After biking about a thousand miles down the East Coast from northern Maryland, Peter Knoop returned home to Kennett Square last weekend.

Tired and sore, he flew into Philadelphia International Airport, where Barbara, his wife of 35 years, welcomed him with open arms.

"I'm just so relieved to have him home," she said. "It's nice to see him."

After setting out on his solo bike trip with Homosassa, Fla., as his destination, 57-year-old Knoop was away for almost two weeks. Every night, his wife waited for his phone call to see how far he had gone and whether he had arrived safely.

Arrive safely in Florida he did. Not on his bike, though, but in a rental car. He came up 270 miles short of Homosassa because of time constraints and ailments.

During the six months Knoop researched his bike routes to Homosassa - the Gulf Coast town where his mother lives, west of Orlando - he mapped out stops and sights he wanted to see.

He plotted the 10 days he allowed himself to end on his mother's birthday. But as that day grew closer and he was still in Georgia, he traded his bike for a rental car in Savannah.

He made it to Homosassa just in time to surprise his mother for her birthday, and to rest his body.

Of all the things Knoop prepared himself to encounter, the weather's toll on his body was not one of them.

Starting in the heart of a mid-April nor'easter, Knoop spent his first three days biking through snow, rain, and then the hot Carolina sun, causing his face to chap, his lips to blister, and his ankles to swell.

By the time he reached Charleston, S.C., he was thinking of giving up.

"It wasn't fun anymore," Knoop said. "I did the bike trip for myself, so when my body began to feel the impact, and the reality of not being able to make it to see my mother on time for her birthday set in, I knew it was time to throw in the towel."

But worse than his chapped face and swollen ankles was the pain in his glutes. After biking 120 to 126 miles a day, they began to ache and bruise. He began a steady regimen of alternately standing and sitting on the bike to ease the pain.

Although Knoop learned a lot about his stamina, he said the generosity of Americans was the lesson he truly had brought home.

No matter what town he was in - big, small, poor, and even dangerous at one time - the people amazed him, he said.

Whenever he stopped for a bite or directions, people took time to talk with him about what he was doing, where he was going, and his overall feel behind the trip.

On his second night on the road, he stopped at an inn in Old Richmond, Va. When the night manager learned about Knoop's bike and where he was coming from, he handed Knoop the keys to the main suite for support and encouragement.

In Washington, Knoop met a bike security guard who shared several stories about his bike trips in Europe. He also showed Knoop a better bike route that would take him to George Washington's Mount Vernon, another site marked on Knoop's "must-see" points.

Biking all that way, dealing with abrupt weather changes, and speaking to other solo bikers he met taught Knoop a few things about biking and himself. One lesson: Biking 100 or more miles a day is a lot to put your body through.

Biking 50 to 60 miles day, like some other bikers he met, is a more reasonable goal. And trying to bike 1,200 miles in 10 days is a bit too much of a push as well. He has put his plans for a bike trip to California on hold.

"If I want to do it right" - meaning 50 to 60 miles a day - "it might be something I have to put off until I retire," Knoop joked.

After beginning this trip at the Route 1 Susquehanna Bridge, he rode past the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and through the Civil War grounds around Mount Vernon, took in quaint towns such as Old Richmond and Fredericksburg, biked through the Carolinas, and stopped in Charleston, where he had dinner with his daughter, Elizabeth, who lives there.

"I got to see the true America," Knoop said last week, as he relaxed at home.