If the glint of motorhomes on the Homer Spit or the difficulty making a left turn off of Main Street didn’t hint at an increase in summer visitors, stroll through the chip and snack aisle at our local store. Heck, poke around anywhere in the store searching for milk, bread, vegetables and other food. Our groceries look like one of those scenes in a zombie apocalypse where the hero goes shopping only to find a horde of the undead have gone on a spree.
Those 47 flavors of speciality chips? Good luck finding an unbroken bag of plain snacks. A rotisserie chicken still warm from the oven? That is so like 12:30 p.m. Lemon shandy beer from an obscure Wisconsin brewery? What do you think this is — Portland?
When you’re at the end of a supply chain 220 miles long, not counting the barge trip, it can be hard to keep up. Pity the poor schmo who has to order vittles. If we get a run of warm, sunny weather — finally! — all the cool drinks will vanish. If it turns rainy, donuts and hot drinks suddenly become popular. You just can’t win in Alaska.
“First world problem,” the Betster said to a friend when caught frowning at an empty warming rack.
For people trying to make a living in the fickle tourist industry, finding chips on a weekend afternoon is a good problem. They want people to visit, see why we live here and in the process burn holes in their credit cards. We want that, too, because that means sales tax dollars, jobs and more money in our economy. A lot of us first came here and found a way to settle after rounding Baycrest Hill and succumbing to Kachemak Bay Syndrome, the really bad variety, where you set down roots and can never leave.
Visitors mean new ideas, new energy and a new perspective on the wider world. The Betster loves seeing someone stumbling on the beach, intoxicated by big mountains, big waves and big glaciers — a healthy high. Hooked! Even if our traveling friends return home, if we’re polite and treat them like neighbors, maybe we’ll learn something from them. It’s how the world works.
We’re in high summer, Betsteroids, which means the peak of the tourist season. Expect people from all over the United States and the world. French, Canadian, Australian, German, Chinese, Japanese or Girdweirdian, be kind, be patient and give them accurate directions. No, it’s not nice to say the Kilcher Homestead is at the very end of East End Road and down the switchback trail.
Besides, with visitors comes lots of amazing things to do, more so than normal, like these Best Bets:
BEST LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE BET: The early reviews are in for Pier One’s big summer musical, “Spamalot,” and by all accounts (except for that French guy you can never please unless it’s existentialism) the show is a hoot. You might be able to score a ticket this weekend at the will-call box because the B. hears tickets are going fast. The show runs 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as next weekend.
BEST BOOK ’EM DANNO BET: Run out of books to read on vacation? Looking to trade your run of Tom Bodetts? Check out the award winning Bob the Bookmobile from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at Karen Hornaday Park. Trade in your old books and find a new favorite.
BEST BIG ART BET: Holy Picasso, do we ever have some cool First Friday art openings this Friday. From new to esteemed artists, Alaska’s finest talents show at local galleries. See the whole list on page 12.
BEST BONNIE BET: To answer the question of what a Scot wears under his or her kilt, think about it. The annual Scottish Highland Games require a kilt, aye, but there’s lots of twirling and swirling as the men and women lift big logs and throw heavy stuff. You kinda want some support and don’t want to shock the citizens. They wear underwear. But who will throw the biggest log or fling the sheaf the highest? Check it out from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday for the Kachemak Bay Scottish Club’s Highland Games at Karen Hornaday Park.
BEST SAVE THE VAQUITA BET: No, this isn’t some greenie bumper sticker. This is the real thing, a marine mammal on the edge of extinction thanks to rich people with taste for rare fish. The Mexican vaquita could make a come back if only sleazy fishermen pulled their nets and quit targeting a fish people with more money than compassion think good to eat. Learn about the plight of the vaquita porpoise at Save the Vaquita Day from 3-5 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.