By now Ken was foaming at the mouth because he wanted to fish so badly. Constantly he’d been searching around for a quite and secluded place where he could simply throw in his line. Unfortunately this town was far too crowded and it was driving him nuts. After looking at a map he decided to drive sixteen miles northwest of Homer to the small town of Anchor River.
Arriving, Ken affirmed that he’d finally found what he’d been looking for. It didn’t take him too long to book a room at a small motel and soon after we left. Now that his accommodation was sorted out Ken drove further north to a place called Ninilchik. This was the area where he wanted to be and it was also where we’d part company. We’d been together for three days now and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide. This man was a true gentleman.
Ken dropped me off on the highway just outside of town where I intended to hitchhike back to Anchorage. After saying farewell to my friend I stood there for a moment and realized how much I appreciated Alaska at this time of year. In all my travels I’d never attempted to start a hitch so late in the afternoon. My destination was one hundred and eighty-six miles away and it was already 5:00 p.m. At this time of year there was a good twenty hours of light per day. There really wasn’t too much to worry about when it came to darkness and this was most definitely a hitchhikers dream!
After standing on the same spot for a while and attaining nothing, I decided to walk. The scenery reminded me of Canada in many ways, with its abundance of pine trees, for as far as the eye could see.
My first hitchhiking experience in Alaska certainly wasn’t as easy as I thought it would to be. I strolled along for quite some time before a driver finally pulled over to help. The vehicle that I got into looked brand new yet it seemed to be of an older design. When I asked the Rob about his car he told me that it was twenty-two years old. In all that time he’d only driven it for 58,020 miles. Surprisingly, Rob had been the sole owner of this vehicle.
This character was seventy years of age and he certainly had a few stories to tell. About a year ago a guy went fishing in a dingy for some salmon in Ninilchik, Alaska. There were so many fish in the water that they literally pulled him along. Somehow during this event his dingy overturned and he was never seen again. He went on to say that in 1964 an earthquake ripped through many parts of Alaska; there was a lot of damage but fortunately most of the residents had been forewarned.
Another story he told was also about Alaska but this one was very sad. A young couple had gone to a beach one day to cruise around on their quad. The tide was out at the time and as the day went on they badly misjudged its return. While they were riding around, the sea rapidly came in. When it finally got near to them, without mercy it quickly surrounded their quad and it began to sink. Somehow the man managed to escape and he rushed towards to the shoreline to get some help. Within minutes he came back with a small crowd. Although everyone tried frantically, to reach his wife with some steel pipes, it was too late. Horrifically, she sank into the silt below.
According to Rob the residents of Alaska are paid nine hundred dollars a year by the government to live there. This is a percentage of the oil sales that are set-aside for the inhabitants. It’s also legal to smoke marijuana and one can carry up to an ounce of personal stash at any time. This was certainly a more alternative state to the many! I wondered if some individuals simply moved here so that they could enjoy their pastime of doing just that, without being bothered by the authorities and their stupid laws.
I’ve never understood the issues that people or those that govern us have when it comes to pot. It’s a plant and it simply grows! Man makes booze; you cannot go to a well or a stream and find alcohol. Yet in saying that how many people all over the world get into fistfights or drive drunk and kill innocent people after consuming alcohol? How many unnecessary deaths have occurred on this planet due to the intoxication of booze since it was first made? Now compare that to how many fistfights you read about or how many individuals drive high and kill someone after smoking pot. If such a study was done, I personally feel that it would reveal some major differences in the final results.
As my friend was telling his stories I noticed a lot of sheep were scattered about in the mountains. They were far away in the distance and they looked like white rocks to me. It was only after a few of them moved that I realized what they were.
When Anchorage came into view I asked Rob if he was familiar with the city. When he said he was, I inquired about some shelters. Rob mentioned one on East 5th called the St. Francis Shelter. He didn’t know the exact address but he gave me some rough directions on how to get there.
After being dropped off on East 5th, I looked in the phone book for an address. But like an idiot I arrived at the thrift store for the St. Francis organization and not the shelter itself. Realizing my mistake I found a cabbie and asked him for better directions. Thankfully it was only a couple of blocks away.
Moments later, I was walking beside the new Sheraton Hotel. Yet in comparison just a block away, were some vagrants sprawled out in the thresholds of some burned out homes. I knew I was near to my destination when I saw some drunken Native Americans lounging around and leaning up against some derelict buildings. I acknowledged a few of them before I entered a doorway. The structure that I went into was more like a gigantic corrugated iron arch. Once inside I walked over to a counter. By a far wall were some drifters and in front of me was the sleeping quarters for the homeless. After talking to a man behind a desk, I was told to fill out a form. After doing this, the same gentleman said, “Take a mat and fall asleep. Call is at 5:30 a.m.” While he was saying those words I looked down to see a flea jump off of the paper that I’d just signed.
I’d stayed at other shelters in the past so this scene was quite familiar to me. I found a corner to sleep in, but before I put my head down I mingled in and befriended a handful of wanderers. The difference at this refuge though was the fact that many were American Indians. I noticed that the majority of them had unfortunately turned to the bottle as their vice. Sadly this is one of the many influences which the destructive Caucasian race introduced to yet another innocent culture.
As foretold at 5:30 a.m. the wake up call came. When the lights went on I noticed some dead mosquitoes around me on the floor. I’d managed to kill a few during the night but I wondered how many I’d missed. I’ve always detested these fucking insects and have loathed their very existence since visiting Australia. They’re a pointless waste of life!
Finding a seat in the corner I sat down and began to write in my journal. A few crackpots came over to see what I was up to from time to time but soon after they left. On occasion there were some intelligent ones too. When I looked up to observe who I’d shared my sleeping space with the night before, I’d say there were about one hundred others.
At 7:00 a.m. everyone was kicked out of the joint. It was so cold outside but with the knowledge that breakfast would soon be served, I decided to stick around. As I sat back against a wall I watched an American Indian sweep the parking lot. For some reason this put me into trance.
At this early hour there were about thirty or so other hobos around me. Some had left, but I don’t know where they went. In the distance and far, far away was another long mountain range. It was crystal clear and it looked so inviting.
I observed one nut who looked like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. He would walk around and talk to himself repetitively. It seemed like he was trying to work out an answer to a question that he’d asked himself earlier. But every time he answered it, he would return back to his original question again. He seemed to be constantly going around in circles by reverting back to his own question in an attempt to work out the end result. It was certainly some good entertainment for the rest of us.
An hour later I got up, to join the line again. It was now time to go back inside for some well awaited food. The meal wasn’t that bad and each of us got a generous helping of oatmeal. This was followed with a bowl of prunes and some rolls, along with a glass of juice. While I was eating, I got talking to a lady in her mid forties. She seemed nice and sane enough and her name was Carlotta.
I was in no rush to leave Anchorage so after breakfast we left the shelter together. For a while we strolled around town and I took some photographs as we went. After visiting a few art galleries we wandered into Phyllis’s Café. It was here that I was introduced to Bev Doolittle’s paintings. This Canadian artist is amazing and she has a very clever way of hiding images within her work. The ones that I looked at were of faces, wolves and American Indians on horses.
After this we went through some parks and frequented a few buildings. I actually found Anchorage to be bigger and busier than Fairbanks. But in saying that, neither metropolis resembled the madness of most of the American cities that I’d gone through up to this point.
At 11:30 a.m. we went back to the shelter for some lunch. We joined the line again but this time we were rewarded with some rice, meat, corn, a roll and some cake. This was followed by a cup of coffee. After digesting my food I got antsy and decided to leave. Thanking my new friend for her time and company I said my goodbyes and left promptly.
Outside I walked across to East 6th Street which later merged in with the Glenn Highway. It was at this point that I decided to head back to Canada. The long hitch to reach Alaska from Prince George had been enough and I knew that I had to cover that same amount of ground to get back. I didn’t know how long that would take me but at least now I felt centered and content. I’d accomplished what I’d come here for and I was now ready to move on.
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