XT660R Heaven

XT660R Heaven
Life on the road is fab...

Travel Info

So we've had some fun sorting out some of the travel arrangements for this trip, things like whether to buy the bikes in the States or in the UK then ship them over etc... finding insurance & generally getting our head around all the things you need to know before you can travel.

We settled upon buying the bikes in the UK, doing all the mods etc & shipping them across, now this has gone round the houses in discussions for awhile as more information was found etc but we settled on this mainly to reduce the cost of the overall trip & because we're putting our faith in certain companies promises I guess. Buying the bikes turned out to be fairly straight forward, Geoff found two nice bikes which we then took our time getting to know as well as doing the mods mentioned on the Gear Page. In hindsight I prefer this more relaxed way of preparing for the trip.


I'll go into more detail on the shipping vs flying debate once I've seen the shipping in operation, suffice to say there are plenty of horror stories on the web, plus a fair few good stories... so its a bit of a gamble I guess, time will tell if we've made the right choice.After receiving quotes from both shipping & flying operations we opted for shipping, mainly because the flying option was £1100 for each bike each way, this was a bit out of our budget really so shipping it was.

The outgoing trip is with HC Travel, we found these on various websites & sent them an enquiry alongside a couple of other companies. We settled on them & paid our fees of £595 per bike with a deposit of £250 up front & final payment due before the shipping date. There is an additional £50 processing fee at the collection office yet to be paid. We drop the bikes in Southampton, they sort the rest, we pick them up in Baltimore. The communications between them & us has been very good, we've dealt with a guy called David, who's a font of good knowledge & been very helpful. So far so good!

The return leg of the shipping is with a company who ship from Seattle to Hull, they send classic bikes & cars to/from the states every week apparently & have their own offices over there, so no storage fees they say.  Luggage is not allowed on either shipping leg, so that goes with us on the planes. I'll post more details once I know them...

We received the paperwork for shipping the bikes out the other day, included with this was a little handbook giving useful advice about the road rules in the states etc. It helped to explain a few of the differences & will no doubt be useful whilst we're on the road, so we'll probably take one copy with us & keep one at home in the mementos box.

We also needed to complete the import documents, which had to have a covering letter explaining what we were doing & why we wanted to import the bikes into the US. This required a scanned letter with a hand written signature from each of us & a short form to be filled out, then emailed off to the guy in the office who was called Ronald.

The scanned letter we wrote was as follows:

Dear Sirs

I wish to Apply for a 'Nonresident Temporary Importation Approval
Letter' for my Yamaha XT660R, 2007, Registration: DD07 4DD, Vin No:
VG5DM0000000000011 UK model.

We plan to ride the Trans America Trail as a holiday from the
06/06/2014 to 22/07/2014

The bikes will arrive in Baltimore MD & be shipped back to the UK via
Seattle/Tacoma on the above dates

(NB: Signature needs to be hand written, copies/scans are not accepted)

On top of this we had to send scans of our passport, the V5 document & our driving license to Imports@epa.gov

Collecting the bikes wasn't as simple as we first thought. At Baltimore you cannot just go into the port, you need an escort, this cost us $250 & took most of the day. The Customs guys were helpful but you could tell they didn't want to have to do this, they would have preferred an agent to have completed all the paperwork before hand & you just turn up & they can then just stamp it, but they helped us fill out the paperwork, then there was a fee for collecting the bikes. Its all a bit of a mystical process really, the guy who was our escort took us to all of the relevant offices & saved us plenty of time, but the fee was very high, the port people were pretty helpful but again we were moved from office to office, filled out form after form & at one point it looked like it might take another day. The Baltimore port only actually works 8-10.30, then it's an hour break, 11.30 - 1pm, then its lunch, & finally 2-3.30pm we got the bikes out around 3pm, then it was 45 minutes back to the escort offices to pay them, by the time we'd collected the bikes & got ourselves sorted with dropping off the hire car etc, it was nearly 6pm, we started at 7.30am. Customs also told us to return a form plus copies of all of the import & release documentation to their offices to prove we had shipped them back out of the US. You have 12 months to do this, otherwise they will chase you, they made this VERY clear.

Return Shipping:
We checked quite a lot of US agencies but eventually ended up using Kingstown Shipping of Hull in the UK, mainly because they were the simplest & offered us a great price. They ship classic UK & US vehicles out of their Oakland depot every week in shipping containers, so for them our bikes just filled up a bit of left over space in a container. This worked out great from both sides. We dropped the bikes off to their agents offices, Aladdin Freight, the girls in the office were brilliant & very helpful, (The manager/maybe owner was a grumpy git who couldn't wait to get rid of us). The girls took all of our paperwork & sent it all through to the Customs office & then forwarded it all via DHL to Kingstown for us to have when we collected the bikes from Southampton. Nice & simple, just how we like it!!
Kingstown Shipping were also happy to take our helmets & bike jackets with the bikes, this was ace as it meant less to carry on the plane for us.Great service & nice people.
Payment for the service was made in the UK at the time of collecting the bikes.

We needed a visa to get into the US so it was off to the ESTA website for some form filling time. A swift $15 fee, fill out a form then see if they'll let us in!! My last visit through customs in the US resulted in me sitting in a room with a customs official staring at me through his aviator sunglasses for 45 minutes before a very nice man gave me my passport back & let me go. Multiple trips to the Middle East don't go down well with the US customs at all, luckily I have a newer passport for this visit with no dodgy countries visited since I got it!!

Another issue was insuring the bikes whilst on the trip, this trip is over 30 days long so your normal bike insurance doesn't cover it as all. As a result of this little gem, we had to shop around for a policy that would cover the 50 days we were planning to be away for.

Geoff managed to find out that he had holiday insurance & medical cover with his bank account policy, I had to buy mine, so I did a search online as you do for everything these days & found out that most companies don't cover you for that length of time either. Eventually I found an online company called www.coverforyou.com, they did the medical & travel cover for £55.00, which was pretty cool, there were limitations as always with insurance companies but it seemed a reasonable level of cover & they were the only ones who actually would cover that amount of time for a one off trip. Time will tell, hopefully I'll not have to claim for owt & never know if they live upto their promises !!

Our bikes were covered with the company below, all dealt with by email with a very helpful & pleasant lass called Evelyn, who responded as soon as I sent an email each evening. The price was $286.02 including taxes & service fee. We also had roadside assistance, not sure if it will be useful but we'll see!

International Services Department
Motorcycle Express
Phone (800) 245-8726 (within US/Canada)
Phone (516) 682-9220
Fax (516) 393-5996

Flights was sorted online as well, Geoff managed to sort out Icelandair flights via Rekjavit for £676 return each. Fly into Washington, hire a car to go to Baltimore, (this is cheaper & easier than all the public transport options ironically), pick up the bikes & head out west to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It turns out that we arrive on a Friday evening, the shipping offices are closed until the Monday, so we're now planning some sightseeing around the capitol, happy days... Our return leg will be from Seattle back to Manchester via Rekyavit again, so no stopping off at the cool bars unless you have a bank account in a posh swiss bank, not us I'm afraid... but at least I can now say I'll have been to Iceland, a country I really want to spend some time in.
Because we shipped our bikes from Oakland, we had to fly upto Seattle from there, so we booked internal US flights with Delta. Their online booking is fairly cheap & easy to use, the one quirky bit is you cannot book any luggage on until 24 hrs before you fly, this costs an additional $25 for bag one & $35 for an extra bag, you are allowed hand luggage with the initial ticket price, so it depends how your traveling, but be aware of the extra costs. Checking in online made no difference to the queuing time either.