After months of planning, organising, researching and almost constant cogitation, the date of our departure was upon us. The previous weeks had seen little rest as the monumental task of arranging a year long sabbatical of travelling the Americas with our pet dog Hamish the Cairn Terrier drew closer. The “not so small” task of renting our home, arranging banking, mobile phones, utility bills, accommodation, flights, hire cars, vaccinations and visas had all been finalised, or so we thought, [more on this later] and we loaded the rental car and set off on our journey.
After the wettest summer on record, we left Inverness to glorious sunshine and made our way south, first towards Glasgow, where Hamish would board for the night before flying to Newark Airport in the morning. We would continue to Manchester and depart for JFK Airport at roughly the same time.
The car ride to Glasgow was smooth, we stopped along the way at the little village of Kingussie in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains for lunch at a charming eaterie called The Teapot Café before continuing straight to the Pet Relocation Centre at Glasgow Airport to drop off Hamish. It was here the first glitch had struck….
As we handed over all the travel documentation for Hamish, the receptionist at the centre noticed his passport was incorrectly signed by our Vet and his inoculation dates didn’t match his vaccination record card. The Vet had also failed to fill in the fit to fly section within the passport and without it, Hamish could not fly. A flurry of phone calls ensued and we managed to get an emergency call-out Vet from nearby Paisley who, after a “small” fee of about £200, gave Hamish the once over and correctly completed the documents. Our dog was finally ready to join the Jet Set…..
The drive towards Manchester should’ve been straightforward enough on motorway roads. However, a superabundant downpour of torrential rain made for treacherous driving and slowed our journey to a crawl…. Still, we made it to the hotel by 23:00hrs and with the exception of a midnight fire alarm settled down for a few short hours of shut eye before heading to the airport for an early check-in.
The flight itself was pretty nondescript, the usual bland offerings of what consists of airline food, overpriced drinks and a choice of movies and TV shows made for a mundane experience, the only consolation being we were ahead of schedule.
Hurdle number two after landing was making it through Customs. As we were on a one way ticket we expected the Border Guard to ask a few difficult questions about onward travel, where we were going, when we’d be going home etc. The opposite was true and the one question he asked allowed me to relay a war story about a knee injury sustained at work…. Passports stamped, bags collected; the adventure about to start in earnest. USA beckoned!!
Did I say adventure?
THE CAR JOURNEY….
To save money and time I decided to rent a car for the journey from JFK in Queens, across Manhattan into Jersey City to Newark Airport to collect Hamish and back to Manhattan and the Harlem area where we’d spend the next two weeks and the first port of our year long journey in the City That Never Sleeps.
Whilst money was saved, time and years off our lives was not. The Wacky Races that is New York driving, along with my first time in an automatic car meant a very nervous couple of hours ensued, especially when you find the brake is where the clutch should be and you’re driving on the opposite side of the road, in a country with different rules, road signs and etiquette.. But, we eventually made it through the constant lane changing, exits and a Battle Royale with other cars that even a Roman Chariot Driver would find difficult. We unpacked at the apartment and I carried out the unenviable task of finding a parking space. This proved impossible and falling foul of the city’s parking laws meant a parking violation followed… not to worry we were walking, breathing and soon to be lapping up the local culture of Central Harlem. Bliss at last….