Almost Rolling in Reykjavik

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Statue outside the Reykjavik Cathedral celebrating the 1,000 anniversary of Leif Ericcson’s discovery of Iceland and North America

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Countdown to landing in my next country to ride “Border to Border”

Just 45 minutes from Iceland’s capitol, Reykjavik, visitors to the island nation fly into Keflavik International Airport. First time visitors will find a modest airport without large waiting areas nor device charging stations or large food court or shopping areas.

It’s what you would expect to find at a small rural town in any modern city of 325,000 or so population. Though I quickly learn that the Icelandic people hardly compare themselves to cities of the same population—there are more than 50 cities in the United States that can boast larger population. Iceland sees its capital as if it were a city of several million. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our director of production, John Angus, landed here a few hours before the big Euro2016 match where Iceland and its soccer team, recently thrust into the world limelight due to its ego-slamming upset to Brexit stunned England by upsetting the British favorite, prepared to to take the field against France.

By the time I retrieved my luggage and wandered the airport looking for the cargo terminal, France had slaughtered the Iceland team 5-2, yet I found no disappointment or feeling of loss in the faces of the locals. Instead, Iceland was proud, happy and pleased for its eight place finish in the Euro. On the wall of the Icelandair Cargo office at the airport I found a shrine for the football/soccer team in the form of neatly taped clippings from magazines.

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Shrine and celebration for Iceland’s 2016 Euro win against England at the Icelandair Cargo terminal office.

Getting my new Heidenau tires retrieved from cargo and clippings turned out to be yet another shipping ordeal. The only way to clear the new K60 Scout tires that Moto-Amare shipped to me was to have a cleared customs document showing my motorcycle would be “temporarily imported” into Iceland. To do this, I needed to get the motorcycle cleared from Eimskip, the shipper, and the customs office at the shipping port in Reykjavik.

Though I had evidence that the ship with my motorcycle was docked in the port, Eimskip had not marked it as arrived. However, he learned that even if the bike was off the ship, Icelandic wouldn’t clear it without a “green card.” Unlike the desired and often coveted green card that foreign nationals need to secure legal employment in the United States, the Euro “green card” is a proof of liability insurance—and required by most countries in the EU—including Iceland. The roadblocks for clearing my motorcycle were beginning to pile up. There was no way John could get the customs clearing process started.

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Iconic image of the Reykjavik cathedral in city center.

The insurance companies in Iceland will not insure a vehicle unless it is registered in Iceland. I was able to find underwriters in Italy, USA, the UK, and Germany. Most required 3-5 days to process, but thankfully Christina at Germany-based TourInsure was able to expedite our request and issue green cards via email. The cost for two months is about €300.

Icelandic customs takes about a day to process clearance, including a seemingly endless barrage of email requests for copies of documents. By the time the bike is nearly cleared, the rest of our crew, Jamie and Pan, land in Keflavik. To make matters worse, Icelandair could not find our director and producer, Panayioti Yannitsos’ checked luggage. Fortunately, all the camera and audio gear was carried aboard the plane.

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Pan and I trying to get some Blue Lagoon footage for the show.

It takes another day to get the documents required to retrieve my Heidenau Tires, so our schedule is already compromised and I’m not even on the road. That’s okay, because we had scheduled to connect with two notable Icelandic celebrities, author, playwright, and recent presidential candidate Andri Snær Magnason and Sigtryggur (Siggi) Baldursson, co-founder and drummer of the groundbreaking Icelandic rock band the Sugarcubes. I will share more about these interviews in a future blog post. So be sure to subscribe to updates.

And, to take the edge off the stress and bureacracy, we decided to take in perhaps the most popular and highly touristed attractions of Iceland, the Blue Lagoon. It’s popular for good reason. With the sky still bright as if it was five o’clock in the afternoon, we embarked on our geothermal spa experience at about 10pm. We had wanted to film in the lagoon, but our crew looked just a tad too professional for the gatekeepers and we were told there could be no filming unless we had been cleared by the media department. So we stripped down the gear and still were able to surreptitiously capture the footage we needed for our Icelandic episode of “Border to Border.”

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Shooting in downtown Reykjavik!

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Doc my BMW F650GS Dakar makes it and lands on the soil of the island nation of Iceland.

By the end of the next day, we cleared both Doc, my motorcycle and John’s from customs, rolled them out of the crate at the Eimskip shipping terminal and brought them to Biking Viking, the local motorcycle shop for a quick change from my Continental Conti-Attack tires to the new more aggressive and off-road friendly Heidenau K60 Scouts.

Now getting the tires cleared would be my next hurdle.

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