Friends and leftover snow.
I say 'lucky' as I live here because I chose to live here. It wasn't a random accident of birth or a flying saucer delivery from a far distant galaxy, unless you view London as an alternative universe. I'm here because I chose to be here. Kind of an environmental migrant. And hats off to anyone else who makes the same choice; it's proper grim darn sarf.
It was, ranting aside, a lovely way to spend a Saturday. Gradually getting my trail mojo back, remembering what the bike can do and relaxing into it, trying to stay loose and smooth, cruise the climbs and relax into the downhills. Tea and flapjack and hot chocolate and nice people. One of those days when a ride shared is a pleasure exponentially multiplied.
Sunday was going to be a ride shared as well, then it dawned morose and cross looking with frowning, leaking clouds and a 'I don't feel too good this morning' text. So just me then. And Mog. Road kit on, faffing and indecision over what to wear - how cold; snow has recalibrated my internal thermostat I think - and, quick enough to nip any negative thoughts in the carotid, out of the door and down the road.
Relaxing into the familiarity of the climb up the Snake and very - deliberately - not - noticing - the - rain - turning - into - snow because then it's not... Until on the plateaued summit I find myself pushing through a swirling cloud of dancing pillow-fight snow flakes just a degree away from settling on the road. I-hope-it-doesn't-do-that-moments.
And then down.
Eyes lashed and watering by shot-blasting snow. On the brakes too much because I can't see. And too much clothing becomes not enough. The normal big-ring hammer down the long straight becomes a squinting, faltering dither.
But slowly, as height is lost, the snow shrugs, smirks and retreats into gentle rain and by the time I reach Ladybower the sun is peeping through the loft insulation up top and smiling softly. Snake Summit feels like another world. Another time.
It's wet and not exactly warm, but it's lovely being back on the road. That whole sinuous, smooth hit of pure, seemingly effortless speed. The hum of Kysriums on tarmac. The 'what the hell' decision points where the 'easy option' doesn't get a look in - sorry Winnats - and the last-minute detour to add just one more series of rolling climbs to the mix.
And finally, four hours later, tumbling trashed and smiley through the front door for freshly-baked bread and sausage sarnies with hot legs and ketchup.
Later, quite a lot later, I press the entry button on a solo at 24/12. Just one. Only one. Just to see if I can. And what it's like. Slightly scared. Slightly scarred.