But today was a new day, and with it brought canals brimming with water, sky brimming with sunshine, an early start, and a small car with Belgium number plates brimming with bicycles, arriving at our rendezvous in Charmes at precisely the same time that we did.
It's hard to believe that fifty years, two months and fifteen days have passed since that birthday morning when I crept into my parent's bedroom in the early half-light to run my trembling hands over every inch of my first bike, but as we started to unload the car the excitement was barely less than then.
These bikes seemed just as special, proper fold-ups that will fit four in the boot of a small car, weigh less than a carton of beer, and feel like proper grown-up machines to ride. They have proper gears and are bad-boy black and are probably exactly the sort of bikes Darth Vader's mob would have ridden if they'd run out of space-things to take them places, or perhaps if they'd been juggling clowns in a circus perhaps.
It was complete co-incidence that the bikes we had chosen were identical to Dave and Ria's, but probably no co-incidence in the way these things go, that at the precise location that we took delivery of the new machines, thousands of kilometres of some of the finest bikeways in Europe petered out into a barely marked off-road track suitable only for super-athletes mounted on mountain bikes.
For months we've been travelling alongside paths in which the EU have invested tens of millions of dollars creating a network that is truly remarkable. For the past month we've looked enviously as hundreds of cyclists have passed by on their way to places unreachable, we've missed opportunities to visit small villages and galleries and chateaus, but bravely and patiently we've waited for the new bikes to turn up with barely a whimper of complaint.
Now at last they are here, we have the means to follow those yellow brick roads to their very ends. We have bikes chosen for their performance on those billiard table smooth paths, and they came to an end right there, fifteen kilometres back, in Charmes!
Is there any wonder Darth and his boys preferred space ships.