Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Moving on From Homer

I had fun writing that last post. Many of you know the characters I wrote about. Know them enough to know that there is a little bit of truth and a whole lot of fiction in what I wrote, and I am thankful I have friends with thick skin who can take a little ribbing! In fact, we received this photo from Steve (Officer Colibaba) and Dianne the next day saying “Here’s a selfie for ya!” I thought for sure as it was loading I was going to see a picture of a middle finger, but no, it was of Steve and Dianne doing what they like best; out on a hike. Then there is Dino who usually takes the brunt of my abuse. I got a message from him asking if I did not love him anymore. Just wait Dino, the tales of Detective Olivieri are not done, there will be a sequel!

 

Now, on with this week….

Back in ’16 when we were selling our camper after our last Alaska adventure, we came in contact with a couple from Texas; Ron and Mary. They were looking for a rig to take to Alaska the following year. In the end, they decided on another rig. Over the years, we have kept in contact and had even come close to meeting in 2022 when we were both in Nova Scotia, but our paths never did cross. Well, this year we are both in Alaska and our paths did cross!

 We were both in Ninilchik and made arrangements to meet in Homer. Great to meet them after so many years! We walked The Spit and the marina looking at boats. Man, there are some beautiful boats down there! And some very unusual ones!

 

We eventually made our way to The Salty Dog where we had a brew. Those of you who have been here as tourists certainly stopped by the Salty Dog to leave your dollar. It’s like the Sign Forest in Watson Lake, but with dollar bills. I took some pictures of the inside, but the lighting was so bad they did not turn out. I have a feeling we will be back again so I will have another chance.

 

Ron bought us each a beer, we sat, chatted and put up our own dollar bills.

 

Then it was off to Harbor Grill for lunch. A mediocre lunch that was a little high priced. But we were there for the company, not the food, so it was a pleasant lunch. After that, we said our goodbyes. We were both going to be in the area for a few more days so knew we would meet up again.

 Then it was back to fishing! Back to the Kenai across from the airport. Back to my same spot if it was available. With the fish counts now in the 30,000-50,000 per day, there was bound to be a lot more people.

The biggest difference between this time and the previous times is that Barb would be joining me. So, away we went! Arriving at the river, we saw a river all right, a river of people! Lined up along the river 10’ apart for several hundred yards. But….. I think we can squeeze in between those two people right there. So squeeze in we did. Once you have your spot, you keep it. There are only so many. Hungry? You better just eat your sandwich in place. Want to check your phone? You better check it in place. Have to go to the bathroom? Well, you should probably give up your spot and head to the portapotty. It is not uncommon for someone to stand on shore for over an hour waiting for a spot to open up.

There is an unspoken etiquette on the river; stand just far enough apart so you do not hook each other (although it does happen), stop fishing when the guy directly upriver from you hooks a fish, help whoever is upriver from you net their fish if they need help. As you are flossing, you are sweeping your rod across the water, your hook comes within 6-12” of the person downriver from you. That is how tight it is on the river. When someone hooks a fish, you yell “fish on” then the person downriver from you (usually) stops fishing and steps back while you fight your fish. They will often net it as well should you need help.

 Over the next hour, I had yelled “Fish on” 4 times. Barb netted two of four that I was able to get into shore. Both of them were big hook-jawed males and put up quite the fight. I swear one spent more time dancing out of the water than in it! Barb, ready with the net, waited while I tried to get the fish close to shore. It would come in shallow, go out deep, come in shallow, go out deep. Finally she got her opportunity to net it and dang if that thing did not jump up right in front of her slapping her in the face a couple of times with its tail. You may think, “yeah right”, but I sh#t you not, that thing slapped her right in the face! She was waving the net around trying to catch that thing in the air like a mad woman trying to hit a bee with a rolled up newspaper! She eventually netted it when it was back in the water again and everyone around was laughing.

 Two fish for Jim, none for Barb. When her upriver neighbor called “fish on”, Barb would slide down to my spot and I would net her neighbors fish . Everyone seemed to be catching fish except Barb who was using her flyrod with flyline on it. Several times I offered to switch rods with her. “I’m fine”, “I’m fine”, she would keep saying. Finally I switched over my handle to the other side (cuz she’s a lefty) and handed her my rod. Within a minute of fishing with her rod I knew what the problem was. The current was taking her line down river too fast compared to the monofilament line everyone else was using.

 So I waddled over to the shore directly behind me (risking giving up my spot) and stripped her fly line off her reel and started putting 25lb mono on. As I am in the process of doing that I see someone has their sights on my spot and starts wading down to slide in next to Barb! “I am right there” pointing to the open hole. Luckily, he turns around and heads off in another direction. As I am spooling new line on her reel, I hear; “Fish on!”. I turn around and it is Barb! I dropped everything, netted her fish and go back to spooling. Just as I am finishing up and tying the hook on; “Fish on!”, Barb again. Another one on the stringer 2-2.

 I get back into my spot and start fishing with her now monofilament filled flyrod. To no avail. Soon enough Barb yells’ “Fish on!” and we had a 5th salmon to the stringer. 2-3 Barb. By now we had fished 4 hours and we were ready to head back to the camper. After fileting the fish, we do just that.

 

The next day was similar. We started fishing around noon, finished around 4 with three fish on the stringer, 2 for me, one for Barb. So over the past two days it was a 4-4 tie. I would have had 3 if Barb had not knocked the last one of mine off the hook as she was trying to net it. She said it was an accident, but was it? Was it really? We again fileted and vac sealed the fish; ¼ of a fish per bag, 4 bags per fish 32 total packages of fish. Here’s the thing we learned; you put that many unfrozen packages in an RV freezer, it thaws everything in there. That freezer just cannot keep up! So, the next morning we headed down to Rich and Susan’s to put them in one of their chest freezers. We now have so much fish I had to move things around just to get the door closed. You could not fit one more package into that freezer!

 

Mission accomplished, we set out for meet up with Ron and Mary again who were still in the area for one more day. They found a really nice site on Boondockers Welcome right on Deep Creek. We visited with them for a couple hours before heading off again.

 

We spent both Saturday and Sunday nights in Rich and Susan’s driveway enjoying the company and camaraderie. We left there early Monday morning headed to the FedEx terminal at the Homer Airport with 100lbs a fish destined for South Dakota. As we were driving to Homer we got to talking about our trip so far, while the scenery is second to none, but what really makes this trip special is people like Rich and Susan. Our trip would just not have been the same without them. Who would have thought a chance meeting on a boat ramp in 2016 would turn into a friendship that I am sure will last a lifetime. Sure, we would have still had a great time had we not met them, but now, looking back at how they opened their home and lives to us, it just would not have been the same. Truly special people.

 Arriving at the Fed Ex terminal the clerk was super helpful. $400 later, we had 100lbs of fish headed to South Dakota using two-day air!

 Then we were off to The Spit to meet up with Steve, Deb, Rick and Angie one last time. My head still hurts. We found three sites right on the water!

 

After getting set up we walked down to the Salty Dawg for a cocktail. Well, three cocktails. The girls each had Longliners, then Steve bought us a round of Duck Farts. Sounds appealing right? They are Kulhua, Cream and Crown. Actually very good!

 

Then it was off to the Harbor Grill again for lunch (sound familiar?). This time, lunch was much better. Why is it both times we got together with this group, it is cold and rainy? We made the most of it and sat outside under an awning in the light drizzle. Debbie made some kind of Upside Down Pineapple drink that were very good, Barb experimented with some new huckleberry syrup that she had bought. It is still a work in progress. 

And Steve and I kept each other supplied with a couple of whiskeys. Angie was the first to tap out when she disappeared into their camper. Barb should have been the second one to tap out, but being stubborn, she powered on. Then she got the hiccups and could not stop! Steve gave her a shot of bourbon and said “Here, this should fix it”. Oh, it fixed it all right. Stopped this hiccups but started something else! Oh boy. An hour later I guided Barb back to the trailer where she hit the bed and did not move for the next 9 hours.

 Our time on the peninsula was now over, time to move one. The next morning, we said our goodbyes to the gang and drove up to Ninilchik to pick up our remaining fish and say goodbye to Rich and Susan. Bittersweet for sure, for the first time on this trip we left an area with a pit in our stomach. We wish we could have stayed longer.

 But now we are headed north to Fairbanks to see Barb’s cousin Lori; another adventure awaits!

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Rest of the Story.......

No fish tales this week, no pictures, just a tale. Due to overwhelming demand, I decided to continue the tale from last week. Now you will have….. The rest of the story. For those of you who missed it, the bolded paragraph below was the opening to the blog post earlier this week.

 You may think you recognize some of the characters in this tale, but I assure you, that are all quite fictional. Names, characters, places and incidents are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 The dark, gray clouds hover over the Fred Meyer parking lot, so low it creates a claustrophobic effect. Red and blue flashing lights reflect off the wet pavement as police string crime scene tape around a lone RV in the corner. We watch from afar as an ambulance slowly pulls up with other emergency vehicles, lights flashing, not in a hurry, that cannot be good. Blood, seeping across the pavement makes its way towards a nightcrawler that recently emerged from the wet soil. A robin swoops down and gobbles up the unsuspecting worm. And just like that another life is gone. No one notices, time marches on.

Detective Olivieri donned her raincoat and approached the RV with the analytical eye of a 30-year veteran of the Fargo Police Department. While it is true there are not a lot of crime in Fargo, or even North Dakota for that matter, she has seen a lot of gruesome things in her day. Of course, she will never forget the Woodchipper case back in ’96. She had just been promoted to detective a month before that case and she remembers thinking how she wished it was her lazy, blue-beer drinking husband that had found his way into that woodchipper rather than poor old Carl. But that case is what really made a name for her, so if Carl had to be sacrificed to make a name for herself, so be it.

Before entering the RV, she stops and scans the parking lot. Why Fred Meyer allowed freeloaders to camp in their parking lot she would never understand. All it did was invite undesirables into their town looking for a free place to stay. She notices two sets of eyes peeking through the curtains of a Lance camper sitting on a white Ram pickup. South Dakota plates on the pickup are prominent on the front of the truck. South Dakota scum, why can’t they stay in their own state? She knows she’ll have to interview them and see if they saw anything. A task she was not looking forward to.

 Entering the crime scene, she sees more blood on the floor. “Where’s our vic?” she says to Colibaba as he is snapping photos of the inside of the RV. Colibaba was hired last month in a newly created “Forensics Officer” position. Not for his forensic skills, but because he was friends with the Chief. “He’s really good at taking pictures eh?” was the only explanation Chief Roche gave for the hire. But we all knew the real reason. They were bro-friends, have been for years, hell, the whole town knows. “No vic” Colibaba responds, “just blood, lady in that white Ram over there was walking her dogs, had an altercation and called it in”.

 “Make sure you get a close up of that bloody boot print, we can probably determine the size and make of it”, she tells Colibaba. “That’s my boot print, I accidently stepped in the blood”. “Take a picture of it anyway”. Christ, he will probably take a selfie with it, that guy loves his selfies. Scanning the rest of the floor she sees a single Croc sandal. A huge Croc, laying next to it is a bloody sock that looks like it had seen its better days. Damn, that a huge croc. Who wears Crocs anymore? Who wears Crocs with socks? She stifles a laugh thinking of her poetic skills. This case is getting weirder by the minute.

 “RV’s registered to a Harold Fury out of Pennsylvania”. Colibaba says. “Di called the phone number listed at the DMV, got a hold of the wife. She say’s Harold left in the RV two months ago. Said he was going to tour the ball parks across the US, no idea where he is and she said she hopes he never comes back”. ‘Di’ is Colibaba’s wife, also the dispatcher for the city. Nepotism at it’s best. She’s a lovely woman who deserves so much better. How’s that saying go; He married up and she married way, way down?

 May as well go talk to the lady in the Ram, she thinks as she heads across the parking lot. Before she can even knock, the door is opened by this gorgeous hunk of a man. Shirtless. Piecing blue eyes staring back at her. But it’s not his eyes she is looking at, it is the perfect 6-pack of a chiseled chest that has her attention. She grabs onto the side of the truck as her knees become weak. Her mouth is suddenly dry and she cannot speak. Finally pulls herself together and asks to speak to the complainant. “That was my wife Barbie, she was walking Dakota and Zoey when it happened. Let me get her for you”. Barbie? Dakota? Who calls their wife Barbie? Who names their dog Dakota? Original.

 ‘Barbie’ comes to the door, a perky little thing who looks like she has had one too many lattes this morning, or is she nervous about something? “Can you tell me what happened Mame?” “Well, I just was walking the girls, Dakota and Zoey, when this crazy man jumps out of that trailer and starts kicking at my dogs! Dakota hid behind me, but little Zoey is not afraid of anything and grabbed onto that man's canckle and started shaking it. Shook his Croc right off!” Upon hearing her name, little Zoey appeared around the corner of the interior of the camper. An ugly dog, with a nose that looks like it ran into a few too many walls. Shreds of a bloody sock hung from her disfigured teeth. Geez, find a dog dentist Olivieri thought.

 About then Barbie screamed, “There he is!” Pointing to a gangly ogre trying to run across towards the Fred Meyer. “If he gets into that store, we’ll never find him”, Olivieri yells.  “Fear not,” Barbie replies, “I have a Fur Missile, get’em Zoey!” Barbie launches Zoey who takes of across the parking lot, chomping into the man’s uninjured ankle dropping him to the ground. Olivieri rushes over handcuffing the man and turning him over. “Why it’s Harry the Dog Hater! Wanted in 23 US states and two Canadian Provinces” Barbie takes ahold of Zoey who is still shaking Harry’s legs like a little Tasmanian Devil.

 Harold Fury was living up to his name and was furious! “I told my wife that I was on a cross-country tour of Major League Ballparks, but I was actually on a cross-country tour to terrorize dogs. And I would have gotten away from it if it wasn’t for that dang-blasted flat-faced ugly dog!” After getting Harold safely in the back of her squad car, Olivieri comes back and tells Barbie, “I’ll be putting your name in for the $100,000 reward on The Dog Hater, a lot of people will be glad to know he is off the streets.” “$100.000?”, Barbie replies with a twinkle in her eye, “Why that’ll be perfect, I’ve had my eye on a new Breville Espresso Maker, a new Freeze Dryer and a new Class C!”

 And that, my friends, is the tale of how Harry the Dog Hater was brought to justice making the world a safer place for all two and four-legged creatures across the north.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Road trip on a Road trip?

The dark, gray clouds hover over the Fred Meyer parking lot, so low it creates a claustrophobic effect. Red and blue flashing lights reflect off the wet pavement as police string crime scene tape around a lone RV in the corner. We watch from afar as an ambulance slowly pulls up alongside the other emergency vehicles, lights flashing, no siren, not in a hurry, that cannot be good. Blood, seeping across the pavement makes its way towards a nightcrawler that recently emerged from the wet soil. A robin swoops down and gobbles up the unsuspecting worm. And just like that, another life is gone. No one notices, time marches on.

 Oh wait, I am writing a blog, not a mystery novel! Let me start over. When I started this week's blog, we WERE in the Fred Meyer parking lot, it was overcast and wet, but there were no emergency vehicles to be seen, no blood, not even a worm. Salmon fishing has been slow, but we are steadily filling up our freezer one fish at a time. “Don’t worry”, one old-timer tells me, “Pretty soon, there will be so many fish you can tie a line to a donkey’s ear, and he’ll catch a limit just swinging his head.” Did he just compare my fishing prowess to that of a donkey? Rather than ponder this thought, I give my one fish to Barb for her to vacuum seal and put in the freezer.

 The vacuum sealer you ask? We had bought a new one at Sportsman’s Warehouse on the way up here planning on using it throughout our trip. That is until Barb saw Susan’s vac sealer. “I want one!”. She says sounding like an 8-year-old looking at the newest doll on the market. The problem is, is that Barb is not 8 years old, and Barb has her own credit card. She promptly went onto Amazon, ordered one and had it shipped to Susan’s house. I will admit, this thing is pretty cool. Like no other vacuum sealer I have seen before. It kind of expands the bag with air before suddenly sucking it out and sealing the bag. The problem with the traditional ones we are used to is the moisture. Fish, are generally wet, making it hard to get a good seal. This thing seems to seal it tight each and every time! Take a look at this video….. 

I did have one very cool moment while standing in the Kenai River at a place called Moose Meadows. I’m sitting there fishing and this bald eagle lands on this rock out in the water and just sits there. How cool is that? I think to myself. It just does not get any better than this. As if God heard my thoughts himself, he made it even better when this curious moose walks out to have a chat with the eagle!

 

I take a few pictures and continue fishing; the eagle flies off to be replaced by a seagull. Now the moose wants to chat with the seagull! I video it this time. The moose leaves and I continue to fish, 30 seconds later, it walks right by me! I get my phone out quick enough to take the last part of this video. One of these times, I know I am going to drop my phone right in the river! 

Since I last wrote, we have added 7 more salmon to the freezer, and when I say “we” I mean me. Barb has not been out. She is feeling better, but it has been wet and cold. No need to tempt fate with a continued illness. The fish are definitely here and like that donkey I managed to catch my limit more than once.

 

While I am providing sustenance for our family to survive the winter, Barb is off taking pictures of flowers and Zoey is reading the signs along the nature trail. 

Our big adventure for the week was a 100-mile road trip over to Seward to meet up with fulltime RV’er friends Steve and Debbie for a two-day visit. We met Steve and Debbie in Louisiana in January of 2015 and get together whenever we are within a couple hours of each other. The last time we saw them was in February of 2023 in Arizona.  This will make the 4th state we have met up with them! 

While we wait for their arrival, we took in some of the Seward sights. 

 We were all set up on the water at the South Resurrection Bay Campground when they pulled in with their friends Rick and Angie about 5pm. Hugs all around, it was really great to see these guys again! They are on day 70 something of their adventure and are just about ½ through as they are they are staying until September!

 

We are all traveling in Ram trucks with campers, in our opinion, one of the best ways to see Alaska!

 

After everyone was set up, we walked into Seward Brewing Company. Good beer and food but bring your wallet. I sure wish I had forgot mine! The next day we walked the other side of town near the marina. So many cool boats there. We just walked up and down the docks dreaming what it would be like to own one of those beauties.



That afternoon, Barb and Debbie set up a blind bourbon tasting for Steve and me. It’s always fun and interesting to try new stuff and try and guess your familiar ones out of a blind line up.

 

Then it was an evening by the fire!

 

Barb and I retired early as we had a 4am wake up call. We needed to head 3 ½ hours west to meet up with Rich, Susan, Bob and Becky for yet another Halibut adventure! And an adventure it was! We tried to new spot from the other times we went out. This time the ‘buts were a little bigger averaging over 20lbs. Bob, Becky and I each caught one that went over 30, so that definitely puts me in the lead over Barb in the ‘but category!

 

Bob caught a big old skate (stingray). No good for eating, so it went back into the water. 

The biggest one I caught put up a really nice fight and when it was finally gaffed and in the boat Rich says “That’s a really nice one!”. "Does that mean, you think I have a nice 'but?" "Er, Ah, I don't like where this conversation is going."



We ended up with 12 really nice fish getting us over 100lbs to ship home.  

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, mayhem continues. Neighbor Jim is still waging war on the P Dogs, but now he has a new nemesis. Calves. Those of you who have raised cattle know that calves are incredible escape artists. Fences designed to keep full grown cattle intend to do their jobs pretty well, but calves have a way of finding any nook and cranny they can to escape. They generally do not wander too far from their mothers and eventually crawl back through, but it is a nuisance, nonetheless. 

So, Jim set out to find out where these little critters were getting out and sent me these pictures where he put a few boards up at our entry where the little critters have been escaping. Do I have a great neighbor or what?!?

This morning was spent in the Ross's kitchen, Barb and Susan talking all things freeze-drying. Apparently, they own 4 for their business, now Barb thinks she need one too. As Barb takes the first sip of coffee that Susan put in front of her, she stops mid sentence as says, "This coffee is incredible!" Susan shows Barb the Breville espresso maker in the corner....
.... gets a glint in her eye, looks at me and says, "I want one!"