Thursday, August 28, 2014

Juneau, Alaska

We woke to more pouring rain, which honestly didn’t inspire us to tour around Juneau too much. We headed into town and ducked into a local coffee shop with wifi where we checked e-mails and updated the website a bit. When we returned to the bikes across the street there were several people milling about and as soon as they saw that we belonged to the bikes, we were answering questions left and right. The cruise ships in port had just let their passengers loose on the souvenir shops of Juneau and apparently the bikes and us were a better attraction :) We met a lot of lovely people, but tore ourselves away from the great conversations and friendly faces with enough time left in Juneau to spot some bald eagles, visit Mendenhall Glacier and do some last minute shopping for meals and snacks to get us through the 36 hour voyage to Prince Rupert, British Colombia.

First ever porcupine sighting!!!

Juvenile Bald Eagle

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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sorry we've been MIA... but we're baaaaccckk :)

Sorry for being MIA, guys. “Deadlines” crept us on us and all of the sudden we had some serious miles to cover in what seemed like an ever-shortening period of time!

So catching up with where we left off…

Per usual, our morning in Tok began with crawling out of the tent into the rain. Given that our suits needed a good rinse after our run-in with bison guts the evening prior, we had mixed feelings about this rain, but it still meant we needed to find shelter in Tok and let the tent dry while we had our breakfast.

While there we decided to “bite the bullet” and book our ferry tickets. It was a huge expense, BUT we had picked morel mushrooms for a day back in Carmacks in order to pay for the addition expense and we REALLY didn’t want to ride the Stewart Cassiar Highway back down to BC in the rain. It was now or never to book, lest we get to the ferry terminal and find out the ferries were all sold out, so we booked and crossed our fingers: We had about 24 hours to cover 438mi/704kms, cross two borders (Canada and then Alaska again) AND get a shower in somewhere before getting into a confined space (ferry movie theater, you know) with strangers we’d prefer to make friends with. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like much, but given that we don’t exceed 65mph/105kmh and are always slightly worried about our older, somewhat finicky bikes… we had our work cut out for us.

We hit some rainy spots throughout the day but almost as soon as the Alaska Highway brought us over the Canadian border into the Yukon, nature delighted us with some stunning weather (literally, we were pelted with hail as soon as we got our passports back from the Canadian border agent, but then the sun came out and the weather was glorious). Additionally, the road kept getting more and more beautiful and we enjoyed some incredible nature spotting along the way.

(Our first moose sighting in Canada, dispelling our long-held belief that Canadian Moose were the equivalent of the Unicorn ;) )

(Yes, that's a grizzly next to the highway)

We made dinner by a beautiful lake I no longer remember the name of (sorry) and as we headed off to get in a few more kilometers before resting for the evening, we simply had to stop and take in the sunset.

I can’t remember when we last ooooh-ed and ahhhhhh-ed so much… the stretch of the Alcan between the US/Canada border and Haines Junction was a treat. And we did find a nice flat spot to camp, far enough from the highway that the traffic noise only woke us a few times during the night.

The next morning, we made it to Haines, just in time to slip into the local pool and pay a couple of bucks for a nice hot shower.