Doug Grosjean's
Alaska Trip Report

June 1999


Day 6; Thursday, June 3rd, 1999
Start: Edmonds, Washington
End: Edmonds, Washington
Few miles; rest and regroup

A day of rest - relatively. Except for running errands, and preparing for the next leg of the trip.

I sleep in. Once up, I enjoy a long bath, and then run errands.

The weather is beautiful, not a cloud in the sky here in Seattle, in the Pacific Northwet. And just the right temp. A ĎStich over jeans and T-shirt is perfect. This runs against all my stereotypes of the Pacific Northwest, but what's new this trip?

I have breakfast in a nice restaurant, and then contact the Alaska ferry.

Some details on my fixation with the ferry:

Had been researching the Alaska trip for the past 2 years, watching historical specials on PBS, reading guidebooks, etc. In the Yukon gold rush in 1898, the people in the gold-rush traveled up the Inside Passage along the coast, same as the ferry route. Overland routes either didn't exist (probable) or weren't used since everyone was in a hurry. The gold rush people went by sea to Skagway - since it's the "historically correct" way to travel to Alaska, that's how we'll go as well, if possible.

And I really, really just like boats and water.

I call the toll-free number for the Alaska ferry. I'd tried to make reservations before leaving Ohio, and had been told they were full, and that to get on standby we'd have to show up days ahead of time to get our names on a list. But, according to all the good folks at the LDR and IBMWR Lists, almost nobody on a motorcycle gets turned away, they can squeeze 'em in somewhere... provided they're willing to camp on the back deck instead of requiring a stateroom. I wait on hold just a little bit, and.... WE'RE IN!!

For some reason, the woman taking the reservation tells me we can't go all the way to Skagway, but we can go to Haines. That's fine by me; both have road access into British Columbia and the Yukon. We have a spot on the ferry!

Wide awake now, I send out more e-mail at Kinkos, and pick up a ground cloth for Joe at the sporting goods store.

Then I try to get an oil change and "borrow" a set of carb stix to synch the throttle bodies on my bike.

I check at several bike shops, new and used, and they're all either very busy or they only work on the brands that they sell. I offer to tell the mechanic how the job is done, and to pay him by the hour, to no avail. I explain that I've done both jobs dozens of times, takes about 15 minutes, and it's not hard at all. I have the oil filter, and the oil filter wrench, in my luggage. No, no, and no again. What if I buy the carb stix from you temporarily, for $100, and return them in 10 minutes for an $80 refund? No. OK, I give up. I have better things to do, and Iím not going to bang my head against the wall when it's pointless.

While in one of the shops, I see an adapter fitting for CO2 cartridges that would allow me to use either BMW cartridges for flat repair, or the more common BB gun cartridges. Looks like a good thing, I pick it up, along with some mini tire irons. Never know, might come in handy...

I ride around a bit, looking for a laundry, and I see a Jiffy-Lube with a Harley parked out front. Hmm. I stop, and ask if they could change the oil and filter on my BMW motorcycle, I'm leaving on the ferry to Alaska tomorrow and I'd sure like to get it done and the bike shops won't give me the time of day - it's a car-type cartridge filter, should be no problem for you.... They say that they don't have the filter or the wrench. I reply that I do. Hmm. Then - they'll do it !!

I pull the bike around to the back, get out my tools, and the manager is there. I ask: "Mind if I loosen and then tighten the drain plug for your mechanic? Aluminum cases, it just makes me nervous having a car guy do that part.... I do this all the time back home!" Sure. To make a long story short, I end up changing the oil and filter with 5 mechanics looking on (it's a slow day) and the manager, who happens to own the Harley, telling them "that dude's riding to Alaska on that bike..."

On the bill, they charge me just for the oil. I tip the manager $5, and explain that the bike shops wouldn't give me the time of day, and I really, really do appreciate it. He replies that he's taken some long trips on his Harley, never to Alaska, and that "Anyone with the balls to ride to Alaska, I'm glad to help 'em out..." At that point, I'm just grinning inside and out.

Then laundry. Pretty much the same as doing it at home. I look at a "Car and Truck" trader while I wait, it's always fun to see for sale the cars that rotted out in the salt long ago back home in Ohio.

I head back to the motel, and try to locate bar-backs for Joe's GS locally. No luck, so I leave a voice-mail message for Joe, telling him we're set for the ferry and that I'll see him Friday at noon at the dock.

By then, it's after 5:00 PM, and so I call my ex-girlfriend's dad. I have a lot of explaining to do, as to who I am and why I would want to talk to Robin - I've never met the man. Eventually, he and I are talking as if old friends. He fills me in on his daughterís life, her mother, her brother, her sister that I've never met, etc., and gives me her home and work phone numbers. When I tell him why I'm in Seattle, he invites me to stop by if I'm passing through on my way back from Alaska..... and Iím very sorry that I won't be this way again for probably a long while.

Robin is happily married, and I'm glad! It gives me a feeling of closure, as she was a wonderful person whose life could have went very well or very badly after our split. Great to find that life went well for her, and I get off the phone with a very, very, good feeling inside.

Then I pack as much as I can, and hang out at the motel. I think that the waiting is the worst, the being in limbo, knowing there's big adventure just around the corner, and nothing more you can do to prepare for it....

Small kids come out from some of the other rooms and look at the bike. I explain the buttons, they ask about (of all the things to ask about!) the oil level window.... I start the engine and stop it, and it cracks them up that they are looking through a window into the engine - I just never thought about it that way. I guess that is pretty cool! I watch the oil gurgle around in the window with them, smiling.

One of the moms comes over to talk with me. She seems very concerned about her kids talking with this strange man....

So she and I talk. Mom is going to go to a school for corrections officers, the whole family is packed into a station wagon, and moving to their new home near this school. Images of "The Grapes of Wrath" run through my mind. How scary it must be, packing it all up and heading to new places to live, and having children depending on the outcome. That's not like my situation at all, I know that when I need to go home, I have a home to go to. I'm very thankful. Their situation sends a shiver through me.....

After talking with the mom for a while, I go into my room and try to sleep. Itís a struggle, but eventually I drift off.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio