Let the invasion begin

The advice from Glasgow airport was to check in 3 hours before departure – that meant a 6am check-in on Friday morning. Being so early, I decided to spend the Thursday night at an airport hotel, and Doreen decided to come to.

The Thursday had been Doreen’s first full day of training on a 125cc bike, and I’d been to see Iron Maiden the night before, so we were both tired and hungry when we arrived at the hotel at 9.25pm. There was a queue for check-in, so I tried to get a table in the restaurant, only to be told that I couldn’t as the kitchen was closing in 5 minutes. “Right” says Doreen “you’re not closed yet, so I’ll just sit down and order now.” I love her take-no-crap attitude.

We hit the airport check-in the next day just after 6am, having had not much sleep – too much excitement I guess. It was a good job we did arrive early, since the check-in staff were trying to convince people to fly the following day as the flight was over-booked. ‘Not a chance’ I thought ‘the Trooper and I go together’.

I was taking all the camping gear for both Doreen and I, together with all my luggage for 3 months. I’d followed John McKay‘s lead and had packed all the luggage into a big, cheap suitcase so that I could move all the luggage to the bike and dispose of the suitcase on the other side. The £40 excess baggage charge for being 4kg over the allowance stung when the Trooper was 25kg under.

Doreen and I said our farewells before securirty. It was only going to be 2½ weeks before she’d be joining me at Sturgis. Then I was off through security and on my way to find a good bottle of single malt to take with me. A good whiskey is a great way to break the ice when camping, as Sonishphere proved. I chose a Bowmore.

On the flight I ended up sitting next to a young man named Euan, who was nearly 7. I usually dread sitting anywhere near children on flights – especially long haul ones – after an experience flying to the Maldives years ago. I’d had to sit 2 seats over from a little monster that cried, screamed and kicked the seat in front for almost the entire 11 hour flight. But that was not the case with Euan. He was a pleasure to fly with. I chatted to him and his mum for much of the flight, we played Stone, Paper, Scissors, and I took away a signed drawing of Sponge Bob Squarepants to keep the Trooper and I company on our journey. Rock n’ roll.

On arriving in Canada, I decided to keep my jacket on as I queued for immigration control – some people can be very judgemental about the tattoos and I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot. But I still wasn’t especially surprised to find out that I’d been sent for secondary screening. After an hour of standing around and queuing, I was allowed into Canada, only to find out that I then had to have a bag search.

It seems as if it was my very short length of stay in Canada that caused the extra questioning. The Canadian immigration officer just didn’t seem to get why I had flown to Canada in the first place when I wanted to ride straight across the border. Once I realised that this was what he was struggling with, I explained that Motorcycle Express only arranged shipping to the 4 Canadian destinations, and that Toronto was the closest to Chicago. That apparently satisfied him, because he let me in.

The cargo area at Toronto airport is about a mile from arrivals. With all my luggage, it would be next to impossible to walk, and I set about looking for a taxi. The heat hit me as soon as I left the air-conditioned arrival building. Large parts of Canada and the US had been having a heat wave. The temperature felt well over 30 degrees, and humid to boot. I was lugging nearly 30kg of luggage, a helmet and an armoured leather jacket. A taxi was definitely the right decision.

Despite the heat, my initial welcome to Canada wasn’t that warm – secondary screening and a bag search – and then ripped off by a taxi driver. $21 to be taken the mile to the cargo area was near extortion. I thought about arguing the fare, but decided I just wanted to get the Trooper and to hit the road.

After my less than warm reception, I was delighted at how easy it was to retrieve the Trooper. I waited in a short queue at the Servisair desk. The documentation that Tracey had sent me had traveled along with the Trooper, and I was given this and told to take it to the customs office in another building and get it stamped for release. I was grateful they let me leave my luggage in the Servisair office – I had no desire to drag it across the car park in the heat.

At the Canadian customs office, all I had to do was to hand in the shipping documents, show my passport and answer a couple of questions. The officer didn’t seem very interested in my temporary registration document or bill of sale. All he really wanted to know was that I was planning to take the bike out of the country, and whether I had been off-roading and had mud on my tyres. I’m glad the Trooper had had a clean after Sonisphere. But that was it. The form was stamped and I was back at Servisair to be reunited with the Trooper after paying the $80 release fee.

I transferred all the luggage from the suitcase to the saddle-bags and dry-bags. The Trooper was fully loaded, I’d have to look at cutting back on things when Doreen arrived, but for now it would do. One of the guys at Servisair kindly agreed to dispose of the suitcase for me and then called his buddy over to listen to the Trooper roar as he charged down the ramp and out on to the open road.


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