The planning for the next big adventure has proved to be a lot more complex than I first imagined. Our first plan was to ship Camel to Halifax, spend a month or so exploring Eastern Canada, drive down to New England to catch the Autumn colours, pop home for a couple of weeks, leaving Camel with a friend, drive down to Florida to visit another friend, leave Camel there while we go home for Christmas and our son’s wedding then come back in February and then drive on down to Mexico.
At first it seemed quite a good plan, as it ‘only’ costs £1400 to ship a car in a container to Canada. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to insure us if we ship to Canada. There is one American firm that will insure us in both America and Canada, but only if we ship both in and out of an Eastern USA port. The quote to ship into Portland is nearly £2800. Ouch! Apparently about half of this is to do with customs clearance, getting into the USA. We also have to clean Camel thoroughly and drain her of all oil and diesel and somehow deliver her to the port. (Southampton, not Portland!) When we read that we nearly gave up the whole idea. We spent a whole day saying things like ‘Good grief, that could pay for two ski trips’ and ‘I know, we could cycle the Rhein path’. We got sadder and sadder as the day went on then finally decided that we would always regret it if we didn’t do it, so we should just ‘suck it up’. Not only that, but if you were to add up all we have spent on ferries over the last year, it is probably a good deal more than £2800. We did look at other options; it is possible to send a car on a RO RO ferry and that is cheaper, but you are not allowed to leave any gear in the car, it has to be crated up and shipped separately. You also have to drain the car of diesel and oil, get it steam cleaned and disconnect the battery. Oh yes and it can only go into New York. We thought about buy hiring a car in America, or even taking the motorbike over, but then we would have to stay in hotels and eat out all the time. In the end we decided to just pay the money. We REALLY want to continue our journeys with Camel, after all there are at least 3 more flags to collect.
We can’t use the visa waiver scheme to get into the USA, as we will be spending more than 3 months there, so we had to apply for tourist visas, which involves a pretty complex online form (in which Tim had to list every country he has visited in the last five years!) (but not me- I must sound very harmless) and an interview, which you have to book ahead. I had to replace my passport first, as it will run out next year. Our appointment finally came around on the 8th of June and I could only start booking shipping and flights after they had given us the OK, so it was a bit nerve racking.
The interviews were a bit of a palaver; we had to get full rate rail tickets as we had to up at the American Embassy by 10 am. We passed the horses from the Royal Household Cavalry getting their daily exercise on the way through.
The embassy has a really naff system. Firstly you queue up to get someone to sign your confirmation email. Then you queue separately for ages to be allowed through security. Then we were given a number and had to wait for ages to to give in our passports. We then had to wait for ages to be called for our interview, which was, in the end, pretty painless (I suspect that being retired and having our own house makes them feel fairly confident that we will want to come back to the UK). I had taken loads of supporting documentation with me to prove that we have enough money to support us and even the deeds to the house to prove that we actually own it, but all the nice lady asked was did we own a house, what jobs we used to have and what we intended to do. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as we were out before midday and back in Bognor by three. We now have to go over to Southampton to pick up our passports, less than a week later. You can get them delivered to your home, but it costs about £40 a head. We saw this fine feline on the way back to Victoria.
In the meanwhile, Camel has had her service and came through pretty well, but Tim was warned that the disc brakes and the ‘bushes on the swinging arms’ (he knew what it meant!) were quite worn, so he should consider getting them replaced. The mechanic also commented on her coil spring suspension and, when Tim told him that he had replaced the air spring suspension himself, said mechanic was mightily impressed and told Tim that he should be able to do the job himself. Much hammering, angle grinding and muttering later, it’s turned out to be a much harder job than he first thought.
Tim had to borrow a tool for splitting the ball joints from the garage and then go and borrow an even bigger tool that our garage tend to borrow to work on Land Rovers. He had to buy another specialist tool online to separate the drive shaft from the hub for about £400 (the online forums said helpful things like ‘my one came apart quite easily’ or ‘I have the right kit and I would lend it to you, but I live in Leeds’). After a very damp and grubby day, 10 days after he started, Camel was finally whole again and a very relieved and proud Tim took her off to the garage to get the tracking checked. All is finally well and they didn’t even charge for doing it. You have got to love Paul Brothers, they have been so helpful with Camel all the way through.
The other piece of good news is that Camel has finally got her bling!
We bought this special rhodium camel from Nene Overland, when we first started getting Camel ready for all our journeys. They usually put them on the really high spec. overland vehicles that they produce, but they sold one to Tim at cost.
After they granted us our visas, I contacted the wonderfully helpful and efficient Julie at our shipping agents to set everything in motion. Imagine my shock when she suggested that we could deliver the car to the docks on the 22nd June, the day after we are due to come back from camping on Hayling Island. Aaaaaarg! Way too soon. I asked for a week later and she said fine, she would book it. Camel will leave the UK on the 6th of July and should arrive in Portland, Maine on the 13th. Julie thought that it might take up to 8 days to clear customs and that we should be there in case of any problems. I phoned the American shipping agents to check a few details and it turned out that they file the papers 5 days before the ship docks and they might be able to release the car the next day! He also assured me that we can keep the car in the USA for up to a year, as long as we take it out at the end (the man from Universal Logistic Solutions, he say ‘Yes’!!!!).
Everything is booked now; it was frustrating trying to get the best deals on airline tickets at such a late date. Someone called me in the middle of booking with Cheapoairlines (yep, there really is a company called that out there) and by the time I got off the phone, we had to buy the ones with a 12 hour layover in Reykjavik or pay nearly double to fly direct.
This is now the plan:
We have to get Camel cleaned, packed and drained of all oil and fuel and then delivered to the port in Southampton on the 29th June. (Good old Paul Brothers again.) She will then go off in the following week and should arrive in portland, Maine on the 13th July. We need to be in Portland when she arrives, so we will fly out to Boston via Reykjavik and then catch the bus up to Portland. I have rented an apartment near Portland so we can be ready for her to be delivered to us, and then we will have to buy some containers of oil and diesel to fill her up and get her going. Then it’s north to Canada….
We have done a couple of other things recently. We had a wonderful lunch at Cassons Restaurant (one of the best restaurants in the South of England) with our lovely friends Cass and Viv. Viv is a fabulously inventive chef, and every now and then she treats us to a meal after service on a Sunday and its always tons of fun.
We rode the motorbike over to the South of England show at Ardingly last Thursday. It’s always a great day out, where I can get my cute animal fix
and my piglet fix,
eat too much food and gawk at the massive beasts
and weird stands.
We also had a great time at the Bognor Rugby Club’s 50th anniversary ball. Boy it felt strange but nice to dress up!