Day 7 – Valdez, AK to Homer, AK
Distance: 186 miles (300 kilometers)
Time on Bike: 1:45pm to 6:00pm
Temps: High (20 Soldotna / 10 celcius – Valdez,AK)
The hotel I picked yesterday turned out to be quite nice. Kind of a mid-level hotel which was nicely furnished. One draw back – paper thin walls. The couple next door began watching TV at about 11pm and kept going until 4am! Ugh!
This was a bit of a problem since I had to be at the ferry terminal at 6am. Finally, at 4am I had enough and pounded on the wall and shared a few choice words (expletives) with them. The noise miraculously stopped.
I was up and set for the ferry right on time. When I arrived a woman with a Palinesque voice said that they didn’t have tie downs with bikes. “Not sure if we have anything at all, you’ll have to get your own.” Um, yeah, at 6am on a Saturday morning? Well in Valdez the Safeway opens at 4:30am – yes, you read that right. Got a bit of rope and I was all set.
Quick check-in at the terminal and was loaded on the ferry. I ran into Jason (Seattle dude) again and spent the day with him and a guy from Alaska on the ferry.
What a stunning ride. Normally I get violently ill when I go on boats, especially on the ocean. When I saw the size of the ferry – very small for the trip – I was a bit anxious. Well, as it turns out it was a piece of cake. The inside straight that we took was perfectly calm for all but a few minutes of the five hour journey.
One of the ‘sights’ was the location of the Exxon Valdez spill. The fellow I sat with, Ken, works in oil and knew a lot about the accident. The captain of the ship pointed out the location and Ken talked about how things went wrong and the damage that is still there all around the Valdez area – permanently. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like to have 11 million barrels of oil (42 gallons in each) spilled all over that area. Apparently things are much safer now and ships are guided out by coastguard and don’t navigate on there own any more. He said that 2 million barrels of oil are still shipped from that port every day. Unreal.
Lots of marine life on the journey – bald eagles, sea otters, stellar seals and humpback whales. The coolest thing was watching a pod of humpback whales feed and breech the surface. One of the whales came about ten feet out of the water and slapped his fin on the surface. You could hear the sound from hundreds of feet away. That alone was worth the price of the ferry trip.
When we arrived at Whittier we parted ways and headed off for the tunnel out of the town. It’s very strange to ride through the almost five kilometre tunnel to get out of the mountain range. What’s even more odd is that you have to ride your motorcycle between the rails for five kilometers in a darkish cave.
As soon as you reach the end of the tunnel there are unbelievable mountains and glaciers right around the corner. I was lucky enough to zip over to the Portage Glacier and snap a few pics. Soon after I got back on the highway and within five minutes the weather went from sunny to socked in damp, drizzle then hellacious rain. It rained buckets for more than an hour.
The ride to Homer was a piece of cake and not quite as scenic until the end of the ride. This was the busiest of any highway so far with weekend traffic – kinda like long weekend traffic at home. Saw a few moose on the roadside again. It was bloody windy on the coastal side of the highway. The wind was a gale for the last 130 kilometers of the day. The views across Cook Inlet are astounding and across the sound in the other direction are several active volcanoes.
I’ve now ridden motorcycles to the most westerly point in North America (Anchor Point, AK), the southern most in California, and ridden the entire highway 1 from top to bottom of North America – a lot of kilometers over the last 6 years.
I checked out the ‘spit’ area of Homer for hotels or camping. It’s an interesting outdoor market with restaurants, bars and specialty/gift shops and was the most touristy thing I’ve seen thus far. Also, it was way too windy for camping in my opinion and probably quite cool on the waterfront. Found a room at the Best Western (should be Most Expensive Western) but I figured I’d treat myself to a nice room tonight to rest up for the push East again and towards the North.
I’ll be riding to the Trapper Creek area and close to Denali. If it’s nice I’ll camp out, if not, I’ll find indoor accommodations. I may not have internet access for the next few days so my next update will be from Dawson City, YT if the weather is nice or Tok, AK again if the weather is not.