We (me, my boyfriend, his brother, and my best friend from high school) pulled into Homer on Fourth of July weekend, the same weekend hundreds of motorcyclists arrived, just across the street from our campsite, at the finish line of a 7,000+ mile rally that began in Key West. It isn’t really 7,000 miles from Florida to Homer, although it’s close. The bikers took a circuitous route along back roads and secondary highways, mapped out for them by race officials and disclosed to them at checkpoints along the way. In this spirit, they never knew for certain where they were headed next.
The word rally was a bit misleading, too, but smartly used, since races, as far as I know, are illegal in this country. The object of the event was to cross the finish line first and go home with $500,000 in gold. I mean, that’s a lot of money. Maybe even enough to make you want to step on it some. I’m sure motorcyclists obeyed the speed limit restrictions rule, though, as well as the regulation that disqualified anyone showing evidence of having used performance enhancing drugs. Motorcyclists generally seem to be an obedient and docile bunch.
Unfortunately, but not entirely surprisingly, one man died during the event in Converse County, Wyoming. Another man was hospitalized after colliding with two bicyclists training for a series of triathlons on the Parks Highway near Nenana. Since there was no evidence that the motorcyclist hit his brakes, police suspect he fell asleep while driving.
We didn’t realize any of this would be going on in Homer when we planned our trip and reserved our charter boat. It was all fortuitous, but probably could have been better planned. The Homer Spit–a four and a half mile gravel bar that extends into the bay–was kind of like a third world country that weekend. Kids were running around barefoot on the littered beach playing hide-and-seek in porta-potties. Porta-potties that hundreds of people were using. And the smell of dead fish left an indelible mark.
All in all, though, we had a fabulous time. (And just a disclaimer: I’ve loved all developing countries I’ve ever visited.) And we met two of the motorcyclists, and a guy from their support crew, that were perfectly nice people. We were on our charter boat fishing for halibut in Kachemak Bay; they were having a good time, we were having a good time, and we became fast friends. When someone would announce that they’d caught a fish, and the person across the boat would ask how big it was, we all made jokes about how quickly we were getting to know each other. We figured size is typically a personal matter.
We ended up catching our quota–two halibut per person–and walked away with 80 pounds of fish. Our deckhand filleted them in front of us on the boat, and having pounded three Red Bulls in 15 minutes, he did it faster than my eyes could follow. He’d slice the fish open from anus to head, gut out the entrails, chop off the head, and cut fillets in 30 seconds top. He truly made an art form out of it.
My tried and true method of cooking the fish: season it with coarsely ground pepper and pan-fry it in olive oil, then put it on a plump kaiser roll, buttered and put under the broiler to toast, with horseradish sauce and a lemon on the side. I also made halibut tacos, complete with homemade guacamole and a mango salsa my mom made, and a recipe I tried to replicate from The Reluctant Fisherman in Cordova, where they drizzle a fillet with olive oil and top it with thinly sliced Parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. It doesn’t get any better than that.