Vancouver was waiting, and so were the Canada Customs and Immigration officers at the airport, when we arrived exhausted and euphoric at somewhere after midnight. Brian had been up for 44 hours straight, or maybe more, and I had only had a couple of hours of sleep. And it would still take us a couple more hours to get our bags, get through Customs and Immigration and get to our hotel.
The Customs officer wrote all over my declaration form with a big red marker which made me nervous. After questions like: “how long have you been traveling?” (to which I reply “two years”) and a follow up like “how have you financed your travels for so long?” (to which I reply “I sold my house and am using every penny I have to live out a fantasy life”), and “do you intend to look for work in Canada?” (to which I reply, maybe a little enthusiastically “Oh God, no!’) – I couldn’t really blame her.
Please, oh pretty please, let me into Canada. I have a date with a motorcycle and I don’t want to be late. Thank goodness the codes didn’t turn out to mean anything much as I breezed past the last desk and into the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport. Luggage in hand….one more step complete, and hopefully not too many left to do before we are on our bikes again and on the road.
We settled into a local hotel for the night, which was only a few hours long with our post-midnight arrival time. And the following morning we sign in online to find out our bikes aren’t here yet. So we sort out another nights stay in a hotel near the airport and settle in for the day. thankfully by the late afternoon we know the bikes will be arriving from Toronto tonight and we can go get them in the morning.
We catch a hotel shuttle to the airport and have the driver drop us off a few blocks shy of the main terminal so we can walk over to the Air Canada Cargo terminal, saving us a long walk.
Brian checks his watch as we arrive so he can see how long this whole process takes us. The agent at the front desk is originally from Peru and we chat with him for a few minutes about where we travelled in his home country and how beautiful we think the land and people there are…that’s not gonna help set any records, lol.
The team here is great, super helpful, and they have our bikes moving out to the loading dock within just a few minutes of us walking in the door.
I can see right away that there is a broken windshield attachment on my bike and I point it out to the crew before I begin to unpack her. One of the guys comes and takes a couple of photos and says he will note it in my record so I can file a claim later.
We unwrap the bikes and cut the straps attaching them to the pallets. Brian rolls them off the pallets and then starts putting them back together and filling the tires.
All our riding gear is here, helmets included, and we can kit up before riding back to the hotel to pack up and check out.
And the final tally is two hours and five minutes….pretty good I think. We ride back to the hotel and pack up and head for Kawasaki for a steering head bearing for my bike, which it has needed now for more than 3500 miles. Turns out the Kawi shop was closed because it was a holiday. So we settled into a small “mom and pop” hotel just a few blocks from it in a suburb of Vancouver.
As we unpacked in the parking lot and parked the bikes a small mini-van pulled up next to us an a friendly couple rolled down their windows to chat. They are Doug and Rhonda, locals who live just a couple of blocks down the road, and they are inviting us to dinner. Apparently Doug saw our bikes on his way to pick Rhonda up from work and said to her “I bet they’ve got some stories to tell.”…and here they are….
It’s such a generous and open, and very Canadian thing to do. And it’s just the thing to welcome me back home to my continent. America’s northern neighbors are surely the most generous people around. We gratefully accept and they offer to come back in an hour and give us a ride, giving us time to settle in and get changed out of our riding gear.
Rhonda arrives and whisks us down the hill to their lovely home and I get to pet their dog and enjoy the view of the Fraser River in the valley below while we are treated to cocktails, appetizers, and the best home cooked meal I have had in ages. I’m waxing sentimental and have to work to keep from shedding a few grateful and happy tears that night, and again now as I type this story.
We enjoy some great conversation with them and get to hear about their antique car club and travels…they are quite the world travelers themselves. And at the end of the night we enjoy a quiet stroll back to our room. Thank you Rhonda and Doug, for welcoming us into your home and back to the True North. Your kindness was much appreciated.