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From paddles to pedals, British adventurer makes Anchorage stop in around-the-world trip

Megan Edge
British adventurer Sarah Outen pedals along Turnagain Arm from Bird to Anchorage as she continues her London2London: Via the World trip on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 3, 2014. Outen began cycling, kayaking and rowing around the planet in 2011, and plans to cycle across North America before rowing home to London in 2015. Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News

As the water shimmered along Turnagain Arm and the green of the mountains began fading into fall colors, Sarah Outen was hunkered over her bicycle. An orange safety flag and a miniature version of the United Kingdom's flag bounced and blew in the breeze on the back of her bike, which she's affectionately named "Hercules."

Her body slightly drifted from side to side as she pedaled. And with a smile that spread from ear to ear, the British adventurer rode the final miles to Anchorage from Homer.

Outen, 29, is in the midst of a journey that began three years ago in her rowboat beneath the Tower Bridge in London. And despite a couple of hiccups that set her timetable back by a few months, she is still pedaling, rowing and paddling in hopes of finally completing her "London2London" trip around the world.

"I just wanted a big adventure," said Outen. "I rowed across the Indian Ocean in 2009 and I kind of thought, 'Wow, I would love to do more of this.'"

Outen restarted in May, in the Aleutian Island village of Adak, where she paused her journey last year after becoming the first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean.

After a 1,400-mile journey from Adak, she arrived in the Kenai Peninsula community of Homer in the middle of August. On Saturday, with an escort of more than 30 locals, she traded her paddles for pedals and began the next step of her journey by heading to Anchorage.

"Today I felt a bit like Forrest Gump, though happily without the beard. It was the crowd of cyclists of all ages, on bikes of all shapes and sizes gathered to escort me out of Homer as I fiddled with Hercules and answered questions from a journalist," Outen wrote in a blog post dated Sunday.

The Oxford graduate seems relatively fearless. She casually mentions being rescued from the Pacific during an attempt to cross in 2012, when she was caught in a tropical storm, and doesn't seem to blink an eye at the thought of spending nights alone in unfamiliar communities during the next phase of her trip.

But the thought of camping alone with "wild Alaskan bears" scares her, she said. On her third night away from Homer, she said, she got a little spooked, but she survived.

After four days of what she describes as "easy riding," traveling about 50 miles each day, she arrived in Bird Creek, 20 miles outside of Anchorage.

By Wednesday afternoon, after a full night's rest, she was back on the road, traveling at a steady pace and taking in the picturesque views that only Turnagain Arm has to offer.

"I love it," Outen said. "Alaska is my favorite place in the world now. I love it. If it wasn't so far from home, I would move out here."

Outen plans to leave Anchorage Saturday and head for the Alaska Highway. She'll travel south through Canada and then make her way across the U.S. By next spring she hopes to be back in her rowboat, heading home across the Atlantic for the final leg of her journey.

Her advice to other would-be adventurers? Just do it.

"There are too many things that stop us from having a go," Outen said. "Get the technical skills you need, but riding a bike is easy ... just go for it. There are plenty of people who've done big things."