The Crossroads of Alaska

“So… this is the airport,” Megan stated, ushering to the one-room building we had just entered.

After 49th State Brewing Company, Megan and I backtracked to the Anchorage airport, hopped on another Alaska Airlines plane, took a short 45-minute flight to Cordova, and unloaded on the tarmac before walking into the aforementioned one-room building that served as the airport.

I gawked slightly, glancing around. To our left was the luggage conveyor belt (it was just an angled semi-circle pressed up against a glass window with plastic slits that opened to the outside where the luggage was delivered and dropped in) to our right was the waiting area and the check in counters, and directly behind us was a one lined security station. The airport was an excellent representation for how small the town we were visiting actually was.

While we waited for our checked items in the baggage-claim-waiting-area-check-in, Megan contacted Greg (our remote co-worker) to let him know we had arrived. To our surprise and relief, he texted her back instantly.

“Gary’s on his way; he’s going to pick us up,” Megan informed me, giving me a thumbs up.

When Megan came to Alaska for work in 2016, it was to shadow Greg during his Cordova fundraising banquet for Friends of NRA. Friends of NRA is a nonprofit organization that raises money for shooting sports related programs by hosting events, typically in the form of banquets composed of games and auctions. Greg hosts banquets all across southern Alaska, but is supported by committees of volunteers in the towns where the banquets are held. Gary is the chairman for the Cordova committee, and also co-owns the restaurant where the banquet is held along with fellow co-owner, co-chair, and wife, Libbie. With Cordova being around a 2,000 population town, it was sort of an all-in-the-family affair.

It was sprinkling a little outside, so Megan and I waited a few minutes before flipping the hoods of our jackets over our heads and exiting to wait on the sidewalk outside the airport for Gary’s arrival. There was a small car rental place off to the left. I counted about 30 cars in the lot. Their logo was of a woman, riding on a fish, riding on the hood of a car. Makes sense.

After a few minutes, the large, brown Chevy Tahoe that would come to serve as our primary form of transportation for the weekend pulled up and a sweet, grandfatherly man stepped out to help us with our bags. Megan let out a little yelp of excitement and ran up to hug him, and I extended a hand to introduce myself. We loaded our things in the car, and headed off toward the restaurant.

Megan and Gary chatted pleasantly on the drive over, but I was too awestruck by the mountains around us to retain or participate in the conversation. Even in the misty rain, the rich green of the foliage struck out in contrast against the gray ridges behind them. It was beautifully desolate of civilization for miles.

“See the trick with these old cars…” I tuned back in momentarily as Gary started explaining the Tahoe’s operations. “…is if you turn the key and the car stalls, turn it off completely and then try again. It should start right up.”

Megan and I nodded.

“Once we get to the Powder House,” the name of the restaurant Gary and Libbie owned and that the banquet was to be held at, “I’ll go ahead and give you guys the car and let you go get checked into The Reluctant,” the name of the hotel we were staying at, “and then you can meet us back here whenever you are ready,” Gary stated, pulling around the corner to where the wooden outline of The Powder House was visible. To the right, a single, giant, green cliff loomed over us.

We hopped out of the Tahoe and went inside to greet the other committee members and volunteers, and to say hi to Greg. The inside of The Powder House had a wonderful home-style feel to it – to the left, casual seating and an outside deck, to the back, a small additional capacity room, and to the right, a large bar with an array of whimsical paraphernalia adorning the walls. My favorite of these was a plaque with some sort of avian foot in the center, one claw that served as the middle finger up, the rest pulled back into what would constitute a palm. It read “Complaint Department,” or something to that effect.

Megan enthusiastically greeted everyone she had met the previous years with warm hugs, and I followed up with introductory handshakes, a little overwhelmed with the scenery and all the new faces. Everyone was setting up The Powder House that evening for a pre-event function; a night of raffle games to kick off the banquet weekend coupled with a prime rib dinner. They called it Smoke n’ Guns.

Megan and I promised we’d be back shortly and grabbed Gary’s keys to go check into our hotel. I wasn’t sure what all I was in store for this weekend, but I had a feeling I was going to love every minute of it.

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