Alaska Public Transportation: Soaring Eagle Bus
Need a lift on the Richardson/Glenn Highway? From Valdez to Anchorage, Soaring Eagle Transit has you covered. This small transportation company, based out of Gulkana Village (Population 98) on mile 127 of the Richardson Highway, is a dream come true to footloose, and car-less, folks like us.
After three fabulous months here at the cabin, Guthrie and I have decided to move on. We have plans for a bike tour in the sunny, sunshine-filled, warm Southwest states (did I mention they have sun there?) and we’re excited to make the transition. Our cabin care-taking gig can be covered by neighbors, and everyone on the mountain has been wonderfully supportive of our change in plans.
There’s just one problem: how to get ourselves, and all our luggage, to Anchorage airport? None of our neighbors are heading into town at the right time, but they mentioned Soaring Eagle Transit as an alternative option. Rural Alaska public transportation? We had to try it.
This morning found us perched atop our duffle bags at the side of the road, our faces turned up the highway, waiting for our first experience with Soaring Eagle Transit. We’d been in contact with their office via cell phone, calling in advance to reserve our seats on the bus. They ask that patrons call no later than one day in advance, but they do not charge for a reservation: everyone pays when they get on the bus.
We’d asked if it was possible to be picked up at our homestead, rather than walking to the regular “bus stop” at Sheep Mountain Lodge. The woman on the phone said it wasn’t a problem, but as the minutes ticked by and we waited in the cold morning air, we wondered if there had been a miscommunication.
Soon, our cell phone rang. It was the bus driver. “I think you’re supposed to be out here,” she said sternly.
“We are!” cried Guthrie, as we both looked around and reassured ourselves that the highway was empty. “We’re right here at our homestead, like we said we’d be”.
“Oh.” came the reply. And then: “Be there in a minute”.
Soon a big twelve passenger van was slowing down beside us, a door opened, and we looked nervously at the people and luggage already crammed inside. Uh oh, I thought, seeing the expression on the driver’s face as she surveyed our bags. “That’s a lot of stuff”, someone said through the open door of the van.
“Yeah,” I said, forcing a smile, “we’re moving”.
“Me too!” piped up a woman in the front. Sure enough, the back of the van was already piled high with moving boxes. My heart sank, and I looked at Guthrie. But we worked wordlessly, shifting the contents and stacking bags precariously, and in the end everything fit. Just barely.
We clambered inside the van, Guthrie in a seat by the window and me snuggled up with a woman so wrapped in layers that I didn’t see her face until halfway through the trip. Despite her muffled voice, we chatted easily for the 2 hour ride to Anchorage, and Guthrie and I carried her moving boxes to the door of her new apartment. “Thank you, thank you” she said, as we carried the last bag to her doorstep.
“No problem,” we smiled. We hopped back in the van, and to our genuine surprise the driver was prepared to drop us off anywhere we wanted to go: the airport, the mall, the grocery store, a friend’s house… it was like a personalized taxi ride, at a fraction of the price. What service!
The bus ride from our homestead to Anchorage, a distance of 110 miles, cost us only $40 each. This included a bathroom break (at the gas station), a snack stop (McDonald’s, an Alaskan favorite), fees for our four big duffle bags, good company, and a drop-off anywhere in the city limits. In Alaska, where the cost of living is among the highest in the United States, Soaring Eagle Transit is a bargain.
I’d even say it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Alaska. Until now. :)