Karim Otky, 43, of Morocco and Sarasota, Florida, poses in front of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. Otky rode his bicycle from north of Fairbanks to Homer after first flying to Anchorage three weeks ago from Juneau. A resident of the United States since 1999, Otky is a professional tennis coach and athletic trainer biking around the world. He also has worked with children in conflict countries in Saharan Africa — and suffered a machete attack because of his work. “It’s very important to empower the children,” he said. Otky has been biking around the world since 2018 and has been from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Las Vegas, and through the western Lower 48 states, including Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Someone shot at him five times in Rock Spring, Wyoming, hitting his bike and narrowly missing him, he said. After the attack he kept going even though police offered him counseling after his trauma. “The power of sports kept me going biking,” Otky said. “I said, ‘I just want to ride.’ It’s an important message how sports keeps you free.”

Karim Otky, 43, of Morocco and Sarasota, Florida, poses in front of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. Otky rode his bicycle from north of Fairbanks to Homer after first flying to Anchorage three weeks ago from Juneau. A resident of the United States since 1999, Otky is a professional tennis coach and athletic trainer biking around the world. He also has worked with children in conflict countries in Saharan Africa — and suffered a machete attack because of his work. “It’s very important to empower the children,” he said. Otky has been biking around the world since 2018 and has been from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Las Vegas, and through the western Lower 48 states, including Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Someone shot at him five times in Rock Spring, Wyoming, hitting his bike and narrowly missing him, he said. After the attack he kept going even though police offered him counseling after his trauma. “The power of sports kept me going biking,” Otky said. “I said, ‘I just want to ride.’ It’s an important message how sports keeps you free.”

Best Bets

Last weekend the Betster took a camping foray to the best little campground on the Kenai Peninsula. Like secret berry patches and those sweet halibut holes, some things cannot be spoken of publicly in the newspaper. Hint: It has a beach.

Sanibel Island, Florida, sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico and, because of its orientation and currents, catches tons of sea shells. People walking the beach and looking for shells have what locals call “the Sanibel stoop.” Here at the best little campground the Betster noticed a similar posture of people looking for shiny golden pebbles. “The agate amble,” the Betster’s spouse called it.

Returning to Homer last Sunday, the Betster noticed another distinct gathering pose: people picking through berry patches along the Sterling Highway south of Blackwater Bend. Hmm. What would that be? The berry bound?

It’s fishing, hunting and gathering season here in Alaska. Berries are busting out all over. The Kachemak Bay personal use setnet fishery was held last week, and hardy fishermen plucked silvers and lots of pinks. Hunting season starts Aug. 24 on the lower Kenai Peninsula, which will explain all those pickup trucks cruising slowly along local roads.

Pandemic gardeners have been bragging about the amazing gardens they put in last spring and how those new to growing their own food have been blessed. In an uncertain world, there can be security in providing for your self, even if it’s just a sack of potatoes.

Grow, fish, hunt, gather. That’s been the Alaska way since the first people arrived tens of thousand years ago. Some of us subsist totally on the land, some supplement their food that way, and some do so for the sheer joy of feeding themselves without a weekly trip to the grocery store. The infestation of a tiny virus reminds us the world can be harsh and cruel, but then a tiny blue berry dappled with dew reassures us the world also can be kind and giving.

Our children and their teachers head back to school next Monday, a new adventure in this strange new world. Be safe. As we get ready, take some time to enjoy this glorious summer, perhaps with these Best Bets:

BEST KNOW YOUR OPTIONS BET: Curious about your options for your local representative to the Alaska House? Being able to make an educated decision when it comes time to vote is incredibly important. An event coming up in Anchor Point this weekend can help you do that. Rep. Sarah Vance, who is running for re-election, is hosting Ice Cream & Float at the Anchor River from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The public is invited to join some family fun with Vance and her family, starting at the Anchor River Silver King Parking Lot. There will be free ice cream, conversation, and an opportunity to get to know Vance.

BEST MUDDY TOES BET: The annual Homer Spit Run didn’t happen in June, but fear not — there’s an ad-hoc, unofficial fun run on Saturday. Meet at 11 a.m. at Bishop’s Beach for a short orientation and run at a minus low tide to Land’s End. Because the route follows sand, sloughs and tide pools, wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Along the way runners will be physically distancing. Finishers get a free ice cream cone. The run is free.

BEST FLY AWAY BET: This only happens once a year, but oh my can the fall gathering of the sandhill cranes be marvelous. Join Kachemak Crane Watch for its annual Count Days starting at about 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, and continuing Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 at Beluga Slough. As the cranes get ready to migrate south, they gather in the slough, coming in groups and gently descending.

Help Kachemak Crane Watch count noses — er, beaks — to better understand sandhill crane populations. Please wear masks and practice social distancing if joining for the Beluga Slough count event. Can’t make it to the slough? Help Kachemak Crane Watch by counting cranes on those days in your own neighborhood. Send reports to reports@cranewatch.org or call 907-235-6262.

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