August 15, 2011
Day 7: The Inland Passage - Port Hardy, B.C. to Prince Rupert, B.C.
Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully on Prince Rupert Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Miles driven today: 10.1
Miles driven this trip: 1,567
Miles by ferry today: 312
Photos captured today: 664
Photos captures this trip: 5,905
If you think that I have a screw loose, you are not alone. You're in good company.
My laptop has been making a horrible racket lately. Worse than before. It's been making funny noises since I hopped a freight train with it back in Tennessee.
But lately, it's been making a new noise. An alarming one. Imagine dropping a Loonie into a kitchen disposal and turning it on. Like that.
Finally, today, when I set the laptop down on the bed in my cabin on the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, and a tiny screw popped out of the laptop onto the bed. I assume that was making the noise Not sure, but hopefully that was it.
This morning, I closed my eyes to sleep at 4:00 a.m. and the alarm went off an hour later. That's not a lot of sleep for someone that's been on the road for 7 days and covered 1,500 miles on a dirt bike.
But I got up, reluctantly, and threw my things together and cleared out of the room.
I drove through the pre-dawn darkness toward the ferry where I sat in line. I had to keep starting and restarting the bike, moving forward into the blades, one vehicle at a time.
Eventually, one of the ferry Nazis came to me and told me to go up to the front of Lane 1, so I wouldn't have to start and stop all of the time. This actually makes sense. So, it seems like the people running the ferry might not be as stupid as you would think.
So, I roll up to the front of the Lane 1, but I see there's another bike already here and I'm like "Oh hell yes! Game on!" Another road warrior. Another kindred spirit. Another lost soul, wandering the planet. Leaving behind friends, family, work...putting everything on hold to say "I don't know what life is supposed to be about, but this isn't it. Check please."
He's riding a BMW GSA1200 (I think). And, the beauty of this trip is that the people you meet on the road are a breed apart form the office drones you normally talk to. The conversation isn't going to be about the copier or the network or the World Series.
These people could care less about that crap. These are the seekers. Dreamers. Wanderers. And often, I run into people on road trips that make mine seem like a Sunday afternoon jaunt.
One guy I met in Victoria had gone around the world on a BMW GS1200R for a year. I watched him hug his daughter for the first time in a year. I wanted to cry. It was beautiful.
So, you have to be careful when meeting other travelers. You can't just belt out that old "I'm driving from San Francisco to Alaska on a dirt bike saga, because someone will put you in your place."
"Hey, how's it going? Where you been? Where you heading?"
"Well, I started in New Mexico. I'm doing a big loop, I suppose and heading back eventually. How about you?"
"Oh, I'm just out for a little run. Came up from San Francisco. Running up to Alaska. Probably turn around and head back."
"How many miles have you been so far?"
"Ah...nothing really...just about 1,500. Just a little ride, really. How bout you?"
"Oh, let's see. I'll be over 6,000 by the time I get home."
"Good for you. That's a good ride. Sounds sweet."
His name is Doug.
A woman named Jennifer comes up and joins us.
"Where you coming from?"
"Oh, I just went out and picked this bike up, and I'm driving it home."
"Where'd you pick it up?"
So, yeah. You have to be careful out here on the road before you start bragging, or you might get you hat handed to you. Yikes.
They tell us to board and we drive onto the ship. I've mentioned before that the most manly thing you can do without leaving the Earth's surface is to drive a motorcycle ship and sail it to another port to unload. I'm too much of a coward to be in the military, so this is my D-Day.
We block our bikes, tie them down, and head upstairs. This is getting to be old hat me. I feel like a rock star. Like people should be cheering for me. They leave their helmets on their bikes. I'm inclined to take mine with me. How else will people know that we're astronauts without our helmets? Reluctantly, I fasten mine to my bike, like the others.
These are just the greatest people on earth. These lost souls scouring the planet on two wheels.
Upstairs, split up and regroup and then start talking out our trip plans. Not about religion or politics or race. We talk about gears and tools and equipment. Hand warmers for the hand grips. Waterproof boots. 9 gallon gas tanks. As excited as kids on Christmas morning. Jabbering like jays in the sunshine.
The talk turns to maps, and maps come out and we're all pointing and dreaming. The maps are silly, of course. Only it shows lines for roads and dots for towns and blue lines for rivers.
It takes a dreamer to paint in the magic.
Doug points to a line...this...this road here...I've done this...you wouldn't believe this ride. It's amazing.
Jennifer points to the map. I live here. Y'all come stay at my place if you want. I have a B&B. I'll put you up.
I'm the only one going to Alaska in our group of 3, apparently. Then, Doug casually points out his return loop..."see...I go back here through Jasper, Banff, and Glacier." And I'm like "God Dammit! Why didn't think of that?" I want to quit my job, drain my savings account, and keep riding the bike until the wheels come off.
At some point, Jennifer wanders off, leaving me and Doug to wander the ship. So, we sort of wander around shooting everything that isn't nailed down. We eat lunch, and Doug sort of accidentally sits with this random guy. The way it happened was the guy had his chair turned to face the window. Then, when Doug sat down at the table, the guy turned his chair 90 degrees to face Doug.
So, Doug's like "sorry, dude. Didn't mean to steal your table."
I come walking up to the table with my lunch, sitting down, thinking we've got a new member in our party. So, Doug and I are going back and forth about the pro's and con's of ABS on a motorcycle. Multi-weight oils. Just the things you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask, sort of thing. And this guy is silent.
I look at him. He looks like he spent the night in an alley. His face and build resembles the kid from Deliverance playing Dueling Banjos, if only he'd aged about 30 years.
His eyes are blood-shot. Pupils dialated. He stands to leave.
"Sorry. We didn't mean to leave you out of the conversation."
"It's OK. I just didn't have anything to say really. I've got a lot on my mind. I've only got like forty dollars left to my name. The next ferry ride is going to cost three dollars. Then, I'll be flat broke by the time I get home. But, that's OK. The mushroom harvest is coming up."
"Wow. How about that. Well, good luck with that there, killer. Let me know how that works out for you."
Like, I didn't really know what to say. At this point, I had no clue who he was or why numb nuts chose to sit with him. But, after seeing his eyes and hearing his story, I wanted to go hang myself the closet of my cabin with an ocean view.
It's sort of hard to go from riding 90 mph for 6-7 days straight and suddenly end up on a slow motion cruise ship gently crawling through the inner passage. You want to ask the captain if he can't kick it up a notch and make the boat plane. Out. Trees, waterfalls, islands, lighthouses scroll by, beautiful and misty. But it's all the same, and after a while I find myself drifting off.
I crash for a while in the cabin, wake up and shoot some photos, then the three of us meet up again for beers. Over beers, we swap wild stories about driving through Peru, Brazil, and the Yukon. Just brilliant fun, of course. Spectacular.
We debate about what day it is. I vote for Saturday. Jennifer says Sunday. Doug doesn't know and doesn't care. Beautiful. The world drifts slowly through our beer glasses.
After a few beers, we go to dinner. The scenery scrolling by is something out of a dream. Misty snow covered jagged mountains jutting up from the Pacific. The captain somehow dances the ship between the islands and shoals. Sandbars and reefs. Past countless Canadian aircraft carriers. Whales. Fish. Other boats. Sea planes. A dream scrolling by our window over dinner.
The New Ferry
We're on the new ferry boat, because the old one sank, slowly, to the bottom of the inland passage. This unfortunate event happened while the pilot was banging the co-pilot like a screen door in a hurricane on the bridge. Apparently, he forgot he was supposed to be sailing the ship and she had her hands full at the time also, it seems. So, the ship struck a reef and sunk, quite slowly to the bottom of the inland passage.
The crew went around banging on all of the doors for everyone to wake up, as it was check out time, essentially. But one couple never came out of the room and their bodies were never recovered.
So, now we have a new ferry. It was built in Germany and has been sailing for about 3 years.
We watch a film in a room on the 4th floor. They're showing us all about Hyder, Alaska. As the information specialist for the cruise speaks, behind him a silent movie rolls showing bears goring salmon in a river. But this is not what you see on animal planet. These bears are tearing the sh1t out of the salmon. Skinning them alive. Tossing them in the air and wearing them like hats on their heads. Squeezing them until their guts explode sending entrails and eyeballs in forty different directions. As it turns out, this was all filmed at Fish Creek in Hyder, Alaska.
Now, one of the reasons I wanted to come to Alaska was to see the bears eating the salmon. So, now that I've sort of cobbled together a journey to Hyder, Alaska, it just so happens, that there is a place 4 miles from Hyder in Alaska called Fish Creek, where the bear are going crazy on the salmon as we speak. So, by chance, I've stumbled onto a plan that will take me into Alaska, solving the fairly complicated problem of driving a dirt bike to Alaska. Plus, I'll get a photo op at the state border to prove I made it. Plus, I'll be able to do a "shot" in a bar there and become "Hyderized". Plus, I'll be able to drive 4 miles and watch the bears feasting on salmon up close and personal. Finally, a 22 kilometer drive to the top of a ridge will allow me to gaze on the wonderous Salmon glacier, a sight so stunning that no camera on earth can capture it's beauty, reportedly.
After a 503 km ferry ride today, and another 500km on the road tomorrow, I should be in Hyder, Alaska.
So, not bad for a silly little trip on a dirt bike up the coast. I have a room reserved for tonight in Prince Rupert. I have a room reserved for tomorrow night in Stewart, B.C. I have a room reserved for the next night in Smithers, B.C.
Now, that the goal of my silly little adventure is finally within reach, I have to think about shutting this thing down and getting back to civilization. And, oddly, as I look around, sailing up the inner passage, it slowly dawns on me that I'm a long, long way from home.
Posted by Rob Kiser on August 15, 2011 at 12:35 AM
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Wow! That is so cool! And where is your hair? BTW I found a pic of Jen and Hannah when they were about 4 and 5. Their pics in FL seem to have changed a bit:)
Posted by: Molly on August 15, 2011 at 5:54 PM
What happened? Since when did you start censoring your comments?
Posted by: Molly on August 15, 2011 at 5:56 PM
I've read about that "shot" in Hyder and it is supposed to be something....Let us know your impression. I believe it takes a "real man" to down it, so it should be a piece of cake (Exxon-Valdeze cake.)
Posted by: sl on August 15, 2011 at 8:36 PM