Housesitting in Blajan / Azub and Honza – 25th July to 8th August 2016

Housesitting in Blajan / Azub and Honza – 25th July to 8th August 2016

 

Monday 25th July – Blajan
It’s a pretty lazy day for us today and Mike and Sandy run through what’s required whilst they’re away.

Tuesday 26th to Sunday 31st July
Tuesday we pick up Jac from Toulouse airport. OMG she’s looking fab – her health and fitness regime has continued and she’s lost more weight, completed her first 5km run and has bought a new wardrobe. Fantastic. We’ve also picked up a bed from Toulouse for B&H who kindly feed us when we deliver it.
Wednesday in addition to dog chores we pop into Castlenau to shop.

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Dinner is tomato salad and puttanesca – Jac is so appreciative; it’s a pleasure to cook for her. Thursday we need to visit Boulogne sur Gesse for pool chemicals and then we walk around the lake.

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Then we visit the Gorge de la Save and have another walk. Tumbai (the new addition to the Simpson family (a greyhound)) can’t be left at home because he suffers from separation anxiety but he’s an absolute star when we’re out and about. He’s so placid and well behaved! He’s even visited Toulouse airport with us. Lunch – creamy mushrooms on toast and Zanzibar fish soup for dinner. Jac and Daz even had a pool session this afternoon whilst I did the blog.

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Friday we visit Masseube for dog medicine and then it’s to Marciac. Each year Marciac hosts an international jazz festival during the 1st 2 weeks of August.

P1120926 P1120928 P1120929 P1120931 P1120932 P1120933 P1120934But we’ve chosen the first day and we’re there around lunchtime and it’s pretty unimpressive even though there’s a stage set up on the town square ready for various artists. The famous artists play in a marquee at the back of town. Whilst we’re enjoying a drink someone famous arrives because there are 3 police motorbike outriders and 7 unmarked cars. There’s also a significant army presence here on constant patrol. We also walk around the lakes and it seems Tumbai isn’t averse to a little paddle. Mid afternoon we return home and do some chores making sure the pool is ready for the gite guests tomorrow. Saturday we walk to the source of the Lerd and also find 2 geocaches. We prepare everything for the gite guests who will arrive sometime today. We were planning to visit the Masseube fete but the weather is pants so we decide not to bother.

Bicycle update. We have had a very attractive offer from Honza Galla, Azub Sales and Marketing manager. He suggested we visit the Azub manufacturing site in Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic. We’ll have their expertise, can test ride all their bikes, he’ll lend us bikes to explore the area and he’s offered us a significant discount. So on Thursday we’re flying to Prague. Another decision made and we’re really looking forward to visiting Honza and the Czech Republic. Daz has never been and I once visited Prague on a stag weekend.

Sunday there’s high drama. We’re drinking coffee in the kitchen when someone comes to our door. Initially I think it’s our gite guests but it’s some man who tells me he’s parked up the road and has 2 flat tyres. He goes on to explain that he’s Rob and he comes to our lane to walk his dogs but someone has sabotaged his tyres. Well unfortunately we can’t find a foot pump for him but he and Daz go off to change one flat for a spare and then Daz takes him back home with his 2 flats. It turns out someone has messed with his valves; I wonder what he’s been doing to upset everyone. When they return to his van someone’s let another tyre down. Bizarre.
We decide we should visit the fete in Masseube, there’s a car boot sale but it’s pretty dreadful but we do manage to watch the last hour of the German grand prix and another Hamilton victory. We also pop in to say Hi to Bernadette and the gang. They had a fab time at the fete last night, now I really regret not going.

Monday 1st August to Thursday 4th August

Another visit from Rob today. He’s bought us a bottle of red for helping him out yesterday; very kind of him. A visit to Saint Betrand de Comminges today. A beautiful town on a hill and then lunch in Montrejeau, a treat from Jac.

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After a cleaning frenzy Tuesday morning we head out to visit Lac de Gimone and a beautiful walk around its edge.

P1120948 P1120949 P1120950 P1120951 P1120952 P1120953 P1120954 P1120955Then we pop in to see Terri and Steve. They’re on excellent form as always and they’ve worked miracles on their place in such a short time. Then it’s back home for lunch and a little afternoon relaxation. Sandy and Mike return from Corsica; it sounds lovely but so expensive. Wednesday, our last day. A lovely dog walk followed by breakfast on the terrace and the sun is out for our last day.

P1120961 P1120962 P1120963 P1120964 P1120965 P1120966 P1120967 P1120968 P1120969 P1120971 P1120972 P1120974 P1120976 P1120979After packing and tidying our rooms we head off to Toulouse with Jac. We stop for lunch in L’isle Jourdain which turns out to be delicious and then it’s time to head to the airport.

 

P1120956 P1120957 P1120958 P1120959 P1120960We kick Jac out and wave goodbye. It such a pleasure having friends visit; a real connection to our old lives. Then we head back to Blajan where it’s time to load up the van again, say our farewells before heading to the bus stop and our bus into Toulouse. It’s so sad to say goodbye and leave this part of the world (Spain, France, Portugal). I’m sure many of you are less than impressed with our geographical progress. In 10 months we’ve basically returned to our start point. But it’s been such an amazing 10 months and we’ve learnt so much and met people who we hope will be friends for life. It’s time for our next phase but this, i think, will be like a first love; never forgotten and always remembered with fondness and nostalgia.
We catch the Toulouse bus from Blajan (77km and €3.30) and then the Toulouse airport bus (7km and €8). And here we are in Toulouse airport. It’s 8.30pm and our flight is at 7am – a fun night ahead I think!!!
It’s 4.30am and we’re queuing to check in.

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Poor Daz hasn’t really slept at all but I managed a few hours. In the departure lounge we’re so engrossed in our books that we almost miss the announcement that are gate is closing and then have to run frantically for our gate. No fun. A flight to Brussels and then on to Prague but unfortunately our luggage has been unable to keep up with our complex travel manoeuvre and has stayed behind in Brussels, with a whole load of other people’s luggage. Apparently there’s some sort of secret luggage party in Brussels so none of the bags wanted to leave. I’m rather pleased because carrying cycling bags without a bike is no fun and now the airport will have to deliver it to us in Uhersky Brod. We get a bus into Prague city centre and decide it’s time for lunch.

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We stop at a beautiful restaurant where the 3 course menu of the day is only £5.00. It’s only when Daz is on his pudding that he realises his conversion mistake and rather than a fiver each it’s going to cost about £35.00. Whoops! But it was delicious. Then we head to the train station and catch our train to Uhersky Brod. The train from Prague is late so we miss our connection at Brno and have to visit the local hostelry for a beer.

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But finally we arrive. 9pm and it’s bed time.

 

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Friday 5th August

Friday it’s a bit of a late start but after breakfast we head off to Azub to meet Honza Galla, head of Sales and Marketing. The background: I think by León (6th July) we had agreed the tandem had to go and so we wrote to the Head Office of Ice, Azub, Hp Velotechnik, Cattrike, Greenspeed and Hase. We also wrote to a potential buyer for our tandem and to a recumbent specialist in Constance, where we were planning to go to test all trikes. We had a response from everyone but Honza suggested a visit to Uhersky Brod where he would give us an individual service. He also offered to significantly shorten the delivery period for us which meant less time hanging around without a bike; delivery usually takes about 4 weeks whilstw Honza was hoping to deliver in only 10 days.

P1130015His argument was most compelling and so we decided that personal attention from Azub was as good as it gets. Honza takes us into the showroom and shows us around.

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We’re interested in the Tri Con which won best trike 2015 or the newly released Ti Fly. We start talking about the ideal set up. We wanted SRAM DD27, Honza says ‘No’. We wanted disc brakes Avid BB7s, Honza says, ‘No, Drum’. He does agree on 20, 20, 20 configuration for our wheels. We think the quick folding mechanism is a nice to have but not necessary. We can dismantle the trike if we need to, the quick folding mechanism just makes it quicker – you might have guessed that from the name. But it’s also the most complex part of the bike but having it would reduce the overall strength of the frame. Something to think about. We never flew with the tandem but we used trains. We’re thinking how many of our past train trips would have been impossible with a trike. Ideally we want to be able to roll on, roll off. We also imagined bus trips would be possible, we could fold the trike and put it in the lower luggage compartment. Once one of our planned train journeys was impossible because engineering works meant a replacement bus instead of the train.
Honza sets up a Ti Fly for Daz whilst I take a Ti Tris. We go off for a short test ride. Honza says if we’re back by 12pm we’ll all go for lunch. So we have about 50 minutes but it’s enough to realise that cobbles, rough dirt tracks, tram lines, kerb drop offs and even a grass bridleway are no obstacle to these trikes.

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It’s such a huge change for us. We could’ve done some of it on a tandem but we’d have been so stressed doing it whilst on a trike just select the right gear and just pedal. There’s little need to hold the handlebars and steer at slow speeds, the complete antithesis of the tandem.
We head back and go out for lunch with Honza and Patrik. After lunch Honza sits down and explains what he’ll need from us if we want to go ahead with sponsorship; it’s mainly about advertising Azub on our website, writing articles and what represents a minimum road testing period. We’re happy to accept the conditions but we both know we need to up our game. In the last year we’ve worked more than cycled. We had already decided that this ratio would change and we’d get out of Europe for 2017 for a bigger challenge. But saying it is one thing, now we will have to deliver and actually both being ‘task orientated’, this probably plays to our strengths. Then Honza makes some more adjustments to the 2 trikes and we take them away for the weekend and cycle to Korytna and stop for a beer before returning home. Finally at about 9pm our bags turn up, only 36 hours after we landed.

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We meet a guy en route on a homemade recumbent, it only cost him €30.

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Saturday 6th August

Today we go forth for another test ride. It turns out we’ve chosen a seriously tough route. We climb for about 12km and whilst Daz is able to spin, my gears don’t have the necessary range in low gears. We’re also suffering from separation anxiety ; be careful what you wish for. But having finally reached the high point the views are absolutely incredible and we also watch mountain bikers go flying passed us, going the opposite direction, on some time trial we think.

P1130043 P1130044 P1130045 P1130046 P1130047 P1130048 P1130049 P1130050 P1130051And then it’s our turn, a 12% descent. What fun! I’m steering, braking, and changing gear for the first time in months. I can pick where to position myself on the road, at last CONTROL! The wind is howling passed my ears and we don’t have any mirrors so I have no idea there’s a van trying to get past!

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Back in Uhersky Brod we cycle around the town centre. We’re just loving the versatility of this thing, up onto kerbs, across cobbles, over holes in the road, Brilliant. Daz is loving it. He thinks he’s flying a spitfire. He’s doing strafing runs, I can hear the impersonations, but I have no idea how many enemy aircraft he’s taken out. I imagine within a few weeks he’ll have a couple of action men set up along side him in his cockpit, acting as his wingmen ‘Goose and Ice’.

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At home we do the door check. We want to see if we’ll be able to wheel trikes into hotel lobbies or hotel rooms. We can’t wheel them in but if we lift and twist the back end they’ll go through. We check the computer and whilst we took ages on the climb, we made up for it on the downhill. Of course 2 bikes are slower than one and our average distance per hour is going to fall but the comfort and versatility is so much greater. Now we can really enjoy our cycling adventures.

Sunday 7th August
Day 3 of test rides. Today we’re going to cycle to Uherske Hradiste in a loop and back to Uhersky Brod. We cycle 60km, of which about 40km is on dedicated bike tracks, what a fabulous way to spend a Sunday. The sun is shining and the countryside and villages are very picturesque.

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There are so many other cyclists out today enjoying the glorious weather. We pass an oldish man struggling to push his bike. We stop and investigate. His front mudguard had snapped in the middle and was being forced against the wheel, preventing it from spinning. Daz got out his trusty toolkit and removed the mudguard.

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The guy was so grateful and so many people had cycled past without helping. Good deed – complete. Just before Uherske Hradiste Daz spots a cycle tourist and stops to chat ( or interrogate might be more accurate). Daz doesn’t notice that Honza was also standing by the bike tourist! We have a chat and then head off.

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In Uherske Hradiste we cycle round the town centre and stop for some lunch. We watch a couple trying to undo their bike lock. They’re there for ages but clearly the lock is broken. They need bolt cutters or a drill. Finally Daz goes over to suggest calling the fire brigade and getting some bolt cutters. They don’t seem impressed by this suggestion but want Daz to try with the key but instead he gets his trusty pliers out and now the lock opens. The barrel was constantly turning preventing the key from engaging. Good deed number 2.
And then it’s back to Uhersky Brod and on the way the road runs out.

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And then in Uhersky Brod we complete the ‘lift’ or ‘elevator’ test. There’s a lift by the train station. Daz says the trike’s too long but it’s simply a case of lifting the back end of the trike up the back wall of the lift. It’s harder with Daz’s because his boom is that much longer.

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So it’s doable. It’s been a fantastic day, 60km done.

Monday 8th August
We have a meeting booked with Honza, we need to be there by 9am latest, doesn’t he realise we don’t do these sort of hours anymore. But we struggle forth and many hours later ( well that’s how it feels) we have a half formed order plan on the table. Just a few things to decide; more about our panniers than the trikes actually. And also we want to cycle out of here tomorrow for at least 10 days but we’re not sure what bikes, trikes he has available. Meeting over we head home (home for this phase has been the Palmira hotel, opposite Lidl’s, tremendously convenient! ). We quickly make our decisions about Ortlieb panniers and head into town for a haircut. It’s pretty severe for us both, but it was cheap and it will grow.

 

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All we need now is a travel plan for the next 10 days. Honza is lending us the Ti Fly and a colleague’s Azub mini but he wants the Ti Fly back next Friday. So………… we’re heading for Zakopane, Poland via Slovakia!! Two more countries hopefully in the bag!
It’s 9pm and we’re 80% packed. We don’t have the pannier racks or, in fact, the inclination to take everything. So we’ve set aside as much as we can and we’ll leave this at the Azub office tomorrow. We’re mostly ready to go but feeling nervous. A touring practice run, me on our dream machine and Daz on a recumbent; bless him he’s definitely feeling the pressure.

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