Wed Jul 18 2007 - Thu Jul 19 2007: Customs & Shopping

We're off! Left at 8:20PM, Air Canada to Heathrow and arrived at 8:40AM local time on Thursday. I think I got 3 hours of sleep total, Neda only about an hour, so she was very tired. We had to catch a shuttle bus to Gatwick airport, because that's where Air Transat cargo flies to. Only reason why we flew Air Canada was because of my Air Miles. If only Air Canada Cargo accepted Air Miles, we would have saved a ton of money on shipping charges.

This about sums up our experience at Gatwick Cargo

At Gatwick, we cabbed it to Swisservice Cargo, the freight handling service that works with Air Transat. After waiting for 1/2 hour, we were told the bikes were in holding at security. After another 1.5 hours, we were told all the cargo was being transported to cargo warehouse at the same time after lunch. Because we were hungry and without a vehicle, we had to walk about half a km to a portable trailer where most of the Cargo staff eat lunch.

It was nice to get out of the sun, and I slept for an hour in this trailer/diner

More nightmares when we get back to Swisservice. Aparently nobody told us we had to fill out customs forms to release our bikes from holding. Something that could've been mentioned to us for the last 4 hours we were waiting!!!! So I had to walk to another building and dish out a small fortune to a guy to print out a form with my name and my bike's license plate number on it to hand over to the cargo people. The kicker: the cargo folks only gave me the form for one bike, saying they never received the other form from us! After a bit of arguing, they gave us their copy so I sent Neda back to customs with this while I prepped the motorcycles (hook up battery, re-attach my windscreen).

Re-attaching my windscreen

The cargo warehouse guys were really cool. A couple of them rode as well and they gave us these fluorescent vests
to wear while prepping the bikes so we wouldn't get run over by the forklifts roaming around

By the time we left the cargo warehouse, it was around 5PM! Nearly 8 hours after we touched down in Heathrow! I was more worried about the weather than driving on the left, the forecast called for rain all of Thursday and the skies looked pretty forbidding, but it never did open up. Driving on the left was not too bad, as long as there was someone ahead of us to follow. Roundabouts were a bitch though! The first one I hit, I thought, "Doesn't seem too hard, I'll just stay on the outside lane till we reach the road we want". Nope. The outside lane exits onto the next road, so you have to keep to the inside lane until right before the exit you want to take. Easy, unless you have no idea which exit you want to take until you pass it. Our new name for this: RoundAndRoundAndRoundAbout. Thankfully our Canadian flag stickers on the backs of our bikes served as fair warning to the motorists behind us.

Finally we're off! And riding on the wrong side of the road too!

This being a motorcycle adventure, our first stop was P&H Motorcycles close to Gatwick airport.

Neda in Dainese Heaven. Lots of cool stuff that you don't see in Canada. Neda picked up a pair of Dainese gloves.

I almost bought a Dainese helmet. They don't sell them in North America because they haven't been DOT tested yet. Maybe I'll pick one up in Italy, might be cheaper...

It took us about another hour to cover the 50km back to our hotel. Riding through London in rush hour was very frustrating between the congestion and navigating the roundabouts. I didn't take many pictures, we just wanted to get to the hotel pronto. They lanesplit in the UK! We felt like such squares doing our staggered positioning behind cars. We were being passed by scooters! One motorcycle, taking pity on us, motioned for us to follow him down a bus lane, but we were too chicken, I still had to get used to the whole left lane thing and besides, with my side cases, I was almost as wide as a car. Interestingly enough, nobody waves. I guess with your waving hand on the outside of traffic, it's harder to see, but since 1 out of 5 vehicles is another motorcycle, it must get tiresome.

Tons of motorcyclists and almost all of them had some kind of topbox or Givi on the back. BMW C1 in the back there.

Finally got to the hotel after several missed turns according to the GPS (which I thought would overheat from having to recalculate the route so often). Haggled with the Marriott parking attendent who told us, "We don't park motorcycles here", which apparently is code for, "If you slip me £20, you can leave your motorcycles in that corner over there"... *sigh*.

The corner of the garage that £20 under the table gets you

Unpacked, took a shower and rushed off to a pre-wedding dinner my uncle was throwing for his son and future daughter-in-law. Like most Chinese dinners, half of the food was shellfish, so I just drank more beer to make up for the food I was missing. Got to spend time with my cousins, who I haven't seen in over a decade!

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