Homer is the end of the road as far as the Kenai Peninsula is concerned. Normally I try and avoid retracing my steps if I can but this time I was looking forward to riding the around the Turnagain Arm again — I just found it to be so beautiful.
As I rode up the Seward Hwy I decided to make a brief stop in the small community of Indian, AK. There I met Mary Lou, an absolutely amazing 80 year old lady who has managed her late uncle Jim's crusty old log cabin liquor store for 50 years.
Ok I'll admit I stopped because of a cool faded neon sign advertising "hardcore alaskan gifts". Now Alaska being the wild untamed place it is I was kinda intrigued to see how "hardcore" was defined in their Funk & Wagnells you know? I wandered in half expecting a dumb dudes store but what I discovered was the polar opposite.
Mary Lou greeted me in a pristine beige lace dress straight from the prohibition era, fastidiously applied makeup and lipstick the colour of salmon roe. For the next 30 minutes we had the most delightful conversation about life growing up in Alaska: the winters, the earthquake, and her proudest achievement: the extended fight to save her neon sign from the Feds who wanted it removed to "improve" highway access. "I was prepared to chain myself to it... like Jesus Christ" she said with classic alaskan fervor.
She showed me the most amazing photos of her life with her dad when she was young. Hunting, bootlegging and even some '50s glamour shots of her leaning against log cabins, mining equipment and other alaskiany things. The black and white prints were all satisfyingly dog-eared, cellotaped and annotated in her shaky handwriting. My god. They. were. amazing.
I tried my best to sweet talk her into letting me take a photo of her and her past life however unsurprisingly she held fast and said "No I want to keep it all a secret". She did make one concession though, I could take a snapshot of this shit balls amazing painting of the time she was chased by a grizzly bear.
In the end I did discover how alaskans define "hardcore" — It was Mary Lou.