An Alaska vacation on the cheap

I’m a broke college student.

That’s the answer to your impending question of why on earth I’d go on vacation to Homer in January. I say this only because of the incredulous looks I got when I tried to explain to people that I’d be out of town for the better part of a week. My girlfriend and I, half out of annual tradition and half out of a hefty bout of cabin fever, headed down to spend four or five days in Homer as a relaxing last hurrah before the spring semester.

Unlike last year, where we somehow teleported through a whiteout at speeds only my Kia could have achieved, the drive down was thankfully non-eventful. We ended up in town just in time to dump all our gear at the hotel and head to a steakhouse that, I kid you not, may have broken me for any other burgers I could ever eat. However, given that a good chunk of Homer closes down in the winter, hours of scouring the town produced none of the Thai food I’d been craving, sending us right back to the same steakhouse the following evening.

Somehow, the awkwardness of attending the same restaurant, wearing the same clothing, sitting at the same table and ordering the same food two nights in a row did nothing to diminish the glory of that sweet, juicy burger.

The following afternoon we decided to drive as far past Homer as we could get on the road system, with interesting results. Unbeknownst to us there exists a large Russian Orthodox community far past Homer and, being completely oblivious to the unique street names and impressive beards we passed, we almost missed this discovery entirely until we discovered a distinctive graveyard overlooking a sharp cliff that my Camry almost got too acquainted with.

Returning to town, we briefly stopped by the homemade (and almost life-size) TARDIS on the side of the road that has become a bit of a local legend in recent years. While my girlfriend sat in the car, mercifully withholding judgment, I may have spent more time than necessary probing the box with my sonic screwdriver to ensure that it was not in fact a space-time capsule.

As a bit of an aside, let me note that I’ve developed a controversial hypothesis about the demographic makeup of Homer — mainly in that there don’t appear to be any men around. My primary evidence is the fact that the Safeway in Homer doesn’t seem to carry condoms of any sort.

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They do, however, have an entire wall of tampons, next to a three-rack ensemble of every sappy romance novel ever written and a very large assortment of wine. Reading between the lines, I have to conclude that all the men in town packed up and left on the fishing boats, given that we saw few children and even fewer contraception options.

Continuing our tour of the town, we stopped by the Salty Dawg Saloon for a drink and checked off that quintessential Alaskan experience by getting a shirt and sticking a signed, tattered dollar to the wall. Both feeling a bit more worthy of our Permanent Fund Dividends, my girlfriend and I returned to the hotel and spent the evening avoiding anything that could be construed as romantic, instead opting to stay up until 3 a.m. watching seven hours of “Star Trek” and BBC nature videos. Long story short, we returned from the trip with a hilariously robust knowledge of Captain Picard’s vacation habits, as well as the migration patterns of the Pacific walrus.

Other highlights of the trip included our attempt to craft homemade onion rings, a venture that resulted in “cream filled onion rings” as the batter in the middle remained room temperature, and a misleading scene for room service to discover. Though we had only purchased a few bottles of beer over the course of five days, the miniscule hotel room trash can made it appear as if we had consumed nothing but alcohol during our stay, giving an unfortunate impression to whomever cleaned the room.

Thankfully the return trip home was uneventful as well, especially given that we avoided an excessive speeding ticket that had almost derailed last year’s trip.

And then, in the blink of an eye it was over, dropping us back into the monotony of being stressed college seniors.

It may not have been Hawaii, which is on the docket for next year, but it was definitely a nice break from the confines of Anchorage, and the aftermath of an ongoing snow machine mishap. So if you’re ever in need of a cheap vacation, or just inexplicably want to watch some Star Trek in an unfamiliar place, I’d highly suggest a trip down to Homer — even if only for that magical burger.