North By Northwest: A Solo Motorcycle Adventure from Georgia to Alaska (Day 19)

August 23, 2019

Day 19  7/16/19

Most people would already consider me a morning person, but on this trip to the Great White North, I found it even easier to get going early. There’s something about looking out the window at 5am, seeing the sun shining (or trying to break through the clouds), and feeling a boost to get moving. That was the case this morning even with the low clouds as I loaded up the bike.

I made the quick ride to the ferry terminal, checked in, and parked in my assigned lane. I saw two fellow adventure riders who were on stand-by and hoping to get on this ferry.

The ferry can usually accommodate a few extra motorcycles, and these two got the thumbs up to board when their lane was called. I’ve had some experience riding onto ferries, and it’s always a little tricky with the steel ramp and slippery surfaces. After a minor wobble negotiating some wood planks at the start of the ramp, I didn’t have any issues getting on and parked.

A crewmember kindly helped me tie down the bike. He got excited when he saw my Georgia license plate with Glynn County, because that’s his hometown, and he still has family and property there. I asked how he found his way to Alaska, and he said he came out to help a friend fix their car and never left.

The ferry departed on time at 7am, and the captain gave us the good news that we’d be skipping the scheduled stop at Tatitlek because no one needed to get off. I assumed they had a way of knowing that no one needed to get picked up from there either. With a direct route to Whittier, we’d arrive about two hours early. I went out on deck to get some photos, though it was a bit brisk and windy.

I walked around the ferry and made several trips outside for the scenery, which was pretty spectacular once the clouds lifted.

I'm told this is the unofficial Alaskan State Bird, hence the reason for an unexpected item in the vending machine.

This guy was trying to get photos of orcas with his Nikon 800mm zoom lens, which costs as much as some nice motorcycles.

I was also hoping to see whales and bald eagles but had to settle for what looked like sea lions in the distance. Some glaciers and small icebergs kept things interesting shortly before we pulled into Whittier.

Riding off the ferry can be as tricky as riding on for the same slippery reasons, buy my new friend from Glynn County offered some advice on which side of the ramp would be best. Fortunately, I didn’t have any trouble, even though it was drizzling.

A few words about Whittier: It’s a strange little town with a population just over 200. Most of those residents live in the Begich Towers Condominium, a high-rise apartment building constructed in 1957. Whittier is noteworthy for playing a key role in World War II with its deep-water, year-round port used for Allied supplies and troops transiting into Alaska. There were two historical points of interest that I really looked forward to seeing in Whittier, one of which I rode to straight away from the ferry terminal, and the other I’d see in the morning.

You can’t help but notice the Buckner Building when you’re in Whittier. This enormous concrete structure was a “city in a building” designed to house approximately 1,000 US Army Soldiers during the Cold War. It was phased out of use in the 1960s and now sits abandoned and decaying. There’s a fence around the entire complex to keep out curiosity seekers, which is a new addition since the Google Maps street views from 2011.

The rain had stopped, and the winds were momentarily cooperative, so I got my drone airborne for some photos and video.

After I returned home from this Alaska, I found out that the TV show “Mysteries of the Abandoned” had recently done segments on the Buckner Building and the Pyramid of North Dakota (see Day 8). I wonder if they’re looking for a motorcycle-based correspondent.

I retrieved my drone and headed down the street to my overnight lodging. There’s really not much to do in Whittier, and the main reason I’d booked a room here was the scheduled late-afternoon arrival time for the ferry. So, after backing up my media and charging gadgets, I went for a jog that seemed uphill with a headwind the whole way.

Daily portrait challenge: The Mustache gets it done.

Tomorrow would be the unofficial end of this long riding adventure, with a trip down to Seward and maybe Homer before heading to Anchorage. As I settled into my room for the night, I was concerned that I might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, based on my close proximity to the railroad tracks and rail yard about 300 feet away. I’m sure they don’t operate those noisy trains at night. That wouldn’t be good for tourism, right?

Total mileage: 3.0

Lodging: The Inn at Whittier, Whittier, Alaska