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Friday, July 9, 2021

Road Trip to Homer: Photo Safari!

When talking Alaskan politics these days, it’s easy to get a little discouraged. So, here’s a mini Alaska vacation to remind you about the awesomeness that is Alaska. Even on the off-season, a road trip to the Kenai Peninsula, and the Happy Hamlet of Homer is worth the drive.

It was Friday when Shannyn and I decided to get out of Dodge for a couple days. Come along, and make sure to put Homer on your “to do” list, whether you are visiting SouthCentral, or if you live here and haven’t made the trip in longer than you should.

The Seward Highway South somewhere between Anchorage and Girdwood.

The Seward Highway South somewhere between Anchorage and Girdwood. Friday late afternoon, armed with snacks and music for the four hour drive to Homer.

 

There's a reason that the Seward Highway has been designated an official "Scenic Byway."

There’s a reason that the Seward Highway has been designated an official “Scenic Byway.”

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A stop to admire the sunset from Clam Gulch.

Remember, a word of warning... Oh, nevermind.

Remember, a word of warning… Oh, nevermind.

The first evening, anything you see is courtesy of my phone camera, and a little too much fun! The quality of the shots will get better, I promise!

Rolling in to town after dark, where better for a late dinner and libation than Alice's Champagne Palace?

Rolling in to town after dark, where better for a late dinner and libation than Alice’s Champagne Palace?

A ginger-glazed wild Alaska salmon burger, and parmesan fries with a glass of Pinot Noir.

A ginger-glazed wild Alaska salmon burger, and parmesan fries with a glass of Pinot Noir.

The English Bay Band from Nanwalek rocked the house!

The English Bay Band from Nanwalek rocked the house!

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Their repertoire was pretty amazing. We heard everything from Johnny Cash, to Pink Floyd, to Wild Cherry, but Lisa’s rendition of Janis Joplin’s Bobby McGee had the crowd on their feet. This woman has some serious pipes! Do not miss an opportunity to see The English Bay Band if you get the chance.

What would a trip to Homer be without a visit to the Grog Shop, and its fancy temperature controlled wine room? Over 1200 wines!

What would a trip to Homer be without a trip to the Grog Shop, and its fancy temperature controlled wine room? Over 1200 wines!

Coffee, and the view of Kachemak Bay from the deck. A gorgeous morning.

Coffee, and the view of Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit from the deck. A gorgeous morning.

The community bulletin board outside Two Sisters Bakery is full of exciting opportunities!

The community bulletin board outside Two Sisters Bakery is full of exciting opportunities!

Inside, panninis and homemade squash bisque went perfectly with the view.

Inside, panninis and homemade squash bisque went perfectly with the view.

Beach walk with furry friends.

Beach walk with furry friends.

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Boats were out fishing for winter kings, or just enjoying the sun and calm seas.

The mark of the tides. Beaches are beaches wherever you go.

The mark of the tides. Beaches are beaches wherever you go.

 

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Homer has great beaches for pebble picking.

You're going to have to forgive me for this one. But if you actually get the money shot of an eagle projectile pooping, you just have to share. I like to think this is his opinion of the giant jack-up oil rig sitting in the bay at the moment.

You’re going to have to forgive me for this one. But if you actually get the money shot of an eagle projectile pooping, you just have to share. I like to think this is his opinion of the giant jack-up oil rig sitting in the bay at the moment.

Don't you hate it when you step on those things in the dark?

Don’t you hate it when you step on those things in the dark?

The view up the Homer Spit.

The view up the Homer Spit.

 

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We bid farewell to the beach and took a leisurely drive down the Homer Spit.

The aforementioned jack-up rig. It was supposed to be here for 10 days. Still waiting...

The aforementioned jack-up rig. It was supposed to be here for 10 days. Still waiting…

 

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There’s something wonderful about old boats.

 

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A life well lived.

 

The resident of this vessel is a proud Libertarian, obviously.

By the look of the political sign, the resident of this vessel is a proud Libertarian.

 

Not sure if this happy buoy is really For Sale By Owner.

Not sure if this happy buoy is really For Sale By Owner.

We bid farewell to the beach and the docks, and head for Homer’s other natural wonder – the thrift store!

On the way, we notice that the Homer Theater is playing Safe Haven, Snitch, and on Thursday will be covering the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Rigoletto!

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Shannyn discovers a textile treasure.

...and I discover a jar of wax bits for sale in the Housewares Department.

…and I discover a jar of wax bits for sale in the Housewares Department.

 

And there was a formal section, including bridal wear.

And there was a formal section, including bridal wear.

 

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…and a fabric section that should be outlawed for causing irreparable harm to rods and cones.

We actually made out like bandits, found some great stuff, and met some really wonderful people. My favorite moment was the constant soundtrack of Christian music with lyrics like, “Jesus! Jesus! I fall on my knees…” only to be interrupted by the proprietor of the establishment kindly inviting us to the meeting of the Homer Democrats on Monday if we were still in town. Homer is a town of surprises, and eclectic fun.

A quick drive-by sunroof shot of the Far Out Cafe.

A quick drive-by sunroof shot of the Far Out Cafe.

Next stop, the Save U More. I’d been promised an unforgettable experience, and a whole aisle of Trader Joe’s, so off we went. I was quite surprised to find a couple aisles that looked like the United Nations bodega. Foods I’d never before seen in Alaska from Norway, Korea, India, Germany, Japan, the Ukraine, and all points in-between.

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An interesting mix of seafood.

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Exotic pickles, liquid antiseptic, stomach upset salts, and gravy mix. You could spend weeks in here…

We loaded up on exotic goodies, and hit the road to go look at the Homer High School whale.

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The deceased whale was found washed up on the beach, and became the Homer High School biology students’ project. The preserved skeleton now hangs over the common area in the main entry of the school.

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There was also a wrestling tournament going on while we were whale watching. The place was packed with kids, parents and coaches.

 

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Dinner was reserved for Fat Olive’s.

 

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I had my first Kachemak Bay oyster, and all I can say is… I can’t say anything because I’m SPEECHLESS. Without speech. All I can do is make noises of delight.

The Big O.

The Big O.

Then back to Alice’s Champagne Palace, where a fundraiser for the ice rink was being held, and St. Patrick Day celebrations were in full-swing. The women’s hockey team ran the raffle, and in between prize give-aways they were on the dance floor in their green jerseys. Yes, I’m back to the camera phone…

 

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After a great evening with fun people, it was back to the ranch, and the most amazing display of northern lights I’ve ever seen. It was like a great glowing green chrysanthemum, shimmering overhead. It looked like the full force of cosmic magic was pouring out of the sky right on to Homer. The auroral activity was fierce, and great pictures were taken from all over the state. Rather than spend my time trying to figure out how to get pictures of them, I decided instead just to stand in wonder until I thought my neck would snap. If you want to see the best of the best, check out THIS LINK for pictures from all over Alaska. The audio file for that hour would have been amusing. Complete silence punctuated every few seconds with, “Oh my God!” “Look over there!” “Holy crap!” “Unbelievable!” “Look straight up!” “WOW!” You get the idea.

The next morning we faced the sad reality that we had to pack up and leave. But not without an early lunch at the Fritz Creek General Store. This unassuming little store where you can buy essential groceries, pharmaceuticals, and rent videos, also doubles as a post office and liquor store.

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I was slightly dubious, but ended up having an unbelievably delicious veggie sandwich on a warm, fresh homemade roll that was just incredible.

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Compostable coffee cups made locally in Homer, Alaska.

Remember these old post office boxes, anyone? You have to turn the dial to use a letter combination lock.

Remember these old post office boxes, anyone? You have to turn the dial to use a letter combination lock.

Bibliophiles will be glad you stuck with me. Our final stop before heading back to Anchorage was (insert the sound of clouds creaking apart, sunlight spilling forth, and heavenly voices raised in exaltation)

The Mermaid Cafe

The Mermaid Cafe and Old Inlet Book Shop.

The Mermaid Café is awesome in its own right, but today our sights were on the adjoining bookstore. I was thinking as I took these pictures that there was really no way they would do it justice, but they came close.

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I’ve never been in a bookstore where I felt that every single resident was genuinely loved. Until this one.

 

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You could lose hours in here.

 

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We started talking politics with the owner, who had in his hand a list of telephone numbers of State Senators he was calling to demand answers about SB21, the oil tax giveaway that is coming up. I asked him where he got the list from, and he pulled up the website on his computer. The Mudflats! How ’bout that! I thanked him profusely for being engaged and involved, and active. It’s nice to know there are people out there doing their part, isn’t it?  You are not alone, Mudflatters!

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Then we got to see a real treasure for sale. An inscribed copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson to John Fritz, son of an old-time Homerian.

The money line:

“I’d consider it a real privilege to eat some first-class mescaline and do about two hours of weird snap-rolls over Anchorage with you at the helm – we’ll blow it in the end, but… Zang, whatever’s right.”

Not only is this one-of-a-kind piece of Alaskana for sale, but the whole building is!  Keep it in mind if you’re looking for a great spot to be a Homer entrepreneur!

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Back to those awaiting us in the car, and on the road to Los Anchorage. For the trip home, you can just relax and look out the window.

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Cups Espresso… and we wave goodbye to Homer.

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Die-hards. From the looks of the hundreds of junk cars (which I would have needed a wide-angle lens for) they have a hard time letting go.

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84 is too many.

 

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The giant blood-sucking mosquito in Kasilof. During the summer, you can sit on the bench for a photo op.

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Cheery lawn art of a bear mauling can be yours for a price.

 

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And woe be unto him.

They were out of a couple things at the Soldotna Dairy Queen.

They were out of a couple things at the Soldotna Dairy Queen.

 

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Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the upcoming October bead sale. Either that, or you’re five months late.

 

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And call them in the morning!

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And if the cookies don’t work, and you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s always Good Time Charlie’s. One can only imagine…

 

 

You can buy a giant ice cream hut. And jerky!

You can buy a giant ice cream hut. And jerky!

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I got nothin’.

 

 

And nothing but mountains, and rivers and towering spruce for most of the drive.

And nothing but mountains, and rivers and towering spruce for most of the drive.

 

Back on the Anchorage side of the Inlet.

Back on the Anchorage side of the Inlet.

 

For the section of highway between Girdwood and Anchorage, there was a travel advisory for falling rocks. Luckily, we didn't encounter any.

For the section of highway between Girdwood and Anchorage, there was a travel advisory for falling rocks. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any.

 

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Beluga Point and the icy waters of Cook Inlet.

One of the "U" shaped glacial valleys that are common in this area.

One of the “U” shaped glacial valleys that are common in this area.

 

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And home to Anchorage just in time for a beautiful sunset.

Thanks for coming along. Now, back to business. But it sure was nice to escape for a couple days and connect with the world outside the city limits!

Comments

comments

Comments
23 Responses to “Road Trip to Homer: Photo Safari!”
  1. AKliberal says:

    WOW! Hard to believe I’ve been here 10 yrs and never been to Homer. Cuties Watson and Iris?

  2. AKblue says:

    Homer is one of my favorite places.
    The photos are awsome. What a nice trip!

  3. COalmostNative says:

    Love being an armchair traveler…thanks for the trip! (Hunter S. Thompson used to take then regularly down here- heh heh)

  4. slipstream says:

    You forgot to mention that the mosquito sculpture is lifesize.

  5. Really? says:

    Why aren’t these hitting the national threads – great pics! Need to spread the word of the beauty of Alaska…
    And the peoples that live here…many stories to tell and legends to learn…great road trip…

  6. Zyxomma says:

    As always, I’m thrilled that you share Alaska with us, and do so with eloquence and humor. Thanks so much. That sign on the wedding brokers is a bit … strange.

  7. Cathy Heyworth Harris says:

    I was so privileged to have lived in Homer for 13 years.

  8. Bob LeResche says:

    OMG, thanks for the nostalgia. My first drive to Homer was on an unpaved road. The dozens that followed over the years included few of the structures you photographed — except the one with the Jerry Ward sign. Rose-colored glasses tell me the spit was much nicer without the charter shacks, but otherwise the beauty is intact and probably enhanced by today’s much richer human side. I’ve gotta make another trip just to touch HST’s inscription on ‘Fear & Loathing’ before I croak too.

  9. Alaska Pi says:

    Wonderful!
    Balm,,, restorative…soothing…comfort
    Not enough to offset the major discouragement I feel about this Legislative session but enough to create a space to breathe.
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. mike from iowa says:

    Not a single cornfield? People have died for lack of cornfields! OH MY!

  11. mike from iowa says:

    Not a single cornfield? Civilizations have died for lack of cornfields!

  12. Patricia says:

    My sister-in-law, who lives in Palmer, is graduating from Duke Divinity School in May, and will be the new Pastor of the Homer United Methodist Church!! I’m so excited for her, and so happy to see such awesome pictures of her new home.

    Your pictures are fantastic! What a great road trip.

  13. Beaglemom says:

    That was a wonderful tour of a corner of Alaska. It looks like, in addition to fantastic scenery, there are lots of interesting places to visit in the area of Homer, Alaska.

    Especially appreciated the weekend visit from my spot in northwest Lower Michigan where it is snowing and is supposed to continue to snow through tomorrow. Not lots of accumulation, just lots of snow. After very little snow in December and January, we’ve had lots in February and now March – at least a foot of snow in our front yard and more coming down right now.

  14. AKjah says:

    You picked a perfect weekend. I did wave when you parked next to us on the spit. Alas we were cold from beach combing and moved on in the slowly heating cab. Perhaps we will see you in the summer. Thanks for the wonderful diary of a road trip. And not to forget,as i tell the tourist when they ask about living here, i say all you have to be is independently wealthy.

  15. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Interesting photo essay, lovely mountain landscapes, not sure I am all that enamored of some of the more glitzy tourist shops and such but that did look like a pretty decent book store.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and repeat a plea for memory help in an effort to unearth some radio history that I would dearly love to experience again… 20 or so years ago on my evening commute I listened to NPR regularly in Los Angeles and a frequent contribution was a guy with a distinctively slavic name and a distinctively slavic accent who would read pithy little observations and musings which were always enjoyable and a pleasure to hear. I can’t for the life of me remember his name, so of course I have not been able to find any transcripts or recordings of his wonderful take on things. If anybody has a clue who I am talking about I’d be greatfull for any hints. I know this is a long shot. This was very pre-google and the Homer NPR affiliate has about as much historical depth as you know who.

    Snow – haven’t seen any at all in over ten years except in digital images. People here have no idea what that stuff is.

    I have been busy relocating from the bush to a nice and not too large town on the coast, near the equator.

    Good luck to Alaska, from what little I can see here, you’re going to need it!

  16. Zach says:

    Love them!

  17. laurainnocal says:

    Oh wow, wanted to comment on Hunter Thompson’s enscription ……… he was a wild one, eh? That’s why I love him.

  18. laurainnocal says:

    Oh ladies, what a treat!!! Appears a fun time was had. Thank you for sharing your wonderful Great Land with us. Homer is on my to do list as is Alaska! I will do it, I swear I will. What a campy little town and the drive down is simply spectacular.

  19. zyggy says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing. Those are truly wonderful pictures and your captions always make me smile.

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