It’s fun fact about Ketchikan time: tourism is the leading industry in this town, followed by fishing. Downtown is mostly comprised of a few streets that snake around the cruise-ship berths that are lined almost entirely with souvenir and jewelry stores. It’s an area of town where a bottle of water starts at two bucks. Also, caveat emptor, most of the shops are filled with imported crap, totem poles make in Thailand, native-style jewelry made in China, etc. Most of the jewelry stores and quite a few of the souvenir stores are actually owned by the cruise-ship companies which is why in every port of an Inside Passage cruise you’ll find the same things in the same stores. If shopping is your thing, look for stuff that’s actually made by natives. Ask which jewelry stores are locally owned. Walk an extra three blocks south to buy your water at Tatsudas.
Or don’t. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.
Anyway, if shopping isn’t your thing, there are tons of other tours and activities you can do with an afternoon in Ketchikan. One of the perks of my job is a lot of the tourist excursion companies trade with ours, so on my day off I’ll be trying them out and telling you about them.
Our first was Adventure Karts. It was really ridiculously fun.
We all met on the dock in the morning, and were collected with the other Adventure Karters onto a bus. The bus driver gave us a running commentary of little facts about Ketchikan as we drove north out of town to the spot, which is the remnants of an old logging camp. We all dutifully peed one last time and were collected for the obligatory safety speeches and helmet fittings and waiver signings.
“We have rain gear,” our guide said, gesturing to a wall of rubber overalls and huge raincoats, “but, you know, we never really use them.” We all looked at one another. No one wanted to be the puss in bright yellow overalls.
Then we came outside to get instructions on how to drive the Tomcars, (ridiculously simple. Three gears: Drive, Neutral, Reverse) and what to do if we had engine problems, fell behind, etc.
We’d picked, (or rather whoever does the scheduling in the office picked for us) the perfect day for it. It was one of the almost heartbreakingly perfect Alaska summer days- cool but sunny with blue sky and sea breezes all around, but it had just rained heavily for the three solid days before. Everyone in the know told me the same thing: go in the rain. It’s more fun. You’ll see.
Ali and I got into one Tomcar and the boys got into another and away we went!
The ride’s about three and a half hours long, with breaks to take pictures and look at a waterfall, and change drivers. The trails are along old logging roads that were never paved, and are filled with rocks and potholes and unexpected dips and hills. Because of the recent rain, the potholes and dips were filled with muddy water so every three seconds there was a huge SPLASH that set me and Ali off in shrieks of delight. For most of the tour we were shrieking and laughing.
At the end we all got out of the cars and examined each other. The boys had some small mud spatters on their shoulders and shins. We girls were soaked to the skin in muddy water, and when we’d stood up we found standing muddy water puddles in our seats.
Capt’n looked at me.
“Did you swerve around any water AT ALL?”
“They told us not to swerve in the safety briefing, captain.”
“WITHIN REASON! and did you hit the brakes, like, ever?”
“I sped up when we hit puddles.”
We returned our helmets and the crew had us sign our names on the wall with sharpies. I corrected some of the grammar in previous tags while we waited for the bus driver to take us back to town.
And then we all went out to lunch, as is.
The waitress looked me and Ali up and down.
Cost: $200 (pretty standard)
Bathrooms: 2 (clean porta-potties)
Snack: 1.5 (a granola bar, meh. A bottle of water would have been nice)
Retail: none to speak of. Color changing sunglasses and a few key rings.