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Today in Ketchikan

Airship Goes to Alaska 2016

This is a story about a bus ride.

Here’s us today: coffee, work, work, work, breakfast, more work, go to the grocery store, back to the boat, more work, watch cruise ships leave, more work. Later we’re going to have dinner over at the Bar Harbor Restaurant.

We rode the city bus down to the Safeway near the Bar Harbor marina, but we decided to grab the bus going the other direction. The city bus has a free shuttle that does a loop from the end of downtown to the plaza where the Safeway is, so we got the whole loop in by catching it going the opposite direction.

Our bus driver was a native…totally cool Tsimshian guy with great jewelry and a super dry sense of humor. We chatted with him about his family, where he lived, the woodwork/artwork he does, the silversmithing tools he gave to his grandson and how he’s going to pay for art school for him as a graduation present, and some other random stuff. We told him we’d stopped in Hartley Bay (the Tsimshian village in BC where we stayed on Day 14), and he said many of his relatives live there.

He asked us about our boat, and we talked about some places up here we have and haven’t been. Then, this cruiseshipper couple got on and asked the bus driver if he’d take them to the Ruby Princess at Berth 4 (just next to the City Floats, the stop where we got on). He said yep, he’d have them there by 4pm. (It was around noon.) They laughed and sat down in front of us, in the seats that face the center of the bus. They remarked how much larger this bus was than the one they took from the ship into town…that one was just a tiny little bus…and then they noticed they were going away from the ship. I said “This is a city bus, but it’s free, and it’s a loop, so you’ll get back to the ship” and not to worry. “This is a city bus?? Oh, okay? But it’s free? Well that’s nice!” Kevin asked them where they were from and they said Orange County, which is funny, because it was as if they expected people would know the name of their county. Not their city. Not their state, but their county. Now, I grew up in Orange County, so I did know their county, but I imagined someone (in Alaska) asking me where I was from. And what if I replied “Multnomah County” as if they should know where the hell that was?? Anyway, I digress.

They followed “Orange County” then with “Huntington Beach. California.” as if they’d been given the blank stare after the county name before. I said “Nice. I went to Huntington Beach High School. Grew up in Seal Beach.” Small talk ensued…”nice place to grow up…”  “so close to the ocean…”

Then, they asked the bus driver, “Where are you from? You look to be of some Indian descent.” He said “I’m a Native.” They said “A native what? An Indian?” He said “No, I’m not from India. Columbus was lost and confused.” He patiently told them the name of his tribe, Tsimshian, and that he was also part Tlingit, and it was like they had no idea there were even any indigenous people here. It was crazy. They chatted amongst themselves a little more and he continued his conversation with us about different places to see, traditional canoes, etc.

Next, I asked the couple in front of me “So, what all have you guys seen since you’ve been in Ketchikan?” (even though I was pretty certain I knew how this would go). The wife answered with a chuckle, “Not much! Mostly the jewelry stores.” (OMG seriously??? Why on earth do people come to Alaska on a cruise to shop for stupid gemstones that no one has ever heard of, and that have nothing whatsoever to do with Alaska? It baffles me.) I’m totally cool though and ask her “So, is it a better deal to shop for jewelry here than where you live?” (Kevin was so proud of me.) She said yes, that whatever stone she bought earrings of was maybe a hundred dollars less than where she could get it at home, and they got a really good deal because they were from the cruise ship. I said I heard that all of those stores were actually owned by the cruise ship companies though…and she said, “Well, some of them, like Diamonds International and the Tanzanite places.” But apparently she thought she was shopping in a Native-owned jewelry store. She said “We’ve been here before though!” as if to excuse the fact that she’d only seen cruiseship-owned jewelry stores during her visit. I asked if they’d been down to Totem Bight State Park, or the Saxman Native Village before. Nope…like they’d never heard of those places. (Oh, but her husband just LOVES Alaska. That’s why they keep taking cruises up here.) I told her those places were definitely worth visiting and that you could get there by bus.

The bus pulled into the stop at the Totem Heritage Center and stopped. I told the cruiseshipper couple that if they had time sometime when they were here and didn’t want to leave the downtown area, they should check out this museum. There are some great exhibits with tons of interesting information. The husband noticed the totem poles out front and asked the bus driver if there was time to get out and take a quick picture. The bus driver said, in a loud booming voice “Nooooooo” and then smirked. The lady asked how long they’d be stopped here and the bus driver said “This is my 3 hour break.” 🙂

The husband got out and took a few photos the totems out front, and the lady said to the bus driver “We’re quite a ways away from our cruise ship!” and the bus driver replied, in the same loud booming voice, “GOOD!!!” (I could feel him winking at us as he said it, even from behind his dark aviator shades.)

At the next stop, another cruiseshipper couple got on the boat and the women immediately compared jewelry shopping stories, the woman in front of us moving her hair to show off her whatever-ite earrings.

We got off at the Safeway and thanked our cool bus driver for the ride. I shook his hand and he asked how long we’d be in town. I said we’d be bopping around for another day, then gone, then back for a week or so and that I was sure we’d see him again.

As we were moving to the front of the bus, the lady looks at me and asks “This’ll take us to our ship, right?” I said, “Yep, next stop.”

Best bus ride ever.


  1. Amazing scenery in those first few shots. It feels like something straight out of The Lord of the Rings.

    • It was so much more so in person, too. Incredible.

  2. Janna Clark Janna Clark

    Awesome scenery! You have my husband searching for boats!!!

  3. eheffa eheffa

    Beautiful place.
    Beautiful Images.
    So inspiring.
    Feeling the pull.
    Must go…

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    – evan

    • Thanks Evan. It was amazing…for sure. Glad to have inspired you. 🙂

  4. sanityhunter sanityhunter

    Gorgeous photos! I hope to get there one day!

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