12/15-day Motorcycling Adventure by Bonbon Hu (65)

Friday, August 7, 2009 (Day 12)

I had the most sound asleep last night. I thought the light didn’t bother me when I slept, but last night I was alone in the inside cabin with almost total darkness. Or it could be because that I only had clam chowder and crackers for dinner last night, because the food was so bad.

Sarah Palin

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, neighbour of Petersburg

Wrengall Channel

I didn’t even know that the ship docked at Juneau last midnight. I missed my chance to say hello to Sarah Palin.  Oh, Sarah had left the building!! This morning we docked at Petersburg, Alaska. Palin might have thought that she could see Petersburg from Juneau and that it was Russia! Next stop: Wrangell, Alaska. The ferry went through the very “inside” channel, called the Wrangell Channel, nicknamed Pinball Channel. For 26 miles of very narrow channels with numerous buoys marking the way, the ferry had to negotiate in slow speed left and right multiple times. The cruise ships just cannot go through this, and they have to go to the more outside of Inside Channels, which means 200 more miles of sailing. The ferry docks near the downtown of these towns, e.g. in Ketchikan, not the same places as the cruise ships dock. Therefore, more pubs and less souvenir stores.


There were about 30 – 35 motorcycles on this ferry. There was a 75+ yrs old riders who told me that he was totally inspired to have met another rider on the ship that is 80+ years old. We also met riders from Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Idaho, Los Angeles, Texas on this ferry.

Trivia:  I have learned that if you have trouble, you stop your bike by the side of the road, and put your helmet on the ground, then other bikers will know that you are in trouble, and will help you.

The funniest story was that I heard from another couple riding the Honda Goldwing 2-up telling us that they were riding on the Top Of The World Highway, which was 150 Km of gravel road from Dawson City to Chicken (Alaska). In the middle of nowhere a woman was by the roadside flagging them down. It turned out that the husband drove away and left the wife by the roadside. It was a jeep towing a camper with a boat on top. The husband drove the jeep in front. The wife stayed in the camper in the back. The husband stopped at the road side, got off the car to take a photo (from the left side), and then took off, without realizing that the wife also got off the camper to take a photo (from the right side). So this woman described the vehicle to the bikers and asked them to chase down the husband to turn him around. About 30 Km down the road, they saw this camper flying towards them with a big cloud of dust. So, they flagged him down. The husband was sweating bullets. They told him where the wife was. He would be in the doghouse for a long long time. Ha Ha.

We had variable weather today, some fog, some sunshine, some drizzle of rain, some overcast, but generally non-windy. We gathered for a group photo at the stern of boat while the sun was shining and hot.

I have been fortunate so far that I have only 3 mosquito bites, and dabbing the “After Bite” on the sites really helped to take the swelling and itchiness down. I have been wearing long sleeve tops and long pants. Even at the gas stations and outhouses along the way, I had the helmet on and face shield down, because I could see the hundreds of insects gathering around me.

On Open Deck

Everybody on the ferry looked so bored. I pity a woman with 4 young kids, staking out a piece of space at the observation lounge and sleeping there for 2 nights. There was another woman with 5 young kids, but it seemed like the 11-12 year old daughter took charge and looked after the younger ones. Some bikers were spending the nights in their sleeping beds in the upper deck with cover but exposed to the outside elements.

I find the tranquillity in these towns in Alaska. But the people seem to be the over-aged hippies of the ’60s. They all claim to be some sort of artists. I think they are eccentrics. The so-called successful merchants are mostly seasonal residents from some other parts of USA, just being here to make a buck in the summer. The real residents are recluses.  These towns have no land routes to other parts of Alaska. It is totally depending on ferries and airplanes. The weather is not that great either in the other 3 seasons. I need to understand the psyche of these residents who choose to live in these towns. Any suggestion or insight?

We are all chomping the bits to get on the saddles again at 5 am tomorrow. We are all well rested.

1 thought on “12/15-day Motorcycling Adventure by Bonbon Hu (65)

  1. I enjoyed your blog on Petersburg – but some comments are in order. These are not criticisms, but a recognition that you simply are not familiar with the realities there. First, the route between Petersburg and Wrangell is called ‘Wrangell Narrows’ – and I’ve never heard it called ‘Wrangell Channel’ or ‘Pinball Channel’. I am a professional mariner and have traversed the ‘Narrows many, many times. I lived in Petersburg during the 90’s and loved it there. It was beyond argument and by far the best and most enjoyable place I’ve ever lived in my 60-some odd years. (If my wife’s health didn’t preclude it, we’d still be there.) Yes, there are a few ‘old hippie’ types there – as there are in almost any remote part of Alaska. But, most there are regular, mainstream American people who choose to live in remote places like Petersburg for lot’s of different reasons – and many because it’s just such a great place to live. There’s no reason to put on airs or pretend to be any different than your neighbors there since everyone knows everyone else. Even a new automobile there seems very out of place – there are only about 40 miles of pavement on the entire island (along with 100 miles or so of dirt and gravel’timber roads’), so why drive a nice car? The only time one gets ‘dressed up’ (in anything other than non-dressy, or’hippie’ type clothing)is to go ‘outside’ (to Juneau, or outside Alaska). Everyday wear there for almost everyone without exception (even the women – it’s rare to see a skirt or dress there except occasionally at a party or more formal event) is rugged, comfortable clothing (Carhartts or jeans and flannels) suitable for the weather, geography and conditions there – all very ‘rugged’.

    As you said, the only connections to ‘outside’ are by boat or by air – and that makes for a unique isolation most people in America are not familiar with at all. This is not a criticism, but, I think if you traveled to any other similarly rugged and isolated place in the country you might be forgiven for thinking they were mostly ‘eccentric’ and ‘old hippie’ types too.

    Further, most of the merchants in Petersburg are permanent, year-round residents, operating year-round In fact, I can’t think of a single seasonal one there unless you count the operators of some of the nearby remote wilderness lodges.

    Thanks for your blog!

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