Have BionX. Will Travel.

Before drawing the line under my tricycling adventure, I have one more commentary.

It’s a word about gear:

“Excessive”.

Whew! There. I said it. I finally got it off my chest.

Now, please let me tell you a bit more about how I rolled.

In the picture is a suitcase, a backpack and a computer case.

In that suitcase is everything I needed (wanted) to sustain me on this adventure. When I left Calgary on May 4th, the leaves were not even out on the trees. It was still cold. When I get back to Calgary in early September, the leaves will be about to turn autumn gold.

Meanwhile, the summer in Europe has been hot, with temperatures consistently over 30+C.

Thankfully, I brought clothing for these big temperature fluctuations. But all that clothing also has meant bulk and weight to cart around.

In the backpack is my camera equipment. As you likely know, I love taking pictures. If you have enjoyed the images I’ve posted with my stories, then bringing a pack full of camera and lenses was essential, not extravagant.

In the third case is a Lenovo computer. It was state of the art technology nearly a decade ago. In other words, it has still done everything I have needed it to do. But it has also weighed 5 times more than its 2017 equivalent.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I did mail home to Canada two separate boxes of items I realized I could do without.

That’s another hidden advantage to Plan B*. It helps you simplify; identify the essentials.

I’ve previously introduced you to the AZUB Ti – Fly recumbent tricycle. You’ve made each other’s acquaintance. A couple more facts about the Ti Fly, though. It conveniently folds down for transport in the back of a car trunk. It can be disassembled for packing into a soft sided bag.

AZUB also has a trailer onto which the soft sided shipping bag fits so the trike can be loaded and transported. The trike fits into the bag; the bag fits onto the trailer; and the loaded trailer can be hauled on a train, plane or bus as overweight luggage. Or it can be loaded into a car trunk or SUV.

Conveniently, the trailer can also be attached to the Ti – Fly and act as a cargo carrier. It was the perfect size to carry all my gear as well as spare tire, inner tubes, air pump, and security chains for locking down at night.

Needless to say, compared to most cyclists, transporting my gear was like driving an 18 wheeler semi-trailer instead of a car.

Bob Hawkesworth sitting in recumbent tricycle

It sometimes kept me from going where cyclists could go.

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“Bob’s pedal power” on my own, would still be barely getting this rig out of the AZUB parking lot. What gave me the strength of my youth was a piece of great Canadian technology: a BionX battery and electric motor assist: http://ridebionx.com/

Bracket on a tricyle that holds a battery for the BionX system
Bracket for attaching the BionX battery.
Tricylce with BionX batter mounted in place
Ti – Fly with BionX battery attached.

Don’t get me wrong.

I still had to pedal like a mad fiend at times. Climbing long hills was a true grind. But when I pedaled like mad or crawled up the hills, I also made progress – thanks to the extra boost I could get from the BionX battery and motor.

I was tired at the end of each day. Exhausted even, at times.

But I did manage to haul all the big, bulky gear I brought. The BionX did more than make the cycling manageable. It also kept it fun.

By the numbers:

On the road:                                 21 days.

Distance travelled:                   712 kms.

Actual pedaling time:             45 hours & 41 minutes

Average speed:                         14.5 km/hr

Canadian technology can sometimes show up to give Plan B* a beneficial boost. For this excellent adventure, let’s add “B* is for *BionX”.

 

The World At Three Feet

When did you last travel through the world at a height of 3 feet?

I’m guessing you were 6 years old.

One of the surprising delights of riding a recumbent tricycle is that the seat is only about a foot off the ground. That means little kids of about 6 or 7 look me in the eye when I’m seated in it. Anyone older than that is looking down on me.

Cyclists standing n a city street waiting for a light
Cyclists waiting for a light, Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic

Adults on bikes? They’re giants. I reach up to shake hands. They lean over and down. Just like when I was 6.

The sensation of travelling through the world with eyes at the 3 foot level triggers some deep, childish delight.

Everything on the ground is so much closer, so much more accessible. I’m easily distracted by the variety of flowers, the diversity of colours, the flitting of insects and the darting of butterflies.

Poppies with wheat field behind

Perhaps it’s because at 3 feet, you are so much closer to the world inhabited by flowers and insects.

Sunflowers

 

Travel by trike with trailer is slow travel. Especially crawling up long hills. Even the butterflies make faster progress.

This is travel that breaks the sound barrier, though. Or perhaps more accurately, it is slow travel that breaks the silence barrier.

There’s nothing between you and the world. No windshield. No radio. No hermetically sealed cabin. No thick shell to suppress against road noise.

There is no road noise. Just the swish, swish, swish of a pant leg with each pedal I push. And the barely audible, rolling thunder sound of the trailer dutifully following along in my wake.

Sounds take on a different dimension. Cyclists and hikers know this phenomenon. The birdsong, the buzz, the chirps, the hum, the croaks that comprise nature’s chorus. Moving at three feet from the ground, you can’t help but catch snatches of creation’s hymn.

Dragonfly

Plan B* has been re-discovering the world from a new perspective – like the perspective of those who are 6 and those who are lucky to be 6 a second time.

 

 

There Is Magic

“Magic” is the word that captures the unexpected delights and surprises of this trip.

Each day, as I start my travel, I have a general direction. (West, through southern Moravia, following the border with Austria.)

Beyond that, I know very little about what to expect, what I will see or what I will encounter. I have no certainty where my day will end. I don’t know where I will spend the night.

This is Plan B*, after all.

Yesterday, I started pedaling. A hill rose in front of me. I crawled and strained. Then the hill fell away. I picked up speed and raced in exhilaration to the bottom.

Near Znojmo, Czech Republic

I slowed as the next hill rose in front of me. I repeated the process again. Crawl up. Race down.

And again. Crawl. Race.

There is a form of magic in that. Hard work and then fun. It may be why many people get so attached to cycling.

But then, other magic happened.

I pulled off the road to stop for a lunchtime snack.

Side road, near Lukov, Czech Republic

Why there? Why then? 10 meters down a side road was a tree loaded with black cherries. Abundant with cherries. More cherries within reach than could be eaten in a week. (Hint: You have to know how much I love cherries!)

Each day I pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread”. Yesterday, I never expected it would mean fresh, ripe cherries directly from the tree!

A person holding black cherries in their hand
The black cherries I’ve found here, look like Kalamata olives and are about the same size

“Thank you, God for answering my prayer.”

(And thank you for the magic of exceeding expectations!)

Energized and rested, I was back on the road.

Still the hills kept rising and falling. My legs began to flag. Where should I be looking to stay for the night?

I consulted the map. At my current pace, in less than an hour, was “Vranov nad Dyji”. I’d never heard of it. I wondered what was there. What would I find?

I was at least confident of finding a room. There would likely be at least one “penzion” (guesthouse), perhaps two. Every small Czech town or village I’d passed had had a least one, “penzion”.

Decision made: “Vranov nad Dyji”, here I come!

Then that magic happened again.

I came around a bend in the road. All of a sudden, Vranov nad Dyji was spread out in front of me. It was more than some non-descript name on a map. It was a place of real and unexpected beauty.

Vranov nad Dyji, Czech Republic

Here was a delightful, fairy tale beautiful, picturesque village hugging the river below a castle.

Like magic.

A view of Vranov nad Dyji from Vranov Chateau
A view of Vranov nad Dyji from Vranov Chateau

Vranov can take your breath away.

Vranov Chateau from the village of Vanov nad Dyji, Czech Republic
Vranov Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Czech Republic

And exploring Vranov revealed many other visual delights and treasures.

Many towns wish they had the natural beauty and historic legacies of Vranov.

Yet Vranov does not get any special promotion. It remains anonymous. Probably, it is because the Czech Republic is filled with towns that share some of Vranov’s magic. I’ve been delighted and awed at nearly every turn in the road as I’ve travelled here.

When beautiful, picture perfect places are the norm, then you know the country where they are found is exceptional.

A suitable description of the Czech Republic might be: “Small, but mighty (magical)”.

Did magic uncork Plan B*? Or did Plan B* uncork the magic?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that there is magic in Plan B*.

And so far, Plan B* in the Czech Republic have made magic happen for me.

Easy Rider

Easy Does it

Nope, I’m not Wyatt. Nor Billy.

Bob’s Excellent Adventure is not about some counterculture dude on a road trip.

Wait a minute.

Maybe it is – at least a wee bit. It is a Plan B* road trip after all!

Bob Hawkesworth sitting in recumbent tricycle
Definitely not Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper

What I want to mean by “Easy Rider” is that everyone, and I mean Everyone on wheels is faster than me.  Little kids and octogenarians alike. They all whiz past me. I have yet to overtake a single biker.

And the guys on bikes wearing the spandex?

I can hardly say “Dobrý den”, before they are half a kilometre down the road.

Two cyclists riding through a forest

Just call me your turtle traveler. Your plodder blogger. Your slacker tracker.

Motorist speed display monitor
Independent verification, if needed. No excessive speeding laws were broken in the making of this adventure (so far)

For the record, I travelled a distance of 80+ kms in the first three days. That’s an average of about 4 times faster than walking. I’m certainly not breaking any land speed records.

Pedaling a recumbent tricycle uses different muscles from walking. So, I’m taking it easy. Getting into a routine, into shape and setting a manageable pace.

View over Moravian Hills in Czech Republic
At the top of the first hill. Whew! And a view worth the effort.

Most importantly (for me) I’m taking the time to enjoy the journey. I’m learning the joys of slow travel.

Slow travel has its own rewards, something our culture has lost.

Small motor boats travelling through a lock in a canal in Moravia, Czech Republic
Another form of slow travel. Small motor boats navigate through a lock in a canal near Uhersky Ostroh, Czech Republic

It takes time to notice all the gifts hidden in plain view.

Easy does it. But easy doesn’t come easily.

 

I’ve discovered a few of those gifts by being mindful of the present without a deadline to meet or even a destination to keep. Here are a few from just one day to share with you.

 

Cherry tree
Cherries! Free! For the taking. Who in their right mind would race past an opportunity like this?

 

 

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B* is for *By-passing *Boundaries

As in: I’ve never done this before!

Over the years, numerous friends have raved about how much fun they had cycling in Europe: “We had the time of our life”; “It was awesome”; “It’s a great way to see the countryside”; “We’re going again this next summer”…etc., they would say.

So, I know how the seed was planted.

Bob Hawkesworth sitting in a recumbent tricycle

But cycling in Europe on a recumbent tricycle? Where did that idea come from?

Until last week, I had never in my life even ridden a recumbent trike. Why I was in Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic to take delivery of one?

AZUB made Ti-Fly recumbent tricycle

If you ask me why I did it, I’m not sure I have an easy answer. It could be just one of life’s impenetrable mysteries.

Or. The answer could simply be, “Well, why not?” Propelling myself through the landscape in a lawn chair just struck me as the coolest thing imaginable. If you want to keep open the door to possibilities, you sometimes just have to bypass convention.

Anyway, let’s see if I can shed any further light on this question over the next little while.

First, the basics: My tricycle was made by AZUB in the Czech Republic: http://azub.eu/. This is still a niche market, and so far as I can tell, the numerous recumbent trike manufacturers tend to do small scale fabrication as opposed to assembly line production. But AZUB has established an excellent reputation for quality, value and good engineering.

I purchased the trike through the AZUB dealership in Calgary, Funwest Sports: http://www.funwestsports.ca/.

Re: Cycling

I’ll keep at this until it’s not fun anymore or until I have to return home – whichever comes first. I’ll share photos with you from along the way so you can catch a flavour of what I’ve seen.

Now it begins. This cycle of Bob’s Excellent Adventure starts with Nivnice:

Czech Republic Cycle Route sign to Nivnice
Czech Republic Cycle Route sign to Nivnice