Day 6 – January 11
Tok to Homer
As in Haines, waking up on land was wonderful, but we were still feeling the effects of being on a boat. That morning we went to the Fast Eddy’s restaurant for breakfast (which is were we checked in and out for our room). The food there was amazing! So much that I was going to tell the waitress someone should give the cook a hug. This could have been exaggerated some, given our lack of very many warm meals through this journey and tiredness. Regardless the food was really good and I left a comment about this in their comment box.
Today we were going to make it to Homer, or at least try. This journey would be a little more than 200 miles longer than the journey from Haines to Tok. We packed up, said our prayers and headed out.
The journey was pretty straight forward: drive forever. Driving was pretty nice and quiet. We listened to some Redwall books on audio, talked, Jonelle called home and some other people while cell reception was available, and we just kept driving along. After some time I saw a moose! That was probably one of the most excited I got driving along. I was so happy. Before that we had seen many bald eagles, and started keeping track of animals we saw along the way (sans ravens which we weren’t too interested in). A little while longer I saw another moose! This was turning out to be an amazing day!
We continued driving along and found a few more animals. A little ways down the road there was a porcupine crossing the road. I had never seen a porcupine in the wild before, and lo and behold here it was crossing the road. Luckily I didn’t hit it. It was an interesting thought process as I approached it though, “What is that? It looks like a small bunch of a brier. But it’s moving. What is that? It’s a porcupine! Look Jonelle! A porcupine!” We also saw a white rabbit cross the road. The thought process was similar, except I already knew what this was, “Ooh look a rabbit! Jonelle look at the bunny! There is a rabbit crossing the road! Look!” Yeah, it didn’t take a lot to make me excited. In all, for our trip so far, we saw 3-4 moose (I only saw 3), 1 porcupine, 1 rabbit, 13 bald eagles, and a bunch of ravens (I think they’re ravens).
We finally made it to Palmer, where we filled up our gas tank and then kept driving along. I mention this as Palmer was the first area that we saw a decent number of people driving here and there. Up until this point we might see some one every once in a while, but now there were scores of drivers all around us. It was kind of a nice break to the lonely drive we’ve had so far, but at the same time I did enjoy not having to worry about what some other driver is going to do.
Palmer is apparently the unofficial capital of Matanuska Valley, which is something of a government experiment. It was created to be an agricultural center and the government brought over farmers from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to start up an agricultural community in the Matanuska Valley. While the plan didn’t work right away, descendants of these families stayed and found their niche. Palmer is now basically a giant farmer’s market for all the villages and towns around it. (According to our travel planner, “The Milepost 2011, 63rd edition”).
Going on, after making it through Palmer we made it to Anchorage. By this point I was tired and ready to be done driving for a bit. However, there were a billion people driving around in Anchorage. Unfortunately we got there around rush hour, and Anchorage is basically to Alaska as Los Angeles is to California. Jonelle and I decided right then and there that we never wanted to live in Anchorage. This may be unfair, but oh well. I know San Diego is really bad during rush hour, which is why I always avoid freeways during 3-7pm (as much as I can), and I love San Diego. Anyway, we made it out of Anchorage and I pulled over at one of the viewing points along the Knik Arm and we switched drivers.
Jonelle proceeded to drive for the next couple hours while I slept. It was wonderful to rest. It was also interesting to stare out the side window. After a while I was pretty alert again and rested enough to take over driving again, whenever Jonelle wanted to switch back. We changed drivers again a little ways out of Soldatna, on the side of the highway, and resumed driving.
We finally made it Soldatna. This was a wonderful relief, as we didn’t stop for food or anything in Anchorage, because we didn’t want to stop anywhere in or nearby Anchorage. So we pulled up to a gas station and filled the gas tank and went in the shop. It was wonderful to stretch out again. We got some junk food and hit the road again. By this point it was about 7pm and really dark, but we were so close to Homer and really just wanted to get there and not think about driving anymore, or about the impending storms my parents kept reading about and updating us on. So we pressed on for Homer.
As we went it did start snowing. By the time we were 50 miles out of Homer the roads were pretty bad. There were, however, other drivers out on the road, so I didn’t feel so bad at continuing on. By this point I was pretty much wholly focused on driving. I was going about 15 under the posted speed limit signs, at most. For a lot of this trek I found myself behind a semi-truck, but did eventually get around it. It was nice to know there was a truck on the road, and behind me. Then I could drive a little faster and if I got stuck, someone would be along soon.
Sometime around 9pm we finally made it into Homer. We were so ready to be done driving that we pulled into the first lodging we found, the Best Western Bidarka Inn. We parked the car and checked in to get a room. After checking in I wanted to move the car closer to our room and Jonelle wanted to start unpacking the car. So we set about our own projects. Mine didn’t work out so well as I got stuck in the snow after backing up a little ways out of the spot I was in.
I couldn’t move anywhere. I was about to attempt putting chains on the car when a cab driver offered to pull me out. So we got the tow rope out and hooked it up to the car. The cab driver then had to go do something, so I decided to make another attempt at moving. I was able to rock the car back and forth (drive and reverse, over and over) and eventually built up enough momentum to get the car going. I then kept going and quickly pulled into a spot and was done.
We were so tired and so happy to be done driving for a while and just relax for a couple days.