Well, we saw our first bear! Can you believe it? Yah, ok, though, it was from a bus in Denali Natl Park and you could bearly (get it?) see it with your eyes. And then, later, we did see another bear on the side of the road, and then, we were warned of one while we were fixing. . . .I get ahead of myself!
We are now in Sitka, AK on the Inside Passage. Pastor Dave Reilly of the Assemblies of God Church here has let us use his account and write. Sitka is kind of a neat place - an island community of about 8,000 people in the middle of seemingly hundreds of other islands. It has high, snow-covered mountains and on the other side a rain-foresty feel (they get tons of rain here). However, we missed the rain and have been basking in the beautiful sunshine for the last couple of days - finally! We were exploring around the town, went down to the docks and started playing with this wonderfully friendly black lab who sat perched on one fishing boat. Who should come out but the fisherman we had met in the morning at church - cool - so we started talking more and learned a lot about how to troll for salmon, get long johns caught in boat motors and clean out bilges. yummmmm! Anyway, God is good and has been doing all kinds of stuff like that.
What kind of stuff? Well, since we left you last, we rode to Denali Natl Park and though it was rainy and foggy, it was magnificent - totally open and glacier-carved valleys were surrounded by tall forbidding peaks. In addition to our first bear, we saw caribou and Dall sheep but that was ho-hum because we had already seen them, jaded travellers that we were! ha! In Anchorage, we were able to stay with a family - Bob and Liz Butera - that totally welcomed us. Their baby, Paul, was pretty cute and droooly - you know how babies are! We were able to drive down to the Kenai Penin. and do the whirlwind tour of Seward. Too quick but that's the way it goes!
Rain at this point was a definite factor: Rain, rain, rain, rain. . . until we were quite sick of it. We rode from Anchorage in the rain to take the train and ferry over to Valdez and along the way, after sweating up like crazy in our breathable (ha) Gore-Tex, we stopped and had awesome cinnamon rolls. You never know how important things like that are until you are cold, sweaty and hungry! So, the incredibly beautiful Prince William Sound? The wildlife and towereing peaks? NOTHING of it did we see because of, you guessed it, RAIN! Oh well.
We climbed out of Valdez and rode north towards Tok. Along the way, our very expnsive, bomb-proof, touring tires began to break up. The sidewall blew out of one and we replaced it with our spare. Then we had to buy a new one . . . hmmmmmmm not too many high-quality bike stores around here! Do we really need a spare? Turns out, a little hardware nothing store had a $12.95 tire which we actually needed later. Thank God!
Along the way we stopped for a break at this lodge. As we sat outside eating our granola bars (I hate granola bars), a Chevy Chevette pulled up to the pumps - sorriest looking car on the face of the planet! One mag wheel , one of thse mini-spare things and 2 regular tires in front, the back bumper nearly pulled off, the front bumper tipped forward, mismatched doors and an engine that sputtered. A drunk local got out to buy 50 cents worth of gas and told us to go back to Germany. His friend said not to listen to him, "He's so full of shit, his eyes are brown!" They went inside to buy a six-pack of beer and thankfully headed off in the other direction. Camping that night, we met a couple and drooled over their meal - 3 hunks of beef BBQed on the grill, potato chips and soda. Lordy, how we drooled as we made our yummy meal of mac and cheese! This same couple we met several days later and they made us sandwiches, gave us soda and blessed us with 2 fresh frozen salmon steaks that we cooked later that night. Yessss!
We rode on to Haines Junction and after there, rode 2 days to Haines. The first day was one of those wonderful biking days - headwind screaming up to 30 mph, rain, freezing (I'm sure of it) temperatures and flat tires. We had to use that cheap spare we talked about earlier. Oh ya, and we were climbing all day - alllllll day! Anyway, we decided to push on because we had heard a rumor of a hut that we could stay in 90 iles into the ride. So, we rode on and on and on and made it to a pass - windy, lonely and extremely eerie, clouds scudding in front of glacier-topped mountains. We rode in silence for the mood of the place pressed down on us. We rode, counting down the miles to kilometer 108 - where was that hut? At km 108, there was a green box on the side of the road - Kent thought it was a storage shed and that no one could possibly stand UP in there, let alone sleep. But we looked at it anyway and when I opened the door to bunk beds, a wood stove and a table, we rejoiced at our good fortune! Thank God. So we enjoyed our mac and cheese (did I say that we are not YET sick of mac and cheese?) in the warmth of the little green box and slept warmly while the elements raged around us.
So, the next day we headed for Haines, looking forward to a week of rest while we sailed the Inside Passage on the faithful Alaskan Ferry system that was being blockaded by the Canadian fishermen. At least we were able to catch the ferry and made it to Sitka.
Our time is up! More later - all our love and good wishes!
27 July, 1997 Love, Ann and Kent from Sitka, AK