Dawn. The ground is still dark, the sun obscured by the mountains, but the sky is a warm orange. In the distance, bird calls echo from the tops of the pine trees that fill the valley. Bleary-eyed, you begin to wake up, taking in the dim light hitting the back of the curtains. You take a deep breath and slowly get up and open the curtains.
By the time breakfast is made, the sun has reached the mountain tops and is casting broad beams of light down into the middle of the valley, illuminating the trees. The glimmer of the stream running down the middle catches your eye as you scan the almost completely still landscape. You finish your cup of tea and place it gently on the worktop and get dressed. A plain dark green t-shirt, plain brown trousers, and plain dark blue shoes doesn't leave you looking spectacular, but what matters is that they're comfortable.
Coat on, you grab your keys and bag as you step out of the door to be met by a cool breeze - a welcome change from the harsh sun that comes in the afternoon. The garage door unlocks with a satisfying clunk and opens into the small space in which your bicycle and motorbike live. A difficult decision to make, but you settle on the bicycle and wheel it out and lean it against the wall. All seems in order, so you set off down the grass-covered hill towards the trees.
Hidden at the edge of the forest is the very start of a dirt trail - it's presence only made clear by the ever-growing mark in the ground from your bicycle tyres. Accelerating onto the trail, you begin your descent into the valley, winding back and forth effortlessly around trees and rocks. At first it feels fast, but you quickly acclimatise and begin to relax. Your mind starts to wander as you roll along the smooth ground.
This must be the thousandth time you've been here, but it never ceases to amaze you. Every tree seems beautiful in its own way, their leaves a rich green and bark a deep earthy brown. All you can hear is the bicycle chain quietly rattling around the gears and the tyres rolling along the dirt. There are no people for at least some 20 miles, no cars to spew toxins into the air, no litter to be tossed, no eyes to watch. The smell of slightly damp soil is omnipresent. The wind on your face grows stronger as you accelerate down the final straight into a clearing at the valley floor.
You grab the rear brake and skid to a satisfying stop, spinning to the side as you plant your foot on the ground. A childish grin sweeps across your face. Without the noise of the wind, the trickling sound of the stream becomes immediately clear. You kick down the side stand and climb off the bike and look around. Ahead of you is the stream with a simple wooden bridge over it. To your left, back into the forest. To your right, the rocky face of the mountains quickly starts to climb up into the sky.
You run your fingers through the grass. It's dry enough. You lie down on your back and stare up into the blue void. As you start to drift off into a daydream, you're pulled back by the snapping of twigs. You quickly sit up and scan the edges of the clearing. Silence, then rustling to the side. You turn to see a squirrel digging around at the base of a tree. You smile and quietly get up and walk back over to your bike and climb on, ready to head home again. You rumble over the bridge and disappear into the trees again as the squirrel watches on curiously.
The climb back home is long - over 15 miles the last time you checked - but shallow. Travelling at a slower pace, it's easier to dissociate and enjoy the mere experience of rolling along on a bicycle. It's simple, as most things should be. In this state, time passes far quicker, and doesn't feel like long before you start to see the end of the forest and the peak of the roof. The house looks as wonderful as it did when you first saw it. Just a small log cabin with a peaked roof and one large window. It can't be more than 15 metres long. Excited to finish the ride, you pedal harder and faster, panting as you come to a wobbly stop by your door, exhausted but satisfied. After putting the bike away, you step inside and remove your shoes. The last of your energy is spent slipping into your comfy pyjamas before you collapse onto the sofa.