There used to be a blog here where I told stories about a strange adventure. Let’s get back to that. This post chronicles the process of getting Annie onto a plane heading towards home. To bribe or not to bribe, that is the question.
When we last left off, I had finally rolled into Bogota, Colombia. This was the end of the road for me in South America. All that remained was to ship Annie and myself back to the states. Easy, right?……
Monday, October 8th
Following a wild three day ride, I had arrived in Bogota in time to catch my plane. My shipping agent, Vernonica from the company Cargo Rider, told me that I would need to begin the paperwork three days ahead of the flight which was scheduled for Thursday.
I rode over to their office and got the process rolling. I had lots of questions, of course, and Veronica was a lot of help. First order of business was getting Annie all cleaned up for her flight. Another worker from Cargo Rider, Libardo, accompanied me. We would spend lots of time together the next few days.
The washing of Annie would prove to be much more costly than the $5 I paid. I was very clear with the worker that I wanted him to take care with the signatures on Annie. They are some of my most valuable souvenirs. This was the first time Annie has every been washed so thoroughly on my trip.
It might just have been the detergent, but I lost a LOT of signatures. I’ve been working to recreate them as well as I can. I have lots of pictures from different angles, so hopefully I’ll get most of them back.
There was one more loss from this experience. The little toy horse named “Whiskey” which has ridden next to my license plate during the entirety of chapters 2 and 3. I showed the worker a picture of it and the worker was adamant that he hadn’t seen it. I looked all around the shop, but he probably got washed down the drain. Happy trails, old friend. Sorry you didn’t make it all the way.
Next step was to go to the packing company. I spent lots of time there. Veronica had told me that my shipping costs would be dependent on my dimensions so I worked for hours to engineer the minimum size possible.
The biggest problem to solve was what to do with my trunk of unusual size. My first thought was to check it on my personal flight, but it was just a few inches too large. Instead I decided to empty its contents, remove the lid and place it on top.
The staff there were fairly helpful, though I’m not sure they had ever used ratcheting straps before. They also had it wrapped around my brake line, which could have been bad if I hadn’t noticed it. I basically just waited until they all went to lunch and re-did everything.
All told, it was probably a four hour process, but I felt really good about how much I was able to compress Annie’s dimensions.
My final crated dimensions were 6’7″ long, 3’2″ wide, 3’10” tall. (201 x 95 x 116 cms)
This night, I had a very special treat waiting for me. My good friends, Adam and Natalie, had bought me a nice hotel room near the airport for the next three nights. Having a great place to stay while navigating the shipping process was a tremendous blessing. Thank you guys.
They also had a nice care package waiting for me when I got back to Nebraska. It included a new Chiefs sweatshirt, replacing the old one I lost in Peru. Talk about thoughtful people!
Realtime update: I can’t wait to see you guys soon!
Tuesday, October 9th
Pretty much just a waiting day. I don’t know if I needed to be present for all of the steps over the coming days, but I had requested to take part in everything that I was allowed to. I didn’t want any surprises.
I met up with Libardo and we started jumping through hoops. We ran through so many offices and even saw a typewriter at one point.
I also saw another example of just how much Brazilians love their stickers. Not even a computer in the customs office was safe. 🙂
My shipping agent, Veronica, had told me that I would almost definitely be paying by size rather than weight. She said usually only small displacement bikes can compress enough to pay by weight. I guess my years of Tetris playing finally paid off, as my crate was just small enough to pay by weight. The final weight, including crate, was 833 pounds (378kg).
Veronica’s initial estimation for me was $1,700 to $1,900. Because my crate was so small, my final bill was just $1,375. I was happy to come in below the estimation, and appreciative that they didn’t give me a low estimate just to try to get my business.
This expense marked an important moment in my trip: I am officially over the budget ($15,000) that I set before the trip. Honestly, it was surprising that I didn’t hit it until now, considering that I am 16 months into a 10 month trip. I did a really good job estimating my monthly costs, but I was way off in my total completion time. The only reason I am not over budget sooner was because I am waaaay under budget for mechanical expenses. Thanks, Annie.
In the afternoon we went over to the warehouse of the shipping company. We were hoping to complete the customs inspection. We waited for about three hours until an official arrived and they brought out Annie’s crate with a forklift. I was not allowed to enter, but it looked like all they did was remove the lid and check the VIN.
This was a long day, but it felt like we made decent progress. Libardo offered to give me a ride to my hotel on the back of his motorcycle. I was really impressed with the way he navigated through gaps with just inches of clearance, especially considering the big gringo throwing off his balance.
I had a nice relaxing evening in my hotel. Do some people travel like this all of the time? How are you supposed to meet wild animals like this? If nothing else, this adventure will help me maintain an attitude of thankfulness for future comforts in my life.
Wednesday, October 10th
Do or die time. We had until 6pm to complete the paperwork in order to get Annie on her flight the following night. I was fairly hopeful since we only had one more thing to do: The police inspection. Perhaps predictably, there would be some drama.
Libardo and I were basically reduced to waiting all day in the the warehouse of the airline. There were numerous other representatives from other companies waiting around. It was confusingly unclear to me why they couldn’t just make appointments.
The morning came and went, followed by the 2+ hour Colombian lunch break. Others left, but I remained at my post. I had my tablet along, so I got a fair amount of writing done.
The police official arrived around 3pm. I soon noticed that we were being skipped over for other packages which had been behind us in the registration line. We never received any explanations why this was. Honestly, I wasn’t too offended. My only thoughts were to how I was going to get this to happen.
Esteemed readers of this quality publication will note that I have never paid a bribe at any point during this chapter. Through 16 Latin American countries and dozens of borders, I’ve always tried to do things the right way (also, I’m just really cheap). However, I was now ready to do anything to get Annie on my scheduled flight. Missing this plane could cause a delay of indeterminate length and could be costly in many ways.
I asked Libardo about offering some money to help speed things along. I never really got a straight answer from him. He didn’t say I shouldn’t, but he also didn’t direct me how I should go about it. But as the hours wore on, I was nearly to the point of waving fistfuls of US dollars in random people’s faces.
At about 5:30, my name was finally called. Annie’s crate was fork-lifted off of its shelf and wheeled over to us. I had to begin the process by apologizing to the police representative. I had forgotten a lighter and the fuel canister for my camping stove in my luggage. After I removed those, he only had one request: Start the bike. I guess this proves that the engine isn’t full of drugs.
I had already disconnected the battery, so I had a bit of a process ahead of me. The battery box is deep within the recesses of Annie’s body. Additionally, I couldn’t find the screw for my positive lead. I held it on the post by hand and Annie fired up without hesitation or electrocution. Phew.
After one last look, Annie’s crate was sealed. I had to dispel from my mind that the crate sort of looked like a coffin.
Libardo and I ran our paperwork over to the office and got it in with only 5 minutes to spare. I felt some measure of relief, despite this less-than-confidence-inspiring sign (days since last accident):
Thursday, October 11th
I still needed to pay, so I walked the mile or so over to the Cargo Rider office. I would also receive final confirmation that Annie was on the plane.
Apologetically, Veronica told me that Annie had not made the flight. The story was that there was a little bit of drizzle in the air so the pilot decided to remove two packages from the plane. Even though Annie was one of the smaller crates, she was selected. I had almost started to believe that the process would go smoothly.
The good-ish news was that the next flight was scheduled for about 36 hours later. However, missing that one would mean a delay of a further two weeks. Honestly, I was not too optimistic, but everything was out of my control at that point.
I returned to my comfy hotel and checked out of my room. My flight was in the middle of the night, so I just worked in the lobby while I waited.
In the evening it was time for my flight back to the US. I should have felt relief and excitement, but I was very concerned about leaving the continent before Annie. If there were any further issues, I might need to fly back.
I had a little confusion in the Bogota airport. I was carrying the little hydration backpack which is normally mounted to my frunk lid. Lots of random things have been shoved in various pockets over the preceding months and I didn’t clean it out beforehand. In the security line, they pulled my bag, started sorting through it, and asked if I had a “llave” inside. This word, llave, is really confusing. It can be used for a key, a wrench, a faucet handle, a light switch or even a wrestling hold. I was unsure which one they were referring to. They eventually pulled out a thin 8mm wrench that I had forgotten about. They weren’t very happy and went through my other bag too. Sorry, Colombia! I hope you’ll let me back in someday!
Free of all extraneous metals, I hopped on my plane and took my final picture in South America.
Thursday, October 11th
I didn’t sleep much during the flight, perhaps due to discomfort, perhaps due to worry. That said, it felt really good to be back on my home soil. The early morning migration lines were full of faces displaying a zombie level of enthusiasm, but I had a hard time restraining a bit of a smirk.
I’ll leave it there for now. These days were mildly frustrating, but these are the hoops that you need to jump through on this continent. Sorry to leave you on a cliffhanger, but you’ll have to tune in next time to see if Annie and I are re-united. 🙂
Stay compact, everybody
Realtime update: And we’re back! It feels good to get a long awaited update out. I am working furiously to get caught up in the coming days. Mom and I are planning to leave for Iowa on Monday the 13th and we both have a lot to do between now and then. As always, thanks for joining me!