Blog 295 Homer Part 1 17th – 22nd July 2013


Current News – We have just had one of the most amazing experiences of the trip so far. We were about to leave the excellent “Hotel Hacienda” in Mulege to head south when we got chatting to a tourist called George and his family. They persuaded us to change our plans and double back north for approximately 200km to Laguna St Ignacio. Our goal was the Grey whales breeding ground which was a bit tricky to access but sooooo worth it. We had to take a boat out to the breeding area, the males have already gone back north only the females and babies remain whilst the youngsters gain strength and bulk before their first migration back to Alaska. We had many encounters with them, the females actively approach the boats and encourage their babies to do the same. They seem as curious of us as we are of them, some even want you to stroke them and they are surprisingly soft.  Words can’t express how awesome this experience was.  We arrived back in Mulege last night and met George again at Hotel Hacienda in Mulege. George has also kindly treated us to a free night in the same hotel tonight to help us on our way before we head south. We don’t normally add a current photo but this is one exception.

Laguna San Ignacio is one of a handful of places in the world where whales migrate to give birth to their young and mate. The bad news is a company are trying to gain permission to start an offshore phosphate mine in nearby San Juanico Bay, Baja. Their plan is to strip the top 10 feet of seabed, process it then spit it back into the ocean which sounds like an ecological disaster waiting to happen. This project has slipped under the radar so far and is close to receiving its permit. There is an online petition to try to stop it. There is a link to it below which will open the petion and some info in a new window. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/257/195/415/say-no-o-offshore-phosphate-mining/  If you get a minute perhaps you might consider signing it we have already.

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In our blogs we are in Homer, Alaska where we spent almost two weeks we have split them into two editions here is part 1.

Blog 295 Homer Part 1  July 17th – 22nd  2013

We followed Dean back to his place where he showed us around our temporary home an old GMC school bus. It was kitted out as a camper inside with a double bed, gas stove and a fridge. Dean and Becky lived in it for a while when they were building a house on their land. Dean said stay as long as you need and we could tell he meant it. The timing was good, we needed a rest for a while as we had been moving fairly constantly since Vancouver. Here are some pictures of our cosy home and the smallest room with a stunning view.

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We also needed to post a few blogs as we had been getting further and further behind. Karen spent a good proportion of our time here sifting through photos and writing up blogs. We thought Canada would be an easy place to get internet access but it turned out not to be the case. Like the USA it is so big that no one phone carrier covers it all, the sim card we got in Vancouver was next to useless in Yukon and in Alaska we had to get another sim card because of course we were now in the USA.

Finding the right internet stick/dongle in Canada and the USA was a big hassle as the frequencies they operate on are different to elsewhere. There was wifi in coffee shops etc in big towns but we don’t tend to hang a round in either big towns or coffee shops. McDonald’s has free wifi too but we don’t much care for their food and their wifi is soooooo slow that it’s a mission to check your email let alone post a blog with fifty pictures in it. Karen sat in the bus to write the blogs offline then went down to use the wifi to post them.

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Over the next few days we started to fall in love with Homer it is a great town at the end of the world. Kev thought it would be an absolutely tiny place but in fact was quite surprised how big it was.

Deans property looks over the water to Seldovia and across the water there were several glaciers which are fed by the same Harding Icefield that Kev climbed in one of the last blogs. On a couple of clear nights the moon rose over the glaciers which made some nice pictures.

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Becky also told us of a great ride which we did a few times during the day and at sunset which meant more glacier shots and we could not resist this shot of all the mail boxes on the side of the road. A lot of Alaska’s cabins and houses are tucked away down little dirt tracks so this makes the posties job easier. These kind of mail boxes are fairly typical throughout rural America. The posties also collect from them and that’s what the flip up red fold flag is for to tell the postie there is mail to collect.

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There are also some pictures of the moon over Homer Spit, we will explain more about this strange natural phenomenon in the next blog. The pictures were taken from a great scenic road called skyline drive. We nearly hit a moose on our way up there at dusk and spooked another three on the way back down. We normally try very hard not to ride at night but to get to the scenic views at sunset or moonrise inevitably meant we had to sometimes.

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Here are some day time shots from the same view point.

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During our stay at Dean and Becky’s we got to know the neighbours.  Zettie and her brother in law Julian came over one night to say hello, we all got on well and they invited us over one evening to meet the rest of the families. Theirs is an interesting story that goes roughly like this:

Zettie, Gage and Carin were three sisters who grew up in this house in Homer Alaska. Later on their parents split and they stayed with their mother, moving away from Alaska. As they got older they also moved away and started their own lives and families but their father stayed in the house that he built in Alaska until he passed away a few years ago. The girls jointly inherited the house which is an unusual and beautiful building in itself. Rather than do the obvious thing and sell it they decided to keep it and spend their summer vacations up there, now they take their own children so they get to re-live their childhood again.

Zettie told us a great story while we were there. When she was growing up on that dirt road on the outskirts of Homer there were (and still are) only a few houses on the street and they all knew one another well. It was she said completely normal to go and get a drink or something to eat in any one of them or get patched up when you had hurt yourself, you just went to the nearest house and asked and it was fine. Years later when she moved to San Francisco Zettie realised how special that was and that you couldn’t show up at anyone else’s house and say “I’m hungry” and get fed.  The house is a work of art made entirely of wood it has a huge tree trunk at its centre and spokes radiate from there to support the roof.

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The girls rent it out the rest of the year to Atz Lee and Jane at the end of the road while they are building their new home. That is going to be quite some build too, we saw it in its early stages while we were on a walk around the Kilcher property. They have put in a huge concrete foundation and were just at the stage of laying the polystyrene form block which will have more concrete poured around them to make the octagonal shape. The lower story will then be reburied and will be storage with the upper story as living space. The building is a different and innovative design and is obviously designed to work efficiently in the cold Alaskan winter.

We will have to ask Zettie to send us a picture of it when it is finished.

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We also saw this great little hut and car on our way to and fro from town.

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The couple building the house were called Atz Lee and Jane Kilcher. Over the course of our stay we also met Otto who if you remember from the Harding Icefield blog was Yule Kilcher’s son, the one who accompanied him on the first documented crossing of the icefield.

Zettie and Julian took us for a walk around the meadows and back through the Kilcher farm. This photo shows the homestead that Yule Kilcher built when he first came to Alaska from Switzerland and the people we met are all his family descendents. On our way back we also met Eivin and Eve who was pregnant at the time and is now a mum. Eivin is Otto’s son so the Kilcher lineage continues. Some of these names may seem familiar to some of you and months later we were to find out that they are all kinda demi famous.

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The Homestead Yule Kilcher built in Homer

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Here we fast forward six months to Christmas 2013 as it was Zettie for whom we house sat in San Francisco, just before she left to stay with her sister Gage for Christmas she said watch this dvd while we are gone you might like it. It was a series of shows that had been on the discovery channel called “Alaska the last Frontier”. As we sat and watched it we saw all the people we had met up in Alaska months earlier, at the time we had no idea about any of it. Atz Lee had mentioned briefly about something going on with the discovery channel but we assumed it was something to do with the build of their new house. Little did we know there was a whole TV show about them. They were all really friendly down to earth people just doing their thing. Here is a shot of the sauna at Otto’s and a couple of us on the walk with Dean, Becky, Zettie and Julian.

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Our situation at Deans meant that we could buy, store and cook our own food which meant we were not getting under their feet which was great, we also joined them for meals when we were invited down and it was always good to spend time with them.

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The bike was still running well on its temporary coil, it was supposed to be a bit more temporary but we still hadn’t caught up with its replacement. During our stay Kev gave the bike an oil change, balanced the carbs, cleaned the air filters and gave it a check over as it had a hard few weeks. During this checkover he noticed that we had not got away home free when we hit that frostheave and became airbourne at the end of the Dalton Highway. The flying part was okay it was the landing that hurt, two of the spokes in the rear wheel were cracked clean through. Homer is a good place for repairs as there are so many marine specialist welders and repair shops. Dean suggested trying Glens Welding on the outskirts of town. It was only going to be a temporary repair to get us back to Anchorage but Glen made a great job of fixing it up. He spent the better part of an hour veeing out the cracks and tig welding them and when he was done I asked him what I owed him. “Nothing” he replied “the last guy already paid”,  meaning the last person that had helped him out when he needed it. I did protest but he said “no, you’re good, people have helped me out on the road when I have needed it I am just paying my dues”

It was never going to be a permanent repair so we now needed to source a second hand replacement, we had a look on US ebay and found one through Moto Guzzi Classics at Signal Hill in California (also known as Guzzi Renew on ebay). Mark there is a great guy and we organised for the wheel to be sent to the Harley shop in Anchorage the closest place we could find. We were going to the Harley Shop anyhow, together with Motoquest their next door neighbours they have a free campsite for any passing motorcycle travellers.

The only other maintenance Kev did in Homer was to fabricate some new bearing spacers for the front suspension pivot on the lathe in Deans shop. The original pivot bearings had started to develop some play and we could not easily source replacements up there so Kev machined some different spacers to allow him to use the rear wheel bearings we routinely carry and that are more readily available. The more eagle eyed amongst you might have spotted us riding a KLR650 in one of the pictures, this was Deans bike that he loaned us for a couple of days whilst we were servicing ours.

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Our temporary RH coil zip tied to the mobile phone holder on the dash

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Next up – more from Homer

  1. #1 by Ruben Garcia on June 9, 2014 - 3:36 pm

    Thanks for these postings.been here in 21Jul2012 but just for a day and did not really see much.thiese pictures made me want to go back there. Will leave 19 Jul2014 towards Fairbanks and ride down to the Spit. Envious on your adventure. My wife don’t ride so I don’t get to ride out too long since I miss home. Looking forward to your pictures.
    Thanks again
    Ruben

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