In the Zone with a Russian

If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.
— Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
— Douglas Adams (The Salmon of Doubt)

Hope, Alaska, population 165, sits southeast of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, twenty miles as the raven flies but an hour and a half by road. It’s a gorgeous drive even if I can’t appreciate it at the moment. The skinny road to Hope is tucked against mountains on the left and hugs the silty shore of Turnagain Arm on the right. Further south it wends through forests of black spruce. The southernmost peaks of the Chugach mountain range rise up directly from the narrow inlet, a narrowness which causes one of the largest bore tides in the world. Bone-white beluga whales rise from the gray water like fat ghosts, feeding on squid and small fish. Surfers bob on their boards in the frigid water, waiting for the four-foot wave of the bore tide to take them on a ride that can last up to a mile if they manage to stay on the board. Goats on the cliffs above the road stare back at tourists. Much as I want to stop to watch all this, I can’t. I’m late.