Father completes cross-country bike trek in support of daughter’s Solana Beach nonprofit


By Karen Billing

It took him 65 days to ride 3,446 miles across country with more than 90 pounds of supplies loaded onto his bike, but 71-year-old Peter Karch completed his solo, unassisted journey from Carpinteria, Calif., to Assateague, Va., on July 9.

Karch took on the long mileage (pedaling amazingly in just Teva sandals) to raise awareness and funds for his daughter Laura Karch-Gries’ nonprofit Awakenings Health Institute in Solana Beach. He endured temperatures ranging from 20 to 114 degrees, 15 flat tires, dehydration, food deprivation and severe cramping.

“It is the most difficult thing I have ever done,” Karch said.

Despite all of the trek’s hardships, he said there are “very nice and helpful people in the world,” many of whom helped him along the way and offered support for his cause.

A Del Mar resident, Laura Karch-Gries, 36, was paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a car accident at age 18 and learned to walk again. She founded Awakenings as a rehabilitation facility to restore the lives and health of people challenged by paralysis.

The facility treats people who have suffered from strokes, spinal cord and brain injuries, and neurological disorders through a variety of physical, emotional, mental, recreational and social therapies — all under one roof.

Clients apply for grants and sponsorships to go through therapies at Awakenings so the organization relies heavily on donors and community support.

Karch’s ride so far has netted $7,200 and the numbers are growing.

The long journey gifted Karch with an interesting perspective to share.

“[Everyone should experience doing one thing in their life], such as backpacking, hiking or riding a bicycle...something where they have to carry all their needs on their back. You have to carry water, food, and only your bare necessities because that’s all the room you have. This is important because you understand what is necessary for your survival and what is superfluous. Then you understand the difference between greed and need,” Karch said on the night before his last day of riding. “We truly don’t need all the things we have and think we need. There are many people in this world who don’t have much. It’s important to really understand this firsthand.”

Karch-Gries, who traveled to Virginia to meet her dad at the conclusion of his journey, couldn’t be prouder of him, nor happier that he is home safe.

She called him the “greatest dad in the world.”

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