06.27.2002-07.05.2002       Valdez, AK to Anchorage, AK
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I spent my first day in Valdez limping about town, paying the price for riding over a hundred miles the day before. It was overcast and I wondered if Valdez would rob me of the opportunity to see her in all her glory as Mt. McKinley had. I stayed an extra day and was justly rewarded. It began to clear late in the day and by the time I boarded the ferry the next morning the sun was shining brightly. I made my way to the sundeck of the MV Bartlet, grabbed a lawn chair and staked out a spot next to the railing at the rear of the deck. I sat back and enjoyed the fine scenery and the fine day. Along the route the captain was kind enough to detour to the Columbia Glacier, a sea lion colony and several bird colonies, making me glad I hadn't splurged on a private cruise to see these same attractions. After we arrived in Whittier I was soon back on my bike and making my way to Homer.

I had planned to take my time along the route to fully appreciate the scenery along the Kenai Peninsula. But some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered left me spending all my time looking in my rear view mirror, making sure the next RV didn't take me out with its side-view mirror or, worse yet, unretracted steps. The ride down the peninsula therefore was not fun and I rode hard, trying to bring it to an end as quickly as possible. The approach into Homer made the ride almost worthwhile. About fifteen miles out of Homer the road leaves the coast and turns inland. After some distance you begin making your back to the coast, ascending several hundred feet along the way. As you arrive back at the coast you are high atop some bluffs and greeted with an amazing view of the Cook Inlet, a view non-existent just fifteen miles earlier.

I arrived in Homer a few days early and began investigating ways to spend my last several days before returning to Anchorage. I was happy to discover that the weekly ferry to Kodiak and onward to Seward left the following night. The forecast was for fair weather so I decided another ferry journey would be the perfect way to spend my time. I've always enjoyed including sea travel in my bike trips. There are a few reasons for this. One is purely logistical. For boat travel you need only roll your bike on when embarking and roll it off when disembarking. No need take it apart, box it up and entrust it to careless baggage handlers. The other reason is I just like to ride. Whenever I skip over a section of a route in a plane, train or bus inevitably there are times while I'm looking out the window at the scenery passing by that I feel remorse, wishing I were biking through that very scenery. For obvious reasons I don't have these feelings on a boat and therefore can sit back and enjoy my travels at sea. When I boarded the MV T I was disappointed to see the lack of lawn furniture on the sun deck. Later on I would find reason enough for this: it's damn cold and damn windy on the water in these parts. While we waited for the ship to set off we watched two whales swimming in the harbor. Late that night a humpback whale entertained us. It performed several aerial displays in front of us and then, as if to take a bow, turned over on its side and waved its flipper at us as we went by. Clear skies and calm water greeted us as we arrived in Kodiak. We had an eight hour layover so I hoped to get a taste of the island in that time. I rode four miles out of town to Ft. Abercombie, built during WWII to fend off the Japanese invasion. The park was nearly deserted so I was able to walk around and enjoy the fine views all by myself. I quickly understood why they call Kodiak the Emerald Isle. After returning to town I decided to bike a ways up Mt. Pinnacle to gain a better vantage point of the town. As the road turned from pavement to gravel I came across the type of sign I've come to take as a guarantee for a nice ride. I hadn't planned to bicycle all the way to the top. Thus far on the trip I couldn't be bothered to do much biking off the route without my gear, let alone with it. But it was a nice day and the views kept getting better so I kept going. As I reached the summit an incredible view awarded me. I was happy to have kept going, not only for the nice view but also because it marked an important stage in the transition of my 100 lb. bike from being a burden to a way of life. I would be bicycling for a year and a half and cover thousands of miles, so the sooner this transformation completed, the better. I embarked the boat again late in day, wishing I could have stayed longer in Kodiak but happy for the time I'd had. When I woke the next morning we were arriving in Seward, on the 4th of July. I didn't care to do any more bicycling on the peninsula so I decided to enjoy the 4th of July festivities in Seward and then catch a shuttle to Anchorage the next morning. The festivities included the usual parade and fireworks but the real treat was watching the Mt. Marathon trail race.

Back in Anchorage my main objective was to prepare for the next stage of the trip, the Dalton Highway. The next 500 miles would be the remotest terrain I would cover until Patagonia. There are no grocery stores and only a few restaurants along the Dalton Highway so I would have to pack ten days of supplies. Despite the task ahead of me, I felt good. The warm-up leg of the journey had gone well. I'd covered over 800 miles and my left leg, though still diminutive compared to my right leg, had held up well. Perhaps the best sign that everything was OK was in my medicine chest: a nearly untouched bottle of Ibuprofren.
DistanceElevation GainFlat Tires
Leg321 mi/516 km15000 ft/4921 m
Trip844 mi/1358 km7 mi/11 km
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