I did my first cycle tour at the age of five.
We were living in New Zealand and I had got the bike, in fact a tricycle, for my fifth birthday. Just before the following Christmas, I had been, with my parents, to the centre of Auckland and I saw a red toy racing car that I very much wanted, but didn’t think I had much chance of getting, especially as I hadn’t had the tricycle very long.
A few weeks passed, the desire grew, and with two companions, both girls, I decided to go into the city to get that racing car. I can’t remember if the girls were after something special for Christmas for themselves, or if they just came along for the sheer enjoyment of it.
We took two tricycles, alternating with two cycling and the third in a carrier on the back. I doubt very much we had thought through how we were going to get back: hell, we didn’t even know the way there. As we started our journey, which Google Maps tells me was a hefty four miles, we discussed whether we had told our mothers.
I was able to report that I had, although I can remember wondering whether she had quite taken it in. She had been peeling carrots at the time, and hadn’t even turned round.
I can’t remember much about the journey there. It was a nice day, and even at five our navigation skills were good enough to get us there, at least most of the way.
There came a point when we decided to have a rest in a shop doorway. Unbeknownst to us, by this time the alarm had been raised, and in the grand style. The police had been called, an alert had been broadcast over the radio, and every relative, friend, neighbour and interested party in Auckland was looking for us.
My father was working away at the time but heard it on the radio in another part of the country.
I don’t remember this bit, but apparently a Japanese couple found us and called in the forces of law and order.
I do remember us all being piled into the back of a police van, which was quite exciting for me as I had never been in one before (or indeed, since).
When we got back, there was a huge crowd in the street. I was quizzed by my mother, and when I said that I had told her in advance, it all came back to her and no punishment was forthcoming.
Overall, I’d say it was probably the template for the other bike tours I have done: meticulous but flawed planning, the pursuit of an unreachable dream, willing partners, grand failure, questions from those who just don’t get it, and everything turning out all right in the end.