Friday and Saturday were days of work, especially for Maureen. The customers never stopped. From the time they opened the doors at 8 AM (work actually starts at 7 to get all the prep work done before the doors are unlocked) until she was done at 4, she barely ever stopped moving. Oh, did I mention that this wasMemorial Weekend and the start of the summer season?
One of the bigger challenges was that she was working with Shelbe, who’s 14. She’s an awesome worker and a delight to be around but can’t sell cigarettes or liquor and a reasonable share of customers partake of both making Maureen bounce between the convenience store and liquor store like a pinball.
Maureen has now mastered Espresso (this terrified her as she did not even know how to make regular coffee and knows how important it is to make the drink properly) and can hardly wait to make Greg a “half double, decaffinated half caf, with a twist of lemon and make it skinny”!!!
Milkshakes are another specialty at Wildman’s and makes you work extremely hard to get the shake up the straw. These are skills she can parlay when we return to the lower 48....do you suppose she is going to ask for an Espresso machine and Milkshake machine for Christmas?
Sunday was also a day of work. Maureen started at 7:30 AM in the store while I worked around the RV a bit and then went to check on shuttles. Maureen’s day was a bit more challenging because the credit card readers stopped functioning. This resulted in the ATM machine being depleted and caused the incredibly patient customers to scrounge for cash in their purses and glove compartments. It seems that the patrons in Wildman’s operate on a very patient and laid-back clock. They just never seem to get upset or angry. The following morning, Heather (the store manager and our boss) manipulated the telephone connections and the credit card machines were back in business.
Let’s introduce one of our co-workers. Once in a while Ron Keppel will stop by to regale us with wisdom. He made the trip here from Florida by himself and is living in an RV next to us. Oh, the once in a while can be at 11 am or 11 pm.....this night he stopped at 11:30 to see if the bar was still open!
We ended up with 5 shuttles after 2 PM on Sunday. Cars with trailers are left at designated areas where people “put in” and we move the vehicles to where they will “take out”. One was interesting because the guy wasn’t going to pick up his vehicle until 7:30 the next morning. There are huts along the way that you can overnight......not unlike hut to hut skiing.
Just because the day was not enough of a challenge, Maureen did the last 2 shuttles with me after her 8 hrs. Heather, who was helping because we could not get a hold of the fellow who was covering for the regular driver, had plans with her family and really appreciated her doing the last 2 runs. By the way, Heather is expecting her 3rd child in September. Her pregnancy does not get in the way of her working or moving around the store like a whirling dervish. Hope the baby arrives before we leave.
For a break, we took a ride to Moose Pass for supper. Like many places here in AK, in small towns like Moose Pass, there is only one restaurant and so we had no trouble finding it. We enjoyed a nice meal of Fish & Chips and Clam Strips while watching the Nuggets win the 4th game in the Western Conference Playoffs.
The most frequent shuttle is from the Bridge to Jim’s. The Bridge (as seen in the picture on the left) is 1/4 of a mile down the road and is a boat landing and nature walk at the Kenai River. We pick up the vehicle, almost always with a boat trailer, and shuttle it to Jim’s (Landing) which is 10 miles down the Sterling Highway at Mile Marker 58. Because there are no motors allowed on this part of the river and the Kenai winds circuitously through the wilderness, it takes between 3 and 4 hours to float downstream to Jim’s The stops are frequent for a number of reasons - including wildlife and rest stops.
This is a view from the bridge on the way to the Post Office looking toward the Kenai Lake. George and Angus went for a walk at 9:30 at night and saw this spectacular view. This is not PhotoShopped...it s really this bright at that hour of the night it does not finally become dusk until around 11:15pm.
This, of course, is a 2 person job and and Maureen actually helped me out for the final 2 shuttles after she got off work. She drove the shuttle vehicle (an older minivan) while I drove the customer’s vehicle. One of these shuttles was from Sports to Jim’s. Sports is located at MM 52 and is the site of the Russian River Cable Ferry to bring fisherman across the Russian River.
Since it was the opening weekend of the summer the weekend extended into Monday and Maureen worked to help Heather out who was in a bind with a short fall of employees. Usually we work Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Tuesday we decided to make a quick run to Anchorage for a bit of a diversion and to pick up some things that are not available in Soldotna. If one were in a hurry, the trip could be done in under 2 hours but being in a hurry is not suggested. This Memorial Day weekend, for example, there were 11 police cars spotted between here and Soldotna (a 43 mile distance). And half of them were unmarked cars.....how do we know since they were unmarked, you ask.....the locals gave us the report.
We got lunch at Phyllis’ Salmon Chowder House and really enjoyed the meal. Maureen had fabulous FRESH Halibut and Chips (which had just been caught a few days before....THAT fresh) and I had the equally fabulous Seafood Chowder. We then went to Mobile RV Supplies and got a Tote-Away Tank to allow us to transport our grey and black water to a local dump site rather than having to hire a $45 tank pump again. RV parks provide a dump station at their locations. Here at Wildman’s they provide RV spaces for the worker bees and provide water and electricity but there is no dump station available. And at $45 a dump (weekly or bi-weekly) can get pretty pricey.
After making an obligatory stop at Costco, we headed back. The drive around Turnagain Arm was similar to the trip we made 3 weeks ago because the tide was low again and very muddy. Despite the lack of water we came across some fishermen trying to net some hooligans (a 6-8 inch fish that has a bit of meat). Actually the hooligan is more commonly known as a candlefish or a smelt. My grandmother would occasionally have smelt pan-fried and I loved them.
We decided to make a side trip to Hope, AK. This is a SMALL town on the southern shore of the Turnagain Arm and the very northern tip of the Kenai Peninsula. Hope will be one of the shuttle trips as people start a hike in Cooper Landing and walk the 38 mile trail to Hope.
Hope is one of the sister towns of Cooper Landing and shares schools programs and other activities. Many of the towns are very small and far apart but try to share resources where it makes sense. Shelbe, mentioned earlier, will be entering High School in the fall and would have to commute to Soldotna each day since there is no High School in CL. She actually will be living with family in Soldotna as the almost 100 mile round trip each day would be a burden on her and her parents.
Hope is smaller than Cooper Landing (and remember that Cooper Landing has 400 permanent residents). Hope Highway is a pleasant drive that descends through the woods next to a deep canyon with a rushing creek where we encounterd a moose calf on the return trip who refused to pose for us and ran away into the woods.