Friday, August 26, 2011

Cordova Cosmos

Cordova, Alaska by motorcycle (and boat and train tunnel). Well, I am behind again as usual in posting my blog. Keeping up with posting on the road is a challenge, either because of lack of connectivity, or being too damned tired to do anything but face plant at the end of the night.

I finally got to travel the road less traveled (literally) and visit the Copper Highway north out of Cordova, Alaska. Of course, it is less traveled because there is no road to Cordova. Cordova is a small fishing village located across the Prince Williams Sound from Whittier. It was one of the communities hit the hardest from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Copper Highway was built to service the railroad from Cordova to Chitina in 1945. The construction included the “Million-Dollar Bridge”, the first bridge to nowhere along the railbed. The 1965 earthquake took out a section of the bridge making it impassable until 2005, when the state of Alaska repaired the section. Today, the railbed has been converted to a dirt road that travels 50 miles into the heart of the Copper River Delta passing too many glaciers to count. The Copper Highway is one of only 4 roads left in Alaska (off the main road system) that I have not traveled. The road to Manely Hot Springs, the entire Petersville Road, and the Dalton are the remaining 3.

Getting to Cordova is a challenge. Jaz and I took a Friday off a couple of weeks ago and headed south to the Whittier tunnel. The Whittier tunnel, on a motorcycle, can be a frightening experience. The tunnel was originally constructed in 1941 to service a train only passage. The tunnel is narrow, with a single track laid in the middle and runs for 2.5 miles. Today, they have laid down metal grating between the rails to allow cars and motorcyclists to travel through. Because the trail still uses the rails, motorbikes must straddle this 2.5 foot wide metal grating between the deep rail gullies the entire length of the tunnel. The traffic brings in rain (a usual for Whittier) making it slick. It is dark, cold, mesmerizing, and there are large blower fans to move the car fumes out. The fans have been known to frighten less steady-handed motorcyclists into the rails. This morning, both Jaz and I were apprehensive about the tunnel. We both emerged in Whittier with cramped hands from the white-knuckling the ride.

Tunnel to Whittier


Once in Whittier, we put the motorcycles on the Alaska Marine Highway fast ferry – Chenga bound for Cordova. The 3 hour boat ride across the sound was calling for 6 foot seas. Great! I get sick in ½ inch seas. We brought tie downs to strap the bikes down hard for the boat ride.

While standing in line waiting to get on the ferry, we met Joe. Joe was a likeable fellow that pulled up on a KLR650. Joe hadn’t been riding very long… you could tell. While we were standing there, his bike topples over onto its side. He stands there and looks at it. I look at him and say… aren’t you going to pick it up. He says… I don’t know how. I tell him to move quickly… and I help him right the bike. Then he spent the next couple of minutes trying to figure out if the girls he was trying to impress saw him. They did not. Once we rolled into the ferry, he was confused as to how to tie his bike down. He parked next to me. I helped him with that as well, and warned him that if he left his bike too loose and it tipped on mine during the ride I was going to kill him. Jaz then warned him if he tipped on mine and then caused mine to fall on hers, that she would finish whatever was left of him after I was done with him. He made sure his bike was secure. From then on we referred to him as “Knock-it-over-Joe.”

Jaz eyeballing "Knock-it-over-Joe" suspiciously..

We rolled in to Cordova 3 hours later and checked into the Cordova Rose, an abandoned barge turned bed and breakfast on the beaches just south of the town. The barge is a stones throw from the ocean and when we were not riding the highway or walking into town, we were enjoying walking the property enjoying the sculptures and miscellaneous fishing items strewn about.

The B & B was not in town, and a taxi in Cordova is a dicey proposition. The one and only cab driver is a fisherman, so if the fishing is good, then the cab service is not. The fishing was good. We walked into town to have dinner and drinks at the Reluctant Fisherman. They serve a mean Cordova Cosmo that I highly recommend! Stay away from the pilot bread! Cordova is a nice little fishing town with a fishing problem. Walking back, 3 Cosmos later, was… interesting. The next day we were going to travel the Copper Highway!

View of Cordova from my barge (turned B and B)

Part 2 - Cordova to come....
Learn why I jumped so fast your head would spin...!