Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ferrying to Juneau

Making it to the ferry terminal well within our check-in time was a huge “win.”

(Our chariot awaits ;) )

We spent some time chatting with others in the line-up waiting to drive/ride onto the ferry, and one lovely guy went back to his car and returned with a couple of small travel packs of West Coast Coffee, roasted in Oregon. Apparently, he had the same appreciation I did for excellent coffee but was better stocked. And lucky for me, very generous. Thank you, sir.

We boarded the ferry in the Haines terminal and stowed the bikes for the four-ish hour ferry ride. This would be the first time my bike would really be out in the open waters and I had trouble leaving her to head upstairs to the passenger deck, so I checked the lines Roel had tied off a few times and headed up.

The ferry ride was relaxing, extremely scenic and largely uneventful.

Taking in the ocean views from my recliner, I eavesdropped on a woman in front of us who appeared to be in her mid to late-60s telling a group of slightly younger women about the turn her life had taken recently. She had lost one of her sons and about a month later, lost her job. She didn’t own her home and knowing her money would soon run out and she would face homeless-ness, she got creative, and found a job with an international food service company that would move her around the world to wherever they needed staffing, and would provide room, board and travel expenses along the way. To me, it sounded like she’d had the most incredible experiences in her late 60s: working in Africa and spending time with local tribes; working in New Zealand and traveling around both the North and South island, making friends from all over the world wherever she went because her limited budget had her staying in hostels; working in Alaska where her family from the US visited her, and she was able to introduce them to her new Eskimo friends and show her family around their small fishing village. I was fascinated by this woman I was eavesdropping on, and was somewhat disgusted by the body language and reactions of the women she was telling these wonderful stories to: What she told them seemed to frighten them… was it because she was a nomad and could not be safely categorized as a similar cushy-job holder, cum-retiree? Or was it because they worried that they could somehow catch her great misfortune by being too interested in or too open to her story? Because that was all that they saw: misfortune.

What I saw, was a woman, who, like many in this country, has been dealt a number of hard knocks but instead of letting them get her down, made lemonade of these lemons and enriched her life to an extent that these poor wealthy, privileged woman could not even fathom.

So as the ferry pulled into Juneau harbor, I stood up, interrupted this incredibly inspiring woman while she was trying to explain just how one goes about staying in a youth hostel, and told her exactly how impressive and wonderful I thought she was. I hope she tells her story to someone who will bring it to the masses… so many could benefit from a story of such personal and professional triumph.

Anyway, we rode off of the ferry and moments later the heavens opened. We rode all the way through the small downtown of Juneau, and out of town to where the road ended, looking for a place to camp. No luck. We rode back to a gas station as the Transalp was dangerously low on fuel. A nice guy in a pickup who looked “outdoorsy” pulled up and so we asked where we might be able to find free camping and he fortunately directed us to a lovely spot on the other side of the bay where we set up the tent in the rain in record time and crawled in hoping to get a few hours of sleep.

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