The two-day, 12,000-foot climb out of Arizona made the first two days the hardest for cyclist Erik Hamilton.
He had two months and more than 2,000 miles to go to get from Gold Canyon, Ariz., to Kenai in the hopes of raising money for his grassroots charity "Crank 4 a Cure" which donated proceeds to Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
"It took about three weeks for my legs to recover," Hamilton said of the first two days. "That was the toughest but after that it just got easier every day. My body adjusted to it."
All told Hamilton raised about $1,500 through fundraising efforts he said happened mostly by the side of the road and talking to people in gas stations.
"I'm not a very good marketer, it's hard when you're on the road every day," Hamilton.
He didn't make the trip alone -- his wife Stacia Hamilton and their Jack Russell terrier, Irie, accompanied him in a support vehicle for most of the trip.
The two got on the road April 5, and made their way to the Port of Bellingham, Wash., where they took the ferry to Whittier, then Hamilton made the rest of the trip alone.
He kept himself company, he said, by listening to music or just watching the world roll by one push of the pedals after another.
"I chose roads that weren't busy, I rode Highway 50 across and that was the bulk of the trip. They call it the loneliest road in America; it was gorgeous," he said.
One of the first things he noticed was the lack of bicyclists going in the same direction he did. It was a hard lesson for a guy who said he "wasn't much of a cyclist" before he decided to embark on the trip.
"There's a reason why they go from West to East and I didn't really know this, but it's 'cause of the wind," he said. "The prevailing winds typically blow in that direction so I was into a headwind almost the whole time. It was horrible."
Hamilton laughed when he talked about figuring out the reason he was the only one cycling toward Washington state.
"I guess I learned a lesson there."
As he watched the miles fly by, Hamilton said he saw a lot of strange things by the roadside.
"The weirdest thing I saw was a blow up doll on the side of the road," he said. "I found a couple of pocket knives. I found a whole tackle box, I couldn't take it but it had three or four fishing reels, tons of tackle. I saw a lot of wildlife, antelope, lots of bald eagles."
There were days when he almost flew down the road.
"I had one really big day that was 106 miles. I rode from Flagstaff, Arizona to Lees Ferry which is where they put on to the Colorado River for rafting trips through the Grand Canyon," he said. "I did that in about five hours. I had a tail wind; it was just an awesome day. Everything was working."
Other days, it didn't work so well.
"There was a time outside of Left Bend, Oregon and they were calling for 45-55 mile an hour gusts. I was like 'Oh, OK. I'll start riding,'" Hamilton said. "I start riding and I literally get blown off my bike at two different points so I threw in the towel and called Stacia and she came and picked me up. I only rode 4.5 miles that day."
The idea for the journey, as Hamilton describes it, happened about eight miles into a run last year.
"I was just thinking about stuff. All kinds of things were going on in my life and it was like 'You know, I want to do something really big, what can I do?' I was jogging along listening to music and it was like, 'I'm going to ride my bike,," Hamilton said. "I'm going to ride my bike to Alaska. I'm going to try and raise money for cancer."
Hamilton has seen cancer touch friends and loved ones, starting with his mother.
"She's been dealing with it for about 15 years now off and on," he said. "A few buddies have had testicular cancer and I chose Lance Armstrong's foundation, he was affected by testicular cancer so I thought it would be a good place for the money to go."
He chose to end his journey in Kenai because he spends his summers here working with a group of setnetters. After leaving Kenai Hamilton said he was headed to Charlotte, N.C., to run an artificial rock-climbing business at a Renaissance festival.
As he stood on the beach in Kenai after being greeted by cheers and air horn blasts from friends and family, Hamilton said he didn't want to think about it just then, but he could see trying something as dramatic to raise money again.
Most people, he said, thought he was crazy.
"You're doing what? Why would you do that?" Hamilton said, mimicking people he spoke with along the way. "A handful of people thought it was pretty cool. I did get a handful of drive-by $20 bills which was kind of fun. But most people thought it was crazy, which was odd, I thought."
Online: Crank4acure.com; Crankforacure.wordpress.com.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.