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

Day 75 Palatka to Ormond By the Sea, FL 47 miles (4144 total miles)

Just a pointer for inexperienced cyclists…it’s way easier to pedal without the brake engaged. Trust me.

Cruised along pretty good today. The next challenge is going to be rain and thunderstorms…a common FL occurrence this time of year.

It rained hard for about 40 minutes in the morning. Got soaked. Worst part in the rain is that my shoes fill up with water and get a bit heavy. Well that and the fact that it can get really difficult to see. I don’t have windshield wipers.

Finally made the coast at Flagler Beach!

It was actually a bit exciting to see the Atlantic Ocean and realize that we had left the Pacific Ocean 75 days ago.

I kind of paid attention to the weather as I had lunch. I hoped to get about 15 miles south of Flagler. Looked like I might have an hour of little to no rain. That would be all I needed.

Gerty and I took off. 5 minutes in it started pouring. I’m talking FL afternoon deluge. The wind was howling as well…from pretty much every direction.

After 8 miles I surrendered. Pulled into a little bar near the beach and had Kris meet me there. These storms can pass as quickly as they appear. Got kind of nice later but I was mentally checked out.

Perfect little spot. Had a couple drinks, went to pay, and was told by Sarah that it was on her. Such a nice gesture once again. I hope this journey helps refresh your view of humanity. People have been so kind to me the entire way.

We spent the night with Keith and Tynel Lafoucade. Some pizza, wine, beer, and good memories. We’ve known Keith and Tynel a loong time. Kris and Tynel worked together 30+ years ago.

Kris already has lodging lined up for tomorrow night in Cocoa Beach I just have to pedal a bit over 80 miles to get there while dodging raindrops and thunderbolts. No problem.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 74 High Springs to Palatka, FL 68 Miles (4097 total miles)

Good day today. First 22 miles were against a good wind and rain. Just ignore that.

Stopped at a bike shop in Gainesville to have a couple things checked out on Gerty. #1 was to make sure rear tire wasn’t going to fly off. Been a bit nervous about that since I fixed flat.

Gerty’s had a bit of a wobble since the flat. Rear brake has not worked well since crash…even though that was a major part of repair.

You get good service after 4000 miles at most bike shops. I told them the issues I was having and went to get something to eat.

Came back in an hour and I was good to go. Wobble was because bead on rear tire had a bit that wasn’t set. Oops!! They told me a couple other things they did to the brakes but it was way over my head. $25 sounded good to me.

One of the things they told me was that my rear brake was basically “on” the whole time. No wonder I thought my legs were weak. Noticed the easier pedaling within 100 yds. Spent 90% of rest of day in high gear. I was really wondering how I could regress that far in a week.

If someone was going to hike all the National Scenic Trails in the US, they’d have to do the FL Trail…and a bunch more.

That someone (probably) won’t be me. Pretty swampy, gatory, and snakey.

When I got to Palatka today I was met by a couple buddies from our community. Jay Reidenbach and Mike O’Sullivan had driven 50+ miles down to see me. Mike had told me yesterday that he had a room for me and wanted to buy me some Buds and dinner. Figured he was going to be in Palatka for work or something.

Truth is they just drove down (and back) to have a few beers and dinner with me. I had a great time. Thanks so much, Mike and Jay. Felt like I was sitting at the 19th Hole…almost.

You folks are so impressively supportive, it boggles my mind. We’ll raise more than $30K for the charities I’m riding for. That’s about $135K over my 3 adventures. Amazing. Thanks so much to each and every one of you.

The buying me dinner and beers thing has kind of taken on a life of it’s own. There’s a waiting list now. I don’t even know what to say about that besides thanks. So incredibly nice.

I’m thinking that once we get to Key West, I’ll open the Buy Just Pete a Bud program to actually buy me a Bud. We’ll be there for a couple days, so that may be a lot. Any excess contributions will go to the charities. Stay tuned!!

I’ll be pedaling down the coast tomorrow afternoon and meeting Kris. Can’t wait.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 73 Perry to High Springs, FL 72 Miles (4029 total miles)

4000 miles. That’s a long way. I don’t care what your mode of transportation is.

Pretty flat today. Felt good. Right shoulder is almost not tingly. Things are good.

I was trying to think of the last time I’ve seen a long distance cyclist (packs on the bike). I think it was in MN. That was a long ways ago! Actually, I haven’t seen many cyclists at all.

I’ve really just made up my own route since mid-AL when I got the tips at the bar. There has been a good bike lane throughout the route I’ve taken through FL…except that bridge in Pensacola.

Way down upon the Suwannee River…

I’ve been focused on crossing 4000 miles. Check. Now I’m thinking about Key West. It’s about 600 miles. I want to be finished no later than September 2. That’s 9 days. Seems reasonable to me.

I know that I said 4800 miles before I started but I’m thinking 4600 is good enough.

Gerty and I will have a Sherpa down the coast. Kris is going to take a relaxing (code for heavy-duty shopping) drive down A1A. She’s wanted to do that for a while and I get out of the shopping part. Win. Win. Looking forward to it. Should be fun.

Palatka tomorrow. Then to the beach Thursday.

Ride on.

Just Pete

Day 72 Tallahassee to Perry, FL 51 Miles (3957 total miles)

And I thought FL would be really flat. Tallahassee area has lots of rolling hills. Last part of day flattened out. Hopefully that’s a trend.

We’re in FL back country. Stopped at a convenience store for something to drink. Was listening to a conversation between 2 locals. Couldn’t understand what either was saying. One guy either has 10 lbs of potatoes or killed a 10’ gator. I think the other guy wanted some of whatever he has.

Speaking of gators…saw one today. Road kill. About a 6 footer. Scared the crap out of me. Saw something black on shoulder. Assumed it was part of a truck tire. See that lots. It was the gator’s head. Rest of him was in ditch.

Most of second half of day was road, nice shoulder, ditch, and then swamp. Guarantee some gators out there! I didn’t stop to check.

My legs are gaining back strength but more slowly than I expected. Pedaled in high gear a bit more today.

Making a route change. Was going to get to the coast in St. Augustine because close to home and had hoped to spend a day or 2 there before final push.

Not planning that after extended stay in Pensacola. Would have to go north to St. Augustine. That doesn’t make sense if not stopping at home so will get on A1A about 40 miles south of there at Flagler Beach. Hang a right and follow A1A for 440 miles. Sounds easy enough.

Thanks to Michelle and Kevin Hileman for my dinner and a couple Buds tonight. Much appreciated.

Ride on.

Just Pete