Riding Turnagain Arm

We’ve been having a cool and cloudy spring in Anchorage, so when the weather forecast called for sun and a temperature around 50° F for today, I hoped it was correct. Well, it was, and I figured what better thing to do than go for a bike ride.


Carpathian Peak

Carpathian Peak rises 5,856 feet above the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm in Alaska


I estimate I’ll need to average about 75 miles per day on the OTR ride, so to get an idea of what that would be like, I rode from Anchorage to Girdwood and back to Anchorage, a round trip of 80 miles. The route followed the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm, which is the main highway from Anchorage to Seward. It’s a busy 2-lane highway, with a lot of curves and fast traffic. I normally stay away from roads like this, but I’ll have to ride similar roads on the OTR route, so I figured I should take a test ride and try to get acclimated to the idea of riding on the shoulder of the road a few feet away from speeding traffic.

As it turns out, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, which is surprising because of all the traffic that the sun brought out. As I said, we’ve had a cool and cloudy spring, so our first warm, sunny day spurred a lot of people to get out and take a drive. And the Seward Highway is, by far, the most popular drive in the Anchorage area, so there was a lot of traffic – big trucks, Corvettes, Mustangs, multitudes of noisy motorcycles, State Troopers patrolling and keeping the order, and even an old Ford Model T-type car. And although the traffic was whizzing by, my position on the shoulder of the road provided enough separation between myself and the vehicles that it felt safe enough. So I was able to enjoy the scenery and not worry about the traffic.

Total time for the round trip was 7 hours and 58 minutes, which included snack breaks. Riding time was 6 hours and 45 minutes, for a moving average of 11.5 miles an hour. Certainly not fast, but I wasn’t qualifying for the Tour de France, and this was on my mountain bike with knobby off-road tires. But I think it’s a fairly realistic example of what my daily OTR schedule will be like, so all-in-all it was a good test ride.

To see and explore my route on an interactive map, click here. Be sure to play around with the map to get the full effect. You can zoom in and out, pan around, and switch the type of base map. Try the Satellite and Terrain views, and for something really cool, try out the Earth view. If you currently don’t have the Google Earth plugin installed in your web browser, when you click the Earth button it will prompt you to download and install the plugin. Once that’s done, spend some time playing with it – it’s worth it! And after you’ve played with the map view, click Player in the upper right corner – that will let you play back an animation of my ride, complete with all sorts of statistics (TIP: play the animation in full-screen mode!!).


Dall sheep

Dall sheep live on the mountainside above the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm

One Response to “Riding Turnagain Arm”

  1. Paul Zallek Says:

    Scott, I’ll be following your story. Be carefull.

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