Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Arrival at the Ferry
Day 28, July 21, 2008-340 miles. Ok, I'll cut to the chase quickly—the plug in the tire held to Haines and the ferry!
The day started early; we were worried that the plug would fail, perhaps stranding us along the way. Sometimes they hold for a little while and then slip our or leak, stranding the rider. So, we had valid concerns over whether or not we'd make it to the ferry. And a flat tire in Alaska or the Yukon Territory is no small deal. First, there are few places at all along the way. Second, there are no motorcycle facilities outside of Anchorage or Fairbanks. So, a huge bill is incurred when a bike fails along the way. We learned of one rider on the Haul Road who had a flat that cost him $1,000 in towing and tire replacement charges, plus several days delay. And if we missed the ferry, I had no plan on what to do since it runs once a week, and a big penalty is charged for cancellation. So, needless to say, I was concerned.
When I went outside to check the tire, I was relieved to see that the tire pressure was where I had left it the day before. The plug made it from repair to Beaver Creek. But would it hold up for another 340 or so miles to Haines? Still concerned....
We started riding south, and I led the way. At first I rode a little slower than usual, about the speed limit, but after a few miles, sped up to more of our normal riding speed.
Repairs were along the way here, too. So when I saw one, I'd slow down to make sure I didn't hit any obviously sharp rocks.
At Destruction Bay, the wind picked up, and big repairs were underway at one place. We had to wait at one place for a pilot car to lead us through the 7 kilometers of repairs we had to pass. But it did not slow us much.
We stopped at Haines Junction for gas and a quick snack. Then south on the Haines Road to Haines. This road was in great condition, with almost no repairs to deal with. Some of the road was actually SMOOTH! But it was pretty windy, with the gusts blowing us from side to side in our lanes.
At one point, it got really cold, when we were going through a mountain pass. My thermometer read 43 degrees, and with a light rain and the wind, it went from cool to cold really fast. I was glad to have a heated jacket and heated grips. I just wished I had donned my heated socks. My feet were not happy!
After a while, the road went downhill to lower heights, and the thermometer went to higher temperatures and happier feet. The town of Haines was a welcome sight!
The first order of business was to find the ferry landing and learn the check-in process.
It was easy to find, and check-in was simple. Show them the itinerary printed from their website and a picture ID, and they issued tickets to Gary and me. The second order of business was to find some food for lunch and some supplies for the 3-day ferry ride.
We rode back into town and found a restaurant that served food and beer. We had not had a real meal since Sunday morning, so we needed some solid food. I was hungry! The cheeseburger and fries was good with a cool beer!
Then we rode back to the ferry and waited for its arrival, some 2 hours later. We made it and were ready to board.
Finally, the ferry came into sight—a big ship looking like a luxury liner. It is huge compared with ther ferries we're accustomed to in North Carolina.
After a while of loading many cars and big trucks, they let the motorcycles board. Getting into the hold was easy; tying the bikes down was pandemonium. We had a lot to do and not much time in which to do it.
The bikes were parked in two rows, with tie-down points on the outsides of the bikes. So, to secure them, they had to be tied together in addition to the tie-down on the outside. Then, we had to carry our gear up 5 stories to where we were staying. All in about 20 minutes! Too much to do in too little time.
We had planned to set up tents on the Solarium Deck, as many folks do. We got on the Solarium Deck, found deck chaise lounge chairs, and decided not to set up the tents because it was blowing a gale and we were afraid we'd lose the tents and their contents! I was able to get almost everything I needed from the bike to the deck, so it turned out okay although harried.
With a tentative decision not to erect our tents, we got our chairs situated. The Solarium is a neat place. Fitted with glass windows on top and both sides, it is protected from the weather pretty well. It is also fitted with infrared heating elements on the ceiling, providing much needed heat in cool weather as we were experiencing. They were very welcome.
We got a bite of dinner (bowl of chili), and went back to the Solarium. Gary inflated his air mattress, and I fixed my bed (the lounge chair). I used the Bumblebee and summer sleeping bag for a mattress and got out my sleeping bag. And laid down. And fell asleep, listening to the wind, the ship noises and Gary's snoring.
At around 11:30, as the ferry neared Juneau, it's first stop, I got up so I could go back into the hold and finish getting what I was not able to bring up earlier. Access to the hold is limited when the ship is moving; available only when it is at dock or every 6 hours, whichever is sooner. Not a bad thing, but it is a little inconvenient sometimes.
Got back to the Solarium and fell asleep and slept pretty good.