Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Our Homer Odyssey

Exactly a year ago I spent three days with my Mom and sister in Homer, Alaska which is four hours south of Anchorage on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. My Mom, an artist, was having a gallery showing that weekend and needed to deliver her paintings so we made it a girls' trip and it was so good I came home telling Andrew we had to take the kids. This summer I pushed the issue by announcing I'd made reservations to stay at the same place I'd stayed last year.

It was too good a deal to pass up. Ocean House Inn is booked all summer long but I got the off-season rate of $150/night for a beach front condo that sleeps 9 (not counting the two roll-a-ways in the closet). I had dreams of idyllic walks along the beach, sunrises from my balcony, the sound of the 23-foot tides lulling me to sleep, bald eagles sweeping across Kachemak Bay just like last year. It wasn't. It was fun, a great family trip, but nothing like last year.

You can tell which pictures are from which trip. Anything with sun is last year. Anything with rain, sleet, gale-force winds--that would be this weekend. Oh don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, it was a great time just quite different from the first carefree experience--I'm sure the kids had something to do with it.

Four hours in a car with Mom and Carinne go by very fast, we never stop talking (it goes by fast if you're in on the conversation, not so fast if you're stuck in a car just listening). But four hours with four kids nearly drove me to banging my head on the dashboard. We've taken longer plane rides and car rides but after three bathroom stops, water bottle spills, "I'm bored," and "His feet are touching me!" I decided I need to invest in one of those soundproof chauffeur windows between the two seats in the front and the four in the back . . . yea, that would have been good.

The condo is cute and quaint and when Andrew saw it he understood why I'd made such a point of coming back--each of the kids had their own room and Lillian was in love with her "very own pink bedroom" a la Anne of Green Gables.

It's a good thing we liked the condo--and the hot tub--because we spent a lot of time there since we arrived the same time as Hurricane Homer. Our beach time was spotty but that didn't stop the kids from finding a bag full of clam shells and crab claws while exploring the beach at low tide. Too bad I "forgot" the bag and the forty-five assorted crab claws and shells David had collected, I think he had plans for a smashing crab-shell bisque. Do you have any concept of how forgotten crab shells left on the floor of a car by the heater vent stink after three days?

Spencer, with his natural creativity in full splendor, got into trouble playing Bull Whip with the nasty gigantic Alien Seaweed all over the beach--that pile on the right is twelve or fifteen feet long--which is hollow and when you snap it in half it makes a funny didgeridoo sound. I caught him whipping it at his sister, Indian Jones style, seaweed, sand and water flying everywhere. "You will NOT whip your sister with seaweed, do you hear me young man? Do you??"

The kids and I found beach glass and rocks while Andrew fumbled with his camera, chasing after a bald eagle that swooped across the bay, yelling, "Stop! Hey! Hold on! Hold on a minute! AAGH!" No luck so you'll just have to imagine a majestic eagle soaring across the beach.

Friday night was First Friday, or the night each month when the half dozen art galleries in the town center stay open late to showcase a particular artist. Andrew and I wandered down the street, sampling the art and h'ors d'oeuvres. By "late" I mean that by 7:30pm the galleries were locking their doors and we went looking for an excuse to stay out a little later, i.e. ice cream. The only place we found was McDonalds and somehow a mango-raspberry shake (why was I not surprised it tasted suspiciously like strawberry?) at McDonalds is not quite the Cold Stone I was hoping for but it was the company not the dessert that made the evening. Homer is known for it's halibut fishing, not it's ice cream.

The kids fed the horses at my cousin's farm on the hill (always a treat for my city kids), went to the local sea life museum, Islands and Oceans and drove out on the 4.5 mile spit that sticks out into Kachemak Bay. This part fascinated Lillian who kept asking when we were going to see Homer's spit.

After three days we'd done nearly everything--short of halibut fishing, which ironically is what Homer is famous for--and I was ready for the city again. The hurricane followed us home all the way up Turnagain Arm, blowing our little minivan all over the road. I didn't think I'd live through the drive home between the storm and David and Spencer practicing their latest moves in the back seat while Lillian whined about wanting to go back to her little pink bedroom, then about getting crumbs on her lap, then about needing a drink, then about being tired . . . but somehow I survived to tell the tale and post the pictures. Maybe the next trip will be just the two of us.

16 comments:

Julie said...

I have often wished for the sound-proof barrier between the seats. But I always pictured the police car/criminal scenario. Your chauffer image is much kinder.

We went on a long family drive to California this August. After several days I had lost all patience and was in the "enjoy yourselves guys because we're NEVER doing this again" phase. Then my husband said something that totally cleared things up for me. He said: "Honey this isn't a vacation. It's a trip." Yes there is a big difference!

Leslie said...

Wow, what a trip! Overall, sounds like lots of fun.

Anonymous said...

Despite the whining, it sounds like a great trip. And your photos are gorgeous.

Seriously, you make me want to visit Alaska.

J Fife said...

"You will NOT whip your sister with seaweed" - this just brightened my day.

M&Co. said...

Going away with your adult mother and sisters: A Vacation.

Going away with your Husband and small children: A Trip.

The difference is on the trip, you are doing all the same stuff you do at home, but from the car or someone elses home.

I'm not sure I've had a Vacation in 12 years. I've had several trips.

Jessie said...

This was a great read! : ) You definitely know how to paint a picture with words. The pics are beautiful!

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Travel with kids = more work, better scenery.

Thanks for sharing the scenery!

The Wooden Porch said...

Oh, that place looks too perfect!!! You really made me want to vacation there.

Blondie said...

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Alaska. There is something so dreamy and magical about it. I am so going to Homer one day. And now I know where to stay! But for some reason, people are always so reluctant to go to Alaska with me. Do you think they're afraid of the flight time from Chicago?? :)

Anonymous said...

The French have a saying about "trips". They change your ideas.

Which is good. Regardless, you come home and have other stuff to think about. New memories. And you've broken the continuity of day to day life. Never bad.

Nice photos.

edj said...

When I was in college I knew several people from Homer, but I never knew it was so beautiful.

And I LOVE your idea of a sound-proof barrier, because that really would solve a lot of things, wouldn't it?

Jana said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful . . .

girlymama said...

wow - that looks amazing!!

i will visit alaska someday!!

Anonymous said...

wonderful story, my Husband and 2 year old son and I RV'd around Alaska June 2006, we spent two days three nights in Homer and loved it. Eagles galore. Check it out at www.tuschhoff.net/Alaska2006

Karen said...

My hometown...I really miss it. Haven't been there since my honeymoon 6 years ago!

painting from photos said...

No wonder you returned to those places. The pictures look so beautiful. How much more in real life? My favorite – the patterned sandy beach.