At age thirteen I got my first brand new bike; a Hercules Roadster with a three-speed hub gear. (Picture left.)
It had dropped handlebars so to me this made it a racing bike.
Everything on the bike was steel, even the mudguards; It must have weighed at least 40 lbs.
One weekend my mother took my younger sister and me on a long bus trip to visit relatives.
On returning, we discovered my sister had left a sweater behind.
This was not important but I decided to ride my bike over to my Aunt’s house, the following Saturday, to pick up this item of clothing. I did not tell my mother of my plans; mothers have a habit of saying "No." So I decided I would surprise her.
I had no idea how far the trip was; all I had to find my way there was a little pocket diary that measured about 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. It contained maps of the whole of England on about five or six tiny pages.
Plus I had remembered that the previous week we had caught a bus from Luton (30 miles north of London, UK.) to Aylesbury, where we caught a second bus to Buckingham, where my aunt lived. This was the only way I knew and looking at the map today, I must have ridden over 80 miles, round trip.
Had I known better I could have taken a more direct route through Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzerd that would have been much shorter. I actually lived in a village called Streatley about five miles north of Luton.
I set out very early in the morning and took some sandwiches with me in my saddlebag, along with a glass bottle filled with water. I remember stopping in Aylesbury on the way out and again on the way home, to refill my water bottle.
I did this in a public toilet, and the faucet in the wash basin was too low to get the bottle under. I had to cup my hand to catch water, and then transfer it to the bottle; it took forever.
I ate my sandwiches on the way there, and my aunt made some more for the return trip. I also stopped and dug up a turnip from a field. Not very appetizing, but it got me home.
I made it back just before sunset that same day. I proudly walked in with my sister’s sweater; my mother just about had a fit when she realized what I had done. Instead of thanks for my effort, I was severely chastised