Sunday, June 21, 2009

OK, Wasilla. And then what happened?

When we last connected I was getting thrown off of Sarah Palin’s property like I was the paparazzi. Jeez. I was just a guy on a bike shopping for a windshield with a telephoto lens. I was able to avoid a free stay in the Wasilla Correctional Facility and made my way out of town heading south through Anchorage. This great city, which is not the capitol for those of you that are as geographically challenged as I am, was nothing more than a gas stop. After driving through thousands of miles of desolate wilderness I was compelled to keep on going. There was nothing there for me except civilization. On the road too long? Maybe.
Rained out in Alaska…
We all know, or at least we’ve heard, that Alaska is a stunningly beautiful place. This is probably true, but I missed it. I was there for sure, but saw low-lying clouds and torrential downpours instead of the endless mountain ranges, glaciers, moraines, fjords and, well, you get the picture. I was rained out. But before you label me as a wet towel, hold on. Even with a ten day rain system hovering over my head, the wilderness, wildlife and people did not disappoint. The bears were out in force, along with bald eagles and Missouri bikers. This bald eagle, on the Homer Spit, was perched majestically on a post looking for its next meal. I met Joe, the Missouri biker, while waiting for the ferry from Haines to Skagway. He lured the ravens to Stella’s grill with Fritos and got them to feast on the hundreds of bees, butterflies and assorted bugs on her grill. They chowed. As I got to know Joe I found that he was on a journey very similar to mine. Nice guy. When we hit Skagway I invited him to share the fresh salmon I bought from Clyde back in Haines. He agreed, and as I blackened the salmon, Joe stir fried scallions and potatoes. I don’t want to speak for Joe, but it was a meal to remember. Here’s a parting shot of him showing the miles he’s logged so far. Safe travels to you, Joe.
Itinerary Change…
After charging through Wasilla, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Valdez, Haines and Skagway in 3 days of pouring rain, it was time to pray for sun and head east to Alberta. This fell in line with the original plan of heading across Canada to Boston, with some “minor” modifications. After a thorough inspection of Stella’s under carriage and my wallet, I decided to forego the additional 6,000 miles of driving and head south from Calgary through Montana and Wyoming – only after promising my disappointed, but very understanding, Mother that I would fly to Boston in the fall.
So with the rain fading in my rearview mirror I set my sights on Calgary. With my friend arriving on June 22nd I was actually on a schedule for the first time in a month. It felt good. Plus I had to get there before her so I could clean the 8,000 miles of dirt off Stella. After one night in the big city, the plan is to head to Banff and Jasper to see the sights and introduce her to the wilderness lifestyle. Something tells me she’ll do just fine.
The 2,000 mile drive from Valdez, which is where I was when I got the good news that my friend  was booking her ticket, was all about beautifully deserted camping spots, another Arctic Grayling slaughter and, of course, the never ending supply of wildlife photo opps. You would think by now that I’d be saying, “Whatever. It’s just another bear/moose/caribou/mountain goat/buffalo/fox.” But I stopped each and every time.
The latest Arctic Grayling outing netted me thirty, yes thirty, grayling. Either I’m a highly skilled flyfisherman or these fish hadn’t eaten in months. I stopped for gas near the Koidern River No.2 and walked over to check it out. It was still raining but the river looked too good to pass up. I went under the bridge and found a spot on the bank where the wind wouldn’t blow my fly back into my eye and proceeded to coax dozens of beautiful grayling to the surface. I can only imagine what Koidern River No.1 would be like!
Speaking of wildlife, you may remember the picture of Sasquatch in an earlier blog post. Well, I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw what I’m sure was a descendant of the Loch Ness monster caught up in the huge whirlpool at the free Whirlpool Canyon burn all the driftwood you can haul campsite. Next on my to-do list: The Yeti.
That’s it for now. I’m off to the airport to pick up a friend coming in from San Diego for the last week. Sorry if this blog post seems a little choppy. Since I have no hair my head is cold and I'm having trouble concentrating.We’ll try to post some pictures from our week in Banff and Jasper before we leave Calgary for San Diego – a short 3 hour flight for my friend and a mere 1,565 mile drive for Pete!


  1. Pete;
    Now that you are heading back here to "Dago", I will have to return to the new season of Ice Road Truckers on History Channel. What they offer in terms of an artful use of profanity - you more than compensate for in terms of superior nature and wildlife shots. I was hoping the tour would take you back east and your birthplace, but I will also be glad to know that you are playing it safe with the status of your "rig". Best wishes, Jeff

  2. Pete, we will welcome you back to sunny San Diego, and we look forward to your next adventures.

  3. I am thinking we will no longer be on your route home! O well, I guess we will have to catch you next time. Hope you have a safe drive back to Southern Cal. Wolf was happy to have reached you by phone , and we both wish you well and safe travels, Cuz

  4. You look great! can't wait to see you! Enjoy your time with Cat, hope ours is one of those bbqs you plan to attend. =)

  5. For anyone wondering what that shaved head might really look like, I can tell you that the live version is much, much sexier than what you might think based on the blog photo. Live from Calgary, Canada.....I'm here to see what this traveling in a van thing is all about and to hopefully see some of the amazing wildlife and natural beauty that has captivated Pete's spirit since he has left San Diego for the journey North. Cat

  6. Did a Grizzly lick the hair off your head?

    looking forward to the return cigar sir, safe journey.

    P.S. remember you can not bring any "wildlife" back across the border...or cubans. =(

    c u in a few weeks.

  7. Pete, great photo of the bald eagle---I loved that one! As for your Loch Ness monster that is really a fresh water "circle shark." You can tell it is a shark by the large dorsal fin sticking up in the water; these sharks have only one side fin, as you can see in the photo, which propels them in a right, or clockwise, motion in the water thus always bringing them around in a circle. The current carries them downstream so they never return to the exact same place and, thus, a fresh food supply is always available. As you can tell I majored in marine biology (at a college in the desert no less.) Lokedog