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Making Boxes

by Tara

Looking at Air China's website this morning, we learn that the total linear measurement of our bike boxes (length + width + height) must be equal to or less than 180cm. Not quite sure what to make of this, Tyler grabs our tape measure and starts running the numbers.

A few seconds later, he is nearly having a heart attack.

He can't see how any bicycle, let alone a touring bicycle with its elongated chain stays, could fit into a space that small. And this is coming from the man who managed to fit two fully loaded touring bicycles into the trunk of a Toyota Corolla.

Our blasted flight is already becoming a nightmare, and we haven't even tried to board it yet. The ridiculousness of this baggage requirement snaps into razor sharp focus when we look up the dimensions of the boxes we packed our bicycles in when we flew from the US to Scotland. They measured roughly 138x70x20cm, for a grand total of 228 linear centimeters.

Boxed Bicycles

Trying to see if they will make an exception, we call Air China using Skype on a spotty internet connection. This is always a recipe for aggravation.

Press 9 for English
*press 9*
I'm sorry, the number you have dialed is invalid.
*press 9*
I'm sorry, the number you have dialed is invalid.
*desperate zero mashing*
Hello, how can I help you?
I'm sorry, you need to call the luggage department to answer that question.
Here is the numb…
*BLOOP (call drops)*

Rinse and repeat until successful.

*dialing new number*
I'm sorry, the number you have dialed is out of service.

Several attempts later, the connection holds and someone gives us a phone number that actually works. The representative we speak with tells us we actually have up to 200cm! With the extra 20 centimeters, we'll just be able to fit our bikes, wheels and gear in. We'll have to take everything apart. Again. But it's doable.

With the right mindset, this could be fun, I think, as I sit cross-legged in a large cardboard box. But I don't really believe it. My sour mood is hopelessly overpowering, and I am incapable of being positive about our task for the day. Instead, my mind is filled with negativity. I could be at home with my family right now. Why, oh why am I in Mongolia, making a cardboard box in a hostel?

Tara Measuring the Cardboard Box

I'm burned out. There, I said it. Our non-stop Mongolian adventure has sapped my wherewithal to cope with even the smallest of problems. I'm burned out on travel and all of the logistics involved. But I know, I know that once we get to Southeast Asia, when we get back on our bicycles, I know that I will be excited again.

We just have to get there.

In the meantime, I feel the same mountains of stress we were feeling when we were getting ready for this trip back home. Except that instead of being in Tyler's mother's beautiful home, we're in a hostel in Mongolia. Instead of knowing where to get anything we need, we can hardly communicate with anyone.

Instead using bicycle boxes from an airline, where all we have to do is roll the bike in and turn the handlebars around, I'm sitting inside one I hauled across town on my back, about to cut it up.

Tyler & Our Bike Boxes

It is dusk, and the last of the grey daylight trickles through our widow as we're working, illuminating nothing. The bright lamp overhead flickers off occasionally, as the electricity here seems to be working intermittently today. I'm holding two sides of a new box together, while Tyler attaches them together.

As he unfurls tape from the roll, it emits a *RRRRiiiiiIPPP* that can be heard (and has been for the pat three hours) throughout the hostel. We lay the final strip, smooth it down, and at last, the boxes are done.

Homemade Bike Box


As we wrote this entry (in Siem Reap, Cambodia!), I was curious to see how big the difference between the bicycle boxes from our flight to Scotland and our flight to Bangkok was. So, like a geek, I looked it up, and put together a small scale visualization. Here it is, our handmade boxes overlaid over a standard bicycle box:

I really hope we never need to do this again, but I have a sneaking suspicion I will be linking to this entry in six months or so as we prepare to fly home!