Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News
Mount Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on July 22 near Homer.

Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News Mount Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on July 22 near Homer.

Out of the Office: Take the long way around

“Slow Down. What’s the hurry?” reads an inscription on the Reuben Call bench at the end of the Homestead Trail of Diamond Ridge Road.

I thought of that the other day on my morning commute to town. As happens often in summer, contractors started tearing up the bottom of West Hill Road — although “tearing up” would be redundant considering the shape of that road. The potholes there look like what happened when St. Javelin sent down her wrath on that convoy of Russian tanks rolling toward Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Expect delays,” the signs on the Sterling Highway read. Rather than sit waiting, I decided to take the long way around and head west on Diamond Ridge Road toward the highway. Within minutes I knew I’d made the right decision. The morning sun lit up Mount Redoubt and fireweed on the hills before it. Photo op! I always stop for a photo opportunity.

“Take the long way around” is another good slogan. The drive from my house heading west and then back around adds another 2 miles, but on the highway and on Baycrest Hill you can drive faster. It takes about the same time to go the short route east on Diamond Ridge to West Hill Road as it does going west on Diamond Ridge to the highway. I know this because one time my neighbor went west just as I turned onto Diamond Ridge Road going east, and when I got to the bottom of West Hill Road, I saw him go right by.

The morning I took the long way around, KBBI Public Radio’s “Slack Tide” show played, and dang did the DJ, Simon Lopez, spin some great tunes. That Friday we’d come out of a long week of rain and chilly weather. The sun emerged, and Simon played on that theme: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon. Thank you, Simon Lopez, for cheering up my day.

I’ve been going through a rough week, and while we needed that rain to damp down fires, cloudy days can drag on. A burst of sun cheers us up even more when we go through damp and darkness, and oh boy, have the days been dark and damp. Besides, I had family from back East arriving that Friday, and they should see Alaska at its finest.

The long way around brought me into Homer the way tourists arrive, and the way generations of Homerites first visit and get hooked on making this glorious town their home.

You come around that corner at the top of Baycrest Hill and see That View. All of Kachemak Bay spreads out before you, mountains and glaciers and the Homer Spit poking out into the bay. Turn into the turnout and behind you Augustine Volcano and Mount Redoubt rise up in their glory.

I like that when I go by the turnout I see not only motor homes and rental cars parked there, but vans and trucks of Homer workers. I like that someone on their way to a construction job or fishing takes the time to stop and stare.

“What is this life if, full of care / We have no time to stand and stare?” is another good slogan. Actually, it’s some lines from the poem, “Leisure,” by William Henry Davis. My grandparents, Anne and Henry Jander, had it inscribed on a plaque on their home, Crab’s Hole, on Tangier Island, Virginia. So do my sisters on their homes.

Rolling down that hill, I took my foot off the gas, because you really can just coast. At the bottom I braked to 35 mph at the speed zone just past the West Hill Road intersection because, well, it’s the speed limit, but also because Homer’s finest will sometimes set up a speed trap there. We do have two school zones in that area, and coming up in a few weeks school will be back in session.

Slow down. What’s the hurry? Also, don’t run over children.

A guy in a black SUV with Alaska plates pulled up on my tail. I smiled. He stayed close on me, which never works out. Try as you might, riding someone’s tail does not make them go faster. Often it makes them go even slower, especially if the driver ahead is rockin’ to some great music and oblivious to your pressing need to get there one dang minute faster.

All winter long I’ve been grumbling about a construction zone on Lakeshore Drive where some new vacation rentals have been going up to fill the great demand for more vacation rentals, what with all the hardworking Homerites clogging up the rental market with their incessant need for affordable housing.

How dare they.

Someone parked a vintage motor home on Lakeshore Drive. The other day two motor homes and a person with a big truck and a huge boat trailer corked off the road, all of which is in violation of state law that says, “Thou shalt not park on a road and obstruct traffic.”

I’d been telling my friend Janet about this, and she said, “Why don’t you go around it and avoid the mess?” I tried that and realized she was right. (Thank you, Janet.)

By coming to Lakeshore Drive from the FAA Drive end, I not only have a left turn lane where I don’t have to worry about someone rear-ending me when I stop to take a left turn, but, yeah, I come to work through a section of street not cluttered by cars. My stress level dropped.

Take the long way around.

Life will get more interesting in August when construction on East Hill Road closes off the middle of the road, and everyone uphill will have to take Skyline Drive to West Hill Road to get to town. Of course, there will be construction on West Hill Road, too. Oh joy.

Slow down. What’s the hurry?

The world will be throwing speed bumps and obstacles at you every day, and all you can do is go on through with a song in your heart, fireweed blooming on the hillside and the wonders of the world cheering you up.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

Mt. Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on Friday, July 22, 2022, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Mt. Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on Friday, July 22, 2022, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

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