September 18, 2013, Category: Alaska, Travel

It’s late, I’m in my tent now trying to sleep and listening to the rain. Tomorrow we start riding…and camping. I’m really nervous about the rain. I don’t know what the next three weeks will be like. I’m afraid we are going to get very wet and very cold.

Day 3: Still on the Alaska Ferry

Check out the novel: Trudge On, Soul

The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.
The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.

The Adventure Continues...

It was another long night of flapping tents and snapping rain. At least the nights were warm. I’d start on top of my sleeping bag and then crawl into the top layer when it cooled off. I love this bag. My sinuses were completely stuffed up and I blew my nose all night long. No tissue though, the only thing I could find in my tent was my other pair of underwear, which at least were clean (I had more down on my bike, but you can’t go down to your vehicles whenever you want to because there are specific times they open the car deck).


At 6:00 am we docked at Ketchikan for a stopover. I felt lousy but didn’t want to miss a chance to go into town and look around. Who knows if or when I’ll ever be back here again. Plus, I wanted to buy a little pack of Kleenex. I hadn’t been drinking caffeine for a couple of months but decided to get some Crystal Lite. That stuff packs a punch and would help counteract the Dayquil (which makes me super sleepy).  I climbed out of my tent into the drizzle and there was Ketchikan, sprawled along the mountainside next to us. In the distance, two massive cruise ships made ours look like a dingy. The cruise ships dock right in town where all the action is but the ferry terminal is a few miles away.

It was nice to have cell phone access and we caught up on texts, emails, and made few calls. T-Mobile’s website said Alaska was covered but we couldn’t tell for sure if we were roaming or not. I went ahead anyways, if they tried to bill me for anything I would send emails and letters and complain until one way or another, charges were reversed. After all, their website said we were good. It was nice to talk to Sandi and get all of the updates from the kids. Turns out, the maps were right and there were no extra charges. Good deal.


We geared up in rain gear and walked back onto land. We hit a store and picked up a few things, asked around about busses, and then waited about thirty minutes to take a $1 bus ride to town.

Ketchikan is a cute little town and claims to be the Salmon capital of the world. It also receives 4X more rain than Seattle (over 150 inches) which they market as “liquid sunshine.” The fact that surprised me was their sign that said “4th largest city in Alaska.” It’s not very big (later I looked it up, 8,000 people). It must double when the cruise ships dock. I think this was when I really started to realize how remote Alaska is…I mean, if this is the 4th largest city, dang!

DSCN0137We soaked up way too much liquid sunshine and I don’t vouch for their marketing slogan. I prefer the dry sunshine. We explored the dock, walked in the shadow of massive cruise ships, and passed by all of the shops (you can’t really do much shopping on a motorcycle trip…especially on a minimal budget). It was a typical tourist town, vendors out encouraging us to go fishing, on a boat ride, or take a zip line canopy tour (in the liquid sunshine). Instead we spent time watching what seemed like thousands of salmon in the river. Maybe they really are the salmon capital.

DSCN0154-001The drizzle intensified and we made our way back in a downpour. Mike put on his Gore-Tex pants and I wished I had brought mine. We took refuge under a bus stop awning and waited over a half hour for a bus that never showed up. My stomach was really twisting around and thoughts of the all you can eat buffet and three desserts from last night that were swirling around in my gut made me want to puke. I looked at the various shops and daydreamed about their restrooms. I only daydreamed because I wasn’t going out in the rain; my head was spinning, pounding, full of snot. I managed my stomach as best I could. It didn’t help that there was no place to sit and if I leaned up against the railing, I got wet. The good news is from here my cold got better. The bad news is right now I was at my worst and standing there waiting for the bus just plain sucked.

The rain eased and we started walking back. A couple of blocks later, the bus passed us. I was too queasy to even care. From a block away I saw the next bus stop and a dry bench. It’s crazy that a simple, dry bench could offer so much, but in that moment, it was everything to me. I walked faster, imagining myself sitting, my eyes closed, my head resting against the wall behind it. I reached it and it was everything I dreamed it could be. A small bit of heaven. I could have fallen asleep right then and there, and maybe I did for a second or two. I really don’t know how long I was there, I didn’t care.

When the bus came it was full, standing room only. When we made it back to the ferry, I went straight to the restroom, which was another bit of heaven. Then I crawled into the warmest part of my sleeping bag under the heat lamps. The wind was blowing the rain under the awning and I had to get out once to move further inside and then hide inside my waterproof bivy. I tried to shut down the negative thoughts of riding and camping in this mess….for three weeks. I asked for an adventure. One way or another I’m going to get through it. Sick, wet, or whatever else the adventure gods send my way.

DSCN0189When I woke up, the wind and rain were strong. One of the ladies who had the most problems with her tent had bought a tarp in town to keep the water out and was trying to cover her tent with it. It flapped and sailed. As she tried to secure one end, the other would break free. A whole crew finally helped hold down the tent and duct tape everything together.

I went down and showered, which felt great, but I discovered I had a serious problem. There is no delicate way to explain this. I’m not young anymore. And I was sick. My body doesn’t function as well as it used to on good days, let alone with stomach issues and so I hope you will cut me some slack with this. Plain and simple, I could not put my underwear back on. Rather, I would not put it back on. In fact, I almost just threw them right in the garbage. I went back to my tent and realized my options were really quite disgusting. I had slimy, snotty underwear, which hadn’t dried out as much as I’d hoped, or I had…well, the other ones. I couldn’t imagine wearing either pair. But I couldn’t just sleep free and clear either, no way. I needed my sleeping bag in good condition. And I couldn’t go down to my motorcycle to get another pair. I had one pair of pants that I needed to keep in good condition, so sleeping in them wasn’t an option either. I had to laugh at my ridiculous situation. I was trying so hard to have a good time in the middle conditions that did not come close to what I call a vacation. But I refused to give in. That’s when I remembered my shorts, from the hot day, buried somewhere in the tent. I dug them out. Crisis averted.

I crawled into my bag for a nap but while on the cusp of slumber, my mind started playing games with a guy we saw that had a blue beard. I came up with this:

IMG_0762A guy is on the tail end of a long rugged Alaskan adventure with three friends. They are nice guys with families, each sporting a nice Alaskan beard. They stop for their last night at a pub/hotel called the Blue Manchu. Dinner is nice. The waitress, Karma, is very flirty, they laugh, enjoy themselves, and finally say goodnight and head to their rooms. Climbing the stairs, he realized he may have had one too many. He fumbles with the door, slips into to his room, and pushes it shut behind him. He hasn’t take two steps before there is a light rap. He cracks the door and sees Karma, smiling. She makes an excuse and somehow gets inside. He’s uncomfortable, not thinking clearly, and the next thing he knows is that it is morning and he has a nasty hangover. He rolls out of bed and stumbles into the bathroom, unsure of what did or didn’t happen the night before. He splashes water onto his face and looks into the mirror. His beard is bright blue. In a panic, he tries to scrub it clean. No luck. Irritated (yet also slightly flattered), he decides to tell his buddies he dyed it for fun, to celebrate the last night at the Blue Manchoo. He heads downstairs for breakfast and stops in his tracks as he approaches the table. One of his buddies makes eye contact and quickly looks away. Two of his buddies sitting at the table also have bright blue beards. The third has shaved his off completely.

I told my about my story and he liked it. He said, dude, if we find a place called the Blue Manchoo, you know we gotta stay there.

I had planned on sleeping through the night but ended up climbing out of my tent several hours later. It was dusk and there was almost a reverent silence on the boat. The channel was narrow and in the dim light I could see the forest, trees, and rocks on both sides of the boat, sometimes just twenty feet away. The water was like glass, it was dead quiet, and fog limited visibility to maybe 50 feet. Rolling silently past, rugged and remote, the dark Alaskan shoreline captivated me. I thought about the Alaskan natives, early settlers, and the wildlife. I wondered what would happen to me if I just dove off the boat and swam to shore and tried to survive. I wondered how many, if any, people had walked on each little section of land I was looking at as it passed. Then I thought about everyone else around me, also watching silently. Were they having the same thoughts? Were we all enchanted by some sort of magical spell, some sort of charm or allure emanating from the land itself? It was beautiful: the land and the experience.

From my journal:

“It’s late, I’m in my tent now trying to sleep and listening to the rain. Tomorrow we start riding…and camping. I’m really nervous about the rain. I don’t know what the next three weeks will be like. I’m afraid we are going to get very wet and very cold.”

Click here to continue to Day 4

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