April 14-20, 2017

Week 3 Fontana Dam, NC to Hot Springs, NC 109 Miles (273 total miles)

That was a pretty good week. 100+ miles and finished Great Smokey Mountain National Park.

Spring is coming.
Tented just past the end of Great Smokey National Park.
Just follow the path. Sounds simple.
Max Patch Bald
Big thanks to whomever invented bridges.
Rhododendrons would be blooming soon.
Water is life.
So is Budweiser. With my friend, Big Foot. Really just trying to see if I have a picture with a Bud every week. It will be most of them!

Happy Trails

Just Pete

April 7-13, 2017

Week 2 Dicks Creek Gap, GA to Fontana Dam, NC 95 Miles (164 total miles)

Brrr!!
Just follow the path.
Plenty of water flowing.
See that lake way out there? Be there tomorrow.
The Masters and a Budweiser. Don’t get much better than that.

Happy Trails!

March 31

Today is the 5 year anniversary of my first steps on the Appalachian Trail. Packed 3,010 miles of hiking and 4,535 miles of pedaling into those 5 years.

I’ve also been working on a book on the AT trek. Just finished getting first (extremely rough) draft finished. Quite a bit of work left to do. Not sure if I’ll ever really publish it. Only have 2 goals with it: don’t lose any $’s and have something that a future grandchild could give a book report on.

I’ll keep you posted on that but I also plan to republish some of the “exciting” days on the AT. Hope you enjoy!!

March 31 Springer Mt to Justus Creek (14.3 miles).

Hiked first mile with Kris, Brooke and Kerri.
Lower elevations (below 3000 ft) was like walking thru a forest of rhododendrons. Not flowering yet but sure spectacular when they do.

Had a snack and break at Long Creek Falls. Very cool.

6.2 miles in I ran into my first “Trail magic”. A group of local people had table with drinks and snacks. As I had just eaten something 1/2 hr before I just enjoyed a Coke and a chair (which felt great).

There are a lot of places to stealth camp (not in designated spots). Some look to me like high odds of sharing with bears!


Arrived at Justus Creek about 5:15. This was my optimistic ending point for day. Didn’t know if I was going to make it there as supposed to cross dirt road 1 mile from Creek/campsite. Didn’t see that road but saw a place by a Creek that looked campable. Just set my pack down and a hiker came down from campsite to get water. This was Justus Creek thankfully.

Got tent set up, had some deer jerky and in bed by 6:30. Physically feeling good. No blisters yet.

Day 81 Islamorada to Key West, FL 82 Miles (4535 total miles)

Gerty had no issues on this final stretch. Thank goodness because I was extremely focused on Key West.

If you’ve not been to the Keys, it’s basically pieces of land (islands) connected by bridges.

One of those bridges is 7 miles long. I was nervous about getting a flat somewhere along there as I would be walking Gerty a ways. No place for cars to stop so Kris wouldn’t be able to get to me there.

Mile markers are a big thing through the Keys. Locations are referred to by the mile marker they are at. Kind of like exits on the NJ Turnpike.

I was heading to mile marker 0…the end of the road.

Once I got to mile marker 10, it was a sprint to the finish.

End of the Road

Now it was time to celebrate with my pit crew.

We’re going to spend a couple days in Key West and plan to be home on Saturday. Excited for that. I’ve got to get some golf in because I’m playing in a Member/Guest tournament at Maryland Golf & CC in 2 weeks. There’s a possibility that I will suck. Sorry, Snappy!!

I’ve got lots of specific people to thank. That will be a separate blog. Right now, I’ll just thank all of you for your continuous support and encouragement. You helped me keep going through some frustrating days the past few weeks.

I’m pretty tired…I think I’ll go home now.

Ride no more.

Just Pete

Day 80 Coral Gables to Islamorada, FL 73 Miles (4453 total miles)

I really wish I could say that Gerty and I had a good day today but that would not be true.

Gerty had been kept by front desk at hotel. When I picked her up this morning, flat rear tire. I kid you not.

Kris had left hotel earlier. Told her not to worry, I’d be good. Had to wheel Gerty a half mile to bike shop. Fortunately it was close and opened at 9AM.

Explain my tire saga to guy in shop. He immediately tries to sell me a new tire. Told him I just did that 160 miles ago. “These are too thin for long distance rides”. I’m only going 150 miles. In my mind that’s a short distance.

He finally took a look and told me tape inside rim was not good. He had a “special” tape that would fix problem.

I wish I could explain how difficult it is to pedal a bike when you are certain you will be getting a flat any second. Add to that the fact that the first 25 miles were very urban and it was extremely stressful.

Stopped for lunch in Homestead. Last stop before 20 miles of nothing and then Key Largo. Kris had been washing my stinky clothes near there. Told her to go ahead to Keys. “I’ll be good”.

Guess what happened just before Key Largo. Yup. Flat rear tire. Heard the air coming out and pulled a small piece of metal from tire. At least I knew why this one happened. This would really be kind of funny if it was happening to someone else. Feel free to chuckle.

Called Kris and we hauled Gerty to shop in Key Largo. Told my saga…again. This guy said tape wasn’t wide enough and “special” tape last guy used was electrical tape!

I think the Keys are beautiful. At least that’s what people tell me. I was so focused on waiting for the next flat that I didn’t really notice.

Spent a couple hours drowning my sorrows at a little pub at end of day. Dorie heard my story and donated $40 to K9’s For Warriors. That was pretty special.

I also met a young man, Max, who had pedaled his bike from Key West to Anchorage, Alaska. We had a good, long talk. He’s got some really crazy adventures planned. Aah, to be 28 and fearless.

I have no clue what to expect tomorrow. Theoretically, with no flats, I’ll make Key West. I really just hope I can get close enough that if I have another flat I can bungee cord Gerty to my back and walk the rest of the way.

Instead of counting sheep, I’ll be counting flats tonight.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 79 Lake Worth to Coral Gables, FL 79 Miles (4380 total miles)

Gerty and I had another good day. She seems to be operating at a high level again. She’s had kind of a rough trip through FL.

Interesting ride today. Broad diversity of towns, cities, and roads. Lots of time going through beach towns. I really like that. Good scenery all over the place.

Welcome to the jungle.

Crossed lots of bridges. Had to wait to cross 3 different drawbridges. Had to wait about 10 minutes on this one. Thought about trying to jump it but didn’t know if I could keep the speed up. It was kind of steep.

Passed through Dania Beach. Route went on a boardwalk along the beach for a few miles. Ocean on one side and bars/restaurants on other side. I really wanted to just bar hop my way down the beach but had places to be. One of my favorite stretches of entire trip.

Shortly after that I was in Miami. That was a bit crazy but I obviously survived. Took me 2.5 hours to go 25 miles through Miami. Lots of stop lights.

Had to slam on my brakes for only second time on trip. Some moron passed me so he could turn right in front of me and then he had to stop mid-turn. Hit the brakes hard enough that back end fishtailed a bit.

Only other bad thing was getting stuck behind a bus. Smoky and very hot.

Met Kris in Coral Gables (just south of Miami). We had a great dinner spending time with Logan Storley. His grandma, Sherry, and I were cousins so we both have some of Grandma Gert’s spunk in us.

Logan is a South Dakota guy. He was a 6x state wrestling champion in high school and a 4x All-American at U of Minnesota. He now fights MMA and has a record of 13-1. I may be biased but the one loss was a pretty questionable decision. He is the real deal and a super nice young man.

Logan is the guy on left. Just in case you had a question about that.

If you’re planning on donating to the charities I’m pedaling for, you best get on it. Just go to https://at-pete.com/pledge-information/.

155 miles (or so) to Key West. The Keys are about 100 miles long so we’ll be in the Keys tomorrow and I’m hoping to make Key West Wednesday.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 78 Fort Pierce to Lake Worth, FL 77 Miles (4301 total miles)

No tire issues today. Optimistic that Village Cycle Shoppe fixed the problem. Please keep your fingers crossed. I’d do it myself but my fingers aren’t functioning well enough to do that.

I missed a few miles today. Long story but bottom line is that I do not want to be riding the keys on Friday. Assuming there will be lots of traffic for Labor Day weekend. Plan to pedal the missed stretch on way home.

Tried for a change of luck today. Boston Children’s Hospital had sent me a jersey. Hoped that would change my fortune.

I was extremely nervous with each pedal stroke for the first couple hours. I was expecting a flat tire. My mind eased a bit with each mile. 5 flats in 60 miles had been a bit traumatizing.

Gerty rolled well today. We were back at cruising speed. Thank goodness.

It was a scenic ride down the coast. Only hills were bridges.

Kris and Kerri were waiting for me in Lake Worth with another surprise.

Our other daughter, Brooke, had been at a bachelorette party in Palm Beach and stayed an extra day to join us. I had no clue she was behind me in video. I thought Kris was just taking a pic of Kerri and I.

We had a great little family reunion.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Kerri had bought her dad’s beers and then dinner for her parents. Thanks, Kerri.

I’m now pretty confident that Gerty will make it to Key West.

Going to be passing through Miami tomorrow. Guessing that will be a bit hectic.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 77 Titusville to Cocoa, FL 19 Miles (4224 total miles)

I can’t decide if this is a nightmare or just pure torture.

The morning started nicely.

Kris drove me back to where I had stopped yesterday. Got Gerty ready to roll and front tire was low on air pressure. Nearly flat kind of low. This can’t really be happening, can it?

I pumped the tire up, told Kris to stay close for a while, and set out. Made it a couple miles and front tire was losing air. Seriously?

Had spare tube and tools with me today so pulled over to fix it. At least it wasn’t the rear tire that is much more difficult to change and had caused me all the problems yesterday. Kris drove up while I was working on it so she even got to help.

Went great for the next hour and then…flat rear tire for the 4th time in 24 hours. I was beyond exasperated. I don’t even know how to describe my mental state at this point in time. Pretty sure I should have been put in a straight jacket and institutionalized on the spot.

Called Kris. She was packing up at hotel so told her I would push the bike to somewhere I could get something to eat and then we’d take her to bike shop.

By now I’m pretty experienced at pushing a bike with a flat rear tire. Not fun. Fortunately I didn’t have to go far.

Sitting in diner waiting for Kris I decided I was done for the day. Somebody needs to figure out the problem with rear tire because I’m not putting myself through this anymore. At this rate I’ll be in Key West about Thanksgiving time. This is really stupid.

Kris picked Gerty and I up and we went to bike shop. Told the guy our story and told him to take his time and figure out the problem. I would be at the pub next door and Kris would be shopping.

Got a nice and total surprise while I was sitting there. Our daughter, Kerri, had driven over from St. Petersburg.

Picked Gerty up. Back tire…he smoothed out a sharp spot on rim. Maybe that was problem? Took her out for spin around block and had a flat. Not joking. Ended up putting a new tire on. Hoping that’s the cure. We’ll see.

Front tire had gone flat from a staple. He put a new tube in and a brand new tire just to be safe.

I am going to give it another shot tomorrow. If I have the same issue, I’m done. This is the definition of insanity.

I’d be fine with it at this point. I know that I can/could do it. I just know that I will never do anything like this again that involves a piece of equipment. I don’t like the feeling of being dependent on other things or people.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 76 Ormond-By-The-Sea to Titusville, FL 61 Miles (4205 total miles)

If you had a worse day than me today, I am so sorry. It had to have been horrendous. Just remember…tomorrow will have a real hard time being worse.

My day started off great. I had nearly 20 miles complete by 10AM. Couple heavy rain showers but I just got wet shoes and socks. Then, I had a flat. You know it had to be the rear tire.

Didn’t have a tube or tools with me to repair. Left them in Kris’ car because there was no way I could have another flat this soon.

Remember clipping a small piece of metal laying on road, sending it flying, and hoping that didn’t damage anything.

2 minutes later I’ve got a flat on the rear tire and nothing to repair it with. Luckily there was a bike shop 3.2 miles away. Called Kris and she was more than an hour away. I decided I could walk and wheel the bike there faster.

Turns out pushing a bike with a flat tire is kind of difficult. Finally get to shop. Closed…permanently.

Plan B, Kris heads to pick me up and drive me to another shop 2 miles away. By the time we get there it’s noon. They tell me they can have me on the move in an hour. Cool. Kris can resume shopping and I would just wait at shop.

12:45 we’re ready to roll. Make it 2.3 miles down the road. Another flat. Same tire. What the????

Kris is a ways away. Bike shop has no one with vehicle that can get me. Wheel the bike 2.3 miles back to shop. My wet shoes and socks were really hurting the bottom of my feet.

Get back to shop. Kris met me there. Shop gave me some explanation of what happened. Something about inside of rim. Way over my head. They repaired again. No charge.

Kris drove me down the road to spot where I got flat. Dropped me off and we agreed she would stay close for a while.

3 miles further. Another flat. Same tire. This time I heard the tube pop and air rush out. I’m beyond frustrated. Kris was there to pick me up in 5-10 minutes. Back to bike shop.

They were extremely embarrassed to see me walk back in the door with Gerty. Last one was their fault. This time it was a faulty tube. Tore apart at seam.

They fixed right away. Again no charge plus they gave me a spare tube. I was almost thinking I’d be better off changing myself.

Kris takes me back to the last stoppage spot. She’s going to stay close again. I have no confidence that there won’t be another flat. I know if that happens, I’m going to explode along with the tube.

We had originally planned to meet Mark Grode, a friend from Bristol, for lunch in Titusville at 2PM. Before 3 flats, it was looking like I’d be there about 1. It was now 3:15 and we were still 40 miles away. 5 miles in more than 5 hours. Not good.

Kris had been keeping Mark apprised of this debacle. We decided to meet for dinner at 6. I would just ride as far as I could in 2.5 hours. Kris would pick me up and we’d call it a day.

Made 35.5 miles and Kris picked me up. 25 miles short of where I hoped to finish the day.

We finally met Mark. Had a great dinner and fun conversation. Mark bought us dinner. Thanks so much, Mark. You helped put some smiles on the end of a crappy day.

I was really fortunate that this episode had Kris with me. It would have been even worse by myself. Plus she got to see my agony up close and personal. She might have even felt a tiny bit sorry for me!!

Going to try to make up some lost miles tomorrow.

Ride on.

Just Pete