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Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Fourth Post

Skagway is accessible by car and draws a great many recreational vehicles. My brothers-of-the-road represented Harley-Davidson with motorcycles from Florida and Kentucky. Two or three of the Harleys had couples riding. The women had to be good sports. Some off brand two wheeled vehicles were allowed in town. I saw five BMWs from the Canadian Province of Quebec.

Cathy and Princess

Cathy in front of the Grand Princess tied up in Skagway.

It was overcast and chilly when we disembarked for the morning. It warmed up and was great weather all day.

Once again we opted out of any organized tours. Shuttles run from the docks to Skagway and beyond from early morning until the last cruise ship departs. We got one of the good drivers who gave us a running talk about the town.

One pays when exiting the bus. The shuttles have two options, two dollars for each trip or five for unlimited rides. I found it surprising the number of people who took the two dollar choice. I got a better deal. Our driver announced, “I refuse to charge veterans. If you’re a vet let me know.” When I reached him I Said, “U.S. Navy” and rattled off my serial number. He stamped my hand for unlimited rides.

The man behind me wore a submarine service cap. As he handed over his money, the driver said, “No sir” and reached to stamp his hand. The man said, “It’s my son’s, he serves. I didn’t.” Two men, both class acts.

Harley Davidson

None of the Harley-Davidson stores we visited sold motorcycles or parts.

This outlet did not have an authorized Harley-Davidson sign visible on the outside. I have a feeling it’s the result of some local ordinance because none of the franchised stores in town had a company logo visible.

I splurged and bought two T-Shirts. In addition to the usual pocket T-Shirt, I saw a great looking design on a bright yellow T-Shirt. She-who-must-be-obeyed was not happy. Oh well, once in a while one must show a little rebellious behavior.

Back on the shuttle, we rode out to one of the must see destinations. We glanced at each other. “Nope, it’s a tourist trap.” We stayed on the bus. The next attraction received the same response. Riding back to town gave us an opportunity to interrogate the driver.

We stopped at the local museum. Cathy and I have travelled to Europe and Asia. We always make it a point to visit hardware and grocery stores. The ones in Skagway are nowhere as interesting as those in Japan, but the items they stock, are different enough to make it worth ones time. Over at the IGA Grocery store, apples were almost three dollars apiece.

Homes sell from $25,000 up to $400,000. All are small. Building materials must be brought in from great distances and there are no local construction companies. Our driver told us about a house built by a man and his family. Construction of a single room and bathroom was accomplished one summer, over the next four or five years the home was completed. The family now lives in a seven-hundred square foot house.

Here is an interesting story, “We don’t get much snow here. We have sustained winds of 50 MPH up the channel. The snow is dumped in the ocean. What we get comes in horizontally. We get two or three inches of ice sheets dropped here.”

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Looking down the main street one can see another Princess cruise ship docked at the end. Parking is limited to fifteen minutes with a threat of towing. Oddly, an Ultra Classic Harley Davidson, Kentucky license plate, was parked on the street for at least five hours. It was not cited, nor was it towed. But then we never saw a single police officer or cop car.

When it came time to return to the ship, I bought three bags of popcorn and hopped on a shuttle. As I should have expected, she dumped me. “I’ll walk. It’s only a mile or so.” Thirty years of marriage and she still has the energy of a teenager.

While I was writing, a choral group of Grand Princess Passengers put on a show in a nearby lounge. The sound was outstanding. They finished up with Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Their rendition brought tears to the beast’s eyes.

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We cruised past this small glacier high in the mountains around 10:00 p.m. It was so beautiful, I had to get up and take this picture. The last time we traversed this channel to the sea, it was afternoon. I spent hours looking through my binoculars while wrapped in a blanket with a good cigar and a glass of Jack Daniels. It was a great experience.

Times have changed. I gave up cigars, rarely drink, and forgot my binoculars. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was getting old. Nah!

Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Third Post

Wednesday, July 24th found us in Juneau, Alaska. Layered fog surrounded the town.

Layered Fog 2

We saw our first bald eagles as we came into the harbor. A pair sat on a jetty watching the surface of the water, fishing.

The Grand Princess was the third ship in, two others arrived later. The Princess was too large to tie up at the wharf so we anchored and went ashore by tender.

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Our goal, visit the Mendenhall Glacier, but not on one of the ships expensive tours. Princess tours run on a time-table that leaves one at the glacier for three hours. We found a local service that ran every half hour. We could spend as much or as little time as we wished.

Our driver was a vivacious fifty-something named Mariam. From Iowa she is a part-time teacher and a part-time school bus driver. “We live on my husband’s salary and play on mine. I found this summer job on Craig’s List. I love it here. My husband doesn’t so he visits.” Mariam gave us an interesting commentary about Juneau. Her enthusiasm was catching. She got tipped by everyone on the bus.

I don’t think the sourpuss who drove us back got a single tip.

Bear eating salmon

When we got off the bus, we walked out over to the Mendenhall Creek and watched this black bear feasting on a salmon.

Mendenhall

Mendenhall Glacier.

Juneau is landlocked and everything is brought in by plane or ship. The cruise ship crews get a few hours off to do their shopping. At the wharf half a dozen vans marked “Crew Service” sat. For a small fee crew members or anyone else can get a ride to Costco, Wal-Mart, or McDonalds. There are four fast food outlets in Juneau, one McDonalds, and three Subway Sandwich stores.

Beauty and the Beast

It drizzled most of the time as we wandered about the park. I used my National Parks Senior Pass to get us in for free.

When we returned to town, I was ready for a nap. As usual, Cathy was raring to go. I went back onboard. After a bag of popcorn and a diet soda pop I perked up and spent the afternoon reading Green Ice, by I.C. Enger.

Cathy took the tram and shot a few pictures.

At anchor

I especially like this one of our cruise ship the Grand Princess

Eagle at Tram

This shot of a Bald Eagle could be a post card.

12th Annual Brown Water Run – Day 4 – 7/8/2013 (Last Day)

I haven’t had a chance to wrap up the Brown Water before now. We were on a cruise to Alaska and then my two months out of warranty hard drive failed.

Monday, July 8th was officially the last day of the 2013 Brown Water Run.

When we settled down the night before, the Bison Fire was raging east of us. The distance that the fire covered was astonishing. I’m glad I was a police officer and not a fire fighter. I will never comprehend how a sane person can put themselves in front of a moving fire. To all Fire Fighters – Thank you for your service.

Here is a quote from one of our riders, “This is a fast-moving fire.” Jeff Zolfarelli – Fire Chief (Retired). Personally I think all fires are fast movers and should be avoided.

Monday started poorly. First, the Bison Fire continued to grow. The Motel 6 staff told us, “We don’t put out coffee until 7:00 a.m.”. We had two motorcycles down. The Harley people told Keith Wallace that his problem was the stater. They couldn’t get one in for a day or two. Fred Sicard had to wait for the service department to replace his tire.

When Keith got back to Arizona he raised cane with the Harley-Folks who had “fixed” his electrical system. It turns out that it was the regulator, not the stater. Carson City had regulators in stock and could have fixed the bike. I believe they returned his diagnostic fee.

Hatties

Fortunately Grandma Hattie’s was just across the parking lot. We trooped over and had coffee and breakfast.

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Paul Wallace had our waitress deliver a jar of mayonnaise to me. I HATE MAYONNAISE. This wasn’t just any mayonnaise, it was from 2003. He had saved it since I was airlifted out of the Oregon Mountains to the hospital in Medford. What a guy.

Pig Trail

Larry Eade models a shirt from Pig Trail Harley-Davidson, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Pig Trail is a popular ride and should not be missed if one rides through the state. Here is a shortened link http://goo.gl/MhYxo0 if you care to learn more about the trail. Larry, Jim, Burny Matthews and I were on route to Washington, D.C. for the 2010 Law Enforcement Memorial Service during National Police Week. To learn more about this program, link to http://www.nleomf.com

End of Ride

After breakfast we loaded up and prepared to go our separate ways.

The Los Angeles riders headed over to Carson City Harley to wait for Fred. Later they enjoyed a great ride over the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, State Route 4, before spending the night in Fresno. Some BWR riders took US-50 back to the Bay Area. Jim Kennemore took I-80 over Donner Summit. For a “slab” it’s not a bad ride.

US 95 Alt -

I headed to Las Vegas to attend the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Conference. As much as I enjoy riding with a group, solo riding is a delight. I took US-50 through Dayton Valley to US-95 south to Las Vegas. Last June, Jim Kennemore and I were on US-95 up in Idaho. This section is desert, but in its own way, just as scenic.

Bison Fire from East

The Bison Fire was visible looking west, the reverse view of what we had seen the night before. The fire destroyed great tracts of mountain terrain.

Wild Horses

Wild horses are not uncommon in areas of Nevada. While this looks to be a rural range, it wasn’t. The west side of the road is wide open with no fences, the east is not. I pulled to a stop and took this shot from about fifty yards. On the east side of the highway were several gas stations, stores, and fast food restaurants. The horses did not seem to have any interest in me or the Ultra’s loud pipes.

I spent the night in Beatty, Nevada and was in Las Vegas by noon on Tuesday. Passing Creech Air Force Based I saw three or four remotely piloted aircraft systems flying in the area. Most of us refer to these devices as Drones. They were bigger than I had imagined.

Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Second Post

We spent Tuesday, the 23rd in Ketchikan. We decided against organized tours opting instead to walk the town. Ketchikan is three blocks wide and three miles long.

Creek Street

Creek Street is a creek with buildings along both sides. In the early 1800s the occupants were brothels and a shingle factory. At the bottom of Creek Street a bridge links the road that runs through the city. About a half dozen people were fishing from it. All but one was local. He was off the Grand Princess. As we walked up he caught a salmon. One of the kids scrambled down the rocks and retrieved the fish. The man told the kid, “Keep it. I’m off the ship and I just want to catch fish.”

We chatted with this same man three days later after he took our picture at the Tracy Arm Glacier. He didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars and rush to and from a fishing boat. He started to rent a pole for thirty dollars an hour plus all kinds of add-ons. Instead he went to a local hardware store where he got a 3-Day license, pole, line, and half a dozen jigs for $105.00. He caught thirteen salmon and gave them all to the locals. As he later told us, “It was a great day of fishing, and a third the cost of a tour boat.” Not only did he catch a passel of fish, he used a light line and got to play the fish. On the boats they use fifty-pound test and yank the fish out of the water.

I know what I’m doing the next time I visit Ketchikan.

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One of the local kids bringing up his catch.

Fish Creek Salmon

Salmon at the upper end of Creek Street.

My dad used to tell us how as a kid on Moffett Creek, near Fort Jones, California he and his dad used pitchforks to harvest salmon. I had my doubts; after all he was a teller of tall tales. Now I believe him.

We walked to the outskirts of town. At a Salvation Army Thrift Store I found a rack of tourist T-Shirts on the front porch. They were all new and priced at $2.00 a bargain. There must have been twenty. I figured on buying a couple. My plans were thwarted. A woman, a fellow ship passenger, stepped between me and the shirts. She literally pushed me away without a word of apology. Cathy pulled a shirt from the back of the rack, “Hold on to this.” Before I could turn back, the woman had taken every shirt. I half expected the “B” to take the one I held.

We continued on to the edge of town were the IGA grocery store is owned by a Japanese family. The original owners came to Ketchikan in the early thirties. They built a hotel and store, ultimately closing the hotel. At the beginning of World War II they were forced into one of Roosevelt’s Internment Camps as enemy aliens. While they were interned, friends ran the store. When the family returned, the friends gave back the store and all the profits. The great grandchildren now own the store. The owner has a sign on her office door, Fish Fear Me. You think she likes to fish?

Liquor Store

Next to the grocery is a state liquor store. This is the inside of the door.

Heading back downtown it began to rain. By the time we got back onboard the ship we were soaked.

At 7:00 p.m. we entered the Snow Straits. They are five-hundred meters wide, not much wider than the length of the Grand Princess. We saw several dolphin and whales.