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2 -9 July 2014

After some great (and a bit strenuous) days with Angela it was time to move on. I got hold of couchsurfer Axel and Vamori who do it unconventionally because people don't stay at their home but go camping with them; I would meet them at Kasilof River close to Tustumena Lake a couple of days ride from Seward where they camped with some other couchsurfers. As always when I stay somewhere I enjoyed the last morning; the shower, the breakfast, the peacefulness, etc. so I didn't leave until 11. Another beautiful day though as I backtracked the 60k (37 miles) up to the Homer junction clouds began coming in making the ride more pleasant - the strong headwind however had the opposite effect also when I headed west at the junction. After some kilometers I left the mountains behind me and biked through forest and tundra, past lakes and along rivers and creeks. It was 1 July so it was very busy as a lot of people had taken a long holiday. I understand people like fishing but I thought part of it was the possibility of relaxing and reflecting upon life which seems pretty difficult fishing "on top of each other" in the river getting lines mixed up, etc. I had been told it was flat/downhill all the way to Soldatna but it turned out to be flattish rolling hills and uphill for 65k (40 miles) and again not the best riding conditions on the busy road – often no shoulder and when there was one it was a washboard with cracks every 1-5 meters (3-15 feet). I camped in some juniper/forest in the middle of nowhere and as it turned out not the best decision with thousands of mosquitoes, flies, etc. chasing/biting me relentlessly - what do they live off when there are no people and few animals?  
The rolling (up)hills continued to Soldatna where I stocked up. As always I ended up talking to a lot of people providing information and often inviting me to stop by if I happen to pass by. Heavily laden I left Soldatna to ride the remaining 32k (20 miles) to the camp but I only got 5k (3 miles) out of town before my rear tire punctured - a metal wire had penetrated it. Incredible I don't have more problems with all the scrap, glass, gravel, stones, etc. on the shoulders. It doesn't take long to repair the tire - the hard part is pumping it up again with my small pump. I was almost done as the valve broke of the tube - it was a brand new tube but as everything here in the US it's built to break; tires, tubes, brakes all in pitiful quality compared to Europe. However, as always bad things are followed by good ones – one minute later a big moose was running alongside me on the road but before I got the camera out it was down a gravel road – I followed it on foot but it was long gone… The last 5k (3 miles) to the camp was down the worst gravel road I've been on for a long time - nothing but washboard and potholes but I managed to get to the camp where I was welcomed by Axel and couchsurfing couple Johannes and Roxy; Axels wife Vamori was working and showed up in the evening where we had a delicious dinner with barbequed moose.
The next day we all went canoeing down the Kasilof River - a pleasant experience where we saw several eagles and a river otter protecting her cubs. We camped on a small island in the river and amongst other afternoon activities we fished for salmon - I spent more than half hour but all I got was cold feet from the glacier water; nobody else caught anything but a sunburn. Late afternoon we headed upstream which took more of an effort especially in the beginning where we had to pass some small rapids but everybody paddled hard so it worked out. It was 4 July but for obvious reasons fireworks were not allowed in the forest - instead Axel had made 3 Swedish candles which are standing trunks cut halfway through and set on fire; it took an effort to get them started after which it was a great sight. 
Saturday we did a daytrip to Homer 100k (65 miles) south. My initial idea had been to bike this stretch but the nature was not very diverse, it was crazy busy because of the holidays and the views were few - and we did all the scenic stops anyway including a visit to Anchor Point which is the most western accessible point in North America to where you can drive. Here we saw big fishing boats being brought ashore and a couple of eagles on the beach. On the way back to the main road Vamori spotted lots of big King Salmon acclimatizing before heading up river. I had looked for salmon at every river/creek I passed so it was nice to finally see some. In Homer we visited The Spit which was incredibly busy with RVs and tents everywhere; Johannes and Roxy walked around but I was happy to relax and enjoy the views in a fairly quiet spot. Axel had guaranteed that we all would catch fish and indeed we did. I cast 4 times - 2 horrible and 2 excellent throws and the latter each got me 2 fish. 4 fish in 4 throws I considered acceptable for a beginner – I think even Axel was a bit impressed. Part of the story was that we fished close to the fish waste pipe from a nearby fish processing factory.... On the way back to camp we were lucky to see two moose calves in the side of the road - we never saw the cow but she must have been close – and finally I got moose pictures after so many sightings... A cosy last evening ended with a beautiful sunset (after midnight)…
After breakfast they packed up and left around noon - a truly great wilderness experience with wonderful and interesting people. I didn't want to bike because it was the last holiday so the road would be crazy busy with people heading back home. Instead I spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and burning the rest of the firewood which helped me stay warm on the overcast day where it rained from late afternoon.
The next morning there was still a drizzle so I waited to leave until it stopped around 10. I biked 140k (83 miles) to the Seward/Anchorage junction - not too interesting as it was overcast and I had biked it all before in better weather. It was fairly hilly but the biggest challenge was the strong headwind - not too happy as I also had a headwind when I biked the other way some days earlier. When riding up from Seward some days before the local mailwoman Erin had stopped to give me lemonade and ask about my story. We talked for half hour and she invited me to stay on my way back to Anchorage should it fit my schedule. It did, so I stopped by her house close to the junction - she was working late so I talked with her husband Kevin and later her son Miles before she came home at 9.30pm. Such a friendly, generous, accommodating and interesting family and besides the pleasant conversation I got a lot of advice for the rest of my Alaska travelling.
Erin made me a big breakfast and after packing I left at 10. A long and gradual ride uphill to Turnagain Pass from where it was steep downhill to sea level at the Whittier junction (from where I came many days earlier). Another day fighting a strong headwind but at the junction it tuned into a side/tailwind... at least for a while. It had been mostly overcast climbing up to the pass but as I progressed the weather improved and it turned into a beautiful late afternoon. I made a stop in Girdwood at spent some hours at the library first inside and when they closed outside because the internet still worked. I found a camping spot close to the river just to (once again) experience that Alaskans have no Summer time concept (probably because of the long, dark Winter) – other people arrived around midnight launching the rest of their fireworks before finally going to sleep…

From Girdwood It was an easy 65k (40 miles) ride into Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm – especially because it was fairly flat and I had a bit of a tailwind so it only took about 2 hours. Gavin and Savannah who hosted me when I first arrived in Anchorage allowed me to stay some more days so I biked to the Midnight Sun Brewery to get Gavin’s keys.. What a wonderful trip around Southern Alaska - exceptionally kind people, great weather, spectacular nature and lots of wildlife... 1400k (875 miles) added to the previous 1,600k (1,000 miles) in "the lower 48's" make this Summer's distance 3,000k (1.875 miles) with much more to come...  

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