Biking Viking scatters boy's ashes during travels

While in Walla Walla, Anders Forselius left some of Alex Blackburn's ashes at Cougar Crest Winery.

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Anders Forselius of Sweden cruised through Walla Walla on Friday, but not before stopping at Starbucks to wait out the heat of the day and share his story of biking, marathons, baseball and his quest to scatter the remains of Alex Blackburn.

WALLA WALLA - Anders Forselius loves baseball, runs marathons like they are weekly trips to the grocery store, is on a journey to scatter the ashes of a friend's child across the world, and calls himself the Biking Viking.

Tall, blond, with a heavy Swedish accent, there is no doubt that Forselius could pass for a Viking, except for his last name, which he said is Belgian.

For several years now, the 43-year-old Swede, with legs as thick as an Olympic speed skater's, has been on a journey to cycle and run marathons in all 50 United States, as well as continuing his lifelong quest of running marathons all over the world.

During the running season, he averages about two or three marathons per month, and usually gets to each city riding alone on his touring bicycle.

That is until 2008, when he took on a riding partner.

"I think this boy brings very good karma. So he might make the Cubs a winning team again," Forselius said on Friday afternoon.

The Swede, who said he can live on as little as $10 per day because he sleeps out under the stars when he as to, had just ducked into the downtown Walla Walla Starbucks to wait out the Friday afternoon heat.

Coffee, he noted, is probably his most expensive travel habit.

Once the temperature cooled, Forselius would get back on his touring bike and look for accommodations, having no idea where he would spend the night.

Later that evening, the firefighters of Station Two would open their doors to the Biking Viking, allowing him to sleep securely and comfortably for the night.

So how did this cycling Cubs fan, marathon runner, Viking wanderer and last-remains scatterer find his way to Walla Walla?

It just happened to be on his way to his next stop as he continued to run marathons in the Northwest.

He had already spent time in Seattle, where he has family, and where his second favorite Major League baseball team is located.

Forselius said he came to love baseball because he played it as a youth in Sweden.

As for marathons, he ran his first few as an older teen, then backed off of them for a couple decades, only to start again several years ago with the goal to run all over the world.

"Always, you can feel, you can almost touch the energy from all the runners. I love it," Forselius said.

Along with loving baseball and loving to run, you might say Forselius has come to love the very light burden he carries with him always.

It is a box just smaller than his palm, which inside holds a small portion of the remains of Alex Blackburn.

"I met his mother by coincidence in California and she told me about his extraordinary life," Forselius writes on his website, which can be found at bikingviking.com.

"Even though he died very young, he took advantage of every second and always with a smile on his lips ... His last wish was to be scattered all over the world and with the help of people who have crossed my path this desire is now being achieved," Forselius wrote.

On the website, Forselius has about 40 pictures of people helping him to scatter Blackburn's remains.

"People who cross my path, I let them scatter the ashes. Then I take a picture of them and put them on my website," he said.

He recalled when he was first asked to carry the ashes.

Keeping with his frugal travel habits, Forselius had spent the night at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel near Pescadero, Calif.

That is where he met Blackburn's mother and wrote a story about her son's last wishes, and the friends who have helped with those wishes.

A journalist by trade who specializes in writing about running, Forselius wrote an article about Alex Blackburn and the boy's last wishes to be scattered around the world.

Then just before leaving the hostel, Forselius said Blackburn's mother asked him to take along a small portion of the boy's ashes so he could help scatter them.

Forselius soon ran out of the boy's ashes and had to meet up with another friend of the Blackburn family who lived near Seattle, who still had ashes to be scattered.

Now he is more careful to scatter only a scant amount at each location. In part because of the legalities of the matter, but also because he doesn't want to run out.

"This will take me the rest of my life because this young boy he gives me the perfect reason to continue my traveling," he said.

Forselius said he usually gets permission to leave ashes, and he often has that person help with the very brief ceremony.

While in Walla Walla, he left some of Blackburn's ashes at Cougar Crest Winery.

"It was great. He came in and told us about his cause and what he was doing," tasting room attendant Renee Anderson said. "So Julie (Lamarr) and I went outside and he showed us how much, and we spread just a small amount in the vineyard out front ... It was a good experience. I think we both enjoyed it. I know I felt privileged."

Sometimes there isn't anybody to ask, like when he wanted to leave some ashes at the great expanse of gardens in front of the White House.

"Officially, I just open the box. And if the wind takes some, it is not my problem," Forselius said.

Usually, while running marathons, Forselius will take a small portion of Blackburn's ashes with him. If he sees a spot that is fitting, he will leave a very small amount.

It is also a goal of Forselius' to leave some of Blackburn's ashes at Wrigley Field.

He already tried at Safeco Field, but officials told him it was against their policy.

The Viking seemed to take it in good stride, perhaps realizing the journey might be more important than the goal.

"I think he is very alive for me. I almost like to think from his perspective. I wonder if he would run this road or that road?" Forselius said.

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