Friday, May 23, 2008

And So It Goes...

Soon, all my junk will be back in the suitcase (how it's going to fit is anybody's guess), and I'll be dragging everything down to the car. Homer is so funny - the car rental guy said that if he wasn't around when it was time for me to leave, to just park the car in the airport parking lot, put the key under the floor mat and leave the door unlocked. Can you imagine???

I've had the most wonderful time. I nearly lost my mind with excitement and joy. I've found so much of what I need to impart to my characters here - The Alaskan independent, adventurous spirit; the tendency to avoid bothering their neighbors in order that all may live as they choose; the diversity of opinion, and the respect and care they take with the abundant wildlife here. I also found the role model for my evil-villainess and I heard a funny riddle I intend to include.

So my trip is done. Tomorrow night, I'll see my kidlet's adorable little face, and I'll be sleeping with two demented cats under a pile of blankets that smell like my dog. Life could not get any sweeter!

Thanks for letting me share.

The Weather Here Changes About Every Five Minutes

Yesterday it was gawgeous! Last night it was cloudy. This morning it rained. Now, it's so windy I feel sorry for the construction guys next door - outside painting wood in gloves and wool caps. This whole inn moves with a big gust, and I can feel the wind through the double-paned glass next to this nightmarish bed I have to try and sleep in for one more night...

I do want to compliment the Driftwood Inn for being a very inexpensive place to stay in Homer. It is immaculately clean, the staff is very friendly and the location cannot be beat. It's just this bloody awful bed. For the love of Mike!

I'm getting ready to pack my stuff. I'm happy to go home, but right now, I'm watching an old man run his dogs on the beach and it's just too perfect. Ya know? Plus, I'm not looking forward to gassing up the rental car before I turn it in tomorrow morning. Gas here (where they freakin' make the stuff!) is $4.29 a gallon for regular. Oy!

I'm going to heat up lunch (spaghetti left over from dinner last night at "Starvin' Marvin's" pizzaria near the Spit). Pretty good food. Relaxed service. I left my hoodie there so I'll probably go back to pick it up after while.

(The construction guys keep looking up here and catching me looking down at them. I'm just staring out the window thinking of what I'll write next. They probably think they're turning me on... LOL! Men.)

That's it for now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ahhhhhh.... Zen

I got it. I finally got it. Not sure how long I'll keep it, but I'm sitting here and I've got IT...

Here's the thing. When I am at odds with my situation - when I'm living with 'shoulds' and 'what-if's' - when there is doubt or fear - there can be no connection with the universe. And that universe just wants me to have everything... So today, me - a tiny speck of carbon life-form, driving around the farthest place a person can travel by automobile in the USA - I found myself in a harmonious groove with the universe and everything was as it was meant to be. (And as you can probably tell, being in harmony with the universe makes one sound a bit loopy.) But seriously, it was totally and completely bitchen...

I started out on a quest to find the location of the scheduled noon-time 12-step meeting here in Homer. It's fun to go to meetings when you're traveling because it's like hooking up with extended family. Plus, I hardly ever get to meetings anymore **Disclaimer** If you happen to be newly clean/sober - please disregard that last sentence. Go to meetings. Call your sponsor. Work the steps. I just happen to enjoy the edginess that living without direction brings to my life **End Disclaimer** Anyway, I gave up looking for the meeting and found myself on East End Road headed, I don't know where. But for some reason, I kept heading there. That's when I saw these guys!

They crossed the road in front of my car and it was the beginning of the most wonderful day.

After that, I just began to appreciate the scenery and the cold wind so much more. I drove up a winding road to the very top of Homer and looked down and saw all of it, from the Chugach Mountains to Beluga Lake, to the city. And after that, I headed down to the Spit and stopped into a bead and stamp store and picked up some goodies. And later, I sat in the car by the ocean and made a pair of brass dragonfly earrings while listening to Bonnie Raitt.

Later when I was driving back up the Spit Road with the ocean on either side, I had the windows open and the cold breeze was blowing my hair around and seagulls were flying along side of me and the occasional eagle was passing by - and I'm telling you, I understood perfectly how that kid from "Into the Wild" went nuts. I got it...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Glad I Took Another Chance on Duggan's Pub

For some reason, maybe it's the clean, cold air, but since I've been here - I've been freakin' starving. Starving for protein. Sure, I've had some really tasty halibut and an amazing piece of freshly caught salmon - but I really craved something that used to belong on a cow... Since the Mermaid Cafe specializes in organic, healthy fare and not stuff that can kill you if you eat enough of it, I had to choose another venue for dinner. So I crossed the street one more time and ordered up a New York steak at Duggans.

This time however, the service was great! Prompt, friendly, the drunk pool players had been replaced by, if not sober, at least subdued players, and the atmosphere was very nice.

And to top it off, they were out of New York steaks - so the cook, a lovely fellow who is interested in (aren't they all) commercial fishing - took it upon himself to substitute a tender, melt in your mouth Rib Eye - for the same price... Yummy steak, baked potato and salad with a Coca-cola - in a pleasant environment. What more could a girl ask for?


Turns out the Bear Guys from the Alaska Fish and Game Department are also guests here. Apparently they travel around studying bears.

Yesterday, I ran out of tourist stuff to do. Homer is a great little town, but the operative word is "little". I've done the Spit, I've done the town, I've done the beach, I've done the galleries, book stores and souvenir shops. I've even done Safeway. Twice. So yesterday afternoon, I decided to drive around Alaska... I headed up the Sterling Highway toward Anchorage in hopes of some sort of adventure. About a mile or so out of town, I did spy 2 moose - a mother and calf standing in somebody's yard eating their bushes. Moose are pretty big! And scruffy enough to blend into scenery if you're not paying close attention. I didn't get a photo though, due to being on the big highway and also because everyone here seems to drive at break-neck speed and are constantly on my ass. How is one supposed to sight see with all that pressure? To be honest, I only got about 30 miles from town before I turned back. The Sterling Highway is famous for its spectacular views as you drive from Homer to Anchorage. Well, it might have spectacular views further on down the road, but all I saw was a bunch of forest. And not the forest you think of in, say, Big Sur or even Big Bear. These forests are wild and scraggly and have been burned by fires and regrown and all the old wood is just laying where it fell. I suppose that's how God intended it, but if it were me - I would have probably tidied up a bit... This place is just - just - natural. Like earlier in the day, I went to the Spit and I walked out to the very end searching for the remaining eagles (most of whom have scattered since it's no longer Winter and the "Eagle Lady" doesn't feed them every day) and as I walked along on all these smooth black rocks, I kept waiting for the rocks to stop and the parking lot to begin - like some designer had placed the rocks there for atmosphere instead of the rocks being there from time immemorial and somebody putting up buildings for atmosphere.

Anyway, back to my drive... I did pull over next to the Anchor River which winded its way along the side of the Sterling Highway for a distance. I got out of the car to take some photos when I became a little spooked. First, because it seemed to me like the perfect spot for a thirsty bear to get a nice drink of water, and second - there was an RV parked next to the river that appeared as if the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre was using it for a road trip. It had been parked at that spot for a long time judging by all the trash and personal belongings strewn about and hanging out of windows. Then I noticed the RV door was open and the thought did cross my mind that the whole Joad family (or whoever they were) had been slaughtered inside. Well I got the hell outta Dodge because I didn't want to know anything more...

There was supposed to be an active Aurora Borealis last night and the sky was really clear, so I checked several times during the night (whenever the pain from sleeping on this horrid, horrid bed woke me up screaming) but I didn't see any Northern Lights. I did see a beautiful full moon reflected on the ocean though. And there was a strange orangeish glow all around the moon too. I don't know what caused it, but I don't think that was the Aurora. Very pretty.

Which brings me to today. Today I'm staying local. Local being here in this room, looking out at the sea and the birds, a walk to the beach, and later across to the Mermaid Cafe for dinner. I have to remember why I came here before it's time to leave.

I came all the way to Alaska, not so much for a tourist trip - even though that part is pretty cool - I came here because of The Book. The Book that's set in a town very much like Homer. I'm here to sit. And absorb. And feel the cold wind (believe me - it's cold!) And listen (like I listened at the Anchorage Airport to a couple of Alaskan Native women speaking to each other in an exotic language), and imagine what it will be like for my characters as they work and love and live in an environment such as this.

So we'll see how that goes....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bear Research?

I've been sitting here goofing off and watching birds for about an hour, and all the while there have been 2 guys from the Alaska Fish and Game Department loading up the back of their pick up truck right below my window. I figured they were here doing inspections or something because the people who own this inn also run a charter fishing operation. Then I took a good look... They are loading up some plastic tubs with bait, and syringes (big syringes) and those emergency thermal blankets and whatnot. The wording on the lids of the plastic tubs says "Bear Research" Bear Research!!!! I should follow them, huh? I mean it's not like I've got anything else to do today...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gastronomic Bliss in Homer, Alaska

Oh my gosh, I had breakfast at The Two Sisters Bakery this morning. I may never be the same... The Two Sisters looks like it's a big house sitting in the middle of an overgrown field. That's because most of Homer looks like it's sitting in the middle of an overgrown field. But it's not - that's just how Alaska is. Like, everyone's car is dirty. Muddy and dirty - only they're not cars, they're trucks and SUV's and they all have cracked windshields. Even the SUV I rented has a cracked windshield! And all the houses are built elevated from the ground due to snow. And there are forests in the middle of neighborhoods and bears live in them! It's so cool!

Anyway, I ate the most wonderful breakfast today at the Two Sisters. Biscuits and gravy (which was NOT the usual glop of paste on top of a lump of dough you usually associate with biscuits and gravy). It was a light biscuit with a cream sauce over it that had a chowder-like consistency, with sausage and just a hint of sweet onion. It made my tummy sing. And of course, I had to finish with a cup of Kay-Bay Free Trade coffee and a piece of chocolate bread, which is a chocolate and cinnamon stuffed roll, and the chocolate melts when it's heated... I may have to re-visit the Two Sisters before I come home. Speaking of coming home, I met 3 different women today who are transplants from Southern California to Homer. So it's not just me who fell in love with this town.

After breakfast, I walked down to Bishops Beach, which is part of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. The place where I'm staying is pretty much right on Bishop's Beach and there are a lot of shorebirds. As a matter of fact, since I've been sitting here writing this, I've seen not one, not two, not three - but four bald eagles fly by my window. Those are some big-ass birds!

Tomorrow I'm driving down to the Homer Spit to attempt to get some photos of eagles. Plus I'm still on the look-out for Moose and Bears. Everyone says there are moose all over town, but I've been here already 24 hours and I haven't seen one yet. I am pretty sure I did see a bear today though. I was trying to get a shot of a wild turkey I spied in the woods by the Ocean and Islands Center, but as I approached, I saw a dark "lump" back a ways in the trees. So I got out my trusty binoculars and the "lump" appeared to have a smaller lump that looked like a head of a bear, with smaller lumps that looked like bear ears! So of course, I freaked out and walked slowly back to the car and freaked out some more and drove away. (There goes bald eagle number 5!). We'll see what tomorrow brings. I'm exhausted. I think I'll watch "American Gangster" and eat the salad I bought at the Safeway (there is a Safeway in Homer!) and turn in early. I'm especially tired because this bed is a freakin' torture rack on my back! A mattress on a wooden platform - GAAAH! However, not being able to sleep for more than 2 hours in a row without the pain waking me has it's up side. At about 3 a.m. I awoke to see one of those commercial crab boats - like on "Deadliest Catch" all lit up and sailing through the bay. Cool!

Except for visiting 3 art galleries and a book store, that about wraps up Day 2 in Homer.

More tomorrow - it's Spit Day!!!

This is the view from my room at the Driftwood Inn as it appeared earlier this afternoon. I'm sitting on the bed looking at this view right now. Of course, it's 10:48 p.m. and the sky is not yet dark so that makes everything seem really otherworldly I keep thinking it's around 7. I've got the window open and the breeze is very brisk but it feels great and somebody has their fireplace going.

I was starving earlier and all I wanted in this world was a piece of halibut (Homer being the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World and all), but everything was closed. I drove all over town, nearly got lost on a winding road to nowhere (I'm going back tomorrow because it was really cool - but I was too hungry to investigate further).... anyhoo - I was starving, so I ended up going across the street from the hotel to a place called Duggans Irish Pub (and restaurant). Duggans is not so much an Irish Pub as a dark neighborhood bar with ESPN on 4 screens and a bunch of drunken pool players retelling the same joke to everyone they see. And the service was awful. But the Halibut? Niiiiice! Grilled. Tasty.

When I got back to my room, I noticed I stank of cigarette smoke so I partook of a particularly fabulous shower in some extremely hot Alaskan water and now I'm sitting here enjoying a Law and Order marathon, the brisk breeze and the non-dark night.

Oh yeah. A Bald Eagle flew past my window earlier.

Tomorrow, I'm going to visit the wildlife refuge and some art galleries.

I'll get the photos I took going on the slide show, but I'm too tired tonight.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008


I am on Alaskan soil. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this from the waiting area at the Ted Stevens International Airport and I am two-thirds of the way to my final destination of Homer, Alaska.

First, I’ve got two words for you. “Zippy Shuttle”. They arrived early for the pick up. The driver was polite, smelled nice and even called 911 as we hurtled down the 405 when he spotted a dangerous piece of tire laying the carpool lane. Zippy provides a private, clean van (no picking up 5 other travelers while you sweat out the possibility of missing your flight…) and if you book the round trip - the gratuity is included in the price so there’s no fumbling around for cash at the airport. Zippy Shuttle gets two thumbs up from me.

What can I say about the fine folks at Alaska Airlines? See, when I booked this trip back in January, I was still pretty gimped out with the ankle and I checked the box for “needs assistance” when I made the on-line reservation. And I never changed that since (A) I wasn’t sure how I would be managing stairs and elevators and large airports by now, and (B) I sort of wanted to see what it’s like to travel as a disabled person. Let me tell you, there were people waiting for me at every turn, with carts and wheelchairs and I got boarded first - even before the first class passengers. The only drawback is they seem to like to sit the disabled people near families with small children. Maybe it’s easier to keep an eye on everybody if they’re all in a bunch like that. Luckily for me, the small children were all very sleepy today.

And now here I am!

I don’t think I’m the only person who has ever had this particular reaction, but I believe I’m the only passenger on my flight who was brought to tears by the scenery outside the window. White. White. White. As far as the eye could see there were ice fields and glaciers and mountains covered in snow. Not a road or a building or a tree. Clouds like cotton candy, or that angel hair your mom would use around the gingerbread house at Christmas. This icy landscape went on for what must have been a thousand miles, because that’s all we saw for a couple of hours… So there I was in Seat 12C being buffeted around by awful, scary turbulence as we flew over those mountains - but instead of my heart being in my throat, I had a lump in my throat. Spectacular. Amazing! And I just got here!!

In a little while, we're off to Homer on a prop plane. No doubt we'll see more glaciers and whatnot. I'll try to take photos through the window and post them later tonight.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bittersweet Symphony

All packed. Web checked in. Alarm(s) set for 3:30 a.m. Shower and bed.

My ipod is synched and when that big jet hauls ass down the tarmac at 6:45 tomorrow morning - And then we'll be flying.

More to come. Take care!