Tag Archives: Veterans

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!

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Hail Causes Mini Flash Flood – Monticello, Utah to Ely, Nevada

It’s hard to believe it’s been eight months since I got caught in the open by this high desert hail storm.

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The day before was filled with change, this day with challenges.

The morning started out harmless enough. I walked to a family owned restaurant hoping for oatmeal and fruit, senior price of course. Even though it was past the opening time, it was closed. There was a handwritten note taped inside the glass door. “Sorry, we’re closed.” Down the street was J & B’s Hamburgers.

What the heck, I’ll give it a try. They didn’t have oatmeal, nor did they have a senior price. Bacon, eggs, and pancakes it was. It tasted good with two giant pancakes on a second plate. I could only eat one.

My plan to visit the Arches went awry as soon as I pulled out on US 191. Tired, I decided to skip the Arches. I don’t think eleven days in the saddle had anything to do with it.

Within minutes, a D.E.E.R. appeared. With that omen, I should have been forewarned.

US 191 took me through beautiful country, red rock formations, canyons, and some greenery. The remaining 90 miles were filled with vistas that artists dream about.

My buddy Paul Wallace likes Moab for mountain biking. I can see why. The town is small, attractive, touristy, and bicycle positive. Unlike most towns on this trip, there were no “Bikers Welcome” signs. They didn’t get any of my money.

Reaching Green River, Utah, I realized that this was where JAK had suggested we deviate from our plan last year, and take US 191 north to Jackson Hole. It was an outstanding decision with fantastic scenery. The lower half is different, all desert, but just as spectacular. I recommend either segment for a great ride. Next month, June 2013, JAK and I are riding to a Veterans Memorial Run in Marseilles, Illinois. We might take this route.

Leaving Green River I took I-70 to Salina, Utah. It was hot and dry. That changed. Storms were brewing west and north. Rain chimneys were visible. Shortly after noon, a chimney materialized dead ahead. I kept going and got rained on for about a minute. With the temperature hovering around 100º, the rain cooled me off. Dry in minutes, I narrowly missed a second chimney. I was in for more than rain.

I had nowhere to pull off when it started to rain. Ouch, this stuff hurts, it isn’t rain it’s hail. So much for finding a safe place to pull over, I stopped as fast as possible. The Ultra was not quite off the interstate. I didn’t care. I scrambled off and ran to some small trees for shelter. The hail stones came in two sizes, some the diameter of a dime, most that of a nickel.

Beaten and drenched, I ran to the bike, unlocked a saddle bag, grabbed my coat and ran back. There was no way I could have gotten the pants on. Several cars stopped on the other side of the four-lane interstate. After I got my coat on, I heard a horn honking. A minivan with California plates stopped and the passenger doors opened. A woman in the front shouted; “Get in, Get in.” Still wearing my helmet I jumped in and closed the door. She said; “Does this happen very often?”

“I don’t know. I’m from California like you.”

She said in unaccented English; “Actually we are from Belgium. They are warning of flash floods.”

When I ran under the trees, the ground was dry except for falling hail stones. When I ran to the van, my sneakers were under swift moving water.

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The trees didn’t afford much protection. This picture was taken minutes after the hail stopped falling. In the short break between hail and the subsequent rain, I got into my foul weather gear. I had one question, Where are my boots?
Two more cars and a motorcycle stopped to inquire if I was okay. None had been in the hail storm; it was pretty well confined to a small area, my head.

* * *
Continuing on, it started raining heavily. I won’t say it was a cloud burst, but darn close. I could not find any shelter. I put on the 4-Way flashers and slowed to 30 MPH on the 70 MPH Interstate. Motorcycle helmets don’t have windshield wipers and my vision sucked. The cars passing me were all doing over sixty. To say I was stressed is putting it mildly.

In Salina I went straight to the world famous Mom’s Café. The building was constructed in the 1890s. The café has been in continuous operation since 1926. When I finished eating, the rain had stopped, the temperature ninety plus. Once again off with the hot foul weather gear.

It remained hot until I got into Nevada, the rain chimneys getting darker and closer by the minute.

For two hours I fought winds strong enough to push the Ultra across the roadway, a tad scary. The area was desert with blowing sand. In one stretch the sand blew handlebar high across my path. It hurt like the dickens.

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I continued for a few miles after I took this picture. I pulled over and geared up. Five minutes later I was in the rain. It rained the forty miles into Ely, Nevada. Of course, as I parked in front of the Motel 6 the rain stopped.

I knew if I went downtown to eat, it would rain again, I ordered pizza. “It won’t be long.” After an hour I called. “The delivery man will be back soon and you’re up next.” How reassuring. Another hour passed before my cold pizza and warm soda arrived.

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