Shipping Doc to Iceland—The Drama

iceland-mapI’ve always wanted to go to Iceland. What about you? Of course, I want to ride my motorcycle from one end of the island to the other, border to border. Not any motorcycle, my motorcycle, Doc.

After appearing at the final Travel & Adventure Show in Philadelphia in March, and in anticipation of a summer adventure in Iceland, I left my bike with Tim in his garage in New Jersey. The plan was keep the bike on east coast, get it crated locally and ship it via Icelandair from New York.

I thought it would be easy. Icelandair flies a dedicated cargo plane from New York twice a week. At least that’s what I found through research. After calling the cargo department at JFK Airport, I learned that now there is only one flight per week. For the last two months the second flight has been grounded. The plane was pulled due to mandated inspections and maintenance. With only one flight per week, the available cargo space is less than half than before. The only cargo flight to Iceland leaves on Saturdays.

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Doc and me and new FORKS reader Philadelphia Convention Center, March 2016

“All vehicles must fly standby,” Hálidor, the Icelandair cargo specialist explained. “We’ve been full the last two weeks.” He tells me that there’s a car in the warehouse that has been waiting to ship for more than two months. I suggest that a motorcycle is much smaller and weighs less a car. “We cannot guarantee space.”

I take risks, and don’t mind gambling, not in the Vegas sense, but in looking positively and fully expecting that fate will yield to my desired outcome.

Suddenly, my timeline got compressed. With business to take care of in San Diego, including preparing my home and my cat, Dar, for its summer caretaker and house sitter, my nephew Robert, I needed to get my bike crated and prepped quicker than originally planned.

This meant getting my bike to a local shop before I arrived on the east coast. While I would love to see Tim behind the bars of a motorcycle, I didnt want to push him into an accelerated lesson. I needed to find someone nearby Tim’s place who could ride the bike to the dealership. So I reached out to Alan Tecchio, a moot-journalist, heavy metal rock n’ roll vocalist and longtime Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor. I met Alan when he contacted me about doing a story on my book “FORKS” for his column in a local magazine.

The best part? He lives less than a mile from Tim. The two of them arranged to drive and ride together, Tim bringing Alan back to his home. I arranged to have my bike crated in New Jersey at the legendary Cross Country Cycle BMW & Ducati dealership in Metuchen, New Jersey, just 20 minutes or so from JFK Airport, and about 30 miles from Alan and Tim.

It rained heavily the day that Tim and Alan headed to Cross Country Cycles. Tim would be safe and dry in his car, but Alan was a trooper and donned his rain-suit and made the trip. Though he was a bit nervous given a few miles into the trip the reserve fuel warning light came on, I had to drain the fuel from the motorcycle for it to be cleared for being in the convention center by the Philadelphia Fire Marshall.

 

From Tim's rearview, Alan Tecchio braves New Jersey rainstorm to get Doc to Metuchen

From Tim’s rearview, Alan Tecchio braves New Jersey rainstorm to get Doc to Metuchen.

 

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Cross Country Cycle service director Doug Macmillan has quite a bit of adventure riding experience, we share many stories and he sees that Doc is well taken care of.

 

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The legendary Alan Tecchio joins me at Tim’s place for a beer — the first time we’ve ever met, yet he’s already put some 30 miles on my bike, Doc!

 

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Service Desk Manager Doug Aspinall with his personalized copy of FORKS, he made sure the new pegs, Nemo 2 chain-oiler, and crating were taken care of swiftly,

 

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Cross Country Cycle in Metuchen, New Jersey—my choice of BMW dealer in the New York City area.

At Cross Country Cycle Center, Doug, Justin and the Cross Country team looked over Doc, installed my new extra wide Black Dog Cycle Works footpads and a new innovative chain-oiler from Czech Republic-based Cobrra, called the Nemo 2. From San Diego, I give them the go ahead to crate and get my bike ready for shipping.

Sadly, there’s no room on the June 11th flight. So I gamble and cross my fingers the bike will make the June 18, 2016 flight, Saturday. I feel confident. There will be space for Doc.

My positive thinking didn’t work. There isn’t enough space for my bike on that flight. I’m frustrated, but I get it. I’m a one-time customer. Iceland is a geothermal wonderland pocked with gushing geysers, threatening volcanoes, miles of lava beds, hot springs and thundering waterfalls. That is, there is plenty of eye-food, but not much other food. The eerie landscape doesn’t make for the best agricultural conditions, so most of Iceland’s non-seafood is flown or shipped in. Food takes priority. So does medical supplies and auto parts. These customers ship weekly.

“Why don’t you just rent a motorcycle,” Hálidor suggests trying to be helpful, but clearly not understanding the scope of my travels and principles. I explain we are filming for our new television show. I share with him a letter of accreditation from the Iceland government tourist promotion agency, Promote Iceland. None of this convinces Icelandair to guarantee me space on the cargo flight. I am unable to ship as cargo on the dozens of passenger flights because my motorcycle is considered a hazardous material (HAZMAT).

Without shipping confirmation with a clear arrival date, I cannot buy a ticket on a passenger flight. Neither can our film crew. I must deflect, defend, and deal with questions, concerns, and complaints from our producer, camera man and my own family. Everyone wants to know. When will I be in Iceland.

I don’t know.

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New foot pegs from Black Dog Cycle Works

I set up “camp” in Northern New Jersey and New York City thanks to my great friend Tim. Tim is a fellow traveler, adventurer and mountain climber. He is patient and excited for me, but also wants to know. “When are you leaving?”

I call Hálidor every day. “Our bookings don’t confirm until Thursday or Friday.” I try to reason with Icelandair, but to displace cargo from one of its regular customers for my motorcycle isn’t good business. Sure, it’d be good for me.

“Is there anything I can do,” I plead, desperately. They check with HQ in Iceland. THey’ll guarantee my shipment for $3,000, nearly 400% more than the standard quoted rate. I wish I could, but I cannot afford this. So I take a chance again, gamble that Doc will get cleared to ship the following Saturday, June 25th.

IMG_2128-1On Monday the next week, I’m told there’s only a 10 percent chance my bike will make the (June 25) next Icelandair cargo plane. As much as I like to gamble, take risks, I’m running out of time. Icelandair cargo manager Karl suggests I look into shipping via ocean freight. There are two ships that go to Iceland from North America. The one from Norfolk, Virginia goes to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, then to Iceland. With over a month of sailing time, it’s too long. I can’t wait. The second ship leaves every two weeks from Portland, Maine. The next ship? Leaves Saturday the 25th of June. If I try and miss that ship, the boat won’t sail until July 10th. My heart races, I am panicked, the nauseating logistics gives me a headache

Any overseas shipment to anywhere needs to clear US customs. All vehicles must go through an extra step where ownership of the vehicle must be verified, and they require the original certificate of title. The process takes a minimum of 72 hours—4 days. My bike is in New Jersey, the title to my bike is in New York with Icelandair.

Sensing my urgency, the shipping company EIMSKIP, explains that it is a long-shot that the bike will be cleared in time for sail—but they are committed to helping me and offer to organize a truck to pick up my bike the next day, Tuesday June 21st, from Cross Country Cycle and take it direct to the port in Portland, Maine.

I breathe. The news settles me, so I take a chance, go for it, and give EIMSKIP the green light to get my bike to Portland and on the next ship. Meanwhile, Tim and I decide to embark a quick road trip to Washington DC on Thursday to have dinner with my brother Jonathan and his family before they head out on their summer adventure—a family vacation to Greece.

On the way to DC, we stop in Metuchen to take care of final business and such with Doug at Cross Country Cycle, where I learn that my bike is still sitting at the dealership—the truck hasn’t picked it up. More panic sets in. I’m livid. Self-targeted profanity flows off my tongue more than a swarm of mosquitos on a hot humid Jersey night. I’m fucked.

Renee at EIMSKIP tells me the truck is on the way to the dealership. But she explains the bike will not make it Portland until Tuesday next week—three days after the ship sails.

Reality sets in. I’m not going to get cleared for customs. I’m grounded. I’m not air-freighting my bike, and the next boat doesn’t leave until mid-July. At this moment, my Iceland adventure seems doomed. Helpless, Tim and I continue our road trip to DC.

An hour down my phone rings and Doug, the service manager at Cross Country tells me that the truck refused to pick up my bike. They told him the bikes need to be in fully-enclosed crates. Earlier, we had received an okay from EIMSKIP that as long as the bikes were securely palleted, we would be fine. Doug tells me that Justin, the other service writer at Cross Country, might be willing to take the bikes to Portland—mark on an all night road trip—it’s a six-hour drive to Portland.

Feeling my pain, and both the brunt of a late pickup and subsequent refusal by the trucking company, she pleads with US customs to agree to clear my bike in a day—or less. But the bike must be at the port Friday morning by 9AM. Justin agrees and takes the bikes to Portland, texting me throughout the night.

 

 

 

 

Justin loads up Doc and Dash, the 2004 R1150GS that my buddy John Angus will ride along with me in Iceland and beyond.

Justin loads up Doc and Dash, the 2004 R1150GS that my buddy John Angus will ride along with me in Iceland and beyond.

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Doc sits awaiting customs clearance at the Port of Portland in Maine—Eimskip Logistics terminal.

On Friday afternoon, June 24th, Renee calls me and assures me the bikes have been cleared and are now in a sealed container and on the ship.

So now the nerves are calmed, the beads of sweat have dried, my anxiety is quelled, and for the first time in more than a month, I can tell the film crew, my family and friends when I’m going to Iceland.

I leave today, Sunday.

Stay tuned right here, and join me on the ride. I guarantee, it’s going to get interesting.

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