I have been quiet lately because it's been a VERY busy month for me, getting ready to ship my Roadtrek to Europe, but I am back now that I finally got it delivered ready to put on the boat. The shipping service I am using (Seabridge) only comes as far south as Baltimore, and shipping it from Florida would involve a transfer from one shipping company to another, so I decided the best way to do this was get it ready, drive it to Baltimore, and fly home.
I have been working 12 hour days doing all the preparations, changing the toilet for a porta-potty since opportunities to dump your black water tank are few and far between in Europe, figuring out how to charge and use my appliances in a 220 volt system, doing a few repairs I had been putting off. I also had to pull all the stuff we carry out, sort through it, store what we wouldn't be needing (like our hummingbird feeder – they're strictly New World), and repack everything we would be taking securely for the rocky ocean voyage. This created some aggravation for my family I'm driveway camping with – it's an unattractive process.
Throughout all this disassembly, repair, packing, and unpacking Fiona staged some kind of political action – she refused to stay in the house, no matter how comfortable we tried to make it for her in there, and insisted on carrying on as if nothing were happening, sitting on her rear shelf despite the fact that I had pulled the bed platform out. She tried to kill me by tripping me with her leash, which was wrapped around every protuberance in the van, and otherwise made her displeasure known. I can't wait to hear what she's going to think about the airplane ride. I think I need a new cat, this one has issues.
Finally, everything on the list was checked off, and the van was ready to go. I headed out early Sunday for Baltimore, and it was a very strange experience – no water, no propane, and no comments from the back of the Roadtrek about my driving or any urgent nutritional needs, human and feline. It was still our Roadtrek, but it wasn't the home I have been used to for the past six years, because I was all alone in it. It was VERY empty and lonely in there. Now I realize how different the experience is for solo Roadtrekers.
I was in luck – there was a boondock-friendly Walmart in Glen Burnie a dozen miles from the port, so I got through the DC traffic and settled in after a very long day of driving, made a few last minute purchases, and slept as well as I could with no way to make coffee. After ten years of Roadtreking, I don't see how those people manage to travel in passenger vehicles. There just aren't any amenities. Bright and early the next morning, I headed over to the Pride International office, the freight forwarder who works with Seabridge and handles the customs and other regulations necessary to get my van shipped. The place was packed with Germans who were coming over here, or going home – most of Seabridge's business is Europeans coming the North America. I followed a nice couple from Saxony into the parking lot, and we had a good laugh about all of us meeting here, going in opposite directions.
I had arranged for an escort service into the port – it's a very, very secure facility, thanks to the TSA and other agencies, so nobody without proper clearance is allowed to wander around unattended. The Pride International and escort driver assembled a pile of paperwork, copies of my title, insurance, driver's license, etc. – and the escort and I drove into the port facility and wandered through a series of offices getting things signed and authorized. There's now a big “APPROVED FOR EXPORT” stamp on my title. No photos of this process are available – anyone who whips out a camera in a secure facility will have a very long and detailed conversation with the TSA guys about what they're doing, and they'll forget all about getting your van on the boat. I wanted to get my van on the boat. I parked it where they told me to in a row of other RVs, all European, triple checked all the switches, locked it up, and turned the key over.
We were all done in a hour, so I paid the escort service $50 (their hourly rate), got a ride to BWI, and sat around for eight hours waiting for my flight back to Florida – I didn't know how long it would take, so I had to book a flight late enough to make sure I got everything done and could still make it to the airport on time. My escort said he had seen it take seven hours, so I had guessed correctly for a worst-case scenario. It's nice to be back here with relatively little to do while our Roadtrek makes its way across the Atlantic. We fly out April 22nd – a week and a half of that time is customs, shipping paperwork, and general regulatory overburden, but that's what it takes. Stay tuned. I'm going to practice putting Fiona in the cat carrier.