September 08, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
We were back in the US in a new state for us, Florida. After the eventful departure from Botoga it was nice to enjoy a relaxing flight and collect our babies on the other side, safe and sound. We must admit, the LAN staff at the airport in Bogota were very helpful, we were really messed around with the dogs flights so they waived their pet freight fee ($50 per dog) so the girls got a free ride. Thanks LAN.
The process for collecting the girls after the flight was very different at Miami Airport compared to Dallas where we flew in with Skyla from Australia. The girls were in their crates literally sitting next to the conveyor belts in the baggage claim. Anyone could have walked past and taken them. When Skyla flew in from the US she was taken to a separate secure location and we had to get a heap of stamps and approvals before they released her to us. It was one extreme to the other but it was also the difference between travelling as cargo and checked luggage. Our preference would always be checked luggage because it reduces the amount of time the dog spends in the crate by around 4 to 6 hours. It was a long flight but we were keen to get them outside to go to the toilet. After baggage and doggy claim we passed through a customs area where they asked to see the girls vaccination certificates. Everything was in Spanish because it was all from South America. The man was being difficult because he couldn't read the certificates but he walked away and a lady officer approached us quickly telling us to hurry through. Didn't need to tell us twice, the man was threatening quarantine when the dogs documents were all legitimate so we hurried off. Nobody came after us. Phew!
We needed transport in Miami. Even though the bikes arrived in the US before us we couldn't collect them for another 3 days. We were able to hop on the airport wifi and hire a car from one of the Miami airport companies. You need to book online or you pay through the roof just turning up at the airport! With our little hire car loaded with all our stuff and the girls we headed to our hosts for the next week, Andy and Angie. We contacted them through Tentspace when we were in Colombia to see if they were available to host us on our arrival in Florida. Andy indicated that he would be away from home when we arrived and and volunteered Angie to look after us. They had a beautiful house with a big back yard, a pool and a cat. Andy is usually the cook at home so in his absense we volunteered. It was fun trying some old favourite dishes and Angie was very kind to participate, we were a little rusty.
Picking up our bikes from the airport was a breeze. We simply had to get to the freight company and get our papers, then drive to the customs office and get them stamped and signed as import approved. Initially, the customs officer thought we needed an import agent since this was the normal procedure and pointed us in the direction of a couple of agents that just happened to be in the office. This sounded expensive but off we went as directed. Both agents looked at our papers and said nothing was required, since we had US plated bikes we weren't importing them, they were simply returning to the US. Back to the customs officer, he was a little confused but eventually handed us over to his supervisor. Again we explained what we were told by the agents. We're not sure if he understood the legality of it completely but he was happy to sign and stamp our paperwork and that's all we could ask for. It had to be the easiest import ever, back to the freight company and our bikes were ours for the taking.
Our week was up with Angie and Andy and time to move on. Again and again we used Tentspace to find hosts. Every time we sent a request we got a response from this incredible motorcycle community. Even when people were not home or were renovating they helped us out with accommodation. On more than one occasion the host was away and they got us access to their home to stay for the night. With the countless people we spent time with we would relax and share stories. We all had one thing in common, a love for riding. Often we also had another thing in common, a love of dogs. Everyone was very kind to our girls. When the host allowed us we made dinner or bought dinner and drinks but it was always a battle, the hospitality in the US is very giving. To be blunt, we could not have afforded to travel the US staying at hotels and even campsites in some places. In one town the cheapest campsite was $45 a night!
We took 3 weeks to get to Canada. Travelling long distances is so easy in the USA, the roads are fantastic. We rode through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. In Washington DC we swapped out wheels for feet visiting the Smithsonian museums, various monuments and political buildings. It's so impressive, the air and space museum was definitely a favourite of ours.
We also squeezed in some time with Janell's sister in Jacksonville and her cousin Leah in upstate New York. Time was a little against us moving north. It was September when we entered Canada. Beautiful weather but soon it would be getting very cold and we needed to cross to the west coast.
Crossing into Canada was easy enough although you do have to stop exactly at the stop sign otherwise the immigration official will be forced to treat you like you are 12 years old and give you a good telling off. I guess sometimes the power goes to their heads. As far as the dogs were concerned, it was just a check of their vaccinations. We made sure to get the vaccinations redone in the US so we had everything in English and wouldn't have the same problems we had at Miami Airport. Now on to Canada, we were headed for Stu's brothers home in Ottawa. We had last seen him in Mexico when he flew to Cancun to visit us. A lot had happened since then and we were looking forward to catching up with Greg and meeting his girlfriend Diana.
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