Friday, August 11, 2017
Homer Alaska : A quaint little Drinking Village with a Fishing Problem!
Today is the final day on the ferry. I am ready to get off; for no other reason than to start the next part of the journey. The ferry experience has been more peaceful and intimate than my previous travels through the inner channel, when I was aboard a Disney Cruise Ship.
Both are great in their own way. But, what I really enjoyed about the ferry was the simplicity. While some may squirm at the lack of services compared to the cruise ships, I reveled in it. I did, occasionally, check out a documentary in the small theater, but for the most part, I wrote, took pictures, read, ate, and even napped (something I am vehemently opposed to, but learned to enjoy, and may even miss).
This morning we stopped in Kodiak. The only access is via ferry or plane, which seems to suit its, just over 6,000, inhabitants just fine. I almost skipped mentioning it, as it was fogged in and we arrived in the middle of the night. Kodiak is famous for its bears, but today my lens capture nothing more than fog. I figured my the underside of my eyelids were just as interesting, so I headed back to bed.
Our final ferry destination is the Homer, Spit. We should arrive around 2p this afternoon. There are different opinions on how this unique 4.5 miles of land, that juts out of the Kachemak Bay, was first formed. Some believe it was a build up of sand deposits. While others, believe it was an overzealous glacier pushing land around, as glaciers are won’t to do. Either way, in 1899 the industrious, Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company, dropped a rail line along the length of the spit. It connected the coal fields of Kachemak Bay to the docks. The resulting activity helped to form the town of Homer, AK at the top of the spit. In the 60’s the spit became a pilgrimage for hippies, that came to be known as “spit rats!” They came from all over just to camp on the spit. However several, stayed and even setup successful commercial fishing businesses.
The spit sits only 19 feet above sea level making is susceptible to storms. We have heard rumors that our departure from the ferry may require an open air elevator, similar to how cargo units are loaded onto freighters. I am excited to see how that turns out. Regardless, our ride off the ferry, onto the Spit, will be a short one. When I booked the trip, there were many unknowns around weather and arrival times. For that reason, I chose a place that was mere feet away from the ferry. Spitting Distance if you will. See what I did there? We are staying on the Homer Spit . . . Spitting Distance? Anyways. Weather permitting we will explore the Spit for food and more importantly spirits at the famous Salty Dawg Saloon!
When I finished the Trans-America Trail,, my riding partner, on the second half, Luke, kiddingly asked if I needed a hug? I had just ridden my dad’s bike and carried his ashes all the way across the country. I laughed. I didn’t need a hug. I felt proud for accomplishing the ride, but it was not a ride I necessarily planned on doing with my dad. It was more of a personal goal.
This trip to Homer holds more significance for me in relation to my dad. We really wanted to do this ride together. My emotions vacillate between numbness and anxious. Trying to process, that after all this time, I will arrive in Homer, AK, without him. I have been thinking about this trip for over 7 years. Putting it off, after dad died, because I didn’t feel ready. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it without him, but with a few hours, it will begin. This time . . . Will I need a hug when we get to land? I doubt it. But I do know this, I wish he was here in more than just spirit. If he was, I know we would both be giving each other a big hug!
The rumors were true. As we mount our bikes, we are directed to a giant elevator platform. As we wait to rise, we are briefed that the dock is covered in seagull crap. Apparently, up here in Alaska “seagull crap make goose-shit” look like sticky fresh asphalt. We are warned to avoid putting our feet down, as we may slip and fall to the ground. Comforting! Fortunately, we disembark without issue.
We check in, and drop our gear, at the Land’s End Resort. As promised, it is practically connected to the dock. Our destination is the Salty Dog Saloon, but first we have a detour. The Seafarer’s Memorial. The memorial is specifically for sailors lost at sea, but considering my dad’s naval history it felt fitting to bring him there for a visit. The memorial, was created by Drew Scalzi. He was not lost die at sea, but did lose his own young life to cancer, at only 53, in 2005. The monument, he created, is 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It consists of flowers, and a protective structure, with a copper dome, that houses a seven-foot tall mariner statue. Next to the site is a small brass bell, that Scalzi found in Philadelphia. It is hung from a 3-tiered concrete structure with the words, This Bell Tolls for All the Souls, Set Free Upon the Sea, engraved upon it.
While my dad did not lose his life at sea, there is something so peaceful about having ones soul, “set free upon the sea.” The words were enough for me to spontaneously, leave some of his ashes under the bell, amongst the flower. This is the first time I have left any of his ashes anywhere. I am only two weeks into this journey. It will be an almost, 5-week trip. But, there is some small amount of closure with this unexpected act.
Following, the paying of respects, we bee-line it to the Salty Dawg for a celebratory drink. The, cash only, bar does not disappoint, with it’s eclectic interior, friendly, yet salty, bar staff and thousands of single dollar bills strewn around the bar. We raise a few beers, and the purchasing of Alaskan Schwag has begun. Including a t-shirt to be sent home to my mom’s husband Wayne, who served in the US Coast Guard, in Alaska and has a thing for Kevin Costner and The Guardian!
Yes, it is time to talk about food. Plus, I think I got something in my eye typing some of that stuff above . . . so . . . Onto the Calories!
Following our visit to the Dawg, our choice in dining options is determined in the form of multiple recommendations. In Homer, I was prepared for warm beer and a single fish and chips shack. However, the town has really been commercialized. Shops and restaurants cling to the single narrow road that runs the length of the Spit. It is no longer, just a commercial fishing location. The Fresh Catch, was recommended by many a local, so who are we do disagree. Upon arrival we are presented with a seafood feast that Triton himself would be proud to indulge in; halibut, oysters, king crab, shrimp, scallops, salmon and more.
As the sun sets, we are not left in darkness but a warm glow that permeates the horizon well into the evening. Bill, heads off to bed, and I walk the beach to call home. Then it’s a nightcap with some locals on the back deck of the Lands End Resort, overlooking the bay. Tomorrow, the land expedition begins. Tonight? Tonight is for toasts, for remembrance and for safe travels, wherever the trail may lead.
Requiem for a Last Meal : Dining Report Epilogue
Several people have sent me notes, commenting about how much they have enjoyed the Dining Reports. They actually started as joke; a way to capture the slow passing of time that takes place on a ferry journey. Since folks enjoyed them, and I was so surprised at how good the ferry food was, I was glad to share. I will try to keep it up for the remainder of the trip.
My last meal on the Ferry, ended as I began it, with a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. Its perfection would have brought a tear to Ronald McDonald’s eye. Made to order and well worth the wait. I am going to miss the daily ferry specials, as well as the staff and crew. Their their smiles, stories, good humor and laughter made the trip extra-special.
A special, Thank You to everyone working aboard the M/V Kennicott! As I leave the ferry for the continued adventure upon the shore, I leave you with these words of wisdom from Mark Twain . . .
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!”