Two really ace rides this weekend. One with a group of friends, one that started with a group and sort of somehow ended up as a solo outing finishing at home.
And right in the middle of today's ride, I stopped just below the farm full of dogs above Hayfield and just took in the views.
It occurred to me that I knew the trails in every direction, could spot the Shooting Cabin to the left, the road up past the quarry onto Chinley Churn ahead, the track junction below the promentary near Kinder Low, knew where Kinder Reservoir nestles unseen and where the track from South Head that I'd just come down, runs. And Highgate Road. And 20 Trees. And more prosaically, the Sett Valley Trail. And loads more.
All tracks I've ridden over and over again. Laced with memories good and bad, old and not so old. And I thought about the process of getting to know an area, working out how tracks join together and link and overlap, those eureka moments when you grasp that the trail you rode yesterday is just a linking bridleway apart from today's route. Like doing a crossword. Or putting together a patchwork quilt. Not that I've ever done that.
And what I love about it, is that you stop thinking in terms of pre-formed routes and instead, just go. Mix things up as you ride depending on how you feel, how stuff's riding, where your mates want to wander. Or not.
The perfect Bank Holiday Monday begins with a dawn start and no particular place to go, just a bike, some food and a blank canvas.
It might be a short day. It might not. Like the ride over to Edale for a group ride that turned into an epic loop over Cut Gate and home again in crisp, grippy snow. Or the one that was mostly about an hour or two basking in the sun below Hollins Cross and watching the world go by. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes with someone you love.
But all possible because in your head, it's all joined up together.
And some of the the best rides with friends, are when you find another patch for your quilt. A new bridleway. Or track. Or footpath. That fits neatly and logically into place. Fills in a hole. Sometimes with the blazingly obvious. Sometimes brilliantly not so.
And I don't think it'll ever be finished.