homerBetween now and January, I’ll be writing about my solo journey from Alaska to Arizona.  If you want to catch the first part of the trip, you can go to the landing page for my #write31days series, 31 Days of Living in Beauty. The first stop on my solo journey is Homer, AK.

The Journey Continues and the Lessons Never Cease

Pedro flew home on July 11 from Anchorage—leaving me with Beauty and the Beast and three weeks to make it home. Of course, I didn’t want to be away from him for that long, but I had no idea how long it would take me to drive home alone.

I slept in a bit and then went for a run. I had made contact with a fellow writer on Facebook who lived in the area, and we had tentative plans to ‘try to hook up’ for coffee or a hike. My girls always freak out when I tell them I plan on meeting someone I met over the Internet. I guess we did a good job of warning them about the dangers of chat groups and stalkers.

By the time I finished breakfast, I still hadn’t heard from my Internet friend, so I decided to pack up and head to Homer. Hitching up solo for the first time stressed me out a bit, but it seemed like the guy in the trailer next to me stressed out even more. As I backed up and pulled forward multiple times, trying to place the truck in the perfect position, my neighbor came to his door to watch.

After my fourth attempt, he stepped down from his trailer and started acting positively twitchy. He probably wondered why a woman had attempted the job alone.

It took me an additional four tries to get everything lined up perfectly—and then I forgot to raise the jacks before I lowered the trailer. Despite my rough start, I managed to get hitched up and ready for travel in under an hour. Pulling out of the tight trailer space worried me, but my twitchy neighbor showed up again. He kindly guided me out of the narrow space.

On the Road Again

I headed towards Homer with worry nipping at in the back of my mind. For months I had proclaimed that I could drive home alone, no problem. I have traveled on my own before, and gone birding solo many times. I also read a lot of suspense and mystery books and have a healthy respect for all the potentially violent people out there. I carry a can of bear spray on my hips and a prayer on my lips at all times.

homerI stopped to take photos of Mount Redoubt and Mt. Illiamna along the way, and studied my Milepost to look for a camping spot. I waffled between paying for a campsite and camping beside the road. I finally decided to save money and use it for a ferry ride out to Seldovia the next day instead.

With some trepidation, I found a nice pullout about five miles out of Homer where I unhitched the trailer before heading into town. I found my way to Bishops Beach and started hiking around, looking for shorebirds. A pair of Sandhill Cranes in the distance caught my eye, and I started walking in their direction. When I arrived at a small viewing platform, a voice broke through my camera concentration.

“I see you made it to Homer.”

My heart tripped into high gear. As far as I knew, no one in Homer knew me. I lowered my camera and turned to face the man who had spoken. Relief lapped at the edge of my terror. “Bob and Joanne from the Fourth of July cookout at Red Eagle Lodge,” I exclaimed.

My Friends, The Cranes

We exchanged travel experiences for a few minutes and then they returned to their car and I returned to my birds.homer

Sandhill Cranes make me happy—their stately gait and raucous call contrast just as much as their piercing yellow eyes and flamboyant red cap of feathers. I travel to Socorro, New Mexico each winter to see them gather in flocks of thousands. It felt like meeting friends in lonely places to have them show up in Homer on my first day going solo.

The chance encounter with Bob and Joanne soothed me a bit as well. I consulted my birding guide and made my way to another birding area in town. No matter which hotspot I visited, I couldn’t seem to find anything new-to-me. Vaguely disappointed, I drove down to the spit and found a place to park near Land’s End Resort.

Perhaps I could find something other than gulls near the shore—a bird I’d never met before would fit the bill. I jumped out of the truck, grabbed my camera and binoculars and locked the doors. I made it down to the beach before I realized that I had forgotten my bear spray.

I glanced around. The rocky beach sloped sharply to the shoreline, and one flock of gulls swirled overhead whilst another settled into the crevices of a nearby pier. Fishermen stood on shore and a few small children played near adults. I decided to leave the bear spray in the truck.

Suspense at Land’s End

Just then, I heard someone call out, “Anita? Anita Ojeda?”

“Yes,” I said, turning to see who spoke to me, and wondering if saying ‘yes’ and turning around was the correct response when someone calls your name in a strange city far from home. When you don’t have your bear spray.

“Oh, I’m so glad it’s you,” the stranger said.

I smiled at the young woman, running through my mental catalog of acquaintances so intently I almost missed her next words.
“I recognized your hair. I was pretty sure it was you.”

My mouth hung slightly open in shock, and my face must have looked comically blank, because she hurried to add, “I’m Sarah Varland, from Facebook.”

“I thought you lived in Anchorage,” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe you recognized me from my hair.”

“My husband will accuse me of being a stalker when I tell him about this,” Sarah said with a laugh. “I came down with my mom and boys for a little vacation,” she explained.

We chatted and I met her boys and we snapped a quick selfie before she headed off to explore the wonders of the beach with her sons.

Bemused, I continued walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t find any new-to-me birds, but I found something more important. I found three reminders that though I felt all alone, God cared enough about me to send acquaintances (both human and avian) to remind me that he holds me in the palm of his hand.

You never walk alone. Sometimes, God sends quirky encounters to remind you. Click To Tweet

Q4U: Has God ever sent reminders to you that surprise you?

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