Last night felt a bit special after arriving in Prince Rupert. The trip counter on my dashboard was showing exactly 2,000km since I left Calgary and it felt like the first leg of this great trip was complete. Knowing that I didn’t have to ride the next day, I decided to celebrate by having a nice meal and red wine. I chose Merlot, as Peter B happened to be visiting my mind at that very moment, and Merlot is his favourite wine. For those of you who don’t know Peter, he was my boss for the longest time in my career, but above that, he had a massive influence over who I am today as a person.
I wrote my Day 5 blog in a rush after dinner and a couple of glasses of wine which was a mistake. I realized that only in the morning when I glanced through it before heading to the ferry and had an OMG moment. All spelling, grammar and other mistakes were quickly corrected and I hope you read the second version. If you read the first version, my apologies.
It was a short few minutes ride this morning from the Crest hotel to the port. For those of you who know me better you can probably guess that my bike was the only vehicle on the loading dock – yes, I was first (not counting one RV that stayed there over night).
Soon after, vehicles started slowly arriving and as they parked, people would come out and start conversation.
Some of them were going to Ketchikan, some to Wrangell, some to Petersburg, some to Juneau, some to Skagway and few of us going to Haines. It was easy to tell the destination because each of us had a sticker with the name of the town on the windshield. Different ages and backgrounds, but one thing was common in all conversations – a strong sense of adventure and excitement mixed with a bit of a feeling of uncertainty. Arriving to the dock (way too early) gave me a chance to meet a few of them and hear their fascinating stories. Let me share some..
Guy & Reggie – The Harley Riders With Trailers
Guy & Reggie are Harley riders from Hearst, Northern Ontario. They are on a 15,000km ride accompanied with their wives. Guy is riding a brand new trike (a motorcycle with two factory designed and made two rear wheels instead of one). What’s unusual about their rides is that both of them are pulling uniquely designed trailers with their bikes. Guy’s trailer has a custom paint job.
When he opens the trailer, a full size cooler was siting there full of food and drinks among the rest of the things packed. Reggie has a coffee holder on his handlebars. Something to think about for my bike.
Gerry Mehr & (the mighty) Buster in the Teardrop
When I first noticed Gary and Buster they strike me as a couple of main characters from a movie. Gary is very well spoken and has a very unique sense of humour. Buster wasn’t very talkative, he is a very curious 2-year old fellow who was mildly intimidated by the massive German Shepherd that was standing near by.
Gary and Buster drove all the way from Atlanta, Georgia and they are on their way to explore Alaska. They have no specific timeline and plan, they will just take time and enjoy the journey. Gary did invite his wife on this trip but she respectfully declined it and decided to stay at home during the “boy’s adventure”.
It all started 15 years ago while Gary was working for a reinsurance company (a company that provides insurance to the insurence companies (very much like the relationship between the Central Bank and the retail banks). He was on a three day business trip to Alaska. After he finished all the business in two days, he had half a day to himself since his flight was the following day in the morning. Gary decided to use that time by renting a truck and driving as far north as he could. He absolutely loved the experience and decided that he needs to come back at some point in his life and take his time to properly explore Alaska. That point is now.
He also has a very unique traveling arrangement. He normally prefers to drive his Jeep but the forecast through the central USA was showing consistent temperatures over 100F and his Jeep didn’t have an air conditioner so he decided to use his truck instead. He said jokingly that he was worried about Buster overheating but it felt more that he was the one who didn’t like the heat.
With his truck he is pulling a very unique trailer – it’s called a Teardrop. It’s just big enough to sleep him and Buster and has a little kitchen in the back. It’s much better then tenting he says, because he doesn’t have to worry about the bears.
Gary was raised in a unique family. His mother was a civil rights activist supporting the African American needs and his father was an airplane wing engineer who was not allowed to participate in the Second World War in the front line because his engineering knowledge was too important to preserve during the war. Gary said that my handwriting looks very engineer like and it reminded him of his father’s.
He shared with me his thoughts about Atlanta and he especially highlighted the opinion of one of his school teachers at the time which didn’t sound right to him. His teacher said that Atlanta is not a metropolis (like Boston, as an example). You know a metropolis by looking at the local bank, she said. When you see a long lineup of people waiting and you can hear many different languages being spoken vs. just English, that’s a metropolis. Interesting perspective.
During his career, Gary had multiple opportunities to meet Warren Buffet because Warren bought Gary’s company at the time. He says, Warren would arrive to their office in a very unassuming way and have very down to earth conversations with people which he thought was a very cool way of being for a billionaire. One of Warren’s comments stood out for him. As they were discussing inheritance tax, Warren made a comment that he thinks one should leave to their children enough money to do whatever they wish in their life but never enough not to work at all.
Our conversation was interrupted by the dock official – it was time to board the ferry 🙂
It was a cool little adventure riding into the belly of the ferry and tying the bike so it doesn’t flip if we get into a rough sea. But the biggest by far challenge was carrying two metal boxes (40lbs each), two smaller bags (15 lbs each), my main bag (50 lbs) while wearing full riding gear (coveralls, protective gear, helmet, etc). I had to take all of that in one run from the belly of the ferry to Deck 5 (5th floor). I think I lost 10lbs during those 15 minutes of hauling.
The cabin is very simple with a great view.
It took me a few minutes to catch my breath and then as I was still cooking inside from the intense physical labor I decided to go on the outside deck of the ferry to cool down and enjoy the views for awhile. That’s where I ran into Dixie for a third time in the same day. We started a conversation.
Dixie – Following her Guidance
I don’t believe in coincidence, for me it’s just the statistics but Dixie does. Dixie is a daughter of a pilot, mother of two and a grandma of two (16 and 18 year old) teenagers.
Dixie gave away all of her possessions. She repeated it a few times to make sure I understood – she didn’t sell any of her possessions, she gave everything away. She took all of her money, a new red Toyota Tundra truck with a camper on it, loaded it with what she needed and started following the Guidance. She is planning to do so until she runs out of money. She’s been on the road for over two mounts now and at this point the Guidance is directing her to Alaska. Her best friend passed away just recently and that event made an impact on the way Dixie was thinking about the life and Guidance. She is carrying her best friends ashes and spreads small amounts of it in the rivers as she travels.
She doesn’t know for how long and where she will travel, but she knows it is going to be in Alaska – the Guidance will tell her as she goes.
Dixie used to work in a hospital in Lake Tahoe area but after she quit her job she decided to focus on hypnotherapy which she provides to people for no charge. She believes that people are in the hypnotic state most of their time and all it takes is for a good therapist to access the subconscience state to give suggestions that will have a positive impact on someone’s life.
I was skeptical about the whole concept so she offered to prove the point by giving me a hypnotherapy treatment while we were on the deck of the ferry in the middle of the crowd. The experiment was interesting, probably more for the observers around me than for me, but, in my opinion it failed. We settled on the fact that I am very content and happy the way I am and I don’t really need any fixing.:-)
Prior to this trip Dixie went to India in search of truth. Her destination was Dwarka temple in the Gujurat region. After weeks of overstimulated senses with different languages, poverty and confusion, while relying on random people to be guided, she decided not to continue to Dwarka as she realized on the way there that the truth is within. She didn’t elaborate further, so we left it at that. One of the motivations for her trip was to meet Sai Baba who is believed to be a reincarnation of Shiridi Sai Baba a famous Indian Guru. She met him in Ashram. Her impression of him in person was contrary to her expectations. She felt that Sai Baba was a shell without the soul as he was impacted too much with his own fame and success.
Mauricio – the Chief Steward
Mauricio is the Chief Seward on the Matanuska ferry. He is originally from the Philippines. He lives in Juneau, Alaska and he is very proud of his job on the ferry. He recently got his full citizenship status in the USA and he is very humble and grateful for what this great country did for him and his family.
I shared with Mauricio that my good friend Chris in Canada sponsors and employs people from Philippines as he believes in their work ethic. Mauricio acknowledged the recognition with a sense of pride and shared that he believes that perception is true.
Mauricio told me about a location in the passage just before Juneau, where I can see a glacier from the ferry. Since our conversation he came another five times just to make sure I didn’t miss it. What a nice guy.
Trip through the Alaskan Inside Passage
For the next two days we will be traveling on the Matanuska ferry through the Alaskan Inside Passage.
The ferry is named after a massive glacier just east of Anchorage. M/V Matanuska ship was built in 1963 in Seattle, Washington and modified in 1978 in Portland, Oregon for the needs of the State of Alaska. Matanuska carries 499 passengers, 88 vehicles. She is 408 feet long and travels at 16.6 knots. She travels approximately 1,000 miles from Bellingham, Washington to Skagway, Alaska.
The Alaska Marine Highway – Inside Passage
3,500 mile run from Bellingham, Washington to Skagway and further to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It’s a lifeline for some 35 coastal communities that are not accessible by the road.
It started in 1950s when an old craft was adjusted to serve local needs from Juneau.
As we began our travel through the Inside Passage, the adventure continued on the ship and as we will see later on, off the ship. Everyone I spoke with is very approachable and excited to share their adventure.
As the ferry was departing Prince Rupert port I was overwhelmed by the scenery surrounding me on a bright sunny day. It felt great after a number of days riding in the rainy and cloudy weather.
Our first stop was Ketchikan, situated on the Revillagigedo Island, one of the main locations in the Inside Passage. I was excited as the edges of the town started appearing on the horizon. This is the first time in my life I will visit a town that doesn’t have road access to it. Exciting!!!
As the ship was docking, the Captain announced that we are welcome to step out of the ferry and explore Ketchikan for the next three hours but, “if you are late, you are one week late” (that’s when the ferry goes through Ketchikan next time). I made sure my wrist watch was adjusted to the local time and I left the ferry with another three people. Ketchikan is much different than what I expected. It’s a very charming town with very interesting downtown core.
With some “unique” establishments.
We had enough time to hike to the totem museum which exhibits the oldest original totem poles in the USA but unfortunately the museum was closed. We did have the opportunity to see a few unique totem poles standing outside.
In the panic not to miss the ferry the four of us shared the taxi to the port and arrived 45 minutes too early. Just enough time for a round of drinks while sitting on the patio of the local hotel with the view of our ferry.
Yes, we did make it on time.
The next two stops are Wrangell and Petersburg. Both of them are only 30min stops so no opportunity to step out and explore. I slept through the Wrangell stop, however I woke up just in time for the arrival to Petersburg around 5:00am. It felt very cosy sleeping in my cabin with a mild rocking of the waves as we were traveling and I wanted to rest a few more hours, but I couldn’t resist the urge to step outside on the deck to see the town. The moment I stepped out, the freshness of the air and wind combined with the stunning scenery completely woke me up – no more sleeping this morning. Petersburg appears to be a lovely little town on the edge of the Mitkof Island.
Petersburg is facing the very small community of Tonka, on the neighbouring Kupreanof Island.
As we were departing Petersburg one of the Navigations Officers came down to the deck to tell us to pay attention to the peninsula we were approaching, Cape Fanshaw. That is the location where three different currents are merging in Frederick Sound and it’s a great feeding area for the Humpback whales. He said “ if you don’t see a bunch of Humpbacks by 10:30am, I’m a monkey’s uncle”. A few minutes later, and he was right, the whole deck was set in panic as tons of whales were passing by in small pods. It was a mad rush of people with their cameras, smartphones and iPads trying to get the moment when the Humpbacks surfaced for air. I’ve seen the Humpbacks many times before and yet again it was exciting to see them. However, I found it much more exciting observing people seeing them for the first time and being frantically confused between taking pictures or just enjoying this marvellous scene. A bunch of complete strangers for a moment became fully unified and started pointing to each other every time they would see a break in the perfectly glass-like surface of the water. What a lovely moment. I got a few shots, but I was too busy observing people that the shots didn’t turn out quite good. Sorry about that and just use your imagination 🙂
Juneau became the capital of Alaska in 1906 and is the biggest town along the Inside Passage. I didn’t want to disappoint Mauricio so I stepped out on the deck at least 45 minutes before the arrival to Juneau to make sure I didn’t miss the glacier. At one point the glacier started appearing behind one of the hills and on first sight didn’t look that significant. Shortly after I was able to see the outline of Juneau which gave me a much better perspective of the size of the glacier – it was massive!
It took us a few minutes to get docked and as I was heading off of the ferry I ran into Mike and Kimberly, a very cool couple form California touring Alaska two-up on a Harley. They were untying their bike because they were told that they could take it off the ferry to tour Juneau and the area for a few hours. I convinced them to share a cab to downtown with me instead. As we couldn’t get a cab for some 20 minutes, Mike decides to go back and get his bike. I followed. Thanks to Mike’s decision I was able to explore Juneau and the area on my own bike and at my own pace.
The highlight was when I took a detour on a Glacier Loop road which lead me to the Menndenhall glacier, the same glacier I was able to see from the ferry thanks to Mauricio’s recommendation. But this time I was right in front of it and it felt unreal. The size, the colours, the texture were mind blowing.
It was one of those moments when you don’t quite believe it is happening to you and it’s all because I ran into Mike and Kimberly and Mike’s decision to get his Harley off the ferry and ride instead of waiting forever for a cab.
Upon return, I lost my original parking spot in the belly of the ferry. My bike is now nicely tied between the garbage container and a pallet with Coke and other soft drinks. Sorry bike 😦
As the ferry was slowly departing the port I was standing in the food line when Mike and Kimberly joined in right behind me. They bought me lunch! What a nice couple – I hope our paths cross again and I have a chance to return the favour.
Off to Haines, my last stop on this ferry. Even though I am very excited that I will be riding again soon, I am a bit sad that I am leaving behind many very nice and interesting people that I have met over the past two days.