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From Africa to USA

June 2017

RAM 3500 and Cirrus Truck Camper

Goodbye Africa and Welcome to the USA!

The last few weeks in South Africa were filled with preparations for our continent transition and the handover of vehicles.By arranging the complicated formalities, we were able to help the new owners up front. This enabled them to register and insure the vehicles on their names although they only have a tourist visa. This time the handover of the fully paid vehicles went smoothly and problem free.

Flight with Emirates Airline from Johannesburg via Dubai to Frankfurt

As we had a substantial amount of luggage we decided against Swiss Air and rather took the longer flight via Dubai to Zurich. This allowed us to take double the luggage weight for less. The flight in the huge Airbus A380 was comfortable.

The consequences of the very tasty meals were dramatic for both of us.

Brigitte experienced her first day in Europ with hourly vomitting. It hit me a day later which led to record holding sprints between bedroom and toilet in our holiday apartment.

3 week stay in Switzerland

Once more we rented the same holiday apartment in Adligenswil close to Lucerne, where we already felt very homely last Fall. 

The main reason for our Swiss stay was the application for the US visitor visa. The interview in the well secured American embassy bunker was short and pleasant.  We left the embassy with a tourist visa valid for 10 years. Additionally, the friendly officer gave us a national park guide and restaurant guide of America. 

As we had announced our stay in Switzerland on our homepage the three weeks were already fully booked with invitations before we even arrived. Long standing friend even provided us with a comfortable vehicle. We enjoyed meeting and seeing people, whom we have known for a long time and who are good friends, also with travel acquaintances with whom we share a lot of similar experiences, as well as virtual followers with whom we have an active e-mail exchange.
We regret that the time for so-called granted visits was too short, but postponed is not cancelled.

With Condor from Zurich via Frankfurt to Baltimore

The pre-evening check-in of our 6 pieces of luggage in Zurich went unobstructed. We enjoyed a cosy evening and a pleasant night in the Radisson Blue Hotel afterwards.

Radisson Blu Hotel Zuerich Airport

When all the passengers had boarded in Frankfurt the pilot announced that the take-off had to be delayed by 20 minutes due to missing meals. After the catering containers had been loaded it was noticed that 70 main courses of the menu were still missing. Two hours later than planned we took-off for Baltimore. Thanks to Premium Class we had enough leg space. For our luggage, altogether 6 suitcases of which one contained special camping chairs and was thus over-sized, we paid about the same as for our flight tickets.

The complete service from the pre-bookings to one hour waiting time for our luggage in Baltimore and the service on board was dissatisfactory.
To be fair we have to mention that the flight was a bargain.  We have now agreed however to rather pay a bit more than to make use of the lousy Condor service again.  

Entry into the USA

The immigration officer behind the counter with grim look, bullet-proof vest, colt in holster and critical questions corresponded to all preconceptions we’ve read and heard about. Our answers were satisfactory and he stamped a 6 months duration of stay into our passports. 

After over an hour waiting at the luggage belt we finally also received the sixth suitcase.

Suitcases on world tour

A transfer bus took us and our luggage from the airport to our rent company Budget. Regardless of the critical look of the Budget employee onto the amount of our luggage our vehicle turned out big enough so that we were able to embark on our 600 km journey to Raleigh.

Vehicle purchase in USA

Before the purchase USA

Before buying vehicles, we wanted to make sure that we would be able to register them on our names.

The clarification of this question resulted in an administrative marathon. We were sent from one DMV office (Department of Motor Vehicles – American road traffic licencing department) to the next. In one day we received different answers from 6 different registration offices.  What did transpire however, was that I would definitely need to get a US driver licence. The admission to the driver’s test required several documents. Amongst others a residence certificate, which of course we did not have, and a liability insurance. We opened a personal mail box (PMB) and became members of AAA (American Automobile Association).

The following day we dropped in at one of the DMV offices where we had met a nice officer the day before.  After having checked all documents and having entered our address numerous times he admitted me to the licencing test.  The computer of our well-disposed officer neither accepted our PMB address nor the address of our Camper company. Luckily, we still hat the address of friends up our sleeves.

Friends from the USA

During the theoretical test, I managed to get 23 out of 25 questions right and thus passed easily. The practical examination was conducted by a nice, middle-aged lady. After a 20-minute drive, I was allowed to return to the office. Here she congratulated me on the good job I did. 

Purchase of vehicles USA

The Truck Camper Cirrus 820 camper, for which we had paid a deposit weeks ago already, met our expectations after the inspection. We thus arranged for the full payment of the amount agreed upon.

Camper undersized Camper oversized

Finding the for us suitable vehicle RAM 3500 Heavy Duty was a bit more difficult. Our requirement profile included the following: 6.4l Hemi fuel engine, double cab, short loading area, rear single release, 4x4 with reduction gear, good standard of fittings, high load capacity.

Edy is looking for a RAM

There are a lot of new models that match the criteria, unfortunately all with diesel engine. As we are planning on traveling to South America again and as we are aware of the difficulties of modern diesel engines in high areas we insist on a strong petrol engine. The RAM dealer found our required vehicle in New York, 1000 km away. It was transported within three days to Raleigh.

Edy signed the purchase contract

Insuring vehicles USA

Before even being permitted to the examination one has to take out a liability insurance. After passing the American drivers licence one automatically classified as new driver with the corresponding higher insurance premium. For the discharge of the vehicle we took out an additional fully comprehensive cover.  

Registering vehicles USA

After the transfers from Europe arrived we were able to conduct the registration. Since Friday, June 30, 2017, we are driving around with the RAM 3500 and the mounted Cirrus.

waypoints on the move in USA

The receipt of the definite number plates as well as the final vehicle papers will still take about 2 weeks. Since the documents and number plates are sent to our PMBox and from there they will be forwarded to an address which we will specify. After equipping the camper we are ready for the trip.
The whole story we managed in 2 weeks. But also tragged on our nerves.