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On second thought, tourists bring out best in locals

Posted: August 4, 2011 - 9:59am  |  Updated: August 4, 2011 - 10:06am

They clog our intersections with Hertz rental cars when we're late for work. They plug grocery lines when all granny needs is a gallon of Lucerne. And they march to the boat launch clad in XTRATUF boots - sans mud and salmon guts, as if they scribed the "Great Book of Alaska Faux Pas.'"

But most tourists - the same ones who give the local economy a shot in the rump each summer - come to the central Kenai Peninsula with good intentions.

They descend on our turf not to irritate or annoy, but to experience a unique region with their friends or family, the people they love. And chances are, if you are a full-time resident, you've hosted someone from "outside."

When it comes to fishing, "host" isn't such a bad role to play.

Visitors allow us to participate in those tourist activities we trash among our inner circle, but secretly enjoy.

The chartered, freezer-filling halibut trips out of Homer. The guided excursions down the Kenai for the elusive 70-pound king salmon. The 18-hour days full of casts, nets and stories.

Hosting guests gives us the perfect excuse to indulge - and run until our tank is empty.

"It's summer in Alaska," a friend recently told me as I grumbled about fatigue. "You can sleep this winter."

Since visitors come in all shapes and sizes, we get a little of everything when opening our doors.

In July, the roof under which I live tripled as a daycare, fraternity house and retirement home.

There was little Zack, all 14 months of him, the blonde-haired son of my roommate's brother. Zack wasn't much for fishing, but he sure liked to cry, especially in the morning.

My alarm clock needed a break, Zack, so thank you.

There was Brian, my 37-year-old brother, who would excel as a spokesman for the Mexican beer Tecate based on the commitment he displayed to the cold beverage during his four-day visit.

His arms might still be sore, too, from hauling in a pair of 40-pound kings, fish I wouldn't have seen had he not made the trip. We fished at least eight hours each day he was here and up to 12 on some because I didn't want to send him home empty handed.

For me, that sort of dedication - or addiction - only comes out when someone special is in town.

And there were my roommate's parents, the quietest of our guests, who may or may not have departed with their sanity after spending nearly a month here.

At least they've got plenty of fish to show for it.

The next visitors, my parents, arrive in about a week. Chief among our plans are to kill halibut, silver salmon and rainbow trout.

But there will be more, many more, adventures made possible by their visit.

So instead of laying on the horn next time traffic bottles up in Soldotna due to part-timers, remember that many of them are en route to see family or friends - people like you and me.

July is messy on the Central Peninsula, but it's also unique. So have fun. Embrace it.

Be a good host.

There was a day when your XTRATUF boots were spotless, too.

Wesley Remmer is a reporter with the Peninsula Clarion and a fishing enthusiast.

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cheapersmokes 08/05/11 - 11:57 am
Timely story!

Great story Wesley, It was definitely time to remind everyone just how important tourist dollars are to the Peninsula's livelihood and continued enjoyment for all of its residents. Just think before your blow up and curse at those folks since it could be your relation's the next time.

JOAT 08/05/11 - 02:10 pm

I like tourists. I know what they bring to our community ($$). I love to share the richness of our area. There's plenty to go around. I'm glad they come to visit.

I'm grateful for a 4-lane bridge as I clearly remember traffic backed up to the "Y" when it was only two. I don't understand why folks get so bent out of shape over a 3-minute delay on getting through town. Your speed of life isn't that important. If 3 minutes makes such a huge difference, try leaving earlier or call an ambulance for your life-threatening emergency.

Every summer for the 3-1/2 decades I've lived in Soldotna, the grocery store line is longer in the summer. Get used to it. Plan accordingly. Shop in the early morning or late at night. Avoid weekend afternoons at all costs. This isn't rocket science.

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