Entry 2--August 22

Did we say August 12?  Surprise: at the last minute it became August 11 instead. And if Rover had made it onto the Texas on that date, as planned, we’d have met her in Zeebrugge by now. Instead, we’re back in Minneapolis.

Here's the tale, not too sad (and perhaps instructive if you're thinking of shipping your RV overseas):

We were on our way out of Vermont, heading to New York City when we received a phone call from our freight forwarder, who asked, "Can you get to Baltimore tomorrow? The ship is coming in a day early."   (Note:  this was August 4th and the ship is coming in on August 10th.) We said we would try but that we hadn't had any luck in finding anyone who could purge our LP gas tank.  She gave us the number for someone who could take care of the LP gas and we decided to skip NYC and headed directly for brother George's in Philadelphia, where we repacked everything for shipping.

Early the next day we headed for Baltimore with 3/4 tank of LP gas. On the way we called the Baltimore LP gas number our freight forwarder had given us.  They said they couldn't help us but suggested we call so and so.  So and so couldn't help us, but gave us the number of United Propane.  Hurray, United Propane said they would help us and they were right on the route to the port.

We pulled in around 11 a.m. and the dealer told us to "just pull it up over there."  We did; he then simply opened the valve to let the propane bleed out.  "This will take a while, maybe several hours," he said.  So, in the meantime, we called a cab, who took us to a car rental agency. We drove the rental car  to the shipper's office to pay for this whole adventure and then drove back to the propane dealer, where the gas purging was going very slowly. We emptied into the rental car all the rest of our stuff that wasn't being shipped.  It is a little scary going in and out of a vehicle smelling of leaking gas.  Finally around 3 p.m. we realized that the gas tank would not be emptied in time to get it to the port by the 3:30 deadline, so we simply decided to be there first thing in the morning.  We left the motorhome at the propane dealer's overnight, and the tank was empty when we showed up at 8 a.m. the next morning.

We had been told that delivering the motorhome to the port would be as easy as returning a rental car.  It wasn't difficult, but the Port of Baltimore is huge, and directions and signage were not definitive about where we needed to go.  We were stopped at two different gates (by this time, Susan was driving the rental car and David was in Rover, making it a little difficult to discuss options.  But we found the customs shed, where the officer looked David in the eye and asked, "Is there anything in the motorhome that shouldn't be there?"  We could safely answer "no" to that question.  He stamped a bunch of papers and we were on our way to the  shipping terminal two blocks away.  We stood in line with a bunch of truckers, had a bunch more papers stamped, were told where to park the motorhome and  wait for someone to check us in.

We waited over an hour in 90+ degree heat by a row of already checked-in motorhomes for someone to show up and tell us exactly where to park.  Finally someone did, we parked it, locked it, handed over the key and took off the license plates. We were also told we could check online to find out exactly when our vehicle was loaded on the ship. We congratulated ourselves, got into the rental car, and headed toward our son's place in Washington D.C.

However, later that day we received a phone call from the freight forwarder.  That was when we learned that because we had delayed delivery until the 6th, we wouldn't be shipping on the Texas, even though it wasn't going to be arriving until the 10th! (See Things They Don't Tell You, #2.)  Instead we would be losing two weeks of our trip and we would be put on a ship leaving August 27th.  All in all an exhausting and anxious couple of days.  But it is out of our hands and we can do nothing about it. (We've been practicing breaking the habits developed in higher education, where for 30+ years we pushed violently against things we or others "can do nothing about.")

So back in Minneapolis we’ve been logging in on the shipping company’s website each day. There we can track our new ship, the Taiko, as she tries to stay ahead of Tropical Storm Fay: Miami a couple days ago, then Savannah today; then New York, then she doubles back to Newport News (why?), and finally doubles back yet again to Baltimore (again why?), where Rover patiently awaits. 

We’ve decided to buy our plane tickets as soon as we hear Rover has actually been loaded in Baltimore, rather than wait until getting notice that the ship is about four days from arriving in Zeebrugge. Arrival had originally been scheduled for September 3, now September 5, but we’ve been told even this one can change, and if we got tickets now only to find that the ship's arrival was further postponed, each additional day of sitting around in Brussels waiting for it to arrive would cost a lot of money. On the other hand, of course, in the past two weeks, the cost of airfare to Amsterdam has increased a few hundred dollars and the number of open plane seats going there has decreased pretty drastically.