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Base of Operations: Alaska

From time to time we feel compelled to make a public service announcement (PSA). I’m not talking about where to find the cheapest gas, or the best poutine, or even how the fish are running. Operations Windmill’s PSAs are reserved for travel intelligence of the highest order. Information that you MUST know. Things that will make or break your journey. The Homer Brewing Company has made our journey a delight.

Homer LotWe left a mosquito infested campsite east of Soldatna and started our drive into Homer. As we neared the outskirts the navigator (me) spotted a sign. Highway litter pickup sponsored by The Homer Brewing Company (HBC). We decided it sounded like good place to regroup and hear what the locals have to say about where to bed down for the night. It turned out to be much more than that. It is the ideal entry point into Homer.

We parked in front and walked in. It was empty save for the guy pulling the handles. The white board listed a spectrum of quaffs ranging from light to dark. We filled out cards with our choices.

As he was pouring them I walked outside and heard someone say “hey, that’s a nice rig you’ve got there.” I’ve heard that before and it usually means a 15 minute convo with some motorheaded 4 wheeler. I turned around and saw a guy in a hat peering at Bunky through his glasses. After the perfunctory talk about 4 wheelin’ and modifications, the conversation took a more worldly turn. It seemed like this guy knew a lot about life on the road.

We introduced ourselves and retreated to the covered patio. Luca and Cody joined us as we sipped on the samples and talked about Alaska, Washington, Canada. There gmc-pd-4501-01was Texas and Louisiana too. Knute has plenty of stories to tell but he really didn’t get going until he admitted he owned a converted Grayhound PD 4501. I think he said that, but it could have been one of the later MCI models. Apparently the beer was organizing a beachhead in my brain.

Knute told us about his travels in the bus. He called them Quests. A Quest was quite an assemblage of individuals. Musicians, artists, layabouts and routabouts too. All traveling from venue to venue in search of music, nature and bliss. They were hippies. The kind we used to have in San Francsico before they were flushed out by the inevitable tides that move humanity this way and that. A rare sighting.

Knute introduced us to Steve, one of the owners. We moseyed over to the greenhouse to take a deeper dive into the forces that make Homer such a sweet spot on planet earth. The banter was good, and the stories tall but true. It felt like we had taken Homer 101 and the professors liked us. We decided to make The Homer Brewery our Base of Alaskan Operations.

The next day Cork told me the Gear Shed had good prices on hip waders. I grabbed a pair and waited in line to pay. That’s when Karen spotted me. She’s the other owner and partner in the Homer Brewing Company. She asked what I was doing and I said I was headed out to fish the Anchor River. She told me she had a pair of chest waders in her garage that would fit. I was silly to buy those when she could lend me hers. So she drew a map to her house and said I’d find them in the garage. No worries, nobody’s home. Go get them. So we did.

Fishing was semi-productive but still relaxing. A day later we swung by HBC to return the waders. Karen insisted I keep them longer and then invited us to stop by their place on Sunday. It’s their day off and there’s a flow of interesting folks that stop by. We took her up on it.

I’ve been taught not to arrive empty handed so we hit the local farmer’s market and put up a batch of spicy gPicklesarlic-dill superpickles. We even threw in some fennel for good measure. We made 8 jars with the intention of giving them away to folks we meet that are foodies one way or another. We brought them to Steve and Karen’s as our contribution to the afternoon’s grazing and drinking. As the sun did its curious dip towards the horizon the instruments came out. I even picked up a harp as Luca plucked at a stand up bass. Someone even wrote lyrics to one of Luca’s bits and pleaded for him to join them at a noontime gig on Sunday. He politely declined.Cats2

Enough beer was had to make the trip back questionable so Steve and Karen generously offered their guest bedroom. We slumbered well and were off in the morning with 6 eggs from the HBC chickens.

Homer chickensBefore we left, Steve impressed on me the importance of attending Salmonstock in the upcoming week. It’s a 3-day music festival that takes place in Ninilchik, just up the way. So yes, I’ll be there next weekend with a crew of some of the best people I’ve had a chance to hang out with in Alaska.

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