The first twenty-four hours of the trip were a bit stressful, and not just because of the usual mental upheaval involved in beginning any big trip. I'd prebooked a hotel room in Irvington, NJ, on the grounds that it was:
a) cheap, and
b) close to both the airport and the premises of the shipping agent where I would be uncrating my bike.
It soon became apparent that Irvington wasn't exactly a nice neighbourhood - the main clue coming when I went out for a walk to try and find some food, and within a few hundred yards was accosted by a policeman who was absolutely incredulous at the sight of a white guy, from England, just walking around on his own. Sufficiently unnerved, I bought some crisps from a petrol station and fled back to the hotel room.
I'd initially planned to stay two nights, giving myself plenty of time to retrieve the bike and get everything packed up just right before hitting the road. However after a sleepless, stomach-churning, doubt-ridden night listening alternately to sirens outside and headboard-banging bedroom gymnastics from the next room, I was in no mood for hanging around.
Returning to the airport and finding my way to the Continental cargo building, I had the bike cleared through Customs within an hour. All I needed then was to phone the shipping agents and get them to pick me and the crated bike up, as pre-arranged by my shipping agent in the UK - except that the guy with whom it was arranged was out of the office and no-one else knew anything about me. Several hours later, having burnt about £30 of phone credit calling the UK, LA, and the local agents, a truck finally turned up.
This is the crate containing my bike being taken out of the truck in the shipping agent's yard. This was my freedom, my escape capsule, the real start of the trip. Everything would be OK just as soon as I tore all that cardboard off, unstrapped the bike from the pallet, put the front wheel back in, and turned the key.
For the first in this series, and an explanation of what it's all about, see this post.