The Bike Has Arrived!
Klaus Volkmann, co-builder of the bamboo bike I will be riding across the country this coming September, sent me this message this last week:
That meant one thing: ROAD TRIP!
I would be driving down into the belly of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Copa Airlines, a large airline based in South America. There, I would show my identification, and be given all the important paperwork needed for the bike to clear customs.
I knew that at this point, the bike was not a sure thing for being granted it’s ‘citizenship’…it was being imported from another country, from an unknown shipper (i.e., not a recognized or experienced large importing agent) and was made of an organic substance – bamboo – and that meant anything could happen. As far as I knew, if I got a Customs Officer that had had a bad morning, or for that matter, a Customs Officer that had a good morning but refused to allow the bikes entry to the United States based on material composition or a paperwork error, well, then, maybe the trip doesn’t happen on the bamboo bike and I’m left scrambling for alternatives.
Knowing this, I took the paperwork and drove the few miles to the Customs Office.
There, I was instructed to take a number. No one was there. No one else arrived. Just the customs officials. So I take the number – 28 – and no sooner had I sat down, than I heard my number called over a tinny, echoing loudspeaker. Sweet.
I produced my papers to Officer Kim, a very businesslike and efficient gentleman. He wasted no movement and spoke curtly, saying only what was necessary. The reason for the bike being imported? The value and how much I paid for it? What it was made of? What cause was I doing this for? I answered all of his questions, and after his last question he just stared at me for a moment…then said he’d be back and to have a seat.
A few moments after I sat down, he called me back up, and said everything was good to go, and that I was clear to pick up the bike. Then he looked at me, with a slight smile and said in a much less businesslike tone, “Good luck on your ride, Mr. Shelby.”
I was ecstatic…I raced back to Copa Airlines cargo terminal, presented my paperwork to the helpful and very curious clerk, and walked into the massive warehouse that opened up to the LAX tarmac.
Within 20 minutes, I had a forklift racing towards me with the package.
I lifted the package from the forklift, was teased by the foreman about wearing flip flops in a closed-toe footwear environment, rushed outside, and had to take some photos of the process.
I carefully unpacked the bike, crossing my fingers that the journey had not damaged it. One thing I could say for certain at that point: Klaus Volkmann is a master at packaging bamboo bikes for international travel! I had thought ahead and brought a knife to use for opening the package, and began the process…Finally, I had the bike out of the packaging, and in my hands. It is honestly hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment. It had been over 18 months since I had the idea to ride across the country, and began the process of finding the right bike, brainstorming designs, finding a creator for the bike. Now, through all of the months and all of that work, I had the bike in my hands. It was really, tangibly in my hands. It had traveled from a completely different continent, built with love and expert craftsmanship, and it had traveled thousands of miles, and it was finally here. It was beautiful!
I took it back inside to show the clerk, gave her one of the cards that I’ve handed out to a thousand people now, and thanked her for all of her help. After packing the bike neatly inside the car, I made my way out onto the beautiful, scenic Los Angeles freeway system and headed home!
The next morning I took it to the bike shop that will be helping me piece her together with all the right parts, and we laid her out on the ground to begin the process of seeing what other parts we needed. The shop owner, who had listened to me talk and talk about this trip and the bike, finally got his first glimpse at the bike, and he loved it. A fellow recumbent rider, he took the time to inspect the design, and follow the lines of the bike. He just shook his head, and said, “Wow. Wow.”
So there it is. The bike has finally arrived! Hopefully by this weekend, she will be all assembled and I’ll know what it’s like to finally ride a recumbent. But not just any recumbent: a handcrafted, personally fitted recumbent made from bamboo and reinforced with epoxy-soaked carbon fiber threads. A piece of road-worthy art!
Thanks to all of you who have been following this process from the beginning, and welcome to those who have recently found the site. Things are starting to heat up here, with less than 27 days to go until I pedal the first mile of the trip. Like any long trip, I will be using every spare moment between now and then to prepare physically and mentally, get my gear prepared and the bike fit, as well as work my usual 70 hours a week. Should be a very FAST 27 days!
Blessings, and I hope this update finds you well,