While crossing North America on his bicycle, a Japanese visitor found comfort in the homes of Kenai Peninsula residents.
Norio Moriyasu ended his transcontinental trek Sept. 6 on the peninsula, after traveling from North America's easternmost road point to its westernmost point. He enjoyed some down time with friends at the Soldotna B&B Lodge after completing the bicycle ride from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, to Anchor Point.
Lodge owners Steven Anderson and Monika Leiber connected with the cyclist seven years earlier through Anderson's parents, Kenai summer residents Scott Anderson and Dorothy Johnson. Both couples were astounded by Moriyasu's accomplishment.
"Anyone who does what Norio (did) is incredible," said Scott Anderson.
"We were just amazed at his braveness," said Johnson.
Moriyasu, 27, is from Hachioji City, Japan, west of Tokyo, and is taking a break after completing law school in his native land.
The trip was approximately 6,100 miles long, crossing nine Canadian provinces and Alaska. It took Moriyasu 123 days to complete the journey. He started on May 10, riding his mountain bike between eight and 10 hours every day.
"I would start at 11 a.m. each day," Moriyasu said, "and finish when it was nearly sunset, depending on when the sun went down."
He carried two large saddle-style packs, each draped over one of the wheels of his bike and a third pack strapped down to a package rack behind his seat. The bike, when fully loaded with camping gear, water and food, weighed about 140 pounds.
In 1995 he made a similar trip, riding from Vancouver to Quebec City, Quebec, and met the older Anderson and Johnson in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The couple was making their first trip from the Lower 48 to Alaska, traveling in a camper, and saw him when they stopped at a campground one night.
"He was there in an RV park, eating cold tuna out of a can," Johnson said. "We invited him to dinner with us and he stayed overnight. He certainly appreciated the hot meal."
Johnson said her husband told the young adventurer about his son, Steven, and daughter-in-law, Monika, who lived in Hiroshima, Japan, and Moriyasu gave them his address. When he returned to Japan, Steven got in touch with Moriyasu.
Moriyasu had completed law school and was taking a break when he decided to make this most recent trip. He said when he spoke with Scott Anderson and Johnson on his first trip, they showed him the points that would become his starting and destination points for this trip.
"I wanted to do something unforgettable," he said.
Moriyasu said meeting new people was one of his favorite parts of the journey.
"Making friends with people was most exciting," he said.
Faith and Tom Hundley, of Palmer, were among the friends Moriyasu made on his journey. They met Moriyasu on the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, in June while returning from vacation.
"We had stopped to help a lady with a flat," Tom Hundley said. "When we were finished, Norio rode up and asked us if we needed help."
Hundley said he and his family appreciated Norio's eagerness to help and offered him some water.
"I asked him where he was coming from," Hundley said. "I thought maybe Grande Prairie or even Calgary. We were pretty flabbergasted when we found out where he was coming from."
Moriyasu said when he told the Hundleys where he was going, they said they were along the way and invited him to call them when he reached Palmer.
"It was really great to be around someone who was so gracious," Hundley said, commenting on how Moriyasu thankfully accepted anything offered to him. "He was always saying 'oh, thank you so much.' Even for the smallest things."
The Hundleys returned to Palmer uncertain if they would hear from their new friend again. But when he got to town, they did. Hundley said he offered to help Moriyasu cut some of the distance he had to travel, but he politely refused.
"When he was leaving, I offered to carry him to the other end of Palmer so he could bypass some of the traffic. But he asked me to please take him back to where I picked him up," Hundley said. "He was determined to ride every mile."
Whenever he became tired or began to feel discouraged, Moriyasu said, he would sing melodies to himself that he remembered from the radio in Japan.
"My favorite song 'All 4 U' by Janet Jackson," he said. "I also thought about friends in the cities I was traveling to."
Moriyasu made it to the Kenai Peninsula in time to stop and visit with Anderson and Johnson before they left, returning to Oregon. He then completed his trip to Anchor Point, and continued on to Homer before returning to Soldotna.
Johnson said she hadn't heard from him since she and her husband left the peninsula en route to Oregon, but was certain he was all right.
"We may not here from him for a while," she said. "But we know he'll eventually write us to let us know he's OK."
The Hundleys hosted Moriyasu a final time when he arrived in Anchorage on Thursday, prior to catching a flight back to Japan.
Faith Hundley said, Moriyasu stayed the night with her family and they took him to the airport in Anchorage Friday.
"He caught the first Continental flight" she said, "and he called us when he reached Japan.
"I know he's glad to be home."
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