The day had finally come to leave the cold and dreary Belgium behind, hop on the bikes and ride to the even colder London… When in London, you have to see the highlights before you leave, so we took the bikes around for a while and visited Big Ben and the Tower Bridge amongst other things. We stayed with Martin and Ginette in Twickenham and they showed us a cool place to walk along the Thames river.
We had to have our picture takes next to ‘the symbols’ of London, the red phone booth and the double decker bus.
To get our bikes shipped from London to Los Angeles we opted to work together with James Cargo Services. We just had to ride up to their offices around Heathrow and drop off the bikes and they did the rest. We got the VIP treatment because there was a guy waiting for us to do the necessary check up on the bikes and to crate them.
After dropping off the bikes, we had to rely on the public transportation around London so we had to figure out the map of the London Underground.
London at night:
We took public transportation to Gatwick airport and when we arrived the first thing the lady at the check in counter said to us was: “I can’t check you in, you have to go to the immigrations officer!” Seb just looked at her, pulled up his eyebrow and asked why? She said that it wasn’t legal that our bikes were on one flight, we were on the other and we didn’t have a return flight back to London. Since we are Europeans and we didn’t want to travel with a Visa because it is expensive and we were only staying for a few weeks in the United States, we took an ESTA that allows you to travel for a short period of time in the United States without having to get a Visa. The lady at the check in told us that since we had an ESTA, we had to have a return flight or otherwise she could not check us in. By that time steam was coming out of Seb’s ears, but he managed to stay polite and off we went to the immigrations officer.
After talking with the kind officer, mister Kim (I kid you not!), we found out that we missed the fine print about the ESTA that said that you had to have a return flight in order to travel with an ESTA to the United States. He asked us a lot of questions and he had to figure out if we were planning on staying in the United States to look for work or to live there. The officer was kind enough to see that we were not going to stay in the United States and were actually planning to travel south, so he approved our ESTA and we could go back to the check in to catch our flight to Los Angeles.
We saw the confusion on the face of the check in lady when she saw us at the gate to board the plane and she actually asked us how we got through…
The flight itself, which lasted 11 hours, went by faster than I ever could have imagined and Seb found some time to take a picture of the snowed in Rocky mountains when we were flying over them.
Once in Los Angeles, we were picked up by a very kind local guy, Richard, who took us to his home in Yorba Linda, Orange county, California, where we could stay and relax for a few days and meet his wife Lois and their two daughters Karen and Sarah. The family was super friendly and nice and we had our own bedroom. The next day, they even let us borrow their car so we could go and relax at the beach, can you imagine giving your car key to someone you only know for 12 hours…
James Cargo was really fast when they shipped over the bikes, because the bikes landed the day after we did with the cargo plane and we could go and collect them a day later. The paperwork was all very straightforward and all the people were very helpful and friendly when we had to un-crate the bikes. Sorry for the bad quality pictures, a phone is unfortunately not a descent camera… 😉
Richard and Lois made sure that we could put both bikes in their enormous garage so that they would be safe at night and so we could leave all our stuff on.
We stayed for a few more days at Richard and Lois’ place and we had a fabulous time. They even let us enjoy their hot tub one night and it was awesome! This is the best way to start on our next adventure and so tomorrow morning we’re on the road again!