After a long flight I finally touched down in Anchorage and was out of the airport by about midnight on Saturday 15th May. I was relieved that my bike, Shermy (on account of being built like a Sherman tank) was with me and seemingly in one piece. Despite one of my bags having been searched by customs and put on a different flight, I was glad to be finally stepping out into the warm Alaskan air. Amazed at how light it still was, I searched out a cab and the Macedonian driver zipped me across to Spenard where I was to stay with Alan Colter for a few days. Luckily the bag that had arrived contained my tent and sleeping bag so when I got to Alan’s there was nothing stopping me putting my house up and crawling into my cocoon.
It was Saturday night and Alan’s neighbours were having a bit of a party so I lay there wondering what I was getting myself in for. Seemingly hung over from the stresses of getting prepared and travelling, I felt numb to any excitement and concerned at my apathy to the adventure that lay ahead.
The next morning I wandered the streets of Anchorage unsuccessfully searching for a public phone to call the airport about my bags. But the mission was not in vain as I graciously found myself in ‘The Middle Way’, a cafe that offered up a much needed breakfast burrito and carrot juice. Here my first misconception of Alaska was shattered… I had bought with me quite a stash of Earl Grey tea bags in the belief that Alaska would be lacking, but to this Englishman’s delight I was bombarded with tea choices on this first cafe visit. Feeling half human again I returned to my digs where I found Alan up and about. He offered me the use of his phone and a few hours later my missing bag arrived at the house.
I had been put in touch with Alan by Sage who I had contacted through the Warmshowers website. I didn’t (and still don’t) know Sage but am incredibly grateful to her as Alan turned out to be a bit of a catch. An intelligent man living a barter based lifestyle who I would describe as an opportunist neo-capitalist, he has more energy than anyone you’re ever likely to meet (and I know my sister!) and harbors qualities I think would benefit many a suit clad office worker. I hoped that Alan’s kindness; giving me a bed in his house, taking me out around Anchorage and introducing me to some interesting people and possibilities, would set the tone for the rest of my tour.
I unpacked Shermy from her cardboard coffin and set about making her whole again. You can see photos of her journey here.
Reassembled and ready to roll we took ourselves for a 20 mile spin around Anchorage taking in the plentiful cycle paths and exploring the rather characterless down town area. Anchorage itself unimpressed me but whenever I lifted my head and saw the snow dusted mountains looming above, a brief flame of excitement flickered in my belly. This excitement would only escalate the next day after I’d raided the REI outdoors store, filled my fuel bottle at the gas pump and stocked up with incredibly overpriced groceries at the Safeways (you live and learn… god bless Fred Meyer). With all loose ends tied my diary entry exclaimed that I was now ‘genuinely shitting myself with excitement’… crude but rather apt.
On the Tuesday evening Alan’s friend Ray came over and we drove out to the imaginatively christened Peak 3 for some hiking and sliding. Each armed with a length of the bubble wrap Shermy travelled in, we hiked up the steep mountain side and into the snow. Picking at old berries as we trudged I was amazed at how fit and spritely Alan is for a man in his fifties, an example to the sedentary couched masses of what lifestyle can do for/to you.
Bowled over with incredible views of Anchorage, that I liken to a forest polluted with buildings, we hit the summit in good time.
A quick sugar break and can of Guinness later (courtesy of Ray) we were glacading down the west side of the mountain at great pace and with huge smiles. For the uninitiated that means that we slid down the snow slope on our arses… how can that not be fun! A pizza and a few dark local ales later I found myself in bed preparing my head for the start of the tour the next day.
You can catch the full Anchorage photo diary here.