*So it’s not exactly paint on pavement, it’s a big, blue watery road, but the U.S. D.O.T. designated the Alaska Marine Highway a National Scenic Byway, so it counts.
I f’ing love the ferry! It is the poor man’s cruise ship and my favorite method of travel. You can sit where you want, change seats, enjoy your ample leg room, walk around, drink a beer in the ferry bar, watch a movie in the theater, type, read, shower, camp in the solarium (for no extra charge), bring your car and all of this on a big ship traveling the stunning Inside Passage, the same route the Alaska cruise ships take. Perhaps if I keep going, the AK D.O.T. will sponsor me with a free season pass. Hmmmm?
Also the same route the cargo barges take
Last weekend, a couple friends and coworkers had Fish & Game reporting training in Juneau and invited me to tag along and share their hotel room. A cool $90 round trip for my ferry ticket, and I was set for transportation and lodging. Thanks, friends!
Route starting at bottom middle and following the red track
Busting upward of 30 knots, the the M/V Fairweather (known as the fast ferry) makes the trip to Juneau in 5.5 hours instead of the normal 9 to 16. Given the route, this is ballsy. From Sitka on the open Pacific, the route to Juneau first goes north through the ripping tides of the Narrows of Olga and Neva Straits. I would crap my fine Swedish rain pants if I had to take any boat through there. A hard starboard swing at Salisbury Sound puts you in Peril Strait which is oh-so-slightly-less narrow. After a good long creep through the beauty and a serious 90 degree port side turn, you have made it to Chatham Strait which is an ass-hauling freeway in comparison. Once you see the lighthouse at Point Retreat on the north tip of Admiralty Island, you’re basically in Juneau! But enough nerding out on cartography, here’s a bulleted list of things I can do in Juneau that I can’t do in Sitka:
~Rip apart some red curry halibut at Chan’s Thai Kitchen (11806 Glacier Highway). Conveniently located near the ferry terminal in Auke Bay, we beelined here for dinner.
~Admire the view from room 511 in the Prospector Hotel (375 Whittier Street). Our room was fine, but I did find the two small dogs on the main lobby counter off-putting.
Poorly lit panorama
~Luxuriate in the arms of a bagel sandwich from Silverbow Bakery (120 2nd Street).
~Pray to the multitude of brew taps at The Hangar (2 Marine Way). In an old airplane hangar on the wharf, the views of cruise ships and float planes are nice; the view of more beer on tap than in all of Sitka combined – spectacular.
~Purchase some shirts at Fred Meyer (8181 Glacier Highway). It’s a simple thing, but I haven’t found any place to buy plain v-neck t-shirts for a reasonable price in my town.
~Maintain my love affair with the Alaskan (167 South Franklin Street). I am madly passionate about the giant old Victorian carved wood bar. Built in 1913 and at times a speakeasy and a brothel, I can’t imagine a place that could make me much happier. I don’t, however, recommend the hotel rooms for cleanly or sober types.
~Stock up on used literature at Rainy Retreat Books (113 Seward Street).
~Drive to the Mendenhall Glacier and pick up some chunks of 200-year-old ice (8510 Mendenhall Loop Road). Then make a geology cocktail.
There is a season; tern, tern, tern
Nasty weather; pretty icebergs
Mix with tequila, sour & lime for a Glacierita
~Save multitudes of grocery dollars at Costco (5225 Commercial Boulevard). That is unless you misjudge closing time on Saturday and miss your opportunity to buy perishables….perhaps because you were at the Alaskan Brewing Company.
~Enjoy a Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter (5429 Shaune Drive). Just kidding – that beer tastes like sweat socks in a campfire, but I do love every other Alaskan beer. Here they give you multiple delicious brew samples until you forget all about your grocery shopping plans.
Annie appreciates a fine Campsock Smoked Porter.
~Dance with a toothless local to techno mixes at the Rendezvous (184 South Franklin Street). To be fair, I can do this in Sitka but not to DJ-spun techno dance jamz. The first time I came here some years back, our bartender jumped up on the bar and danced for us to Gunther’s Tra La La song. It was early afternoon.
~Soak it all up with Pel’ Meni (2 Marine Way). At about 3 a.m., the bar-expelled population makes its way to this little Russian dumpling shop. You will burn your mouth, you will spill butter, sour cream and cock sauce on yourself and you will rejoice the next day if you have any leftovers with which to treat your hangover.
And that concludes our little jaunt to Juneautown. Despite very little sleep before the return ferry check-in at 7 a.m., I had a damn fine time. I slept off my hangover in a comfortable ferry recliner and finished my potato Pel’ Meni, concluding the weekend’s to-do checklist.
And as with all my writing:
More info here (Surprisingly safe for work).