FROM THE KENAI PENINSULA it’s a 2-day ride north and east before you can turn south on your way out of Alaska. I wasn’t sure where I’d feel like pointing the iron piggy after we put another 1,000 miles in her mirrors and were sitting at the crossroads in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory.
Instead of staying on the Alaska Highway and booking it for home, a good 10 days of motoring south and east, I took a right and rode into British Columbia and then back into Alaska. Not the interior this time but the coastal southeast. I put the piggy on the boat at Haines, AK, and from there it was four sleeps down the coast to the port of Bellingham, Washington, USA.
This was sunrise today as M/V Columbia, the largest vessel on the Alaska Marine Highway, sailed out of Canadian waters and back into the U.S.
There were quite a few bikers on the boat. I fell in with two sidecar pilots after one of them kindly stopped to see if I was broken down in Haines. I was squatting on the side of the road cooking beans and rice in the dirt when he rode by the first time, and I was still there later so he stopped to check on my mechanical wellbeing. Bikers do that. It was Keith Hackett, of Rainier, Oregon. And while we were jawing, up rides Jan Daub of Houston, Texas, long-distance biker extraordinaire. He was on a 750 Ural, Soviet bike. He stopped because he saw Keith, who had given him valuable information on the ferry schedule earlier that day. Jan thought he’d be stuck hanging around Haines all week waiting for a boat to Port Rupert, British Columbia. Keith said, hell, get on the Bellingham boat with me around midnight tonight. Somehow, the ferry clerk hadn’t even mentioned the Bellingham run to Jan. So anyway, we hung out and boarded the vessel in a pouring rain that night and musketeered around together in the days to come, often in the company of three bikers from Ohio who had made the Alaska run.
Jan had ridden up to Prudhoe Bay, and Keith to Fairbanks, while I was on the Kenai in the south.
Craziest thing ever: I get talking to Jan, who goes by his blogger name, CCjon and I discover that he’s a long-lost friend of Richard Thomas, the father of Rob Thomas, husband of my niece, Caryn Craddock Thomas. They served in the Peace Corps together 40 years ago, in Columbia. Talk about your six degrees of separation.
We camped at the stern, under a solarium roof on the top deck. The backs go down on those lounge chairs, makes for a nice flat bed with a camping pad and sleeping bag. Every night a guy from the engine room walked up and turned on infrared heaters. About two thirds of the time it was too much heat for my taste, even under a shelter open to wind and rain. I felt like a french fry under the heat lamp at McDonald’s.
There was an incident one day where I see this battlewagon bearing down on us in the fog, like the French privateer Acheron after HMS Surprise, so I yell, “We shall beat to quarters!” ’cause I saw that in Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World.
I’m demoted off the fantail and assigned to watch for terrorist speedboats instead. Here’s one scooting right by us because equipment went missing. I saw no gear whatsoever for raining fire down on them.
In a pinch this stupid hose might be good for repelling boarders but it never came to that.
After proving my naval mettle, I disembark, muster out and whatnot, ride down to Gig Harbor, WA and find the Nelsons’ house unlocked, so I move in. Connie’s out at the lake, Jan’s at a conference in San Francisco, nobody’s the wiser. It feels weird to cook on a kitchen stove instead of an alcohol flame in the dirt. I take a nap on the hardwood floor just to stay in traveling trim.
Probably lost weight on this trek, as I usually do, but I feel great. Rode 7,600 miles to get here. Dunno how many sea miles to add but I think the ferry run from Haines to Bellingham cuts off about 1,200 road miles.
I’m supposed to pick up Jan at SeaTac shortly. He’s in the air as we speak. Tomorrow we’ll go out to Lake Cushman on the Olympic Peninsula, take the boat over to the camp and I might stay there for a week or so and get some writing done for King Features.
Over & out for now.
Tony DePaul, Gig Harbor, WA, June 28, 2013