Today is July 23 2018 and I'm still in alaska, but beginning to enjoy myself in spite of everything. Alaska is a rugged state. Being stranded I've gotten to know people, locals and tourist alike come here to fish. Salmon and Halibut are big business. Two days ago there were 67k salmon running and today it dropped to 27k. The big commercial fishing boats get first nab at the salmon then the residence get to fish, and by then the count has dropped tremendously. A guy here at the campground, told me that years ago there were 200k fish running! Isn't that amazing? The fisherman don't want to sit around for an hour trying to catch a fish either, within 15 minutes if nothings caught then it's time to move on. People line up along the river, some on shore and many out there in the water...all standing 8 feet to 20 feet apart. They must have some rhythm so their lines don't catch. Tourist are allowed to catch 3 fish a day and the residence can catch 50. Also there is an interesting type of fishing here called net wetting, and only the local can do it. They go out in the water with their nets to scoop up fish! So I'm learning how important fishing is, just for survival here in Alaska. The population of this southern area goes from 100k to 800k for the 2 weeks that the salmon run. There are trailers and Rvs parked at grocery stores, and some people even reserve a site, and then bring in all their friends. It's crazy.
I never did fish at that one really nice suite I was staying at, cause I just couldn't get motivated plus the salmon weren't running then. I stayed there a week then had to get out again, the place was reserved, but at least I had a couple days notice this time. I made plans with this one campground called Diamond M Ranch, and they offered to pick me up. So that's I did, come Friday morning I called them and they came and picked me up and all my gear.
The young man is nice and we talk until we get to camp. He's going to be taking over the family business one day and he's dedicated. We drive around the campground, trying to find a nice private place for me. There are horses and goats...a regular farm! It's $65. a night to camp, but at least I can be settled until my car is fixed. I walk around camp, into the tent area that has no privacy at all. I can't be choosey at this point. I'm just walking around waiting for the manager when I spot someone walking toward me. The first thing she says to me is "wow, they were telling me that you are having a hard time getting around, but you're doing okay." I admit, I'm taken aback a little. "Yep, this is how I walk." I don't remember her name, but what she says next surprises me. "I don't think it's a good fit for you here." Okay it's a campground, how do you not fit in? I'm thinking it's because of all my gear and how it might by cluttering up camp, so I tell her how my gear can fit in my tent. Once again she says the same thing, "I just don't think here is a good fit for you, but we'll find a good place for you." What can I say? Maybe blatant discrimination?
Where they take me and all my gear is to Love Inc., a place where people go who are homeless or can't pay their electric bill etc. As I'm filling out the application, the lady who brought me here says, "don't worry, I'll get all your gear out of the car. It's okay to have someone help you." After she's done she comes to me and gives me a hug and says "good luck" and leaves. She looks at me one more time as she reaches the door, I say to her, "are they going to be able to help me?" She assures me they will and then she's gone.
Insecurity comes to mind as I sit there waiting for people to take care of my everyday needs. They feed me lunch, and then a nice young gal takes me out looking for a place to sleep. We find an RV campground with a small area for tents and even though I don't especially like it, this is where I am now. Once again I'm dropped off with all my gear along with good luck wishes. The people here at 'Alaska Canoe Campground' are very nice. I'm the only tent among huge RV's, trailers and trunks. If my car 'Aggie' was here she'd look like a toy.
My neighbor Phillip has taken me out fishing twice already and we are going again later today. I might add...I caught my first salmon! It's very exhilarating to catch one of those fish and all I want now is to catch more.
So what's been going through my head lately? When I get my car back, should I bolt for the border and be happy that I get out alive? Or stay awhile longer in Alaska and see all I want to see. Yep, I'll be here a few more weeks and know that the second half of Alaska will be better to me than the first.
The Wonderful World of Salmon
Phillip and his buddies from Arkansas have taken me under their wings and are treating me great. They invite me to sit by the fire and to hang out with them. I find myself smiling and laughing, I'm sure the guys don't realize how much they are helping me to get out of my own skin, out of my way. One time I come back from a walk to find an apple and a corn dog lying on my sleeping bag. Now that makes me smile! How did Phillip know that I love apples? Maybe I said something and he was listening? Now hotdogs on the other hand are another thing all together! They, along with donuts are the most disgusting foods on the planet, and I tell him so too! We all had a good laugh. I fit right in with the rednecks, and even start talking like them too:)
I finally get my car back after a week and I'm a happy camper. I take her for a drive and get her washed and back at camp I spend hours cleaning her up. She's cleaner now than before I left Massachusetts...or maybe ever! I stay at camp a few more days, take a day trip to Homer and another day trip, with the boys, to Hope. We all are there to fish for silvers, but I catch 9 pinks, throwing 3 of them back. Phillip ended up just taking care of me, taking pictures and keeping me steady while I reel in all those fish. I caught fish right and left while guys around me tried to stay out of the way, because they weren't catching any!
Guess what we ate for dinner? You guessed it...FISH. We all heard how no one likes pinks, yet we ate them up and they are delicious. I caught a trout a few days back and while everyone else throws them back, I keep mine and eat it for breakfast, along with scrambled eggs...of course I share with Phillip. I wouldn't have had any of those experiences without him, and Phillip really enjoyed watching me have fun. What a Godsend
The night before I leave fish camp, Phillip stops by and gives me a fly rod and a bunch of supplies. Ahhh, what a sweetheart. I hope to see him and all the boys again someday out in Arkansas. I'd like to go fishing and hunting with him too ( I can't believe I just said that...hopefully his wife will be okay with that :) In the morning I take my time packing up all my gear, make several trips to the bathroom saying goodbye to everyone along the way. Almost forgot about all my fish, so Phillip and I throw the bunch into a plastic bag and I'm on my way, first stop the fish package store to send the salmon home.
I have to move on or I'll never get home, and I'm ready to head out toward new adventures that will lead me closer to home. I'm driving north out of one tiny peninsula, then another before I hit Anchorage. The day is pretty, party sunny here and there...that's my Alaska. The clouds and sun are once again coming together so lovely like they do here. When it happens I just go 'WOW.'
This is where I fall on my back for the first time. I'm feeling relaxed as I meditate on the ground of my campsite. I'm able to release muscles that have been giving me such pain in my elbows and wrists. What a relief. After the stretch I seem to be walking better, feeling stronger and more confident. I start collecting firewood around camp, a bunch of us start together and people are so nice. I got plenty, plus it's not cold enough for a fire and we don't need light during the summer in Alaska. My joke is...even when it's dark, it's light. Still feeling good so I start thinking of dinner, which never really taste good and I'm starting to hate it. I need fuel so I push ahead, get everything out of my car and walk a short distance to camp, then back to car and I find a candy. I stick it in my pocket for later, misjudge the handle and fall backwards onto my back, hitting the left side of my head. I'm lying there on my back with my head lower than my feet, and thankful that no one is around to see. I think of all my body parts and if they are okay, and everything seems to be good. Head hurts a little, but I've had worse. So I get myself up and continue moving, though something still doesn't feel right about me. I camp on the Tok River alone for 3 nights. The tent area is perfectly hidden in the trees along the silty river. The jade colored Tok River winds along like a huge, fast moving snake.
I sleep well and wake up to a peaceful overcast day, but I'm starting to feel a sense of loneliness. I think I really want to be home...oh shit. I've been pushing so hard, and very happily I might add, to get to Alaska. Now that I'm here I feel lost...and I miss the Yukon and I miss my honey back home. All this insight takes awhile to understand. Now what? When all else fails, push forward. After 3 nights I move on to Fairbanks where I go to my favorite place...okay not my favorite place Walmart, but that's where I have to be to pick up my monthly meds.
Another long day and still my phone doesn't work, and I'm ready to forget about it, I think I've said this before, but Canada has all our old pay phones, and how I miss them. I was told my phone would work in Alaska, but they lied. Somebody in Walmart mentions how I might be able to use a phone at Verizon store, so that's what I do. What I had to learn is after 5 minutes and phone shuts off, but after a few laughs and calls back I walk away happy and in love. I talk with the guys in the shop about campgrounds and head out toward yet another hot springs.
I drive an hour and out of nowhere the road ends and is fenced off with a huge gate like Jurassic Park! I slowly drive through the gates and looming out of the ground is this huge building! People are everywhere. I'm overwhelmed but go in anyway and ask about camping, though it looks nothing like my kind of camping. I don't have a good feeling about this at all. I drive around the grounds in amazement, driving on a road for staff only until I see a few small tents. I find 3 tent sites, there's no room for me and my tent so I drive away.
I feel like there's just too many people and not enough land. It's the weirdest thing, I drive an hour through the woods and see no one. Then at the end of the road is a huge party! People are well dressed walking around with champagne and I smell! So after all that I drive back down the hill and end up at Red Squirrel Campground. It's nice and deep in the woods which means mosquitoes. Before long I have camp up and walking around collecting wood. It's not cold, but the fire helps with the bugs. I hang out for 3 days and loneliness keeps hanging around so I don't do much except collect wood. I've lost interest in sight seeing, but mostly just have stopped looking at the trees, flowers or the clouds. I keep pushing forward though, knowing this too has to pass.
Taking care of all my business in Fairbanks, I head down to Denali to camp for a couple of weeks. I am excited and hopeful that Denali will bring my spirit back.
A Spit called Homer
Before long I tire and I'm easily unimpressed with what's in front of me. Anchorage looms ahead of me and I'm tired and have no energy at all. As much as I'd like to get a motel and sleep the night away, I find out ALL places to sleep in Anchorage are full so I keep driving. 9pm and I just want to sleep, my head hurts... Finally I stop at a lousy RV campground on the outside of town, alongside the train tracks, I got out and prepared my bed asap, soup for dinner makes my stomach feel better. Moving continually until I'm crawling into "bed" my car to sleep.
Seward and Homer connector
Over the bridge and into a new, different and wonderful world...
Denali Highway...where nobody goes
Well, here I am! In Alaska. I drive over the "top of the world road" back into the United States after being gone for so long. The border transaction takes place on top of the world... literally. The wind almost knocks me down when I crawl out of my car to head for the "Security" building to stamp my Passport. The agent speaks with me for 2 minutes and when I ask for a stamp, he said go in there and stamp your Visa yourself. Okay I'm a big girl, I can do this. The door slams behind me and everyone (3 people) looks. The agent sees me and rushes around to have the stamp available, then proceeds to tell me NOT to stamp over old ones or the Passport will be null and void. Oh boy.
Getting into my car I hear a woman calling out to me, "hi, I met you at the grocery store down in Dawson when you asked me about a piece of fruit." So typical of the last week or so, there's not many of us left who drive up this far north. I've hit my limit, though I'd love to drive the Dempster Highway to the Arctic. That will have to be another time. I continue to drive the dirt road into towns of Alaska. I have to remind myself that I'm here, yet unfortunately I long for the Yukon. Right away I start to feel different. Americans? My love for the Yukon? Can't figure it out. I drive through Chicken, not much there, then hit pavement which feels good, oh now back to the dirt road. I drive as far as Tok River and pull over to camp.
The campgrounds are full to everyone except tents, so it's good I sleep in a tent. The tent sites are all walk in/walk out and of course I can't do that. I'm told I can drive in to drop off my stuff, then move my car and walk back in. I can do that, but when I get there the gates are locked and the camp host won't unlock them for me, saying those are the rules. I see people everywhere and close together too. I start thinking that maybe this isn't for me after all, so I drive back and ask for a refund. The guy is polite and proceeds to reverse the charges.
Right then a man puts his hand on my shoulder and when I look up I see Mr. Campground host. He starts telling the cashier to give me a certain site so he can help this little lady. Together we say, "where is it?" Now he's controlling the situation by telling us not to worry about it and how he's going to make my dreams come true. Who is this guy? I want some info, but he won't tell us anything. So I say, okay I'll look at it. He starts going off, "well forget about it then, you don't want any help so I can't help you." People are looking at us now, wondering what's going on...oh boy. So I say, "okay then, I'll pay and then go look at it, and if I don't like it I'll come back and get my money back." He flips out and starts in again about how I don't want any help and blah blah blah as he walks out the door. People are looking at me, at him but worse thing ever...the place was silent. I look at the cashier guy and I assume that I look the same way...dumbfounded? He says to me, "I'm really sorry about that." I think I say something like, "Now it's a lot worse." I try not to tear up, but I was devastated and tears where starting before that jerk showed up. I get to my car as quickly as I can and drive away with tears flowing.
I drive for hours lost in sadness, not a care where I'm going. Honestly, I can't write about how I feel, because I don't really know, and too it's very painful to remember. I do know that after that I put my tent up in a very tiny spot. There were rocks everywhere, and that's where I fall for the 2ed time. I think what happened was I stepped on a rock and it knocked me backwards. I feel like I'm getting used to falling backwards until I get up. I had shooting pains in my hip and knee. I was terrified, and thankfully the pain went away. The next week or two though, I'm lost in thought and stop caring. I am lost, and the days only get worse.
Last week or whenever, it's weird how each day just blends into another, so it's easy to lose track of time, and in my state of mind? I start to think that I may be mentally unstable, you know? I'm being 100% honest with you guys, so please be gentle with my heart. I keep heading south and slowly I begin to feel more normal, still not great, but I take one day at a time. I begin reading the bible and that's helping me a lot. I keep heading south hoping to see the ocean. I go to the store to stock up on food and treat myself to some fruit and cheese. I load up my car and it doesn't start twice and then starts up. My car has been acting up, but I just keep ignoring it so I decide now is the time and I take my Aggie Agony, that's her name, into the shop.
I'm in a small town in Southern Alaska, everything is expensive and not much is available. It's going to take the mechanic a couple days to be able to look at her, and he's going to do the best he can. So back in a motel and I'm not a happy camper. I find out it's going to be a few days before she's ready, and what can I do? I'm at a motel and it's nice enough, but expensive. The cheapest place in town though...The third morning the mechanic calls me and says he wants to show me something. Oh crap, that's never good to hear. It's bad. I have a gas leak AND there is not a part in the state and it needs to be brought in by boat. WHAT? OMGosh. 6 to 10 days to get the part. Oh noooooooo! Can it get any worse?
Well, yeah. I start making calls, trying to find a cheaper place to stay. I call churches, take a cab to the airport to look at car rentals. When I think of renting a car my heart skips a beat, because I'm not sure if I can even find a car that I can drive. I'm beginning to realize that I'm in big trouble. None of the cars, vans or trucks, at the small airport will work for me. Overwhelming frustration and sadness. My mind won't shut up! I wander around the airport, looking for people who look nice and might be willing to give me a lift back to the motel. It cost me $25. to get here so it's best if I can hitch a ride with someone. I ask this one lady if she could give me a ride, and her response, "nooo I can't give you a ride," along with a killer judgemental look. I'm definitely feeling defeated at this point...all alone and lost in a strange land.
I was about to call a cab when a young girl asked if I was okay and what was going on? She's sweet, happy and newly married. Her and her new husband, after a month long honeymoon, drive 10 miles in the opposite way that they were going to take me home. Wow, I can breath but can't relax. Back at the motel and nothing has changed...
Morning comes again and I don't feel one way or the other. I plan on making calls and do the best I can. First thing I have to do is call the motel office to make sure I have a roof over my head. "What?" Oh no, that never crossed my mind. My room is reserved for tonight and there are no other rooms available. I call my honey and just hearing his voice makes me cry, "I'm alone, I don't have my car, I can't drive any other car and now I don't have a place to sleep!"
I have 30 minutes to get out of the room. I bag up everything and put it outside my room. Now I can't walk anywhere either. I'm numb and can't seem to do anything. I really need help. Through tears I beg God to help me. I do the only thing I can think of, and that's to call Best Western. The cab shows up and a young man gets out saying, "I want to help, is that okay?" I like this guy. The next motel isn't far, and Nick (the cab driver) doesn't charge me, just wishes me luck. There are 3 rooms available, but unfortunately the computers are down. That means that those 3 rooms could be reserved before her computer is back up, and I can't get a room as I stand in the front office of the hotel. I really don't like the internet reservation system. Anyway, I can't count on this place and when I did get a chance to look online, everything seems to be booked. Well it is peak season.
Diane, here at Best Western has given me a few phone numbers to call. First call I speak with Leslie, and I tell her my story, how I'm stranded and need some help. I can hear her thinking, trying to figure out how she can help. We end up making a deal for a week and she can also come pick me up. I've had 3 angels appear, one after another. We get to my new home and I walk into a suite right on the river: a 2 bedroom, full size kitchen home with a backyard awaits me. I'm shocked and don't know what to say. I think I said something like, "you really did give me a good deal didn't you?"
So, as of today June 16, 2018... went from destitute on the street to comfortable in a suite. I'm still overwhelmed and sad, but I'm beginning to see a light. Tomorrow I'm going to fish and hopefully catch lots of salmon.
Alaska Alaska, my dream has come true
I just wish you were nicer to me boo hoo