ISLA VISTA, CA — In mid-May, Mount Desert Island residents Peter Grubb and Noah Puglisi arrived at the beach here, the last stop on a four-month, 2,500-mile bicycle tour that had started in North Carolina.
“That was by far our longest day,” Puglisi said. They covered about 97 miles riding through the night.
They were very close when they heard the tell-tale noise signaling one of the trip’s many flat tires.
When they finally arrived at the ocean Grubb went for a quick swimbefore looking for shade and rest.
They hadn’t trained for the ride, and neither knew much about bicycle maintenance and repair, but they learned. Most days, Puglisi said, they covered somewhere between 10 and 40 miles.
They began in January in Franklin, N.C. They drove down from Maine with their friend and fellow 2011 Mount Desert Island High School grad Sam Swann.
They rode through Georgia and Alabama during the height of the winter’s “polar vortex” that brought more snow and ice than that region had seen in a long time.
The Maine riders celebrated Puglisi’s birthday in New Orleans when the city was beginning to gear up for Mardi Gras festivities.
En route to Austin, the next destination, the pair picked up a shipment from home in Baton Rouge, including a small guitar and a smartphone to help with navigation. By chance, they arrived in Austin on March 7, the opening day of the South by Southwest music and technology festival.
Some members of Puglisi’s family met them in Texas for a side trip to Big Bend National Park, which was a welcome rest.
Heading west, the bikes began to show some wear. Their rear wheels were dragging, and in small towns with no bike shops, they used lip balm to lubricate them. They spent a day in Albuquerque checking out the locations where the television series “Breaking Bad” was filmed. Not finding a good place to camp in the city, “we said, ‘let’s just get out of town,’” Puglisi said. Then the rack holding all of the gear on Peter’s bike broke. The two stopped for flat tires nine times that night.”
“That’s why people plan more, to avoid stuff like that,” Grubb said. “But we made it.”
They solved the wheel issues by buying a cheap mountain bike for $80 in a K-Mart in a small New Mexico town and using it for parts.
While they eventually got tired of the lack of privacy and being exposed to the elements, they were glad to meet people along the way.
“People across all demographics, all across the country helped us out,” Grubb said. “We’d try to refuse when people offered us money, but sometimes they insisted. There was one kid, maybe about 16, mowing a lawn outside a gas station. He took out a big wad of bills and gave us a twenty to get food there. There was a Navajo woman who showed us pictures of her son, asked ‘Are your mothers all right with your doing this?’ and bought us enough food for our next three meals. We had a couple people take us in specifically to let us take showers.”
Grubb flew home directly from California. Puglisi took the train. The two are home working on MDI for the summer.
An earlier version of this story contained an error. The proper spelling of Noah’s last name is Puglisi.