I’m sitting here at the gate ridiculously early. My flight is scheduled to take off at 12:50 and I sat down at 10:50. I’ve finished checking social media and started chatting with Dawn when I realized I need to write down my check-in experience.
This is the second time I’m checking in with a bike box, and I still feel very self conscious about it. Lots of looks like, “WTF is this guy doing.” and “Wow”. I try my best to not let it get to me and I think I do an ok job with it.
I walked up to the WestJet area and was asked if I checked in online. I indicated I had and was about to be directed to the standard kiosks when I side stepped and said I needed to check this, indicating Shadow’s box.
Moved over to the line with Shadow in tow. The line was a typical serpentine with the soft retractable straps so I parked Shadow at the end and walked to the end of the first turn.
A few minutes later a sweet older couple walked up, stared at the box, and looked confused and not quite sure how to proceed. They looked left, looked right, not sure if they should wait or move on through. On the second right look I caught the husband’s eye and said, “Come on over.”
A big smile crossed his face as he replied, “I take it this is you, huh?”
“Yes sir. Easier to pull it under and through versus navigating the corners.”. After a light chuckle and nod in acknowledgement he went back to chatting with his wife and I returned my focus to the line.
When I was first up, I started chatting with the employee directing customers to the next available customer service representative. Things have been busy, the holiday weekend was tough, and it seemed everyone decided to beat the traffic and fly out on Tuesday. Soon enough it was my turn and I braced for the worst.
Checking Shadow last year wasn’t the greatest experience. The customer service representative was decent, but the manager on duty threw the fee book at me. If memory serves they tacked on three separate fees for the box totalling well over $120 when, according to their website, it should have been less than $100 when taking into account the exchange rate. Needless to say I was fully expecting the same.
As I approached the counter the CSR looked up, spotted the box, and her eyes went wide. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. She asked if I could get him up on the scale and happily complied. Box checked in at 67.5 pounds. Lighter than last year, but then again I used a packed pannier as a carry on. She started processing the transaction and had to call over the manager to make sure everything was in line. She then reads me a total of $36.98 (CAD$50) for the sporting equipment handling fee. My jaw nearly hit the floor. This wouldn’t do.
“Miss, my apologies and please understand I’m not upset, but I think that is incorrect. I believe your under charging me.”
The manager and CSR went through it a few more times before they finally got everything straight. I made sure to continue to tell them I’m not in a hurry and that I appreciate the help. After a few more minutes we settled at a total cost of $66.56! First checked bag and the handling fee. Exactly what I was expecting. I was elated. A swipe of the credit card and we were nearly done.
The two ladies looked at each other and questioned out loud how were they going to get the box to the oversized baggage area. I spoke up and said I’d be more than happy to take it anywhere they’d like. The manager took me up on the offer and I followed her, with Shadow in tow, over to a set of double doors with a nice “Oversized Baggage” sign next to them. She let me know this was as far as she could take me, and thanked me for helping her up to this point. I thanked her again, while making sure to mention she made this year’s experience significantly more enjoyable than last year.
I said goodbye to Shadow, wished him a good flight, and set off for security.
Everything from security to the flight to landing was bone standard for flying these days. Had to take off the shoes, but was surprised when they didn’t crack open my carry on which was full to the brim with all my electronics. Afterwards I made it to the gate with plenty of time to spare as mentioned at the start. I did manage to grab a coffee and snacks before boarding which would be a wise decision later. Boarding took a little longer than expected and the doors were closed at 12:55, five minutes after we were supposed to be in the air. The delays kept on coming and we weren’t in the air until around 1:40.
Once on the ground in Vancouver, I gather up my stuff and made my way to customs. I’d already completed my declaration on the web yesterday so it was as simple as scanning my passport, taking a picture, and a couple taps of the next button and I was through.
Made my way to oversized baggage claim and the bathrooms that were nearby. I got changed into my riding gear and walked back out to wait for Shadow to show up.
Thankfully the wait wasn’t too long, but was surprised with a decent sized hole in the side of the box. It didn’t look too bad, but it was definitely cause for concern. I pulled the box over to the nearby benches and got started unloading everything. Once everything was out of the box I could get started with the reassembly. It’s funny I got started at 4:30 and didn’t finish until 7:00. So 2.5 hours to get everything back together, but it only took and hour to get everything into the box. Crazy how that works.
While I was toiling away at getting Shadow road worthy and all my stuff organized, I got to share the unofficial Vancouver International Airport Bicycle Shop with three other cyclists.
I was already deep into it when two other gentlemen came up and asked if I’d been on the flight from Amsterdam. I said I was not and they seemed relieved at the fact. I think they’d worried their we had all been on the same flight and since I was already unboxing perhaps they’d missed their bikes or worse they were lost. Thankfully for them a few minutes their bikes arrived unscathed. They got to work putting together two beautiful full suspension mountain bikes. They made quick work of the job and we said our goodbyes as they rolled out with their luggage. Pretty sure they weren’t riding to their hotel.
I believe the third rider was from Australia considering her accent and the intercom informing passengers from Sydney where to find their luggage. She walked right up and started a little chat. She asked if I was planning rides in town and I told her I was going to San Diego. She got a huge smile on her face and said, “I’m doing the Great Divide. I’ve only landed here to transfer to a flight to Calgary. I was looking at your bike wondering if you were riding it too until I saw the road tires and then knew better.”
I returned the smile and replied, “Pacific Coast here and then from San Diego home to Las Vegas.”
We talked a little more before she spotted her bike box being man handled by airport staff. She loaded it and her luggage onto a cart and was gone.
Eventually I’d get Shadow all put together and road worthy. I did make a minor mistake in routing the chain through the rear derailleur, but thankfully I caught it before I started riding.
The ride to the hotel was gorgeous. Being able to ride streetside with dedicated lanes with physical separation with traffic is beautiful. That and everyone is expecting and respecting you. Riding here is a complete 180 from Vegas.
Got checked in and Shadow parked without any issues. Changed back into my street clothes and headed out for some dinner. I stopped at the front desk and asked for a dinner recommendation, but before the girl could reach for a preprinted pamphlet I asked her for a personal recommendation. “Where are you going to eat, not what some paper they give you says.” I asked. She gave me a couple recommendations and I went with the first she gave me, Earl’s Kitchen + Bar.
I was really hungry considering I hadn’t eaten since before boarding my flight and it was now nearly 9:00. I started with the Angry Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Butter lettuce, puffed rice, shredded carrot + cucumber, angry sauce) which were great. Followed those with the Salmon + Feta Caper Aioli (Jasmine rice, seasonal vegetables). Then I finished it all off with the Sticky Toffee Chocolate Pudding (Almond florentine, vanilla ice cream, fresh berries). I was a bigger lush than usual and even splurged on a cocktail. I got a Watermelon Slush (Smirnoff vodka, watermelon, strawberry, vermouth) which was dang near a desert on its own.
After dinner I went back to the room and set about reorganizing all my gear. Everything was kinda out of sorts since I’d opted to use on of the panniers as a carry on. The bike didn’t feel nearly as balanced as last year so I spent an hour or so trying to get that sorted. I’m feeling pretty confident at the setup at this point. We’ll see how everything rolls tomorrow.
I think I’m going to track down a local bike shop to see if I can get them to double check the torque on everything. I’m pretty confident everything is to spec but you can never be too safe. Once that’s done I head over to the “Official” start and roll out.
7.41 new miles — From Wandrer.earth
Mostly sunny-Mostly sunny, 69°F-65°F, Feels like 71°F-65°F, Humidity 48%-71%, Wind SW 3mph-WSW 3mph – by Klimat.app
— myWindsock Report —
Weather Impact: 0.8%
Headwind: 47% @ 2.3-9.8mph
Longest Headwind: 17m 49s
Air Speed: 10.6mph
Precip: 0% @ 0 Inch/hr
— END —
Max elevation: 335 ft
Min elevation: 16 ft
Total climbing: 629 ft
Total descent: -520 ft
Average speed: 12.96 mi/h
Average cadence: 76 RPM
Average heart rate: 117 BPM
Average temperature: 69.80 °F
Total time: 01:01:05