The Tourists You May Meet on a Normal Day

Just a few days ago (actually, it was August — where does the time go?), I was at the Fire Department dropping off some department photos I had taken for them and talking to Fire Chief Hoage about the Museum Department’s “Then and Now” photo project and what we could do with some of the old Fire Department photos to re-create them now.

While we were in the museum part of the fire department, in strolled a very tall tourist. We quickly found out that he was a volunteer firefighter from Friedberg, Germany. His name was Robert Einsiedler. Robert and his family were on a cruise-Alaska vacation.  My guess is, he probably checked out as many fire stations as he could all along his cruise destinations. Robert happened to come in at the exact right time because what are the chances that a German firefighter is going to run into the Fire Chief (who lived in Germany for a time) and have a chance to visit with him. And not only that, but run into me… a local photographer who has no problem talking to people I’ve never met and taking their picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my big camera with me, but I did get some shots with my phone.

Chief Hoage + German ff RobertThat coincidental run-in and conversation were fun. I learned quite a bit about the fire station where he volunteers. Their Chief is the only paid and full-time staff. The rest are all volunteers but very well trained and respond to an average of 350 calls per year – almost one every day. Since the call time is 3-5 minutes, Robert is on passive duty right now since he works 35 miles away as Quality Manager at an automotive supplier. Their department ranges between 30-50 volunteers and most of the team are able to leave their employment to answer a call if they are close enough. The closest word they use would translate to “fire train” in English is Löschzug. It includes the SUV of the chief, followed by one Engine, then Ladder, and then another engine (with a bigger tank of water/foam). That is the configuration for fire. In case of a car crash, the Ladder is substituted by a Heavy Rescue truck (Rüstwagen).   There’s your German lesson for the day, folks. 🙂
You can check out their website here:

Since the website is in German, Robert translated the main bullet points: At “Technik” and then “Fahrzeuge,” you can see their vehicles.

At “Einsätze” you can see their calls — some of them with pictures.

I was able to share some good Ketchikan info with Robert and his family and what they shouldn’t miss while they were in the vicinity on foot – fish ladder, museum, Creek Street, Soho Coho, Blasphemous Bill’s, watching people catch salmon off the Thomas Basin Bridge.   He was going to come back through with his family and rent a car for a few hours so I also gave him some pointers on that. Depending on what local you run into, you may get different advice. I personally love seeing the beauty of the place and taking pictures from good viewpoints. I also love the bears and eagles so that’s usually what I direct people toward when they only have a few hours and of course, keeping one eye toward the ocean at all times watching for whale spouts. There are so many tours and activities also available. If you are looking to come to Ketchikan, there are many local websites you can research. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau also has great info at



A spunky tourist hitched a ride from me the other day.

A cruise ship docked in downtown Ketchikan, July 2015.
A cruise ship docked in downtown Ketchikan, July 2015.

It’s not often that I pick up hitchhikers when my twin 10-year-old daughters are in the car with me, but I could tell the spunky, elderly tourist on the side of the road was on a mission.  I quickly pulled over and she hopped right in.  She needed to make it to the mall and back to her ship in 20 minutes.  She had to “lighten her load” and mail some of her clothes and gifts home so she’d have more room to shop.  Her friends told her she’d never make it, but she heard it was safe to hitchhike in Alaska so she challenged their pessimism and took off looking for a benevolent, car-driving Alaskan.  No doubt, she would not have made it walking, or even running for that matter since it was a good mile or more one way.  Thankfully I saw her sticking her thumb up in the air with a big shopping bag on her shoulder not far from where she started her quest.   Miss Spunky immediately struck up a conversation with my curious daughters who stared at her from the backseat.  Even they could tell she had some extra sugar and spice in her make-up.  We learned she was from California and was having a great time cruising with family and friends.  We never did ask her age but if I had to take a guess, I would say 70 — give or take a few years.   I dropped her off at Frontier Shipping and told her I would drop my girls off at their gymnastics class on the other end of town and come right back and look for her so if she hadn’t already caught a ride back to her ship, that I would happily take her.  I passed through twice but never did see her.  I wonder who got the pleasure of her company on the way back?  I am sure she made that ship right on time!  I love that we got to be a part of her story that day.  I’ll bet she tells her story of hitchhiking in Alaska many times over.