Day 20: Wasilla to Anchorage - Alaska Loop 2015 - CycleBlaze

July 31, 2015

Day 20: Wasilla to Anchorage

Today is the last day of the tour, an easy ride to Anchorage. On the road before 9 after a hot breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant which has a fantastic view of the lake and mountains.

I continued south on the Parks highway through Wasilla. It's a 5 and 7 lane road lined with strip shopping centers. Thriving, but dull. On the way out of Wasilla the road becomes a limited access expressway, heading towards the interchange with the Glenn highway. I pedaled 20 miles on expressways until the bike trail began. The expressway shoulders have a lot of glass.

When leaving Wasilla the Parks Highway becomes a controlled access expressway.
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The view of the Chugach mountains ahead is fairly good despite looking into the sun. Today's route crosses 3 major rivers. First is the Matanuska river. The Glenn highway follows this river upstream for a long distance. I will follow the Glenn highway towards Anchorage. Not exactly downstream because I'm near sea level already.

Glenn highway crossing the Matanuska river. Much smaller than the Susitna river.
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Glenn highway and Chugach mountains.
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The second major river I crossed is the Knik river. The Knik Arm of Cook Inlet must be named after this river.

Glenn highway crossing the Knik river.
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Most of today's route is near sea level and gently rolling, but there are two notable big steep hills. The first big hill is on the expressway. The second big hill is on the bike trail near the expressway.

Bike trail along an expressway that's being widened to 6 lanes.
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Today was warm and sunny. High of 75F with lots of sunshine. Above normal for Anchorage.

Navigation was complex but every turn has a helpful bike route to Anchorage sign.
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The Glenn highway is 4 lanes at first. Then 4 lanes with construction. Then 6 lanes. Most of the route into Anchorage is on a bike trail adjacent to the freeway, but there are sections where the route goes on city streets. Those sections have complicated navigation but reliably have signs designating the bike route into Anchorage. Thank you!

Trail along an area where the expressway is being realigned to be wider and less steep.
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The third river I crossed is Eagle River. The surrounding town of Eagle River is the first rural town north of Anchorage.

Crossing Eagle River with a view of the Chugach Range.
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Today's route has some mountain views, but also a lot of monotonous scenery along a busy expressway. It's safe, but I can't really recommend biking between Willow and Anchorage. 1.5 days along an expressway is not my idea of a great touring route (which is why I have no desire to ride most of the Route 66 bike route).

6-lane Glenn highway, bike trail, and the fence of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. I hardly ever saw fences on this tour.
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The trail goes along the fence of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson for 5 miles. It's a combined Army and Air Force base.

Anchorage bike trails often cross under roads in giant conduits.
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Anchorage has a maze of bike trails. Many along major roads, and others along creeks, etc. I would have needed to stop many times to study the map if not for all the Bike Route to Anchorage signs.

Bike trail behind a fancy shopping center. Getting close to downtown Anchorage.
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I escaped the expressway by turning onto Commercial Avenue which goes to downtown. It was interesting. I never imagined Anchorage would have a skid row. Homeless people laying on the ground all over the place for several blocks.

I got a flat tire on the edge of downtown. The culprit was a shard of glass. The expressway shoulders have a lot of broken glass. I never saw broken glass in Alaska until about Wasilla.

Downtown Anchorage from Commercial Ave.
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On the edge of downtown Anchorage I stopped to look at the hilltop monument commemorating Alaska statehood on January 3, 1959. Fairly modest, actually.

Alaska statehood monument. President Eisenhower signed a law on January 3, 1959 making Alaska the 49th U.S. state.
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I turned off the street onto the bike trail that circles around downtown along the shoreline. Shoreline is a relative thing because most of the time the mud flats go out a quarter mile. For a few hours each day a 30 foot tide comes in and the mud flats go away. I never saw a high tide on the Turnagain Arm (day 1) or on the Knik Arm today.

Mud flats and the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet.
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Bike trail and the mud flats. Downtown is up a hill to the right.
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The bike trail only goes 1.5 miles before it's closed at a bridge under construction. So I backtracked to where I started and pedaled up the hill to downtown. I didn't spend much time looking around downtown.

Bike trail and "waterfront" condos.
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Mud flats again.
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I biked another 5 miles from downtown to Lakeshore Inn. Most of it on busy roads, part of it on parallel paths. Motorists don't seem happy to see a bike on the major roads.

New section of downtown Anchorage.
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I arrived at Lakeshore Inn at 5:30. Same place I stayed the first night. I retrieved my bike box from their storage room, then went to get a take out pizza for dinner. I walked around the float plane lake again. Several planes took off and landed. The planes are extremely loud when taking off.

Float plane lake next to Lakeshore Inn.
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Today was the 4th day of the tour to have no rain. A beautiful day to end the tour. But today's route was the least enjoyable of the tour. I don't like biking on or near expressways.

I'm very tired but I can't relax yet. It took 2 hours to leisurely pack the bike. The box needed extensive taping to repair tears in the cardboard.

Distance: 57.4 mi. (92 km)
Climbing: 1556 ft. (471 m)
Average Speed: 10.3 mph (16.5 km/h)

Today's ride: 57 miles (92 km)
Total: 920 miles (1,481 km)

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