March, 2009

March 19, 2009

Getting settled in, and going places :)

It's been four months since I last wrote, and I honestly can't believe how the time has been flying by. In that time, I have relocated to sunny California, back to San Francisco! The adjustments to life in the United States have been startling, surprising and at times, very calming. I feel at peace and relaxed, and I'm riding motorcycles again, so life is shaping up nicely.

One of the biggest challenges of my relocation was getting all of my belongings out of Barcelona and shipped back to San Francisco - something that proved to be far more frustrating and stressful than anticipated, not to mention expensive! One week before I was set to fly out of Spain, the original shipping company I had contacted to move my material "backed-out", saying that they were unable to ship anything that could be construed as personal effects. That left a mad scramble for me to source another company and arrange shipping for my roughly three cubic meters of boxes. With help coming in from my partner and friends in SF and Europe, and a lot of fevered emails and phone calls, another Spanish company was chosen out of pure necessity because of the short timeframe involved to make everything happen. What ensued thereafter was something I prefer to think of as a typical clusterf*ck, with suspect business practices, general malaise and massive anger on my side of things. It took more than two months from the date of departure for my things to be back in my possession, and I'm still upset about it all. However, as they say, all's well that ends well, and I have my things, so life could be worse.

December 15th, 2008, the elevator in my building is still broken, going on two months. That meant that the ten boxes I was shipping would have to be carried down four flights of stairs to ground level because the shipping company would not pick them up at my actual residence, but street-side. Ten boxes?!? I'm not exactly sure how, but in the years I'd been living and working at the races, I'd accumulated quite a lot of special souvenirs, and unlike when I moved out to Europe, this time I wasn't about to let these parts of my history go. I knew it was going to be pricey shipping it all back, I just didn't expect it to be *this* pricey, haha. During my packing and sorting process, which entailed making a huge mess everywhere and then boxing up what I wanted to keep, donated old clothing and uniforms, I set a new standard for "dis-organization", hahaha.

It was mixed feelings and emotions as I prepared to leave. Knowing what I was headed towards made everything easier, but months later, I find that there are things I miss about living abroad, like some of the foods! Not that SF doesn't have variety, but I guess I just miss the un-knowing, the uncertainty, of being in a foreign land. I'm starting to remember where are the potholes are here, haha, which has definite positives as far as my wheels go :)

Once everything was packed up, and a shipping list created which matched the contents of each box exactly, I final prepped everything and included a contents list for each box in a plastic envelope taped to the side. The morning of pick-up came, so I carried, pushed, and rolled my boxes down all the little stairs while the two shipping agents waited in the lobby of my apartment building. If anything, they were useful at watching the boxes downstairs while I would walk back up and get the next one. Actually, one of them disappeared almost immediately to go and get the moving "van". Fact is, he was gone for almost two hours while I waited with his partner on the street with all my boxes waiting for him to come back. And no, he did not answer his celphone during that time, so we were quite annoyed and weirded out because he was gone so long.

There are a lot of precious memories in these boxes.

Finally the "van" showed up, and after a babyseat was removed from the back, we started the lego/tetris game of packing it all in. Obviously, it didn't all fit, but that didn't stop us from strapping a few boxes onto the roof and loading the car up way beyond it's load capacity. People make do with whatever, and however, they can. I do, too.

It was a really odd feeling to watch my things being driven away, not really knowing if everything was going to make it. Up front, the guy that waited on the street with me was jammed into the front seat, carrying the babyseat in his lap! I could only shake my head and hope that everything would work itself out.

I left Spain three days later, and about a week afterwards I received an email saying that there would be additional charges because my pick-up was not on the ground floor and that also the quantity of material was larger than originally projected so the shipping charge would increase as well. My first thought was one of indignity, because I was the one who had moved everything downstairs, and I said as much in my reply email. That I didn't get a response from the company was a bad side, but I remained hopeful because it was near the Christmas holidays and perhaps my email had slipped through the cracks somehow. It is Spain, afterall.

Weeks went by in the USA while I spent time sourcing a motorcycle, getting the household squared away, and living and loving life with my partner and our new dog, Butters!

Emails went back and forth with the shipping company, mostly about payment for the increased cargo. In my mind, I knew there was something fishy going on, but all I wanted was my things back. I felt like I couldn't really move forward while my things were in "limbo", and calls and emails to various shipping companies only served to confuse me more. Once my shipment landed in the States, it was processed by a secondary company in New Jersey, before being sent overland to Los Angeles for more processing. Eventually, it would end up in Oakland, not quite so near to my home, but not so far away.

One friday I started making more calls and found that my shipment had been sitting in Oakland for almost a week and had already accrued charges for storage! I immediately began making plans to borrow a van and get over to the warehouse so I could pick things up, but was then informed that none of the paperwork to get my things through the Customs checks had been done, which was yet another ball the Spanish shipping company had dropped. Calls to Customs, calls to the warehouse, emails and documents sourced and printed out. Everything was finally starting to come together, rushed, stressed, and in a huge hurry because the warehouse closed at 4:30, and it was Friday afternoon before the weekend when I wouldn't be able to pick anything up because everyone would be closed. Several hours after I'd started my Friday, I'd picked up my friend who had the van, we'd caravan'd over to the Oakland side of the bay, and gone by the warehouse to pick up the clearance forms we needed. Then another bomb through Oakland traffic up the 880 to find the US Customs office located in the midst of the docks. Proof of ID? Check, but just barely. Thankfully, I had a photo of my passport in my laptop, which I had luckily brought with me since it had all the information in it I thought I might need. Anyway, long story short, I finally made it back to the warehouse where they'd been kind enough to stay late and wait for me at the loading bay.

FINALLY! I got my boxes, checked that all ten were accounted for, and proceeded to load up. We packed the van from the floor to the ceiling, and manage to get a couple boxes into the car I brought along as well. 5:30PM, and we were pushing our way through rush hour traffic back into San Francisco. I wish I'd had my camera with me - the view coming over the Bay Bridge of the cityscape in the sunset was priceless, and I really was struck by a sense of homecoming. We made it home, threw all the boxes into the garage, and called it a day. WHEW, what a day, hahahaha.

The following morning, I began the start of my unpacking process, deciding what would stay in storage, and what would make it up into our apartment. I'd already noticed that Customs officials had checked my boxes out in person (heck, I had to pay for two separate inspections, one in New Jersey, and another in Oakland!), and truth to be told, they weren't very considerate of my belongings. Boxes were simply sliced up, hacked into, and the contents completely rifled through.

I was fortunate, because this particular box contained one of my Alpinestars leather suits, and the speed hump was just below these cuts. I can't believe they didn't slice my suit, but they managed to slice up the other boxes I had within the boxes, and if something was nicely packed into a plastic bag or holder, that was destroyed. I'm upset at how my things were treated, but so far I haven't noticed anything missing.

And now? I'm still sorting through things, hahaha. As I put my things up on the shelves, I know that they'll be safe and sound. Once the garage is cleared through, and I can build up a proper workspace again, I have plans to get around to . . . . things like high compression pistons and brass oil pump drive gears to install :) That will entail another posting, the rebuilding of my bike into something solid and street-able, with a side helping of "the track".