Under the best of conditions, flying internationally can be pretty stressful but when you're lugging 100 pounds of gear and a bicycle in a big cardboard box, it can get downright hairy. Besides the usual hassles associated with the language barrier, jet lag and clearing customs, there are myriad other worries only an around-the-world cyclist encounters. Will the airline accept my overweight baggage? How much extra will it cost me? Will all my stuff make it to my destination in one piece? It seems like the possibilities for disaster are never ending.
When I landed at LAX on a flight from Lisbon in August, I was looking forward to a more relaxed than usual arrival, after all, I was almost home. All I had to do was mozy over to the oversize baggage claim, un-crate and reassamble my bike, load all my junk and ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Seattle.
Sounds simple enough but when I asked the baggage agent where my bike was, he shrugged and said he didn't know. "It didn't come in on the flight with you," he explained, "it might be hung up in customs somewhere."
I've learned not to cuss at the help so I remained calm. "Well," I said, "what do you think I should do?"
He smiled, "Let me talk to some people and try to find out what's goin on," he said, "hang loose for a few minutes and I'll let you know what I hear."
My box of camping gear had made the flight and I spent the next half hour un packing and sorting through my equipment. I discovered that my stove and fuel bottle were missing and when I brought it up to the same agent he told me that customs, or maybe TSA had probably gone through my baggage and simply forgotten to put those items back in the box.
It was turning into 'one of those days' and though my patience was running short, I knew getting angry wouldn't help. "Look," I said, "I'm going to give you my phone number and would you please let me know when you hear about my bike? I'm going to see if I can find a place to spend the night."
The agent, a friendly middle-aged Hispanic fellow, promised he would pursue the matter and keep me posted on the progress. "Namaste," I said, putting my hands together in a way that's like praying and is the traditional Nepalese blessing, "where can I find a cab?"