by Bruce Alderman

When I was planning my trip to Homer, Alaska, I didn't pay attention to the distances given in my Moon Handbooks guide. So I didn't realize the problem with taking the bus from Anchorage to Homer and skipping the cost of a rental car. I booked three nights at the Seaside Farm Hostel, naively assuming I could walk each day to the famous Homer Spit.

Even though the guidebook clearly said the hostel was "five miles out East End Road from town" and described the Spit as a "four-mile finger of real estate jutting boldly into the tolerant and bounteous bay," I didn't actually make the connection until I was in the midst of the nine-mile walk. Although I had planned to do some hiking while in Alaska, this wasn't what I had in mind.

It was early evening by the time I reached the end of the Spit, and the sky was gray with rain clouds. Nonetheless, instead of taking shelter, I found a pay phone and called my girlfriend in Kansas. We talked for about half an hour as the wind increased in intensity. Finally I could no longer stand the cold.

After we hung up, I stepped inside the nearest restaurant, a cozy little place called Whales Cove. I ordered a cup of hot chocolate and some halibut fish & chips. The food was good, and more importantly it was warm.

The first drops of rain were beginning to fall as I finished my meal. What I needed to do, I decided, was to call a taxi. I had seen business cards for local cab companies taped to the walls of the phone booth, so I hurried back down the street to make the call. I picked one at random, put my coins in the slot, and dialed.

"Hello?" said the voice on the other end.

Had I dialed a residential number by mistake? "Um, is this Best Cab?"

"No," he replied, then added, "But I'm working for them tonight."

I explained that I needed a ride from the Spit to Seaside Farm.

He asked me where I was, and I read the sign from the nearest business. "I'm at Thompson Halibut Charters."

He said he would be there in a few minutes, and then asked, "Are you at the Silver Fox now?"

I wondered if it would be better just to call a different cab. I got him straightened out -- I hoped -- and waited in the drizzle for a taxi that I wasn't sure would arrive. But arrive it did, and I climbed in.

We hadn't gotten far when the driver received a call on his cell phone. Apparently it was from another cabbie offering to split a pizza.

By now the rain was pouring down. Papa John had one hand on the wheel, one hand on the phone. He sped around curves while saying things like, "I can pay seven, but I can't pay ten. But it is the best pizza in town." So passed the nine-mile ride back to the hostel.

When we arrived safely, I was so grateful just to be alive that I gave him a generous tip. But the next morning when I wanted a ride back to the Spit, I stuck out my thumb. It seemed safer.


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