Pat & Kathy's 160 mile bicycle beach ride from near Hope to Homer

August 2005
written by Kathy Sarns Irwin ~ photos by Kathy and Pat Irwin

We think we are the first people to bicycle the 160 mile beach from west of Hope to Homer, Alaska. That's what the folks told us along the way anyway. If you know of someone else who did this let us know!

Kathy Sarns Irwin and Pat Irwin go on vacation with Puglsey and Little Ray

Chapter 1: Belugas, Bears, and Seals oh my

Tuesday evening August 16, a pilot friend who flies for bike parts dropped us off where the beach starts west of Hope near Chickaloon River, Alaska. This was nice of him since we have more bike parts than money.

We had two sand/snow bikes: Puglsey and Little Ray. Pugsley is a NEW snow and sand fat-bike made by Surly that has the biggest fattest tires ever called Endomorphs. Pat calls the tires Surly Burley Tundra Hogs for those that care. Little Ray is a sand and snow bike designed by crazy random Ray Molina. We spent a week with Ray so we can say this in good faith. Good crazy though. Ray follows his own drummer all over the planet and sometimes over the edge. He left us his bike last winter because, well, he ended up with a dog that Kathy rescued and its a long story, but in short he couldn't afford to ship his bike and a dog back to New Mexico. So we used his bike on this trip to compare to Pugsley.We need to email him to let him know.

After our 7:30 pm start we soon had 5 Beluga whales swimming about 50 feet from us off shore. They were looking at us and blowing and looking at us again. They would go ahead of us and then come back to roll around near us. They had not seen cyclists before. There was a seal that was rolling around with one of the whales. He appeared to be part of their pack. We could hear them breathing and blowing out air. After about 15 –20 minutes they swam east, blowing their good byes. The little black seal head bobbing behind them, looking back at us as he followed his odd family.

We saw brown bear, wolf, fox, and coyote tracks up and down the fresh beach below the tide water mark. The tide was just going out so these tracks were very fresh! No people tracks. So we yelled "Yo bear!" often. The Alaskan way of alerting bears that you are coming, in hopes they run away. Most bears really want nothing to do with humans.

Eagles were flying overhead. We would have many eagles as our guardians for the next 5 days. The bikes road very well over the rocks and sand. Surly's Pugsley really floated over all terrain and Rays bike did great too and could roll over the same stuff as Pugs but wasn't quite as fast as Pugs. These bikes have 4 inch wide tires and special rims. Since Pat is in shape for riding and I had been training by walking the dogs, eating bonbons and sitting at my computer designing jerseys, I got to ride single speed Pugsley a lot so I could keep up. We are wearing light weight breathable (synthetic) hiking shoes and using platform pedals. Our gear is bare minimum. Just the layers we need for cold (45 degrees F)and light weight rain top and bottom. Instant food and snacks. Summer sleeping bags, pads and a Golite TP tent. Each bike with gear weighed 60 pounds starting out. We averaged about 5-6 miles an hour that first night. We got to Point Possession at about 10 pm. With no wind and a beautiful yellow and pink sunset we decided to camp there. We went about 10 miles that evening.