Sunday, May 14, 2023

We made it!

It has been one hell of a time the past 3 weeks!
After getting our flight to Paris set up, I had to do some minor reorganizing of the lodging schedule in the UK, I had to change the USDA paperwork from 2 dogs to one, and change it from just the UK to first the EU (France) and then the UK via France.

Cancel rental cars, reschedule others, and book a 1-way from Paris to Calais.
A hotel reservation in Calais and transportation on a pet taxi the the Chunnel on the train, etc etc.

Once all the pieces were in place, now it was time to start wondering what next would go wrong.   It seemed the harder we tried to get over the pond (this was now going to be our 5th try) the more crap got dumped in the way.

But the harder that the forces pushed against us - the harder I dug in my heels and said that one way or another we were going to make it.

On Friday April 27 we parked the bus in storage as planned.   The State park we were in had no vacancy over the weekend and we had nowhere to stay.    We wanted to get out of the park anyway since it just held bad memories.

Bus (in shadows) in storage barn

The bus and truck should be pretty safe here.

Farm on which the bus is stored

Needing somewhere to stay, and wanting some time just to ourselves, we booked an AirBnb in Saratoga Springs, NY which is the next town over from where we used to live.

It was a nice place and good to get a change of venue.    The bigger surroundings and fast internet made it more conducive for me to get our trip details all sorted out in a timely fashion. 

AirBnb in Saratoga Springs

One of the tasks at had was to get Lucy somewhat aclimated to being stuffed into an undersized pet carrier for our trip on the plane.    I had about 10 days to get this done.    Lucy is not real fond of tight spaces and this carrier was going to be a challenge.    I started by hiding dried fish treats inside.    Her love of "fishums" overrode her fear of the box.

Lucy tentatively explores the box

While here we had dinner guests on two different nights.   One was our old friends Bill and Jean who lived next door to us when we lived here.    It was truly great to see them and share some good laughs for the night.   Next was Brian and his wife Heather.   I worked with Brian for about 15 years and had never met Heather.   Again - laughter is the best medicine.

AirBnb in Saratoga Springs

After about 5 nights in Saratoga Springs, we moved into our friends Matt & Julies house up in beautiful Bolton Landing, NY on Lake George.     I continued my "Doodle in a box" training with Lucy.   Progressing to zipping the door shut for short periods, getting her used to being locked up inside.

Time left for further training was starting to run out and I had more to do.... 

Lucy getting braver with the box

While at Matts, I helped him enclose his greenhouses for the tomato planting soon to come.
In this neck o the woods, the nights are still cool and the greenhouse will allow the plants to jump start into the summer.

Greenhouses at Matts

A man of many talents, I learned that Matt is now also a beekeeper.   I played carpenters assistant and helped him build a stand for the beehive that he was bringing home from its current location.   There were two hives together at the other location and he thought that by spreading them apart it might reduce the competition for nectar and increase the honey production from both hives.

Bee Hive at Matts

It was good therapy to see Matt & Julie, and by the time we left their place we were starting to feel much better about things.

Now it was time to put our new plan in action.    Leaving Matts, we headed south and stopped at Hertz to pick up our 1-way rental to Newark.    Then to the bus to drop off the truck and exchange some clothes.

When I arrived at the bus, we had another obstacle to overcome.

I found that the electric outlets had tripped and my bus batteries were not charging.

Not wanting to take a chance, I started up the generator and charged all the batteries while we tended to other chores, then I disconnected the house batteries.   They are Lithum and have a low self-discharge rate and should be just fine for the 5 months.    I turned off the connection to the chassis batteries and hope they will be fine.    If I get back and they are dead, I should be able to start the bus using the house batteries.

I parked the truck in its shed, disconnected the battery, and hooked a small trickle charger solar panel to it to keep it charged.

Finally - a couple of hours behind schedule, we were headed to Newark in our rental car.   The plan was to drop Kate & Lucy off at the hotel and then I'd return the rental car to Hertz.    The problem was that Hertz closed at 5p and did not have a night drop.    It was looking like we would be cutting it real close and as we got closer, the NJ rush hour traffic was starting to build.

I called Hertz and the man there asked for my ETA.   I informed him that it was probably going to be a bit after 5p.  He told me that he would wait till 5:30.

Dropping Kate & Lucy off at the hotel took place about 5:10 and it was about 15 min to Hertz.
At 5:27 I pulled into the lot and was relieved to see that he was a man of his word and was still there.

Turning the car in, I grabbed an Uber back to the hotel and got there about 6p.

Kate and Lucy were waiting outside with our luggage, so we all went inside to check-in.
The receptionist told us that their "Key card machine" had broken, and they were currently unable to check us in.   They were serving crusty bread, olives, and cheese in one of the lounges, so we parked there and with a free drink coupon, we had a cocktail while waiting for our room.

Waiting in the hotel lounge

Finally - another obstacle cleared, we were in our room.   Lucy had dinner and immediately hit the sack.

Lucy at Elements Hotel Harrison

Our room was like a small studio apartment.   We had a sitting area and cooking facilities.   We arrived the night before our flight and I booked it for the second day as well.  Our flight did not leave till 7pm and I would rather just hang in the hotel than have to check out and stay in the airport all day.

The next thing that could go wrong was if our plane that was taking us to Paris did not arrive.
So I followed it and was glad to see it coming in on final approach right outside our windows.

Our aircraft arriving from Paris

At 3:30p our Uber showed up right on schedule and we were on our way to Newark.
Our flight is only 1 of 2 flights leaving Newark, only seats 76 people, all in business class, so check-in opened at 4:30 and within a few minutes our dog paperwork was cleared, and another hurdle was passed.

Waiting to check in at Newark Airport

La Compagnie has a priority TSA line, so we were able to skip the long line and go straight to the head of the que and within 10 more minutes we were thru TSA and parked in the Virgin Airlines lounge killing an hour or so.

Lucy is a lounge Doodle

Now - the next worry for me was going to be stuffing poor Lucy into that damn box and getting her smoothly on the plane.    So far she had walked all the way and as we started to board the plane, this gate agent told me that I needed to put her in the box.    Damn....   so close.

So I put her in the bag, zipped it up. and as soon as I picked it up, I felt a bucking bronco inside.   She popped her head out of the hole on top so while waiting in line, I fed her some dried fish to keep her mind occupied.

So far - so good.   We made it back to our seat. I her placed her on the floor in front of my seat and she seemed upset, but tolerating it.

Within a few minutes the doors were closed and we were taxing.    Lucy is getting a little more agitated but still all good....

Then when we lined up for takeoff and the pilot hit the gas.... Lucy started to get vocal,   Not real loud, but enough to make we worry.   What if she started barking and screaming?    I feverishly keep the fish going into her yapper.   It was like I was training Shamu at Sea World.    

And just like that - the wheel noise and bumping stopped.    We were airborne. 

About 40 seconds after takeoff I popped Lucy out of the bag and put her on my lap.   Shaking and panting but none the worse for wear.   I gave her lots of comfort and worked on keeping things cool.

This was her just after I took her out of the case.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds..

We took off to the south, immediately circled to the right as we climbed and passed over NYC at about 5,000' with a pretty decent view.   It was a tad hazy but you can make out Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, etc.

Departing over NYC

Lucy did real well on the airplane, all things considered.

She spent most of the flight laying on my lap or Kates , but in the middle of the night Kate fell asleep, and Lucy jumped off her lap and started making a beeline to the front of the plane with Katie in hot sleepy pursuit.   She made it about halfway or more to the front of the plane before she was tackled.  I don’t know where the hell Lucy was going, I can only assume she was getting the f… out of there

Kate and I were both thankful that when she got halfway to the front of the plane she didn’t decide to squat pee and dump 

No, she did not do that on the plane... 

Exiting the aircraft, we made the long walk from the plane to immigration.   All good.
We had "Diplomat" privileges courtesy of La Compagnie and went to the front of the line at immigration,
We got thru there and made the long walk to baggage.   Things are starting to look good.

I can see baggage claim up ahead and saw our bags had already arrived.   A quick walk thru customs and we'd be outside door 48 where my prior research told me there was a nice grassy area where Lucy would be able to relieve herself.

There was light at the end of the tunnel.    Another hurdle about to be cleared.
Then,....   Lucy started pulling on the leash.    
Walking faster...  
I know that walk...   
I know what is coming....

All of a sudden she stopped, she squatted, and let out a flood Noah would be proud of. 
Passengers walked around our squatting Doodle as if it was just another day in France.
I guess it was!

Viva La Lucy!

Well the rest of the day was a blur.

We had 2 medium sized hard spinner suitcase, and on top of these I had a hanging suit bag strapped to the handle.   It was easy to push on smooth flooring, but any lips or ledges, and the stack wanted to fall over, so I had to be careful.   And each stack probably weighed about 80 lbs each.

We had to get on the OrlyVal tram to get to Terminal 1 where the rental cars were located.
With all the baggage and Lucy it was tough getting onto the tram before the doors closed.
And then the doors started to close when I was halfway thru with the luggage.   Kate was inside and Lucy still outside on her leash.

I jammed myself between the doors while Kate tried to get Lucy onto the tram.   Those doors were really trying to close and I had to push hard against them to prevent it.   I think another passenger grabbed one of my luggage stacks and pulled it thru for me.  

Then we had to find the rental car location in the underground parking garage.   Again, I had researched this beforehand so it was not too hard, just a lot of walking.

Finally, we were in the car, the Garmin was turned on, and we were making our way out of Orly Airport.

Finally, another hurdle completed.    Another sigh of relief.  
It was about 10:30am in Paris.  4:30am in NY

A  3 1/2 hour drive to Calais, I dropped Kate & Lucy off in our room at the Holiday Inn, and then took the rental car back to Hertz.

I grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and when I got back Kate and Lucy were dead asleep.   It was now 5pm and I'd been going about 29 hours or so.

Finally - a bed in Calais

A quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, and we were in bed by 8pm.

The next morning - its now Saturday May 13, we had a "pet taxi" pick us up at 0910

You cannot take dogs on the Eurostar Train thru the Chunnel.    You can transport them in your car on the train however.   So the way for us around that is to hire a taxi that caters to pet owners.    We used this service last time as well.

Now for the last major hurdle.    Clearing the dog into the UK...

I knew the paperwork looked spot-on, but there still is a chance that some official might have had a bad morning and picks on some thing or another.    Fortunately everything was fine and a few minutes after entering the Pet reception center, Lucys microchip was scanned, matched to her paperwork, and we received our clearance to proceed to immigration.

Pet reception facility at the Chunnel

Our train was at 1010 and we had a few minutes to spare, so Kate gave Lucy one more chance to pee on France.  (no offense meant - we love France)

Lucy left her last mark in France

Then the short que to clear out of France, then onwards to the next line of booths where we clear into the UK.

The UK border agent started to give me a bit of a hard time.  She was not understanding why we were in a British taxi but coming from France, and kept brusquely asking me pointed questions:

"When was the last time you were in the UK?"  I say "October"
"Then how do you find yourself sitting in a British Taxi?"

I try explaining to her about dogs, trains, and taxis, but she is not listening and instead rattling off more questions in rapid succession.

WTF?    Are we going to have a problem here?

Finally one of the other border agents walked over and explained to her how it works with pets and her demeanor softened up a bit.   She must have been new, or transferred from an airport, where this does not happen. 

The que for French Customs

Finally, we are driving down the ramp to get onto the train.

Down the ramp to the train
Then we are on the train.

Inside the train

Well the train made it safely to the UK.   Our pet taxi dropped us off at our VRBO in London where we will be staying till next Sunday, and after another good nights sleep - we are starting to feel normal.

And best of all.....WE MADE IT!

Tomorrow - Monday the 15th, I have to take the tube to Waterloo Station, where I will take the train to Southampton to pick up the rental car we will have for the duration.   Since the QM2 was to arrive in Sout'n, that is where the car is.    So its about an hour train ride there, and a 90 minute or so drive back.

So here we are.    About a week late, but now back on schedule, and ready to complete the rest of our journey.   We have lots of things in store, and some great surprises too, so be sure to stick around.

Last but not least - thanks to everyone for the well wishes.   It was hard to reply but your good words meant a lot.    

One note - if you post a comment as anonymous, be sure to at least add your name to the end.   We had several nice comments that we do not know who they were from.

ps.   I'm too tired to proof read this, so it is going out "raw and unedited".  Sorry for any glaring mistakes.


  1. Hey neighbors!! So nice to read all about your journey. Love it!!
    Can’t wait to hear about your coming adventures.
    We’re keeping your house safe for now.
    Julie & Terry

  2. Wow! You guys are amazing travelers! Stay safe and update often.
    Deanie and Toni

    1. Thanks ladies. Thanks for all of your help as well.

  3. Welcome to the British Isles. Enjoy your adventures x

  4. Good to hear you finally made! Looking forward to seeing your wonderful blogs. Travel safe. Dave & Susie

  5. Thank goodness you have made it . We will call you when home from Portugal in a couple of weeks . The Fairey’s x

  6. It was great to see you both and I’m really glad Heather got to be there! You’re wonderful friends and I know you’ll have a blast!

  7. Have a wonderful 5 months! I would say you are entitled, at this point, smooth sailing, so to speak. You have been through a lot, enjoy the wonderful trip you have planned! Safe Travels. So sorry I didn’t get to see you when you were in the area! Next time❣️Cheryl C

  8. First, let me say how sorry I am that you lost Gracie. So, so hard to lose your family member. get the award for overcoming obstacles. You methodically worked through every one of them which is why you and Kate are such successful adventurers. Like Cheryl said before deserve some smooth sailing now! Have a great time. Camp and I are going on a much shorter (2 weed) adventure in August. We're flying to Amsterdam and will tour around for a few days and then board a cruise ship to Iceland, Ireland and Scotland. That's my kind of adventure...where I have to make minimal decisions!! And most likely the only hiccups will be the flying...I don't look forward to that. But you did it with a dog!! Amazing. Bye, Lisa

  9. All I can say is… what an adventure! Can’t wait to hear what is next!

  10. You have had quite an adventure. I hope things go perfectly from here on out! T

  11. Greg and Kate, omg!!!! I am exhausted reading and imagining this adventure. Radeen and I love following your travels. You are so darn good at all of this. Hell, I can barely make one room reservation let alone all of these!!! Great post, I credible details. Thank you my dear you all ..hayden

  12. Holy cow, Greg!!!! Planning, Persistence and by the Grace of Big G - you made it!!!! Bravo!!!!! Looking forward to following you via this format. xoxoxo Kristi & Jim

  13. Hurray for the “good guys”! So many hurdles to jump over, but you are there! Thankyou for allowing us to travel along via your posts! Pat R

  14. I totally agree with Linda Hatcher! As fellow adventurer travelers…WHAT AN ADVENTURE! Mina Greenlee. 🙂

  15. After all of that, you will need a day or two to decompress. Glad that you made it.

  16. Greg, you need to write a book. Your stories are so interesting and funny

  17. Good grief! So much traveling to your destination! Be safe


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