Jump to content

Final Chapter, Alaska Sojourn


Recommended Posts

Hi All,

Here it is, the final chapter of this labor of love. I hope you enjoy!

Part 8, The End of the Sojourn, and New Bginnings for Me

We queued up to get on the ferry around 8:00 p.m. that evening and soon were on board. Cars were packed in like sardines, but our bikes were nestled safely on the sides of the ships. We first secured the bikes with straps that we had brought with us for this occasion. By the way, don’t buy straps. Just stop by your local BMW dealer and ask him for the packing straps that come on the boxed motorcycles. They are perfect for the job, being tough, lightweight, and easy to stow.

Shadow had to stay down below with the bikes in a large dog carrier. Mark would walk down about every two hours and let her out to eat, run around and do her doggy thing. We, on the other hand, had nicer accommodations having booked a “stateroom” for the trip. While very small, it contained two beds and a shower, which was heaven. If you decide to travel the Alaska Marine Highway System, make an early reservation and get a room. You should be aware that these rooms typically fill up 6-8 months ahead of time, and the rates will probably go up around 40% for the summer of 2002. If you end up on standby, chances are you will still get a room. Increase your odds by having everyone in your party make a reservation. Then, simply cancel the others when the first person is notified!

Our boat was approximately 435 feet in length. Composed of several decks, you could sit up front in pilot style chairs or lounge around on sofa-like accommodations. In addition, there was a large area at the back of the boat where many people pitched tents. The wise bring duct tape to anchor the tents down, as the Crew takes a dim view of pounding tent stakes into their deck! The rain started soon after leaving Haines, and despite the wonderful camaraderie of the “deck people,” I’m glad we could sleep inside. Stalwart adventurer that Mark was, he even agreed with me on this one! The boat also had a nice restaurant area and a bar that was the focal point of the evening’s festivities. Food was reasonably priced, especially by Alaska standards, and the servings were ample. Despite the crew’s admonition to keep alcohol in the bar area, it was all over the ship, as many people simply brought it on board. Generally people were very friendly and casual, so this did not become a problem for the one policeman traveling with us on the voyage.

One of the high points of cruising the Inside Passage, as it is called, was the scenery near Wrangell Narrows. Here the ship needed to thread it’s way between two narrow points that nearly touched the sides of the ship. Additionally, the water was very shallow, allowing us to cross this point only at high tide. I still can’t believe how easy the captain made this section of the Passage look! We got off the boat at Wrangell, and several other places in order to stretch our legs. Well worth the exorbitant rates charged by the local transportation services to actually get into the towns.

The people on the boat were a riot…Paul the policeman from Ketchikan, the Harley bikers on their way to Sturgis, the various hippies, business people, foreign travelers, Native Americans, and others were as colorful a group of people you’d ever care to meet! Two of the most memorable people were a brother and sister who road matching Road Kings all the way from El Salvador! He looked like a movie star, and she did too – all 6’ 2” of her! At night we’d all meet in the bar. The first night the rumor was out that I play the guitar. I do, as a beginner. For the rest of the evening there would be intermittent shouts of “Steve, Steve, Steve…” What a hoot! This continued for the next three nights, eventually getting kinda old...

As all good things go, the time drew near to get off this crazy ship. The weather seemed to be getting better as we traveled south. While it continued to rain, the surface was flat calm. We saw a nuclear submarine up close, as well as rich assortments of wildlife in and around the water, such as orcas, dolphins, bears, and deer.

Truth be told, Mark and I were ready to get off the boat and continue riding. When you have been on the road along time, a strange pull takes over your soul. What is on the other side of that range, who lives in that town? Questions like this haunt the itinerant, and he longs to fire up the bikes and discover more…So it was with us. As we neared Bellingham, anticipation of more riding gripped us. We were stoked, and ready to go!

We got off the ferry at 0830 in the face of a blasting rainstorm, one of the hardest we had experienced. At least as we got underway, our bikes started. Three of the Harleys in the group would not start after being on the boat. Eventually they all got away, except for one poor wet fellow whose bike simply appeared to have died! And, dead on the docks was no place to be dead, believe me!

Our first stop in Bellingham, a very lovely town, was the AAA office for maps. We took Shadow inside where, you guessed it, and she won the hearts of every woman working in there. I wanted to choke that dog…. leaving my murderous feelings aside, we decided on Rt. 20 through the Cascades, reasoning that it would be warmer and dry on the eastern side of the state.

For those of you who’ve been up in Washington, Rt. 20 is incredible. Rolling farmland gives way to rugged vistas. It is every inch a motorcycling road! Try it, you’ll like it! Eventually we rode up over the pass and the temps climbed dramatically, which was a good thing, since I was soaked through my supposedly waterproof overpants!

After staying in Otello WA we continued down US 395 to Lakeview, OR. Here, US 395 dipped and climbed from desert to cool pine forests, then back to the valley floor, to start the cycle over again. A very fast ride too. Stopping at John Day OR for fuel and lunch I noted the worst mileage of our trip. No doubt caused by the triple digit speeds we’d been riding for hours…

And, it was possible to continue riding in a spirited manner all the way to Lakeview. In fact, today the highway was more desolated than most days in Alaska. US 395 is truly a lonely highway up in the eastern regions of Washington and Oregon. Shortly before town we had our enthusiasm cooled when we passed a very serious single-vehicle accident. One unfortunate young blonde woman was being given CPR as she was lifted from the wreckage of her compact car. No skid marks or other vehicles involved, and her car was demolished. Somewhat subdued, we motored into Lakeview and a motel for the night.

An early start headed us toward Bridgeport CA, high in the Sierra Mountains. On the way, we detoured to Markleeville and rode over Monitor Pass, which was a welcome respite from the heat. Once back on 395, it was an easy and pretty run to Bridgeport. We arrived just ahead of a big hail and thunderstorm and quickly found a motel.

In Bridgeport, I finally realized the trip would be soon over. Hard to explain, but I was already aching for the open road. I didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to go. I knew I didn’t want to ride back to the freeways and crowds of LA, but at the same time I felt proud for both Mark and me. We cemented our bonds of friendship, and I learned there was a life waiting for me. Not just the wreckage of a past life, but the hopes and promise of a new life. I was nervous, but I knew things would be ok for me in the long run. With those thoughts in mind, I fired up the GS and road home, the adventure complete….

Some Random Thoughts on Travelling to Alaska, in no particular order:

 If you want to go, go. Make no excuses. The time for living is now.

 Motels are cheap outside the city. Camping is even cheaper

 Travel alone or in a small group. Meet people and interact with them. This is much easier when you are travelling alone.

 In Alaska, don’t cook in camp unless you want a 1200 lb. campguest with bad breath and long teeth…

 Use the ferry system. Motorcycles get “cuts” in line!

 Make friends with the people in the next camp. They are your best source of security

 Don’t overplan

 Put all your gear in a pile in the living room before you pack. Now throw half of it away. You’ll still have too much!

 Use a Camelbak hydrating system and say good by to headaches and afternoon fatigue.

 Prior to your trip, work out. A fit motorcyclist is the safest.

 Bring an extra pair of glasses

 Bring extra film, CF cards etc

 Set up a “Hotmail” account. Many small places in the wilderness have a computer you can use for a few dollars. Great way to check in!

 Take someone you love with you.

 Take risks – go places and do things you’ve never done

 Watch your speed! Medical help is far away

 A great source for camping gear is www.campmor.com

 Use Helen2Wheels packing system. Outstanding for an RT or GS. Find Helen at www.helen2wheels.com

 Don’t run with scissors

 Take a small fishing tackle set with you and reading material

 On the Alaska Highway, don’t let overly enthusiastic gas station attendants get near your windscreen! (Don’t ask me how I know this)

 Bring extra lighweight tarps

 Know how to plug your own tires

 In Anchorage, visit the University

 Make appointments ahead of time for motorcycle service. If you must have a plan, here is one good place to have one.

 Wanna meet women on the road? Travel with a little dog.

 Pack an electric vest

 Make sure you have good raingear. Don’t worry about it raining. It will.

 Slather on 100% DEET. It is the only repellant that will keep the bugs at bay!

 Have fun!!


Link to comment

Enjoyed reading about your trip.

For me, the trip is not complete till I write about it. I feel good once I have it on paper, knowing anytime I want, I can return. Writing about it helps me remember things I otherwise, may have forgotton about.


"Born to Ride"

2001 ST1100

AMA, Honda Riders, Red Knights, STOC, Iron Butt


Link to comment

Well, there's the trip I hope to make some day. Great story Steve. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Can't say I'd bring any of my companion animals 'though!


Chris (aka Tender Vittles),

Little KZ400 in the Big Apple

Black Boxer RT for Everywhere Else

Link to comment

Thanks all, for the comments. This is one trip I'll probably do again, but first, all forty-eight states in the contiguous US...


Link to comment

Steve, GREAT job, thanks for sharing your fabulour trip w/us.





'96 RT Glacier Green

Link to comment
long distance rider

Steve....great story, a ride I have been wanting to do for years, I have even talked to Nancy about doing it, maybe someday soon.


Charter Member Team Wurty


Long Distance Rider

02 1150RT sortaRED

Yeah, I Got Iron..

Link to comment

Steve, well done. Hey, what about posting some of your pics? Maybe I missed it but what was your total mileage and how about Karen? Congratulations on taking a once in a lifetime trip. I guess it sounds like you're planning to make it a twice in a lifetime trip. I hope to see you in Gunnison. cool.gif


Murrayg B'Safe, Have Fun

Link to comment

Murrayg and all,

Thanks for the kind words! It was fun to do and almost as much fun reliving it when I wrote!

Total mileage was 10,875 miles. Karen? She continues to live in New Jersey where she rides her sportster and writes her book about her travels in Alaska. We are "email buddies." Did go up and visit her a year ago, but, lets face it, a long distance relationship of 3500 miles probably isn't the best. So, we are friends!



Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...