A family bicycle ride through England's New Forest turns into a painful lesson in preparation, and the willingness of a five-year-old cycling partner.
Travelling with Kids: An uphill battle by bike
"Please pedal, darling," I pleaded as I puffed my way up a steep gravel path with my five-year-old daughter freewheeling on the back of our tandem bicycle. It may have been a clear summer's day with shimmers of sunlight dancing through the dense foliage around us, but no amount of beautiful scenery could help me escape the painful blister developing on my backside from balancing on what I can only describe as a very thin piece of wire.
It was our annual summer camping trip in the New Forest, a protected area of woodland and heathland on England's southern coast, with our fitness-fanatic friends who, very sensibly, bring their own high-tech bikes and padded cycling shorts.
Despite vowing to go on an intense training session in the months ahead of this exercise extravaganza, I had once again failed to listen to my own advice.
As I gazed up the hill at my athletic companions patiently waiting for me (and the uncooperative load on the back), I scolded my lack of planning.
We'd arrived the night before, proudly assembling our borrowed eight-person tent to the usual guffaws from our fellow campers who consider it "a little OTT" for a family of four.
Then first thing, after a hearty cooked breakfast mostly spent shooing away wild ponies roaming hungrily through the campsite, we set off to pick up the bikes from the local hire shop.
With two children in tow, we had a choice. One of us would cycle with our two-year-old son on the back in a child seat while the other would ride in tandem with our five-year-old daughter.
Despite my 1.55 metre stature, compared to my husband's 1.82 metres, I opted for the heavier passenger, wrongly assuming my daughter would be an enthusiastic cyclist.
One hour later, as I finally reached the waiting group on top of the hill only to watch them whizz straight off again, I knew I was in trouble. The scenario of catching up only to play catch-up again played out for a further 90 minutes until I wheezed at my husband: "I'm going to be sick. You've got to tell them to stop."
Moments later, spread-eagled on a grassy verge, my husband suggested swapping bikes, giving me a lighter child to drag around. Great idea, except my husband's bike was several inches higher than mine, meaning the remainder of the 60-kilometre journey was spent stretching my legs to reach the pedals, let alone the ground, accentuating the pressure on my blistered nether regions even more.
Meanwhile my poor husband was crouched over the handlebars of my bike like a gorilla on a BMX. Note to self: next year do some training and buy padded shorts. P.S. don't ignore this note.