Monday, February 1, 2010

Alaska Marine Highway System

Ah, the only way to travel in Alaska: the ferry. Marine Vessel (MV) Tustamena (aka Rusty Tusty) took Tok, the subaru, and me from Kodiak to Homer. The ferry has a distinct aspect to its travel:

As you find a spot to park your vehicle, you settle in for the next hour or so until the pursor checks you in. And just like an airport waiting area: the people watching begins. As vehicles disembark, you spy minivans filled with new Coastie families, work trucks filled with laborers to work on our public systems or the canneries, tourists in their RVs, and the fisherman- national and foreign alike- carrying large duffels, walking off the pier. And then there are the people next to you, casting side glances into your vehicle, checking out what you packed/what you are hauling, and then making obvious gestures and comments to their fellow passengers about what they have seen.

The pursor comes out, checks your ID and ticket, and asks if you are carrying weapons, ammo, or anything flammable. And then the loading begins. You watch the dock workers load cargo first, and then the vehicles proceed down the pier, onto a two vehicle lift that drops you into the bowels of the ship. You pivot on a turnstyle and a guide greets you at your rear view mirror. From there, you back up down the ramp and along rows of cars to your car's new home for the voyage. You patiently work the clutch, easing the steering wheel back and forth to the guide's directions and back into the space.

Once in my space, I secured our calm puppy (ah, the joy of natural calming treats) in the back seat, tape a sign onto the window, crack the windows, and lock the doors. The sign reads, "Hi, my name is Tok. I am a good dog that does not bark and am very friendly. If something is wrong with me, my mom is ____ and is in Room ___."

After introducing myself and the pup to the worker who will monitor the cars that evening, I head upstairs and to my room. I curl up under the bleached sheets and wool blanket for a cozy evening of being rocked to sleep. As soon as we hit ocean water, I was out. Ironically, I woke when we hit the calm waters of Cook Inlet. It was still dark as we pulled into Homer and offloaded. The drive up the Sterling Highway gave me a glimpse of the moon and an amazing sunrise, rosey glow of the volcanoes that line the Inlet.

Yes, this is a cloud over the Cook Inlet, with the mountain range in the background.

Isn't that rosey glow amazing?

The only way to get around in Moose Pass.

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