Once my bike insurance had expired and Canada’s mafia, (government controlled insurance service) had refused to renew it until I was back in Canada, my trip was forcibly cut short.
My bike had been sitting undercover on an Arizona balcony overlooking a swimming pool. I new she wasn’t lonely but I missed her, on top of that, the owner of the balcony was moving house and my agreed transport back to Canada had waited until I arrived back in Scottsdale to notify me that they were changing their plans last minute. It was a week before the move.
I had driven across the desert from LA, about a 7 hour drive with my friend Jess. We had stayed at the Omni hotel for a night, (if you get the chance to stay there do it, its beautiful and whats more, for a fake desert city they’ve managed to capture a European vibe pretty well). The plan was to stay in Scottsdale for a week and then load up a U-haul and share the driving up to Vancouver between three of us. As it turned out, the change of plans meant my bike wouldn’t fit in the U-haul and I wouldn’t be driving back to Canada. Thankfully (I am extremely thankful-there was a lot) they could still take my luggage. So Jess and I jumped back in the car and headed back to LA to make other plans, my bike was still in Arizona, with a week until the moving date.
I googled around to find shipping services and a friend had heard about a company called Wolverine Shipping. At this point I have to stress – DO NOT USE THESE GUYS! I called and found their prices reasonable so I went ahead and paid through Paypal. I had a reserved pick up day and time and when that day arrived, and I had heard nothing I started experiencing worry. I called the following day and I couldn’t get through, please bear in mind at this time the house was now empty and the keys were getting handed over the following day. My bike was still in Arizona and upon a google search for Wolverine Shipping complaints, my heart sunk. Hundreds of pissed off customers had lost money and received no shipping through this company. Jess, the angel she is, with a smile on her face jumped back in the car with me that morning and we drove all the way back out there to bring the bike to LA.
We crossed the Arizona border around 6pm. It was 110F / 43C and the sunset was beautiful. Another hour or so down the road there was chaos everywhere. Storm warnings started popping up on our phones and before we knew it we were dodging fallen trees and pieces of buildings in the street. At one pint a man whole cover rolled passed us as the wind carried it down the main road. It was a ferocious weather front. We stayed at the Clarendon that night and as we walked into building we were greeted by the smell of damp dog and mud. The front desk was surrounded by towels on the floor and buckets strategically placed to catch water dripping from the leaking ceiling that the storm (and bad construction) had caused. The evaluators were out of order (not rude, they just weren’t working) so we had to hike up a load of stairs, we were already over the trip.
We survived the night and the next morning I headed to U-haul to pick up the hugest rental truck I’ve ever seen. They probably required a different driving licence for this thing, like a truck driver’s licence but it was all they had. It was for a three bedroom house removal and all I had to put in it was my bike. On top of which we attached a trailer to tow Jess’ car so we could drive back together and share driving the long miles. Once we picked the bike up and loaded it on (had to go and buy straps first from ‘go AZ motorcycles’) we drove back to the U-haul place, attached the trailer, and drove the car on. BANG! They had given us the wrong trailer, the front end of Jess’ car was all dinged up, the bumper was hanging off and it was a right mess. The guy apologised and gave us some wood blocks to assist in getting the car off at the other end. We were pretty tired and overheated but we were finally back on the road. It was already 4pm and in the rush hour traffic, this thing took up all of the motorway lane. There must have been about an inch either side of the wheels before the lines. It was one of the most stressful driving experiences of my life and it ended up taking us about 8 or 9 hours to get back. Each stop had to be google mapped first as we couldn’t reverse it and we needed to ensure there was a way in and out of each car park without needing to turn around. By the time we got back to LA it was past midnight. We needed to take the car off, disconnect the trailer, take the bike off, put it in the garage, re-attach the trailer, get gas and drop it all off at the U-haul drop off. On every step of this process something went wrong. I can laugh at it now as I write this but at midnight after two days of non stop desert driving we were over it.
We were in a pitch black alley way so I had my phone light shining up under the car as I lay on the filthy floor by bins, untangling the mess of ratchet straps and chains the U-haul guy had stuck on. I placed the wooden blocks under the tires and slowly edged the car off. This time there was a worse noise than before. I looked over at Jess’ face and she was not impressed. The whole bumper had pretty much been ripped off. Fucking U-haul. I had no choice but to carry on moving the car off, I mean, we had to get it off somehow. I disconnected the trailer, moved it out of the way, that thing sure was heavy at that time of night. As sweat ran down my back and into my eyes I set the ramp down and slowly rolled my bike out. I opened the garage and pushed my bike forward when I hit a pile of gravel someone had dumped right outside Jess’ garage door. By bike went over and snapped a piece off the foot peg. Now I had the unpleased look on my face too. It was a shared feeling, neither of us had to discuss. We popped the bumper back onto Jess’ car as best we could and we set off towards U-haul. I followed Jess to the drop off center looking for gas on the way. The only reasonably prices gas stations wouldn’t accept my British credit cards so I had to spend a couple hundred dollars to fill up the tank of this beastly oversized truck at a Chevron station. We got to the drop off place and there was no one around, no signs just a U-haul logo on the way in. It was a hotel car park. The length of the truck and the attached trailer meant I couldn’t park it in a space so I parked across six instead and dumped it there. I couldn’t move it if I wanted to, it would have needed to be backed up and with that trailer that wasn’t happening. By now it was around 2am. As we walked around looking for a key drop I decided I was over it and would leave it in the hotel for U-Haul to figure out. After ringing the nightwatchman’s phone for a while he emerged pointing to a box inside the locked hotel lobby saying key drop. Another useless design by U-hual. He let me in and I dropped the key off. I was so happy to be done with it! We got back in the car and drove home to the sound of plastic and rubber grinding together as the damage became more apparent. I tore off the wheel lining and part of the bumper and sat in the passenger seat, sweaty, broken, covered in oil and dirt but not defeated. We had beaten every challenge thrown at us. We carried our bags inside, grabbed showers and water, looked at each other and both started laughing. Adventure starts when shit starts going wrong, I feel like thats life. How boring an existence it would be if there were no trials or struggles, it’s true what they say, it really is the journey not the destination.
The following day I found another company, one I had previously had a quote from to ship my bike form Arizona to Washington. The price was the same from LA, I wish I had taken their quote the first time obviously but I was trying to save money and it hadn’t worked. The change of plans had ended up costing me over a thousand dollars extra but it 100% made me stronger. I know I can take on daunting challenges and power through exhaustion and be able to laugh at it all afterwords. On top of that I got to hang out in LA and ride with some rad people for a couple of weeks, including the ‘British Customs’ guys, Zach, Andrew from cb builds and a load of others. I also got a couple of shoots in with Jess and avoided a 26 hour drive up to Vancouver.
I flew into Vancouver a few days before by bike was due for delivery and set up shop in my mate Owen’s place. After a couple of days of organising things I woke up on what I had termed bike arrival day. No company would deliver the bike across the border so I had had it delivered to Blaine, Washington, the closest place in the US to Vancouver Canada. I was all booted up and ready to drive across the border when I called the shipping company to check the delivery time. Owen happened to have the day off work and his 1950’s truck had just come out of restoration so we had an adventure planned. But the delivery company had other plans, they had lost my bike somewhere. Thankfully a few hours later they had found it again but it was going to be another three days until delivery. So three days later I tried again. This time I only had a ride to the border, which was way better than a greyhound ride with all the changes so I was stoked and thankful for that. I was however completely hungover. This was the second time crossing this border (if you read my first post from back in January you’ll understand) and I was in a terrible state again.
Once through the border, and with the help of the rad U.S. customs guy who had found me a phone number for the only taxi in Blaine (yes there is only one taxi, not only one taxi service but one car) I walked into the U.S. and waited for the cab to arrive while trying to stomach a Subway sandwich. The subway chic gave me a couple of free cookies but I couldn’t get them down so I stuffed them into my helmet bag when she wasn’t looking and walked out rubbing my stomach as if to say ‘what a great feed’.
The driver arrived 30 mins later and we immediately got lost. He capped the meter at $10 which was great but I needed out of the cab and pronto. I was nearly swallowing my own vomit every time he took a corner. Eventually we made it to the post receiving station and I signed and paid for my bike. She fired up first time although sounding a little worse for ware herself. I filled up and headed back to the border to be interrogated by some Canadian immigration ladies form hell.
Canada has always had the worst immigration officers in the world in my opinion. Having travelled to 50 countries I feel I can comment on this with knowledge and insight and there’s just no need for the harshness of their questioning. They even went through my friends phone conversations and pictures and checked another friend’s email accounts. I don’t know how this Nazism is even legal… and the U.S. get a bad rap for crossing personal boundaries.
After explaining my situation about ten times to two of the dumbest women I have ever encountered I proceeded back onto Canadian soil and cruised back to Vancouver. The trip was over. Eight months after I left, 8000 + miles and three countries later. A load of incredible experiences, an array of new friends and a lifetime of memories. That was one hell of a trip, one great adventure and a priceless escapade.
Aestival Knievel is born.