Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Rode a Harley in Ketchican, Alaska...

...and, (not to brag, just stating the facts) managed to stay upright the entire time!
We had seen an article for motorcycle tours in Ketchican way back in spring, right after we had booked our cruise. Oh, it sounded so enticing. So, we called up Panhandle Motorcycle Tours and booked two Harleys for September 17th. I talked to Mary on the phone, telling her how short I am, and she told me that they had just gotten in a Super Low that would be perfect for me.
I tried not to think about it too much in the days prior, just enjoyed our cruise. But, the day we decked in Ketchican, the butterflies began. We walked down the street a few short blocks to scope out the place, and then walked around the town a bit. A quick bite for lunch and back to the shop.
This is where fear really kicked in. Our tour guide, Shannon, showed me the bike: a lovely, shiny, new, blue Super Low. It looked and felt so much heavier than my Suzuki. While we waited for the other couple on the tour, I kept getting off and on the bike, rocking it back and forth to feel the weight. And, I grew more and more afraid. I did not want to make a fool of myself. Didn't want to drop the bike and scratch up the beautifully polished chrome.
Then, in came the other couple, right off their ship. They were wearing leathers (hers had fringe) and he had those little goggles Harley riders like to wear. In other words, they knew what they were doing. And, I felt even worse.
I came very close to backing out and just riding pillion with Doug. But, we had already paid our money. So, I was going to take my chances... One of my goals in life these days is to not let fear have the better of me; I knew that if I didn't even try, I'd be very disappointed in myself later.
So, we geared up and I faced my very first challenge: getting out on to the street. As you can see in the photo, the shop is right on the street. There was no place to get used to the bike by taking a few turns around the parking lot. No, it was get in gear and BAM! you're instantly on the road and in traffic. (Behind the shop is a cruise ship; this street is literally on the water, as the the back of the shop is over the harbor.)

I managed to get out on the street with only a few wobbles. We made our way through town, rather slowly, as the street was narrow and there were pedestrians from the ships all over. It didn't take too long to get out of town, as Ketchican is not very big, and we were on the open road. I tried valiantly to keep up with Doug and Shannon, who were in front of me, and not be a danger to the couple behind me by splatting myself all over the pavement in front of them.
Our first stop was at this inlet, which leads to a fish hatchery.

We walked out on this little bridge to get a look down at the stream.

It was filled, and I mean filled, with pink salmon. If they were to hold still, you could have walked over the stream on their backs, there were that many and they were that close. But, at a closer look, it was not so idyllic. They were all headed upstream to spawn. And, do you know what happens when salmon spawn? Yep. They die. So, scattered along the banks and the rocks were dead, dying, decaying fish. It stunk.

The birds liked the easy pickins'.

We got on the bikes and headed back the way we had come, stopping at an overlook.

These are the bikes that Doug and I rode, parked across from our lookout point.

Back on the bikes to head through town and out a ways on the other side. Shannon gave us a choice: either through town at rush hour (it was now 5 o'clock) and lots of stop-and-go traffic, or up through the neighborhoods. Did I mention that Ketchican is bascially on a hillside? Do you know that Long Beach is flat? And, if you think a stick shift car is difficult on hills...
So, of course, we took the hilly route... Yikes! But, I got through it.
Once out on the highway, it was wonderful. Our route took us along the coast for a while and then through a forest. Shannon was taking us to a beautiful little stream and waterfall in a state park.

Once again, the stream was full of salmon in their death throes. In the never-to-be-forgotten words of my darling daughter: "Nature is NOT nice."

Back the way we came a bit, until we turned off to this little harbor. Shannon has a boat that he keeps here, and he knew some of the fishermen.

These men had just come in with a very nice catch.

Back on the road, heading to Potlach Park, which is a totem pole studio/museum/gift shop. The parking lot was gravel, like most of our stops, so Shannon once again helped me turn the bike around. A heavy bike on gravel + an inexperienced rider = a dropped bike. So, we avoided that.

And, then back to town. The ride back was gorgeous. The sun was setting, the air was crisp, and the aroma of the sea and the cedar trees was nearly overpowering. We did get stopped for road contruction, and I was getting a little nervous about getting back to the boat on time. (Our tour had started at 3, and it was now nearly 7, and we were sailing at 7:30.)
I didn't even TRY to get the bike into the garage, but once again let Shannon take over. But, I got to the curb, put the kickstand down, turned the bike off, and breathed a huge, happy sign of relief.

Doug and I high-tailed it down the street to the ship, more giddy than is seemly for two middle-aged people. We went to the main dining room for dinner and we both had a glass of wine. To celebrate.


  1. Sounds really nice; thanks for posting for us :-)

  2. I've never ridden a motorcycle...I think I'm afraid of them! But those views in your photos! Now that's my kind of thing!

  3. wow i'd love to ride there too....