Sunday, July 24, 2011

I drove to Homer today

I haven't really had a solo road trip before. Sure, I've driven myself around but I have never really just gotten the car and gone. Today I left Moose Pass and drove all around the Kenai Peninsula to Homer. It was pretty fun.

The highlight, really, was this sign in Sterling.

I love signs like this so much. I want one in my yard, for my house number. I love the kitchy diner look of these signs. Sadly this is all that's left of the Truck Stop. I know it would have been staffed by a fleet of women named Doris and Irma. They would call you "Hon" and keep your coffee mug full. Pies would be spinning in that spinny pie thing that places like this always have.

Let's talk about Homer now.

Homer is more spread out that I'm used to for an Alaskan town. It runs miles in each direction from the spit along Kachemak Bay. The gently rolling hills are dotted with traditional-looking farmhouses and honest-to-goodness bales of hay, rolled up midwest style. The soil (of course I looked, sillies) is a dark loamy sand, probably organic-enriched loess or other eolian deposits. It was beautiful stuff and I'm pretty sure you could grow carrots like, whoa.

I divided, in my head, Homer into two very distinct areas: Tourist and Local. The tourist section is the Homer Spit. Here, charter shacks and touristy junk shops line the narrow sandy spit out into the bay. Yeah, the Harbor is here and the bulk of the fish processing facilities. To me, that was a minor part of the Spit, which is unfortunate because I love commercial fishing. I walked around and looked at the stacks of crab pots and the rows of longline drums. This was all hidden away behind tiny, brightly colored buildings shouting to the cruise ship passengers. "Come catch some Halibut," they all screamed in varying degrees of rugged. I couldn't bring myself to go into the Salty Dawg, arguably one of Alaska's most famous landmarks, because of the glut of people getting their picture in front of it. I wanted a sweatshirt but didn't end up with one. I didn't want to be That Girl.

Away from the Spit, the town mellows into as much of a Midwestern-looking liberal town as can exist in Alaska. I visited both bookstores and felt the pages of almost every book on fishing and seaweed. I had breakfast at the Two Sisters Bakery and lunch at the Mermaid Cafe, in Old Town Homer. I bought myself some Smartwool clothing that was on sale, my present to myself is practical clothing. How boring am I.

I drove back at about 2 pm, knowing traffic would be a bearcat. I missed Ninilchik. I wanted to see the boats launch into the pounding surf. But it's ok. It's pretty important not to see everything in one go. You have to save something for next time.

So now I've seen Seward and Homer in addition to all the towns in Southeast. Frankly, I am surprised how interchangeable they all are. The scenery and the outdoors around the town vary greatly but the towns and the shops really don't. They all sell the same old crap. There's always one cool bar and one really great coffee place. Round this out with a harbor and a grocery store and you have Anytown (coastal) Alaska.

People who know me in real life--I've been putting pictures of my time on the Kenai on my facebook page.

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