When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!


Last year (2008) while we were in Holland at Dirk and Hetty's house we discussed plans for the future.  Where did we want to go?  Alaska was high on the list for both them and us.  So we made early plans to go to Alaska.  After all we were going to bring the White Dragon home and that would give us two bikes in America.

As in "The best laid plans of men and mice..." things changed dramatically when we wrecked the White Dragon in southern Italy.  Dirk and Hetty came to Italy and rescued us and we flew home.

But that didn't end our Alaska plans.  Our bodies healed and we bought another bike, a 1983 GoldWing 1100 Aspencade.  After some maintenance work on the brakes, tires and timing belts it was ready to go.  I made reservations on the Alaskan ferry system for the route through the Inside Passage from Prince Rupert, BC to Skagway, AK and Dirk and Hetty made plane reservations to America to match.  After they arrived at our house we took a couple of days to pack the camping gear and get over jet lag.  Then we were headed north.  

It was three days to Prince Rupert.  Three days of sun, rain and rainbows.  We hoped that this rainbow at the campground in Quesnel, BC was a good omen for our trip.

We have the same tent that we used in Europe and we bought a tent for Dirk and Hetty to use.  That tent will become ours when this trip is over.  The older one is giving out after having been set up and taken down over 400 times in dozens of countries.  It has served us well but is just wearing out all over.  Dirk and Hetty brought their sleeping bags and we have air mattresses to sleep on, chairs to sit in, a folding table, two rain fly's and stove, dishes and silverware to go around.  It makes for a comfortable camp.  We have created a "kitty" for joint expenses like camping fees and road food.  Kathy is in charge of it; and at regular intervals she comes and tells us that the kitty is hungry and wants to be fed.  I didn't know that a little kitty could eat so much!

We arrived in Prince Rupert in the afternoon and followed the signs to the tourist bureau parking lot.  Next to the parking lot was a couple of dumpsters and about 6 or 7 Bald Eagles fighting over the contents.  Our national bird, dumpster diving, how humiliating!

Our plan is to ask the tourist bureau for a cheap hotel.  We have to be at the ferry dock at 3:30 in the morning and we don't want to have to pack our camp at 2:30 in the morning.  They suggested several and we took one.  The room is $164, even in Canadian dollars that is not a cheap hotel.  The breakfast was skimpy but the room was quiet and we slept well.


Because this is an "international" trip we have to be at the dock two hours earlier than the departure time, just like at the airport.  We get there, check in and then we stand around and talk to the other passengers for an hour and 45 minutes before boarding.  At least there we didn't have to put everything through an x-ray machine.








The ferry stops at several towns as we follow the Inside Passage north, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and then Juneau.  As we approached Juneau we could see large cruise ships docked right downtown.  We also watched seaplanes take off and land.  Juneau is the capital of Alaska and a busy town, even if it is only accessible by air or water.  We got off in Juneau and spent the night in the campground at the Mendenhall Glacier N. P.

We walked around the National Park's tourist center and up the trail to the base of the glacier.  It ended a couple of hundred yards away where a large stream of melt water cascaded down the mountainside.

We also toured the downtown area, looked at the tourist junk in the shops, marveled at the huge cruise ships parked 100 feet away and generally wasted the afternoon.  After riding on the ferry for 24 hours and seeing the hundreds of cruise boat tourists, I decided that there could not be a much worst vacation than one where I was trapped on a ship running between tourist traps. Without hiring their own taxi they are limited to the organized tours run by the tour company or walking, both poor options in my opinion.  The first is crowded with long lines to get on and off the buses and in and out of the stops and the second limits the distance one can travel.

We had our own transportation and went up to a gold mine museum above the town and found some hobby gold miners working the creek.  We talked with them and one even offered Kathy a couple of the gold flakes he had found that morning.  They were about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  These guys were not going to get rich this way, but they were having fun and keeping fit.  Shoveling and panning the gravel is hard work, especially for the waistline.






We got on another ferry the next day and rode on up to Skagway.  The views along both ferry rides have been spectacular.  The mountains, waterfalls, islands, snowfields and glaciers have overloaded our senses.  This lighthouse on the island makes this scene look almost like a castle in the Alps.  All along the route we have seen Bald Eagles flying or sitting and watching.

But we are ready to start riding again.  This standing around hour after hour is getting to us.





We reach Skagway late in the afternoon and stayed two nights.  The day in between we rode over to Dyea, the ghost town is a few miles away and at the start of the Chilkoot Trail.  This is the famous trail that the gold seekers heading to the Klondike took over the mountains and into the Yukon.  There are famous pictures of a string of hundreds of miners packing their gear up the staircase-like trail in the snow.  We found that the town of Dyea is gone and the famous climb is 12 miles up the trail so we didn't see anything except scenery and seven miles of gravel road.

The building behind the old man and his dog is the Camp Skagway No 1 of the Alaska Brotherhood, a benevolent association started here in the gold rush days.  It is covered with a checkerboard pattern of short sticks one to two inches in diameter.  It was originally built and decorated in 1898, this is a reconstruction.

Then it was over the mountain and into Canada, again.    Click to continue.