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July 19, 2020: Down by the Dock

I came a little too close to appearing like I was a homeless person yesterday afternoon and evening. Some would say that close is not an apt term because if you are close, then you most likely have an alternative life. Homeless people have no place to go. I have a home.

I wandered around the City of Valdez proper yesterday afternoon with my fully loaded bicycle. Even so, I appeared to be invisible. Or, perhaps the citizenry appeared not to see me. I sought out the ideal places to hang out and to clandestine camp. Found the park shelter, it had a picnic table. Both were next to the restroom. It was quiet by early evening – the denizens went home.

The Kennicott docking in Whittier

Found my clandestine campsite, it was in front of a rock strewn beach. I skipped some rocks. The waters were calm with a little riffle. I listened to the gulls. Watched a salmon jump repeatedly, in front of me. I recalled when we were sea kayaking the Inside Passage, a fisherman in a gill netter explained to us that the differing species of salmon all jump differently.

I set up my tent, got my gear in order. I unrolled my sleeping bag and pad and made sure (for the zillionth time) that my cell phone and wallet were in my fanny pack. I read some Malcolm Gladwell essays and, as I was commending myself for having successfully drawn upon my previous clandestine camping experience, the phrase Valdez Never Sleeps came to mind and stuck.

I had camped next to the wharf parking lot. Not a good choice, for across the way a wedding party was going on. All I could hear was the thumpa, thumpa, thumpa of the bass guitar. I hoped that they’d strike up Nearer my God to thee and call it good. They got no nearer to God, and in my estimation they got even more distant.

I then heard the waves, splash, splash, splash, against the shore. What happened next seemed surreal. A huge vessel, a tanker, had pulled up next to the nearby wooden dock. I got out of my tent and for the next hour, watched as the crew docked it. It was a slow, laborious process, but hey, I had no other place to go.

It was an oil tanker and it was huge. I figured that when it was docked, that it would then be quiet. No, it began making a low combination rumbling/chugging sound. This, and the ongoing bass, were not at all music to my ears.

The music died down, intermittently, at about 1 a.m. Then the party goers spilled into the parking lot, making their own kind of noise. By now the lights of the vessel had illuminated my tent.

My one thought about all this was, did I create unnecessary hardship by electing to camp rather than take a motel room? Yes and no. This was hardship. But I really did think that I’d chosen a quiet camp site.

I got up at 4 a.m. and went to use the bathroom across the way. It was a good quarter mile distant. Since I was up, I ate breakfast and packed up. A low mist hung over the water and across the way tank farm.

The ferry office was scheduled to open at 8 a.m. I arrived at 7:45 a.m.. I sat by the door and did some writing. I recharged my phone in an outside socket across the way. Pete had sent me my ferry passage number. I wrote it down in my journal so I had it on hand when the office finally did open. All the staff people were wearing masks. The dock workers were not.

Finally, I was allowed on the boat. I walked my bicycle onto the ferry and tied it to a post. Finally, the day and night of waiting were over. I was now a scruffy ferry passenger, this as opposed to being a homeless person.

Next: 200. 7/20/20: Home is where the Horse Is

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