The difficult decisions you have to make as an international adventure rider are numerous. For a start, the selection of fine wines and numerous other beverages in the airline first class cabin is a decision making process that I wouldn’t want to impose on anybody.
Deciding which movies to watch when you’re supposed to be catching up on overdue editorial is also stressful. Somehow after a few brewskys I always end up arguing with the flight attendant as to why On Any Sunday isn’t on the movie list. We have rights you know.
Needless to say just getting on the plane is a drama in itself. A couple of years ago Clubby gave me the task of flying down to Melbourne to pick up a Honda Transalp and ride back the same day. Try getting thru a metal detector in your full riding gear. Things got a little freaky when airport security made me strip down to my Alpine Star T8 boots. I was so flustered I didn’t realise that he said just take off your boots. Not everything but the boots.
On another occasion I casually threw my fully packed tank bag into my hand luggage. I’ve got to tell you that when your Swiss Army Knife and Leatherman Tool enters the X-ray machine you may as well bend over on the spot and think of Ténéré restorations.
So when it came to my trip to Seattle in the USA I made sure that any tools I had were buried deep in my luggage. Unfortunately, as always, baggage check-in was a drama. Somebody should inform the airlines that a regular riding kit with boots will always exceed the single bag weight limit. Nevertheless, I slipped the check-in attendant a fresh presale copy of Trail Zone and I was on my way.
After all that, I finally boarded, settled into my first class armchair with champagne in one hand and a video remote in the other scrolling through the movie menu looking for ‘On Any Sunday’. Unfortunately I’d forgotten the one major hazard of long haul air travel and no I’m not talking about cleaning your teeth in the aircraft toilet after the other 300 economy class passengers with poor hygiene have made full use of the facility. No I’m talking about the US Customs Declaration Card.
If there’s one thing that I can’t go without on a ride of any description it’s the trail food of adventure champions. Yes, I’m talking about jelly snakes and I had two jumbo size packs in my gear bag. So when I got to the question ‘Do you have any food such as fresh fruit, nuts etc.’ I thought to myself that I hadn’t flown all this way just to give up my most precious contraband to a 250 pound African American customs official carry a friggin’ big gun. No way. I read that card from front to back and nowhere did it mention jelly snakes. So I ticked NO.
It was a restless flight but by the time I was standing in the customs arrival area I’d convinced myself that I could plead ignorance which had me wondering if the same would work with a psychotic meth addict cell mate.
I cannot describe the fear that shot through my body when a female customs officer roaming up and down the line said, ‘Make sure that you declare all food, and that includes Tim Tam’s!’ Holy Crap! They know about Tim Tams? I kid you not, the guy infront of me immediately pulled out a packet of Australia favourite chocolate biscuit and started shoving them down his throat like they were hash cookies.
With beads of sweat popping from my forehead I called out and said, ’Does that include jelly snakes?’ She stopped dead in her tracks, turned and walked up to me, looked me straight in the eye with a ‘shoot to kill’ look and said, ‘Yes’. By now my sphincter was sweating up a storm.
I quickly scratched out the ‘No’ box and ticked ‘Yes’ while shaking so much I must have looked like I was having an Epileptic Fit. As I got to the first customs officer he immediately asked, ‘So what sort of food do you have?’ Nervously I said ‘jelly snakes… you know, lollies … a kind of candy…’. He wrote a small note on my card and handed it back to me. I was sure the note he wrote was my ticket to the rubber glove room but at the next counter my anglo saxson looks must have got me through.
As it turned out jelly snakes are ok as long as you declare them and as expected they were a huge hit with my beef jerky chewing overseas patriots.