Ketchikan – Week 1

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The view from The Inn at Creek Street

Tomorrow morning it will have been one week since I drove off the ferry. Because it was New Year’s Day, not many places were open.  I called the Inn at Creek Street, where I reserved a room for two nights (later extended to three), and Jose asked me to meet him at New York Cafe.  The Cafe was closed, but Rafi and Elizabeth very graciously gave me a cup of coffee and later a serving of good-luck soup called hoppin’ john, made from black-eyed peas, pork and spinach (and other things, I’m sure!).  It was a lovely welcome to Ketchikan!  Jose showed me to my room, which looked out over the harbor and Gravina Island beyond.  I stopped by Tatsuda’s IGA for provisions for the next few days, and relaxed.

Monday was observed as a holiday by most businesses in Ketchikan, but Marna from Coastal Realty Group met me and we visited the apartment.  We stood on the balcony and chatted for some time while enjoying the beautiful view.  On Tuesday the city was a much livelier place.  I arranged with the local utility company for electric, internet, phone and TV for the new place, visited Parnassus Bookstore and talked with owner Charlotte–who used to work at the library–and had a nice dinner at the Good Fortune Restaurant on Creek Street.  My fortune read, “Now is a good time to explore.” Can’t argue with that!

Apartment view before the snow ...

Apartment view before the snow …

On Wednesday I moved into my new place.  It is a beautiful apartment south of town with views of the Tongass Narrows, Pennock Island, Gravina Island, and (on a clear day) Prince of Wales beyond. The inside of the place is still a little cavernous–my furnishings are not due to come in for a few weeks–but I inflated my mattress, purchased a folding chair and small table from Walmart (I’ve been frequenting it a lot this past week), and unpacked my car with the essentials.

Thursday started well with a meeting of the First City Rotary Club at the Cape Fox Lodge. The members couldn’t have been more welcoming–I miss my friends at the Middletown Rotary Club but I was very heartened to receive such a warm welcome at First City. Michelle, a member who is also District Governor, talked with me about becoming a member and I’m pursuing it.  At 9am I attended my first library staff meeting, and I am excited about working with such a great group of people who are so well thought of in the community. After the meeting I went to the DMV and got my car registered as well as taking the test to get my Alaska driver’s license. (I passed!) After lunch I attended a planning meeting for the Alaska Library Association Conference, which takes place in Ketchikan at the end of February. My last stop on Thursday was to have been the City Council meeting, but embarrassingly, I couldn’t figure out how to get to the Council Chambers. (It may have been in part due to tiredness on my part.)  By the next meeting I will have figured it out!

... and after.

… and after.

Friday I got hooked up to internet and TV–the KPU person who did it was very efficient and helpful.  I was going to go out later that day, but it had snowed all morning, and I noticed that cars going up the hill in front of the building were having a lot of trouble.  I decided to stay at home and relax instead.

Today I put my new Alaska license plates on the car (yea!), got groceries for the week, and took care of some logistical stuff.  I start work on Monday!

Southern Alaska--Ketchikan is at the southern end of the Panhandle.

Southern Alaska–Ketchikan is at the southern end of the Panhandle.

Detail of southern end of Revillagigedo Island.

Detail of southern end of Revillagigedo Island.

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To Ketchikan …

Friday was a day of waiting.

The hotel I stayed at in Bellingham was in a commercial area, and there was a Fred Meyer next to it.  Fred Meyer is one of those all-in-one stores that has groceries, clothing, furniture and everything in between. I went to get Sea Bands, recommended for seasickness, and to pick up a few toiletries—I left a small bag behind at some point during my trip. I quickly found what I needed, and then checked out the clothing section. It is funny how clothing styles differ from one part of the country to another! Lots of plaid shirts (men’s and women’s), big fleecy outerwear, and leggings.

J. J. Donovan statue in Bellingham

J. J. Donovan statue in Bellingham

Then I went into the Historic Fairhaven section of Bellingham, where the ferry terminal is located.  I checked in at the terminal, and then headed straight for the bookstore, Village Books, which has a large selection of new and used books.  After a leisurely browse, I picked up a few books on Alaska and one on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.  Then I went to Fat Pie for a salad and a slice of pizza.

When I got back to the terminal I found that due to weather, the ship was not leaving port until 8pm and vehicles would not start boarding until 5pm. They suggested I check the car in and drive to my assigned lane, then leave it there.  The historic district is in easy walking distance from the ferry, so I did as they suggested and walked around town for a few hours.  Then I returned to the terminal and read for a few more hours, and then got into my car.  I read for a little while, but gave that up to watch the activities at the dock.

The Kennicott

The Kennicott

Vehicle boarding did start a little before 5pm, and our lane was one of the last ones to board, since Ketchikan is the first stop. It was about 6:30pm when I drove on to the ferry and was expertly directed to the appropriate space.  My room was surprisingly spacious and very comfortable.

I put on my Sea-Bands to fend off seasickness (thank you for suggesting them, Carolyn!), feeling a little self-conscious about it. Then I had dinner at the café and went to bed early, about 8:30pm. I slept pretty well, all things considered.  I was glad I bought the books in Bellingham—there was no TV or Internet access and the view outside was mostly (but not entirely) fog and rain.  The staff could not have been nicer or more helpful.

This morning at 9am we arrived in Ketchikan, and very shortly afterwards I drove off the ferry.  I’m finally here!

January 1, 2017

January 1, 2017

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Bellingham, Washington

After a very smooth, 3-hour drive from Ellensburg over the Snoqualmie Pass, I reached Bellingham, Washington early yesterday afternoon. I checked the Washington State road conditions beforehand, and learned that the elk are migrating and consequently drivers should watch out for them on the road over the pass. I looked and looked, but no elk! Probably a good thing, but it was disappointing …

A light rain was falling in Bellingham, and before I went to the hotel I found a car wash (thanks to Yelp).  It took a bit of doing to wash away two week’s of dirt, grit and salt, but I can now drive off the ferry in Ketchikan with a clean little car.

Today I get in line to drive onto the ferry at 1pm, and we leave port at 4pm. We’ll get to Ketchikan on Sunday morning, and I’ll post my next entry sometime that day.

Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone!

December 29

December 29

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Down from the mountains …

Waiting for the wreck to clear ...

Waiting for the wreck to clear …

Yesterday I started from Caldwell, Idaho about 8:45am, and in a half hour I was in Oregon.  The temperature was in the teens and as I climbed into the mountains on I-84 it dropped as low as 7 degrees. A sign announced we were entering a snow zone, with chains or traction tires recommended. I had neither, but it was a sunny day (with some areas of fog), so what, me worry?  The mountains were white, as were the roadsides, and gradually the roads had spots of white as well. The trucks around me (and there were a lot of them), slowed to a crawl, with cars dashing around them.  This was not wise, as along the way a half dozen cars had slid off the roadside onto the median. At one point traffic stopped for a truck/car accident. No one was hurt, but immediately after the wreck trucks started pulling over to put chains on their tires.  I didn’t slide, but at times slowed to as little as 20 mph. It was a long morning!

At the bottom of the mountains

At the bottom of the mountains

Around Pendleton, Oregon, I-84 comes down out of the mountains in a spectacular fashion.  I think my ears popped, the descent was so dramatic! The temperature rose 30 degrees to the low 40s, and the valley stretched out ahead, with minimal snow. I breathed a sigh of relief and stopped at a DQ for lunch.  Back on the road, past Pendleton, there were more mountains, but they were covered in evergreens–it felt as though I’d finally reached the Northwest. I passed over the Columbia River into Washington, and made my way though desert terrain, but with regular settlements, to Ellensburg.

Ellensburg, Washington

Ellensburg, Washington

Ellensburg is a lovely town, with great restaurants and attractions. The desk clerk at the Best Western was very helpful, giving me a map of the town and recommendations of several places to eat. I chose the Palace Cafe on Main Street. The place was decorated in a transportation theme, with railroads predominant.  The staff were friendly and service was outstanding. And the food was great! I’m only sorry I have to leave here today–it is a place to spend some time, if you have it.

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WY – UT – ID

Outside Ogden, Utah

Outside Ogden, Utah

Today was a short and uneventful day.  I left Evanston, Wyoming about 8:30am–the temperature was 5 degrees and quickly dropped to 4 below as I entered Utah. Driving through the mountains was awe-inspiring–I kept wishing I could stop the car and take pictures!  I was able to stop at a scenic overlook to get this picture, which unfortunately doesn’t convey the scale and majesty of the scene.

I spent most of the day in Idaho, where the forecast was for snow showers.  The clouds would gather and I’d think, ‘OK, this is it. Snow ahead.’ But the snow never materialized. The temperature gradually rose to 28 degrees, with alternating sun and clouds. Approaching Boise on I-84, a sign announced that the road was closed at Ontario, Oregon, about 40 miles ahead, due to weather conditions.  So I stopped for the night at Caldwell, Idaho, just north of Boise. I have about 575 miles to Bellingham, and two days to get there.

December 27

December 27

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Continental Divide

Kimball, NE - The Diner

Kimball, NE – The Diner

I left Kimball, Nebraska early yesterday morning, stopping at the Diner for an excellent breakfast, overhearing truck drivers talk about how crazy the roads were the day before (as well I knew!).

Yesterday was a beautiful day–sunny and clear.  Until I got to Cheyenne, WY about 8:30am.  Periodically on I-80 there are signs that say: ‘I-80 – CLOSED if lights are flashing.’  As I reached Cheyenne, I passed a sign and the lights were flashing. Tuning into 5.30 AM, the Wyoming road conditions station, I heard, “I-80 West is closed due to winter conditions. Will re-open after noon on December 26.”  Sigh.

I spent a few hours at the Wyoming Welcome Center in Cheyenne.  They have a wonderful exhibit on the history and geology of Wyoming–if you are ever in the area you should check it out!  The woman at the desk said that all the roads leading into the mountains were closed, and it was best to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.  I did my best, and topped off the morning with an early lunch at Luxury Diner.  At noon I-80 opened, so I plugged my destination into my phone and started off.  I wondered why I was being directed to Rt. 210 instead of directly onto I-80, but then I remembered the line of trucks.Rte. 210 is a scenic road through Medicine Bow Forest (with the Curt Gowdy State Park on the way–who knew?), and there was very little traffic.

At Laramie I got onto I-80, which was still lined with trucks moving slowly. The wind was significant, but my car is low to the ground and loaded down with household stuff.  No snow was falling, but the blowing snow caused brief whiteout conditions at times, and the road was snow-covered most of the way. The landscape was stark and barren–it was an eerie sight!

Rock Springs rest stop

Rock Springs rest stop

It was not until Rock Springs, Wyoming that we started passing into populated areas again.  Around 6:30pm Mountain time I reached Evanston, Wyoming, and stopped for the evening.

December 26

December 26

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A hard 250 miles …

Ogallala, NE rest stop

Ogallala, NE rest stop

… and I’m still in Nebraska–Kimball, to be exact. I left Kearney about 9am–it was foggy but not too bad, and I decided there wouldn’t be a better time to get on I-80. The first hour was foggy and then rainy, but definitely driveable. Then I saw a sliver of sun ahead, and it continued to get brighter and brighter. By the time I got to the Ogallala, NE rest stop, the sun was starting to shine–it was going to be a good day after all!

It was, for another hour or so.  The landscape went from large cattle farms, to rolling fields of yellow grass with small tumbleweeds blowing onto the highway. The temperature rose to 46 degrees.  But after I-76 broke off to the south, the clouds ahead grew dark and low, like a heavy blanket–it felt a little claustrophobic to be driving into them. The rain started again, and the temperature fell quickly to 32 degrees, when the rain turned to sleet and the wind picked up sharply. The temperature continued to fall, and so did my speed!  I had hoped to get to Cheyenne, Wyoming today. I decided to stop when the trucks I was driving alongside started pulling over, just before the second Kimball exit.  I putted my way off the interstate and into Kimball, and thankfully (oh, so thankfully) found a hotel. I’m ensconced there now, with snack foods (thank you, Jolee, Jayne, Tom and Kathy!) and an Internet connection.

Tomorrow is another day …

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

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