Tag Archives: travel

Going Back to Cali…I Don’t Think So

It was a long, busy, and pretty boring fall semester. At the end of August, my main man ruptured his ACL in a fishing accident (only in Alaska!) and has been functionally out of commission since then throughout the injury, surgery, and recovery periods. That really cut out our plans for fall weekend adventures, and weekdays were impossible to squeeze any extra minutes out of. With my new job at a new school farther from home, I have a substantial commute. Add on two busy little boys and a commitment to whole foods cooking, and each weekday feels done before it’s over.

But enough of being a bummer! 2015 is already looking up. John’s ACL recovery is progressing well through PT and trips to the gym with his exclusive and private personal trainer (moi). With the baby getting older (14 months and he finally walked a little on Friday!), we’re hoping for a little bit more opportunity to camp, fish, and adventure this year. I barely made a dent in my 2014 checklist, so I’m just going to roll it over. We’re also investigating options to improve our life/work ratios; the most viable choice being moving closer to work. Maybe I’ll even be a bike commuter soon! The gold standard option, of course, is making life = work, but we’re not quite there yet.

As a nice transition to the new year, we had a great reprieve from routine over winter break with a week long trip back to California. The little boys and I followed that up with a week of getting outside back in AK during a stretch of mild weather. Here are a few shots from those weeks:

The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
All the Kennedy boys together.
All the Kennedy boys together.
San Francisco Zoo!
San Francisco Zoo!
You'd think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there's a playground too.
You’d think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there’s a playground too.
Before...
Before…
...and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF.
…and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF. Stay tuned for Alaska-themed refinement.
Joe's Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
Joe’s Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
The CA weather really got me...60 degrees on December 23rd. I'd forgotten such a thing existed!
The CA weather really got me…60+ degrees on December 23rd. I’d forgotten such a thing existed!
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Grampa Gary finally met Skye!
Grampa Gary finally got to meet Skye!
Alaska Zoo...a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco...
Alaska Zoo…a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco…
...and different viewing conditions.
…and different viewing conditions.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.
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No Place Like Home-r

After weeks of suffering from daily-grind-itis, it was high time for us to get out of town for the weekend.  Since the weather has been turning spring-ish, John hooked up our little trailer, loaded our fishing gear, and we took off Friday after work on the 5 hour drive to Homer, the artsy-hippie-fishing town on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Driving

The drive to Homer goes by fairly quickly.  In all, it’s amazingly scenic, and there is plenty of wildlife to look out for.  We spotted a half dozen moose on the way down, but no bears, even though they should be waking up from their winter nap.

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Arriving in Homer is a great finale to a nice drive.  When the little fishing village first comes into sight, you are high up on the bluff above Kachemak Bay, with the town laid out below.  The long stretch of the Homer Spit, a long, beachy peninsula, shoots into sight across the bay.

 

Staying

We spent Friday and Saturday night parked at the Driftwood Inn.  They provided both RV parking and hotel rooms.  Other amenities included bathrooms, showers, a laundry room, a small playground, and a fish cleaning counter.  The best part was the location: high on a bluff with a stellar view of the confluence of Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet.  A few short trails led down the bluff to the beach.

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Fishing

Over the last week, John picked up a couple of shore-casting rods so we could fish from the beach.  I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fishing, so I just let him choose my gear for me.  After breakfast on Saturday, we drove down the Homer Spit.   It’s lined with cutesy little gift shops and charter fishing businesses.  We parked at the very end, I fed the baby and put him down for a nap in the trailer, and we set out to try our luck with our new set-ups.

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The morning was chilly.  The thermometer on the truck said it was in the forties, but the breeze created a significant windchill.  My hands went numb almost instantly.  I let John get set up and test the waters, literally, and played with Si on the beach.  The view from the spit made the cold tolerable.  The beach was a mix of sand and millions of perfectly round, flat rocks; a stone-skippers dream.  Out across the water, the other side of the bay was a panorama of jagged, snow-capped mountains.

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After awhile, John seemed to have the new fishing method figured out, so I gave it a try.  Shore-casting rods are heavy and in the range of nine-feet long, and casting requires flicking the rod to send the rig flying hundreds of feet off the shore.  The problem is that flicking is a light and quick movement, and the rods are…not.  John didn’t have too much of problem reconciling that issue, but my casts were a bit less than impressive.  It didn’t take long for John to start reeling in Alaska Walleye, a kind of pollock, with long spotted bodies, big, round eyes, and similarly shaped mouths.  I tossed out my pathetic cast, felt a light tug, and pulled in…a little purple starfish.  A few casts later, and I felt like I was getting the hang of it.  I felt a bit harder resistance on my line, and reeled in a bit bigger of a starfish.

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We stayed on the spit for two or three hours.  Our final tally was seven Walleye for John, and three starfish and two lost rigs for me.  I am completely clueless about what qualities make a person good at fishing, but I don’t have them.  However, to be fair, John was fully focused on fishing for those several hours, while I part-time fished, and part-time kids-line-untangled, rock-hunted, baby-carried, photo-took, snack-delivered, water-out-of-boots-dumped and lost-hook-searched.

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Eating

We usually pack our cooler to the brim for camping; eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks, chicken, fruits and veggies, it all comes.  For this weekend though, we suspected all that planning would go to waste since we’d heard so many good things about all of the options for eating out in Homer.  We kept the cooler empty for fish.

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On the drive down Friday night, we stopped at St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna.  We had been there before, last summer after fishing on the Kenai River, and knew we wouldn’t leave disappointed.  I knew full well this weekend would be a huge gluten-bomb to the system, so I just rolled with it and ordered pizza.  John had Pesto Chicken, Si had Pepperoni, and I had Chicken with Pineapple.  I think we all liked John’s the best.  We also filled up our Hydroflask growler that I bought John for Christmas with their Dos Lobos amber ale before getting back on the road.

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Our next four meals were all within walking distance of the Driftwood Inn.  Saturday morning we ate at Maura’s Cafe.  It was amazing.  Si had Blueberry Crepes, crepes stuffed with farmer’s cheese and topped with a generous serving of blueberries with a chicken and apple sausage on the side.  I ordered the Root Veggie Hash, which was a pile of potatoes, yams, and arugula topped with fried eggs and the same chicken sausage.  John asked for the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, and it really gave my own recipe a run for the money.  The salmon was cold smoked, and the sauce was topped with capers.  My recipe has definitely been suffering from a caper-deficiency.  Their poached eggs were truly a thing of beauty, and I vowed find out what their secret was.

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For lunch, we went to the Two Sister’s Bakery.  I usually just say no to bakeries to avoid the temptation, but everyone I’d talked to about Homer had mentioned it, and I’d already fallen off the gluten-free wagon.  John had a turkey sandwich on foccacia stuffed with almost every kind of veggie – kale, zucchini, roasted red peppers, grilled onions.  I had Hungarian Mushroom Soup with a salad, and I ordered Si some veggie soup that came with two giant hunks of bread.  He only the ate the bread, of course, so I had vegetable soup along with my soup and salad.  Si likes to talk a big talk about our nutritional lifestyle, “Oh, I can’t eat that.  We only eat protein.”  But put him in a sugar/gluten/dairy situation and he’ll destroy it like nobody’s business.

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Dinner that night was AJ’s Steakhouse.  I saw a poster advertising the live music from the previous Saturday night, and, as it turned out, we were a week late to see Nikos Kilcher, Jewel’s brother, play.  Instead, our dinner was accompanied by a woman with a beautiful voice, a guitar, and jeans and Sorels; true Alaskan style.  We thought about steaks, but decided there was something sacrilegious about having beef in the “Halibut Capital of the World”.  So, I had the halibut.  It was a bit overcooked, but had decent flavor.  John ordered scallops, and had no complaints.  Ever since the scallops I made him a few months ago, he’s been a fan.  I usually let Si get whatever he wants when we go out to prevent any foods from acquiring a forbidden allure, but was still disappointed when he ordered PB&J.  I mean, seriously, kid?!

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Sunday morning, we went back to Maura’s Cafe.  I had been expecting them to be closed for Easter Sunday, so it was a pleasant surprise.  This time, we both had omelets.  John’s had shaved ham and brie, and mine had shrimp, rice noodles, and sweet and spicy Thai sauce.  Both were excellent.  Si had just scrambled eggs and the good ol’ chicken sausage, since he had just eyed my eggs over his blueberry crepes the breakfast before.  All breakfasts were delicious once again.  I remembered to ask about the poached eggs.  Apparently, a bit of vinegar in the water helps keep the egg together.  Who knew?  Well, probably everyone, but it was news to me.

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Overall, it was a fabulous weekend.  A new destination, a check off the Alaska list, some much needed R&R, and a whole set of plans for future return trips.  There’s no place like Homer!

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The Drive – Part 1

After 3 weeks of casual packing and 2 days of frantic packing, we left California on a Wednesday, the afternoon of July 3rd. The sum of our remaining possessions fit within the confines of our truck, boat, SUV, and trailer, with plenty of room to spare.  Our little caravan made its first overnight stop in Grants Pass, OR, with my mom, before heading for the international border and trying to leave the US, ironically, on the 4th of July. We drove the fairly straight line up I-5, seeing both Portland and Seattle as only a blur from behind camera lenses.

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Portland blur.

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Seattle blur.

Both John and I underestimated the gap between Seattle and the US-Canadian border, assuming they were a casual 30-minutes or so apart.  Seeing the “Vancouver, BC – 150 miles” sign going through Seattle gave us a bit of a reality check.  We were at least entertained along the way with almost 3 hours of holiday fireworks as we followed the sunset north.  We barely made it through the Abbotsford border crossing on our planned day after arriving there at 11:30 pm.  Additional delays, including having our boat and trailer inspected by dogs (we seem to put out the gun-toting vibe, despite never having owned a single firearm between the two of us), set us up for trying to navigate a new, international country, pulling trailers, at 2 am.

Our other underestimation was how different Canada would feel.  We expected “North Washington”, but it, in fact, felt like a foreign country.  All indications of culture and humanity, road signs, stores, were just a little off from from the usual, but a multitude of  small differences can lead to a large feeling of bewilderment.  Driving around outside of Chilliwack, BC, in the dark, without a decided destination, only that it be a place to sleep, ended miraculously in that we were never driving into oncoming traffic and we eventually found a not-illegal looking place to park on the side of the road for the night.

The next day, Friday July 5th, went much better.  We had breakfast at a Husky’s in Hope, and discovered that Canadian egg yolks are weirdly pale.  I found this to be true throughout our trip, regardless of the source of the eggs, restaurant or store-bought.  After breakfast, we headed north, hoping to find a nice place to camp for the night.  I noticed then that it wasn’t just the human-made aspects of Canada that felt different, but even the shape of the mountains and the trees weren’t quite what I was used to.  We traveled along a winding river road that made quite a few tunnel passes, and left the aforementioned trees and mountains behind.  We stopped for lunch in Cache Creek and experienced another culinary idiosyncrasy.  Our fried chicken pieces came with one bottle of ketchup and one of…vinegar?  The flavors made sense, but I couldn’t figure out how to apply a squirt of white vinegar to my chicken without having a soggy mess.

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We finally decided during lunch to begin consulting with our copy of The Milepost, the definitive source for all Alaska-bound travelers and their every need.  The great tome informed us that we weren’t far off from Green Lake, which promised campsites, outhouses, a water pump, and swimming, all for $16.  Also convenient was that the denomination could be either Canadian or American dollars.  Most places where we tried to pay with American cash happily accepted it straight across, though I’m pretty sure they got the better end of the exchange rate.

Green Lake Provincial Park proved to be a great choice for our first night of Canadian camping. The area was lush and green, and the lake was crisp and refreshing with a smooth, sandy bottom.  We threw some steaks on the grill, liberally applied our DEET, and chatted with some other campers, amusing ourselves with their Canadian accents.  When asked where we were coming from, John mentioned California, and was surprised at the reply of, “Oh!  I thought I detected a southern accent.”  Wow!  We have an accent!

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After a propane grilled bacon and egg breakfast, we began a planned high mileage day.  We totaled over 550 miles, but at the expense of having the worst Chinese food ever, our boat backed into a ditch, no camping spaces, and an eventual surrender to the day by sleeping at a rest stop.  You win some, you lose some.

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Yuck.  Not advised when in Chetwynd, BC.