grinning as the raised the pine cones in a triumphant salute, cheering us on as we puffed up the next hill, chatting always chatting.