Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hyder, Alaska

Sitting at the "Wildflour Coffee Shop" ("the place where the pastries are as flaky as the locals"), being served by a jovial young woman with lots of tattoos. Her mother is in the kitchen doing all the cooking and baking. "Fly", an older weathered fellow walks out after a lively exchange. "You know the sad thing is," she says aloud "I still look at his butt."

On one of the main streets in Hyder, Alaska, the Wildflour Coffee Shop, owned by "Baker Babe" Bonnie Barret. "Where the pastries are as flaky as the locals."

After breakfast, I took a photo or two, then visited a nearby gift shop. Bought a couple of Alaska pins and post cards. Outside, a motorcycle pulled up, loaded for the long journey, and I met Alan "Toddy" Todd from New Zealand.

Toddy is the "kiwigoingtoalaska" on the Adventure Rider website.

We chatted for a while, and I offered him the cinnamon roll I had taken from "Wildflour" "to go". Toddy invited me to join him at the "Biker's Rally" in Dawson City June 13th. From there, they'll ride to Innuvik and then return, with a party back at the "Downtown Hotel" in Dawson on the 17th. I noted the dates, but confessed that it was difficult to estimate where I'll be at that time. His ride is being sponsored by Alaska Leather of Anchorage.

He asked if I've been "Hyderized" yet. "What's that?"

He explained that it's a world-famous tradition that when you visit Hyder, you go to the local bar to get "Hyderized". You have to drink a shot of what some say is pure ethanol. For this you receive a certificate and bragging rights. I told Toddy I probably wouldn't be doing that.

Traveling "Kiwi", Alan "Toddy" Todd from New Zealand. He's on a four-month tour of western North America, with his next destination Inuvik, Northwest Territories (up near the Arctic). He's munching a Wildflour pecan roll.

I had never even heard of Hyder before reaching the end off this highway. Toddy asked if I'd be riding up to the Salmon Glacier. I said I wasn't sure. I had a post card to write. He left to explore.

Took care of some business at a nearby pay phone: paid credit card balances, closed phone accounts, tried to call my daughter, but she was at school. Wrote a couple postcards "home" and a check to cover that Washington speeding ticket, then walked over to the post office to mail them. The "postmaster" (who appeared to be watching TV) acted busy and a bit annoyed when I asked the rate for mail to California. (The rate here is the same as anywhere else in the U.S.)

No one to take you by the hand up here...

Decided to take in the Salmon Glacier after all. All gravel road running deep into a canyon, then climbing the mountain sides. I soon became accustomed to the surface and rode standing. It was some 20 miles back, and the elevation was becoming dramatic. Once the glacier was in view, I was surprised that the road was high above it.

This is the view from as far as I made it. Behind me, a sheer wall and avalanche zone, before me, another sheer cliff, straight down. Hearing gravel rattling down from above, I realized it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to be taking pictures from this particular spot.

A series of snowbanks finally impeded my progress, and I had to turn around. I never did see Toddy up there.

Trying to reach the end of the road to Salmon Glacier, I couldn't make it around the bend up ahead.

I returned to the Rainey Creek campground to fill up on some of their wonderful spring water, and to say "good bye" to Sheri. She was away, but I got a chance to talk with her husband, Al. A big retired RCMP officer, he had lots of stories about wolves, bear, deer, moose and Gold Wings (and how motorcycles and wildlife don't mix.) Al said wolves are a serious threat in Stewart. They attack animals and people. Not long ago, a tourist was jogging along the Bear River when he was attacked and killed by a wolf.

Filled up on gas. In daylight, Stewart doesn't look so inhospitable. I found myself forgetting to look up and regard the glaciered mountains surrounding the town. Simply incredible!

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