The Adventure Begins – Flying Motorbikes to Vancouver

posted in: Motorcycling, Travel | 13

Good evening from the Royal Victoria Motel in Port Angeles, our basic but clean and comfortable bed for the night. We are now a few days into our trip and have begun to settle in to the swing of things – the jet lag is subsiding, we’ve got through a couple of tanks of fuel, and we have started the “where shall we go tomorrow” routine. Touring like this takes some getting used to, and both LincsGeek and I will readily admit that the last few days have been a bit stressful in some ways, but we know that in another few days we’ll be so much into the swing of things we will have forgotten about the journey to get here. Hence the blog post.

Zartusacan - The Journey - Fairmont Hotel YVR

TS Elliot’s version of “life is all about the journey”. From the walkway at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport.

Travelling to Vancouver

We spent the whole of Sunday travelling. Grateful to LincsGeek’s mum for a lift down to Heathrow, we checked in our bags with BA and were asked if we would accept some compensation to travel on Monday instead. The flight, which was the first ever A380 into Vancouver, was overbooked by about 24 people – but as we’d checked in online ahead of time we were safe and had seats allocated. Phew. We declined the offer, and eventually boarded the flight with the nearly-500 other people heading in the same direction as us.

The flight itself was uneventful, but our landing certainly raised a few eyebrows. Being the first A380 flight into the airport, the biggest passenger aircraft to land there, we had quite a welcome. There was a water cannon salute as we made our way to the gate, a tradition apparently, and there were 100s of airport workers stood waving and taking photos. Inside the terminal building there was a welcome party with cake, although it wasn’t actually for us passengers. We were given postcards with our aircraft on as we left with our bags. The airport is even having a British week to celebrate. I have to say Vancouver airport is one of the nicest I’ve ever been to, I hope our return trip in a few weeks is just as pleasant.

Zartusacan - Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Airport

Our room at The Fairmont, YVR.

After hours and hours of travel we checked into the Fairmont Hotel, actually inside the terminal building. How convenient! We’d booked ahead of time, getting a really decent rate which was a good job as I’ve now seen the rate card! Our large room was the perfect base for a couple of nights of faffing with the bikes and getting over the distance.

Retrieving the Bikes

Unsurprisingly, we woke early on Monday morning thanks to jet lag. We wasted no time and headed down into the terminal building for breakfast (not paying for hotel breakfast when I can get banana loaf and OJ for a few dollars next door!) before grabbing our lids, jackets and some tools and going to find the motorbikes. We walked to the Air Canada Air Cargo warehouse, about a mile down the road, and dutifully handed over our air way bill copies to get our bikes. This was to be a several step process and we were prepared for it to take all day if needed, we’ve heard 2-8 hours is not unusual.

There was some kind of customs hold on the bikes when we got there which was a little concerning, but after some digging the guy at Air Canada looking after us discovered one of the bits of paper said “Holmes” instead of Homes. Who did that then?! No idea, but at least the issue was spotted. It took Customs an hour or so to decide that all was okay, after which we got our paperwork from Air Canada, walked to Customs to get things stamped, then back to Air Canada to pay our release fee and pick up the bikes.

Zartusacan - Retrieving the Bikes

Undoing screws. Lots and lots of screws.

The guys in the warehouse were super helpful and moved our bikes, in the crates, outside to the top of the ramp so we could un-box them in our own time and ride away. They kept coming back to check we were okay and give us a hand with rubbish and anything else we needed. To un-crate each bikes we needed to undo 17/18 long screws, lift the built-to-measure lid off the bikes, then unwrap all the shrink wrap and bubble wrap before undoing the ratchet straps (carefully!) and riding the bike off the palette. The guys at air Canada decided to keep the crates ready for our return, so they packed everything away and took them to storage. Our bikes came out of the crates in the same state they went in, a testament to Moto Freight, and we were out of the warehouse within four hours of walking in the door. Seems like a long time but not bad at all.

Zartusacan - Retrieving the Bikes

There’s a bike in there somewhere!

Zartusacan - Retrieving the Bikes

One down, one to go.

We are loving how friendly everyone is, and how interested they are in what we are up to. We “met” Lance via Twitter when we were trying to work out how to store our cases during the trip, when he and his wife Paula piped up and offered to meet us and look after them for us. Lance went even better and came to collect us from our hotel to save us having to worry about public transport – we’ve heard good things about the Sky Train in Vancouver, but I’m all for not having to bother working out buying tickets in a new country where possible! We found a Chinese restaurant in Richmond, one of many to choose from in that area, and ate well while chatting all things bikes and travel. As we left the restaurant we were entertained greatly by a young driver try to get his car out of the carpark – we promise we didn’t put him off, he was making quite a meal out of it on his own!

Zartusacan - Retrieving the Bikes

My bike in its packaging. So much plastic! 

Crossing into the USA

Our first day riding took us from Vancouver, British Columbia, down to Port Angeles in Washington State. We packed up our things, which always takes forever the first few times we do it on a tour, and loaded everything up on the bikes. First stop was fuel, naturally, then onto the freeway south towards the border.

Zartusacan - Retrieving the Bikes

The bikes un-crated, un-wrapped and ready to hit the roads of North America.

We crossed into the USA at Peace Bridge, joining the queue of 100s of other people wanting to do the same on Monday morning. The line moves very slowly as each vehicle takes its turn at the front, handing over passports and other documentation, before being given the “okay go ahead” or being sent to secondary. Unsurprisingly, this was the first time the border agent managing our line had seen a British number plate, and so LincsGeek and I were sent to secondary. This basically means we pull into the parking lot, go into the office, queue some more, give the same information to another border agent, who makes a decision. “Why are you crossing the border today?” This was one time telling our road trip story where the audience didn’t get all excited. No emotion whatsoever. Unimpressed even. Ah well, he stamped the card and we were able to pass. Others in line with us were grilled even more – a couple of gentlemen who wanted to play golf, a family going on vacation, and a retired guy who was popping over the border to buy petrol. Apparently it’s too expensive in Canada.

Zartusacan - Port Townsend to Keystone Ferry, WA

From the Port Townsend to Keystone Ferry.

Once officially in the USA we got down to business and did a few miles on the I5 before stopping for lunch at a diner and chatting to a Scandinavia-born Canadian about biking around the Yorkshire Dales. “You’re the couple that goes with the British bikes” was his greeting – along with a promise of whatever help we need when we’re back in Canada later in our trip. Next we picked up the 101, which will likely be our home on and off for a few days now. The road, similar to an A road back home, was an easy winding road that went straight into Port Angeles and to our motel, pre-booked to help make sure we had a bed for our first night in the states. 


So here we are. Right at the very top of the USA, in Washington State. We can see Vancouver island from here, and sit in the shadow of the mountains in Olympic National Park. We are actually on our second night in this motel, having taken a day ride to the very north west tip of the contiguous United States today, but more on that next time.

The adventure has definitely started. Here’s to the next ten weeks exploring.


See All the Posts > Our #Zartusacan Road Trip


13 Responses

  1. Angela Bora

    Glad you arrived safe and sound and the bikes too. Lovely to catch up on your journey. 🙂 Keep safe. xx

  2. bigdavezz

    Exciting times…. great post, and some nice pics of the bikes post shipping…. can’t wait for the next installment…

  3. cheryl pasquier

    I’m really looking forward to coming along for the virtual ride with you – can’t wait to see what you get up to 🙂

  4. Kezzie

    Oooh so exciting so far!!!! So glad, thank the Lord, that those potential issues such as Customs or the bikes being damaged or wrong names were solved!!!!X

  5. Robert Taylor

    Read most of your blogs about your whole tour & found all of them most helpful! At the moment I am in discussion with Alister via email as I am at present planning to ride from the east coast to the west coast of the USA starting in May 2017 & both you & Alister have indeed really inspired me! Thanks so very much for so much advice in all your blogs!

    • Splodz

      Hey Robert and thanks – really glad you’re enjoying the blogs and really pleased to have helped advise and inspire you. I look forward to hearing all about your trip next year 🙂

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