The girls were (sensibly) still asleep when I fell stupidly out of bed and, like someone in the grip of a terrible addiction, tiptoed silently down to the bike shed...
...which, being made out of tin sheets, made a huge "BONG!" noise when I opened the door.
The neighbours must love me.
There was a short climb, up Red Scar Lane, right at the start of the ride. I was hoping it would make me feel like a Nietzchean superman, in that confusing way that pounding up a steep hill on a machine fundamentally unsuited to gradients sometimes does, but instead it just made me feel "ARRRRGH!"
In fact that's what hills should be called from now on, ARRRGH!s.
Notice too how the namers of this fine street tried to warn off the unwary by giving it a ferocious name.
Anyway, climb done, there was a run through beautiful Forge Valley, followed by a bit of A-road. I was out so early that there were only two or three cars on the stretch out to Brompton, which is where I turned off.
Brompton is one of a string of villages sited in the crease where the flat bottom of the Vale of Pickering turns into the southernmost slope of the North Yorkshire Moors. This was the bit of countryside I really wanted to explore. I rolled the bike up a long, steady climb, until all of a sudden I was in Wykeham Forest, which was a dead ringer for a first season X-Files filming location.
"Wykeham Nursery"? Oh sure.
There were even sinister biosecurity warning signs.
And long, eery roads through the forest that just lead to ... more forest.
Throughout this long, long ride, I more or less had the road to myself. I only passed one car, at the exact moment that I realised that I could no longer feel my deep-frozen feet and was staggering around the verge, wiggling my toes and trying to return some sort of circulation to them.
Then, the road turned right, and I could see light through the trees:
Even through the early morning mist, the view was well worth the climb. It looks a tiny bit Swiss, doesn't it?
I could hear sheep in the valley below - whose name I did not know - calling out "Bar! Bar!" to each other in their Yorkshire accents. But there were none of the noises associated with humans.
Ideally, I wanted to get down into the valley below, as I was fairly sure the river at the bottom was the Derwent; and that would take me back to Scarborough through the back door. And there was actually a wonky sign post, with a board telling me I was on the Moor to Sea cycle route, and that I could follow it to Scarborough. But the signpost was pointing unconvincingly towards a clump of fir trees and a churned up forest track, so I stuck to the tarmac road.
The greens and browns of the pine forest even made the most of the Sludgy Green Bike's sludgy green paint. As I churned up the four and a half mile climb that was the payment for the view above, I thought happily to myself about sticking the Sludgy Green Bike on a popular internet auction site, and spending the fifteen to twenty English pounds that it might make on a good day on something frivolous.
Looking at it leaning against that bench with that lovely secret valley behind it though, I started to warm to the thing in spite of myself.
I thought about the quiet magic of exploring by bike. I'd only ridden four and a half miles away from the A-road at the bottom of the hill, but I had the world to myself. Edward Abbey put it like this: "Distance and space are functions of speed and time. Without spending a single dollar from the United States Treasury we could, if we wanted to, multiply the area of our national parks tenfold or a hundredfold - simply by banning the private automobile (from them)."
Not a man to mince his words, Mr Abbey. But he's making a point worth thinking about there: my own ride through this corner of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park could have been over and done with in twenty minutes in a car. But I would have missed the satisfaction of climbing the hill myself. And I would have missed the joy of screaming back down it, rolling on tyres made in Sri Lanka. While the civil war was still being fought. That retail for £5.99 (including shipping). And I would have missed the view through that little window in the tree line entirely.