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

Chapter 6, Kenai to Ninilchik in record time

We were so rested from our Kenai Landing visit that we hit the beach by 7 am. Kenai Landing folks made us strong coffee the way we like it(wow) and we ate left over pie from the night before for breakfast! yahoo I love vacations.

We were cruising the hard pack gravel and sand. By then we both knew what the better riding sand looks like so we both veered towards better spots at the same time and were keeping up about 8-9 miles an hour. Eagles followed us and occasional beach houses could be seen on the bluffs or at the shore line. A wide variety from shacks to mansions, no social order of building here.The snow capped volcanoes were peeking out from the clouds across the inlet. We got to Kasilof River in about an hour and half. We knocked on a boat shack building to see if anyone was going across the river. A man came out and stared at us.

"What are you doing?
Oh OK biking the beach...hmmm
BE careful of the tides!" are his first words. WE take his words to heart.
He would have given us a boat ride across Kasilof River but his boat was high up on the mud and it would be 2 hours before he could take us. He also had a situation, " got 3 fishing boats tangled up out here" . They are big boats. We wonder what they will do. We thanked him and decided to take the 5 miles up to the main road and over to the bridge and 6 miles of more road back down to the other side of the river. Long road ride for Pugs and Lil' Ray.

Before the bridge we stopped at a quick mart. Everyone wants to talk to us about our bikes and what we are doing. This is a friendly place. We are not invisible here. Kathy orders a Reuben sandwich with the works in hopes that food will make up for being tired. Even though its only 9:45 am the lady gladly makes it. We load up on chocolate covered peanuts the preferred snack and some more water.

A man with a beret like a French artist asks if we'd like a ride back down to the other side of the river. We decide it is no different than taking the boat across, so yes! He will help us avoid another 6-7 miles of pavement. Pugs and little Ray go about 8-9 miles an hour on pavement max, and it sucks.

Jon got his beat up old pickup truck with different color panels and a hound dog mix named Rowdy. We loaded the bikes and we all squeezed in the front and Rowdy was so happy Kathy brought a Reuben sandwich. He stretched across our laps his soft head in our faces. Nicest dog we ever met. Jon is a merchant marine for NOAA and we had some interesting conversation. Kathy was trying not to lean on the door for fear it might rattle open. He dropped us off at the beach, we gave him our garbage from lunch and thanked him. Rowdy tried to follow us. Jon grabbed him after a fitful game of tag and held him until we were gone. He says he hopes to see us at the Ninilchik state fair later tonight. We hope so too.

We already miss Rowdy as we pedal out of sight. We liked them and hope we see them again. There is good feeling that lingers when souls interact on a trip like this. We had a similar feeling as the belugas swam away after playing near us and saying hello in their own way. All the smiles and good vibes from both man and beast lifted our spirits as we rode down the beach that day. An eagle soared over our heads and we were happy to be living this good life and we missed Rowdy.

We were cruising the beach in the sunshine, going faster and faster. About 8- 10 mph ! We were reaching points ahead of time and we think we can make Ninilchik before high tide. We were in race mode and pushing hard. The Reuben kicked in for me and I felt great. We cycled sunny pristine beaches and then we would see groups of people ahead clamming and we'd know it was a beach access. We saw no litter any where. They had trucks and shovels and dogs and kids running around. Everyone looked at us and smiled and pointed. Biking on the beach - what a good idea they would all say ! Everyone was so friendly. We felt kind of sorry for the kids that would probably bring their bikes down to the beach next time. You gotta have FAT tires, kids, really really fat bike tires , we would try to tell them.

We got to Ninilchik around 2 pm! We had gone about 40 miles that day and we still had day light to burn. Tide was coming in and we have that excuse to rest. We rented a shore side bungalow called the Beachcomber . It was awesome, right on the water with a view of the mountains and Cook Inlet. Shower and kitchenette and a BED!!

Ninilchik is a really cute little fishing village with an often photographed old Russian Orthodox church on the hill. We didn't photograph it because it was WAY up on the hill. Its one of those cozy places you can just walk around and feel safe and smell the sea air and fish to your hearts content. After cleaning up we walked about 2 –3 miles to the state fair that is up on the main road. We ate lots of fair food and didn't feel guilty. We looked for Jon and Rowdy but we didn't see them. Bummer. We did see old friends that live nearby and they couldn't believe we biked there on the beach. They remind us to be careful of the tides. We look at all the cows and pigs and chickens and watch some live music from California. It's a long walk back and I am sore. So we stop to get an ice cream from a shop where a nordic ski companion of Kathy's is working! Small world.

Diana and Kathy try to kick each others butts nordic skiing in the winter so Diana was interested in this new training program of Kathy's. We would see Diana for breakfast and Kathy tried not to look too tired as she walked away. Wow my legs were burning. Even with these wide tire bikes this is a lot of work. Pat of course is just fine or so he claims.